Afghanistan
Aleppo

Podcast: humanitarian intervention reconsidered II

In Episode 86 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg returns to the book The Responsibility to Protect in Libya and Syria: Mass Atrocities, Human Protection, and International Law by Syrian American legal scholar Yasmine Nahlawi, exploring applicability of its analysis to the current disaster in Afghanistan. This discussion is taken up at the request of Eric Laursen, author of The Duty to Stand Aside: Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Wartime Quarrel of George Orwell and Alex Comfort. Laursen is the first to take up the CounterVortex special offer, by which new Patreon subscribers get to choose a topic for exploration on the podcast. When do we have a responsibility to protect, and when do we have a duty to stand aside, and how can these imperatives be reconciled? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Destruction of Aleppo, via 7ee6an)

Afghanistan
ISIS-K

US collaborates with Taliban against ISIS: it’s official

At least 12 US service members were killed in a combined bomb attack and armed assault at a gate to the Kabul airport, where throngs fleeing the Taliban were desperately crowding. Up to 100 Afghan civilians were also killed, including children. US Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie told a press briefing at the Pentagon that the US is coordinating with the Taliban in the effort to maintain “security” in Kabul, saying: “They’ve been useful to work with.” It was also revealed that days earlier CIA director William J. Burns met face-to-face in Kabul with the top Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar. The “secret” meeting was reported in the Washington Post. (Photo via Future Center)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Podcast: Afghanistan and the Great Game

In Episode 85 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the implications for world peace and the prospects for survival of basic freedoms as the Taliban consolidate their second period of rule in Afghanistan. There are already signs that Russia and China are seeking to groom the Taliban as proxies against the US and the West, with (inevitably) the dream of a trans-Afghanistan pipeline route still a part of the agenda. The US, in turn, could start backing the incipient armed resistance, already organizing in the Panjshir Valley. The task for progressives in the West now is to loan what solidarity we can with the civil resistance—the secularists and feminists who are already defying Taliban rule on the ground across Afghanistan. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Afghanistan
kabul protest

Afghanistan: Taliban unleash first terror

As the Taliban, now in full control of Kabul, pledge an “inclusive” Afghan government in prepared press statements, deadly repression against anti-Taliban protesters is reported from the eastern city of Jalalabad. The day before Afghanistan’s independence day, protesters took to the streets of Jalalabad waving the black, red and green national flag—and tearing down the white and black Tawhid flag of the Taliban. Witnesses said Taliban fighters fired on protesters indiscriminately, and at least three were killed. On the day that Afghanistan won full independence from Britain in 1919, a similar protest was held in Khost, where social media videos again show Taliban fighters firing on demonstrators. No casualties were reported, but the city has been placed under a 24-hour curfew. A small demonstration by women demanding that their rights be respected was held  outside a police precinct in Kabul. “We want the rights we’ve had for the past 20 years,” signs read.  (Photo via Twitter)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Afghanistan: ousted VP launches resistance

The first vice president of Afghanistan under the government just ousted from Kabul by the Taliban, Amrullah Saleh, has taken refuge in the Panjshir Valley north of the capital and declared himself the country’s legitimate president. Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi has reportedly joined Saleh in the Panjshir Valley, as has Ahmad Massoud—son of the martyred resistance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. Many ethnic Tajiks in the Afghan army are said to have arrived with their equipment, including armed vehicles and tanks, after withdrawing from the nearby frontlines. Ethnic Hazara families have reportedly walked 200 kilometers to reach the Valley, fearing persecution as the Taliban seize their homeland in Bamiyan province. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Afghanistan: Taliban seize provincial capitals

Taliban forces have dramatically stepped up their rapid advance across Afghanistan, seizing 11 capitals of the country’s 34 provinces. Herat and Ghazni, a strategic gateway to the national capital Kabul, were the most recent to fall. The northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif is besieged, and India’s military is mobilizing an airlift to evacuate the country’s nationals there. Kandahar, in the Taliban’s southern heartland, is also the scene of heavy fighting, as is Lashkar Gah, capital of adjoining province of that name. Reports of rights violations that “could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity” have emerged from areas under Taliban control. More than 359,000 Afghans have been displaced this year, bringing the total displaced in the country to over 5 million. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Podcast: Afghanistan and the politics of withdrawal

In Episode 82 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out the Orwellian pronouncements from media and politicians that Biden is “ending the war” in Afghanistan—as the war is actually escalating. This is the same imperial narcissism we heard with the much-hyped US “withdrawal” from Afghanistan in 2014, and the US “withdrawal” from Iraq in 2011. In both cases, the war went on—and actually got worse, with the emergence of ISIS and the genocide of the Yazidis. Weinberg recalls with grim vindication that he similarly called out the glib optimism about a  withdrawal from Iraq in CounterVortex commentaries during the occupation. Meanwhile, Hazara women—who face the threat of genocide if the Taliban re-take power—are arming to resist the Taliban advance. The critical task now is to loan what solidarity and visibility we can to such efforts—not to engage in hubristic crowing about the “end of the war.” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

‘Imminent humanitarian crisis’ in Afghanistan

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned of an “imminent humanitarian crisis” in Afghanistan as mounting conflict gives rise to suffering and displacement. An estimated 270,000 have been newly displaced since January, bringing the total uprooted population to over 3.5 million. The number of civilian casualties has risen 29% during the first quarter of this year compared to 2020. The UNHCR stressed its underfunded financial appeal for Afghanistan, which now stands at 43% of the total $337 million required. The agency urged the international community to support Afghanistan “in a spirit of solidarity and burden-sharing.” (Photo of displaced persons camp in Herat: Stefanie Glinski/TNH)

Afghanistan
Ghor women

Afghan women take up arms against Taliban

As the US withdraws and the Taliban advance across large stretches of Afghanistan, women are taking up weapons in local militias to defend their villages. In Ghor province, ethnic Hazara women posed for social-media photos wielding rifles and rocket-launchers, pledging to resist by arms a return to “the dark era of Taliban.” With US and NATO forces evacuating Bagram Air Base, prelude to a full withdrawal by September, the Taliban are rapidly seizing territory. Since launching a spring offensive, the Taliban have doubled their area of control, and now hold nearly 100 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts. In retreat, the central government is calling upon civilians to form militias to fight back. (Photo via Twitter)

Afghanistan
Sayed ul-Shuhada

Afghanistan: schoolgirls massacred amid ‘peace’ talks

An attack on a high school in Afghanistan’s capital killed at least 50 and wounded dozens more—most of them girls who were leaving class. The school is in Kabul’s western Dasht-e-Barchi district, where many residents are of the Hazara ethnic minority, who were subject to genocide under Taliban rule in the 1990s. The students appear to have been doubly targeted as both girls and Hazaras—raising further questions for the status and security of women and ethnic minorities as the power-brokers race to declare “peace” in Afghanistan. (Photo of girls from the targeted school: HRW via Twitter)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Afghan pullout: unanswered questions for civilians

Afghanistan now has a clearer timeline for when US and international troops will leave, but the questions surrounding what this means for civilians and aid operations in the country remain the same. US President Joe Biden confirmed plans to withdraw American forcesbefore Sept. 11—the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to the Afghanistan invasion. NATO also said 9,500 international soldiers—including 2,500 US troops—would leave, beginning May 1. But the implications of the pullout are as volatile as they were when Biden’s predecessor first inked a peace deal with the Taliban last year. Will the Taliban pursue a decisive military victory or continue with sporadic peace negotiations with the government? How will women and minorities fare? How will this affect local and international aid operations, and the roughly 16 million Afghans—more than 40% of the population—who rely on humanitarian relief? Will there be a future for reconciliation after decades of war? And what about the militias still active in many areas? More than 1,700 civilians were killed or injured in conflict in the first three months of 2021, the UN said the same day as Biden’s announcement. (Photo of displaced persons camp in Herat: Stefanie Glinski/TNH)

Afghanistan
afghan army

Afghanistan: US withdrawal on hold?

With a May 1 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan approaching but a final peace deal stalled, the White House is said to be considering an extension beyond this date for removal of its 2,500 troops remaining in the country. “Intra-Afghan” negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul opened in Doha in September, but remain deadlocked over fundamentals of the power-sharing deal—with the Taliban rejecting President Ashraf Ghani’s insistence on remaining in office for the remainder his five-year-term. Predictably, they haven’t even got around to discussing protection of minority and women’s rights, or the role of sharia law in the new order. Meanwhile, civilian casualties are mounting, and the Taliban has just launched a spring offensive. (Photo: Khaama Press)