after the taliban

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Secretary of Defense Mattis Makes Surprise Visit to Afghanistan After Deadly Taliban Rampage on Afghan Military Base

(U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis looks out over Kabul as he arrives via helicopter at Resolute Support headquarters on April 24, 2017, in in Kabul, Afghanistan. Mattis is on a regional tour of the Middle East. )

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Dump armored vehicles near Kabul, Afghanistan. Here you can find not only the Soviet tanks and armored personnel carriers of the time of the Afghan war 1979-1989, but a lot of other, often rare military equipment. There are even ancient French tanks Renault FT-17, in the 1920-ies in different ways fell into the country. After the expulsion of the Taliban, the Americans and the French have taken several of these cars for restoration and now they are in the museums of these countries. In 2012 he was even found Polish tank “Renault”, captured by the red army during the Soviet-Polish war of 1920, and transferred to friendly Afghanistan in 1923…

Interesting photo. In the background is half Renault FT with broken sector on the sloth.

The process of restoration of the Afghan Renault FT tank Museum in Samur, France

Renault FT from the tank Museum collection in Samura (France). In 2007 moved to France from Afghanistan, the French Military Special Forces (Museum)

The Americans take out the rarities from the junkyard of military equipment under the Kabul

This landfill is as old. In the background two Indian armored car of the Second world war, the rumors are not preserved in any Museum in the world

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Dreams do come true!

A young Afghan boy who became an internet sensation after being photographed in a homemade replica of Lionel Messi’s famous football strip has finally come face-to-face with his idol. In January this year, pictures emerged of five-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi wearing a blue-and-white striped plastic bag to emulate the colours of the Argentinian team. On the back of the bag was scrawled the legend: “Messi 10”. The pictures went viral and, after Messi’s biggest fan was identified and tracked down to Afghanistan’s eastern Ghazni province, efforts were made to bring Murtaza and the Barcelona star together. Now Ahmad has come face-to-face with the fifth-time Ballon d'Or winner in a heartwarming meeting in Doha, Qatar.

Barcelona were in Qatar to play a friendly against Saudi Arabian Al Ahli on Tuesday evening. Ahmadi, who was given the honour of bringing the match ball out onto the pitch before the match, seized the opportunity to steal another impromptu meeting with his hero. After placing the ball on the centre circle Ahmadi ignores the referee’s attempts to escort him for the pitch before running over to Lionel Messi on the edge of the semi circle.

Luis Suarez broke into fits of laughter as a giggling Lionel Messi tried to point Ahmadi towards the stadium tunnel. Ahmadi’s once in a lifetime experience was finally cut short when the referee picked the six-year-old up and carried him off the pitch. The child and his family now live in  Quetta, Pakistan, after fleeing their home in Taliban controlled Afghanistan. 

“I’m very happy to have met my hero. It is a dream for me,” according to a statement released by the committee overseeing organisation of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. “The image the world wanted to see,” tweeted Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organisers, who brought the pair together. “The six year old boy who dreamed of meeting his hero, Messi, finally comes true.”

What if… Danny just finds it easier to talk to people when they’re comatose. It’s much easier to admit the truth when the other person isn’t really listening but it’s still THEM you’re talking to. In Afghanistan, while Steve was still unconscious after his rescue from the Taliban, Danny talked to him through the night until he finally woke. He processed all of his feelings and discovered the truth he’d been denying and as he got to a point where he could try asking if Steve felt the same in return, the other man slowly began to come back to awareness…

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Callsign “Chaos”

Mattis, whose nicknames include “Mad Dog” and the “Warrior Monk,” has had a leading hand in some of the U.S. military’s most significant operations in the past 20 years. As a one-star general, he led an amphibious task force of Marines that carried out a November 2001 raid in helicopters on Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, giving the Pentagon a new foothold against the Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Using the call sign “Chaos,” he commanded a division of Marines during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and returned there the following year to lead Marines in bloody street fighting in the city of Fallujah.

Mattis continued to rise through the ranks and establish his credentials as a military thinker, co-authoring the U.S. military’s new counterinsurgency manual with then-Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus while Mattis was a three-star general at Quantico, Va.

He was considered a leading contender to become commandant of the Marine Corps in 2010 but was bypassed in favor of Gen. James F. Amos. Instead, Mattis replaced Petraeus as the chief of Central Command, overseeing U.S. military operations across the Middle East.

Ten Afghan soldiers killed in Kandahar army base attack

At least 10 Afghan soldiers have been killed in an attack on an army base in the southern province of Kandahar, according to defence officials. The assault at Camp Achakzai in Shawali Kowt late on Monday came just a day after 20 Afghan policemen were killed when Taliban fighters stormed their outposts in the neighbouring province of Zabul. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the Kandahar attack. “Ten brave army soldiers were martyred and nine others wounded. The wounded soldiers were taken to hospital and they are in stable condition,” the ministry said in a statement. Dawlat Waziri, defence ministry spokesman, told the Reuters news agency that at least 12 attackers had been killed by government troops after several hours of fighting.

Surge in fighting

The attack marks another setback for NATO-backed Afghan forces. It comes just a month after the Taliban killed at least 135 soldiers in the northern province of Balkh in the deadliest attack on an Afghan military base since 2001. During the Zabul attack early on Sunday, local officials made desperate calls to Afghan television stations to seek attention because they were unable to contact senior authorities for help, highlighting the disarray in security ranks. WATCH: Can the Taliban in Afghanistan be defeated? Taliban fighters launched their annual “spring offensive” in late April, heralding a surge in fighting as the US tries to craft a new Afghan strategy and NATO considers sending more troops to break the stalemate against the resurgent militants. US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis last month warned of “another tough year” for security forces in Afghanistan. The White House is considering sending thousands more troops to break the deadlock.
Through a network of photographers who had spent years working in Pakistan, I was connected with the wonderful Raza. Almost fifty years old, with stringy, graying hair combed over to the side and a weathered, smiling face, he was one of the savviest drivers I had ever worked with. Raza dressed me up as his wife and sneaked me into the Swat Valley to photograph secret girls’ schools that had recently opened after the Taliban closed schools in the valley; he bullied imams into allowing me—a female infidel—to photograph prayers at mosques in Peshawar; and he snuck me into the gun market for a few quick shots before fleeing, because we feared we might be spotted and attacked.

Dex and I were to meet a Taliban commander named Haji Namdar. The day before our meeting Haleem, one of our interpreters, relayed a message from the commander: ‘You cannot bring a woman with you.’ Dex and I were adamant that we would not separate. The long-bearded Haleem, who himself was sympathetic to the Taliban and wouldn’t look me directly in the eye because I was a woman, was tormented. He wracked his brain for the entire day and finally came back with the solution: 'I know! Lynsey can be Dexter’s wife! And we can say that Mr. Dexter did not want to leave his wife alone in the hotel while he traveled out of Peshawar.’ I was always being dressed up as someone’s wife.
—  Lynsey Addario, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War

Saraya, 35

I don’t know how old I was when I got married but I have eight children. My husband took me to Pakistan as soon as we were married. When we came back after the Taliban had left it was very tough. Our house had been destroyed, we had no shelter. My husband built a room and a corridor on the land and this is where the ten of us live now. Life as a refugee was much better; we had better shelter and more food. My husband is a day labourer now and earns around 300Afs ($6) a day. He is an angry man and beats my sister-in-law and me. Sometimes it’s ten times a day, and sometimes there are days when he is fine. But you can never tell when it’s coming.

“My children go to school but we can’t afford paper or pens for them. I’d love to work but I’m illiterate and with so many children there is no time. But I hope they will one day be teachers or doctors and have a better life.”

Terry Gross speaking to journalist Matthieu Aikins about the largest opium harvest in Afghanistan’s history:

TG: Your current article in Rolling Stone is about how Afghanistan became a narco state. Just give a sense of how much poppy is produced there and how much heroin comes out of that?

MA: This spring I traveled to Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, which is the largest opium-producing province and I witnessed what in fact turned out to be the biggest opium harvest in Afghan history. Afghan opium production has doubled since the year 2000. It now produces 90 percent of the world’s opium supply, much of which is converted into heroin and sold abroad. So, it’s not just a problem that has been unable to be solved over the last 13 years of the military occupation, but it’s one that has gotten dramatically worse.

You say that in trying to solve the problem of terrorism coming out of Afghanistan we helped increase the amount of poppy being sold there. What’s the connection?

This is another one of those Faustian bargains that we’ve made in the name of the War on Terror. In Afghanistan, after we toppled the Taliban, we allowed some of the figures who have been responsible for introducing large-scale opium cultivation in Afghanistan—the war lords, the Mujahideen, who had participated in the civil war—back into power. We allied with them in our quest for vengeance against al-qaida and the Taliban and allowed an incredible level of criminality to flourish [in] the highest levels of the Afghan government–so that naturally led to flourishing opium and heroin trade.

What did you witness when you were in Helmand, when you were witnessing this huge poppy harvest?

The manpower that’s required for the opium harvest is staggering; it’s a very labor-intensive process. They go from poppy bulb to poppy bulb scoring the surface and scraping out the resin. So at harvest time, the whole province is basically mobilized to participate in the harvest and people come from all around Afghanistan; they come from Iran; they come from Pakistan; the markets are full. It’s a big business opportunity for all the merchants and traders. It’s like being in a whaling town when the ship comes in. The schools are empty, fighting stops as both the police and Taliban go and work in the fields.

Wait. The police and the Taliban go and work in the poppy fields?

They do, yeah, because it’s an opportunity to make some great cash or often they get paid in opium. The farmer gives a portion of the harvest to the workers. So if you look at the number of attacks and fighting all dips dramatically in the south during the opium harvest and then of course, surges back up afterwards as there’s a fresh infusion of cash to both sides for fighting.

You quote somebody who is a poppy grower now, who is very poor, you describe him as not even having furniture, and you ask him how much he’s getting paid for what he’s growing, for his crop and you compare that to what it’s going to be worth on the market when it becomes heroin. Give us a sense of the gap between those two figures.

It’s staggering. So he pulled out this basketball-sized lump of opium abut an acres-worth of harvest and he was hoping to sell it for about $600.  I quickly did some rough calculations in my head and told him this could be worth up to $100,000 sold … in London or New York.

I think it’s interesting because it helps us understand that Afghan farmers themselves only get 1 percent of the global value of the opium trade, so this is the world’s problem. It’s not something Afghanistan alone is responsible for. It’s a massive global demand for illegal drugs, in this case heroin and opium, and there’s one end of it that’s in Afghanistan.

I was also struck by the fact that [there’s this] vast, tangled chain of traffickers and drug warriors and corrupt officials that exists between this impoverished illiterate farmer in a mud hut in Afghanistan and the junkie on the street sticking a needle into his or her arm in London or New York. And it’s staggering that both people are so poor at both ends of this chain, but there’s so much money and power involved in it. 

Listen to the interview:

Reporter In Kabul Wins Award For Courage In Journalism

Photo: Afghan farmers in a poppy field: Helmand province, center of British military operations, accounts for over half of the opium crop. Credit: Ahmad Masood/Reuters via Guardian 

Pakistani female police commandos attend a training session in Nowshera, near Peshawar Pakistan, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015. Authorities formed a Special Combat Unit after Taliban militants stormed a Peshawar school on Dec. 16, 2014 and massacred 150 children and teachers. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

Tonight on VICE on HBO: Heroin Warfare, by Suroosh Alvi

Iran is an extremely challenging place for journalists to operate. Formal invitations, convoluted bureaucracy, and government-approved “minders” tracking your every movement make it one of the most difficult places to report from in the world. Even with legal permits we got detained and/or arrested almost daily.

VICE had been trying to get into this isolated country for seven years, and every time we got shut down with zero explanation. Last year, after hearing that Iran had a heroin epidemic on its hands—which every single Iranian we interviewed for the piece insisted was a direct consequence of America’s decade-plus occupation of Afghanistan—we gave it another shot.

This time our pitch to the Ministry of Culture was that we wanted to do a story about the widespread damage the opium and heroin trade has had on Iranian society. Finally, they agreed and invited us to come over. Our entire international crew was allowed inside, with the exception of our American cameramen, whom we had to replace with Iranian and Mexican nationals.

It’s estimated that 80 percent of the dope flowing out of Afghanistan passes through Iran before ending up in Europe, where it is sold at a street level. Along the way, a lot of it ends up in the arms of what the Iranian government estimates to be 2 million drug users. (The actual number is widely believed to be much higher.)

In the years leading up to the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban had enforced a ban on opium-poppy cultivation, resulting in historically low levels of production. After the Taliban were toppled, the Afghan warlords who regained control of the country (many of whom were appointed by the Americans) resumed the stupidly lucrative farming of opium and poppy once again.

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Congratulations to education activist Malala Yousafzai and Indian child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi, who have jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Malala, the youngest Nobel Laureate, became an international spokesperson for girls’ education after she was attacked by Taliban militants in 2012. Satyarthi founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA/ Save the Childhood Movement), the largest grassroots movement against child labor, and helped rescue thousands of Indian children from slavery and trafficking. The Nobel committee praised the pair’s “struggle against the suppression of children and young people.”

Read more via The New York Times.

“You will have to kill me first before you torch my school," Gul-e-Khandana defiantly told a group of men from the Taliban who arrived in June 2008 at the girls’ primary school where she had been teaching for 20 years. The men left but promised to come back. By then, the girls had already stopped coming to school. When the Taliban destroyed a nearby girls’ middle school, the headteacher feared the worst. She moved the school furniture to her home and smuggled the school records under her burka.

“Everyone thought I was crazy but I thought one day the Taliban will leave and we will re-open the school and the girls will come back. I wanted to keep the certificates and records,” she recalled. After the Taliban was flushed out from the town, Gul-e-Khandana returned to the school a year later to find it still standing. She reopened the school and started a committee with the help of the army to convince parents to let their daughters return back to the classrooms. Today there are 262 pupils enrolled in her school, more than before the Taliban came to her town.

Read more via Women News Network.

2016 Terrorist Attacks (A Partial List)

I’m working on an article for tomorrow’s paper on the attacks in Nice. Part of my coverage will be an overview of some of the worst terrorist attacks in 2016. This a list I’ve curated, having gone through hundreds of attacks this year. Bear in mind these are only some of the worst horrors that took place this year, and I did not include most war-zone massacres (many can’t be verified exactly for numbers and dates and there is an argument that they’re not terrorist acts like others in non-war zones). Having finished writing this, I am worn down. Please, please take a minute to look over this, and to share it.

January 11, Sharaban, Iraq: 100+ dead, IS claimed responsibility
January 12, Istanbul, Turkey: 11 dead after a suicide bomber blew himself up near the Sultan Ahmed Mosque
January 15, Eel-Adde, Somalia: 63 dead after massive siege at an African Union base
January 15-16, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: 30 dead after gunmen attacked a restaurant and hotel in the heart of Ouagadougou, with more than 100 hostages taken
January 16, Deir ez-Zor, Syria: Estimates between 135 to 300 dead after IS militants killed dozens in execution-style murder
January 30, Daloria, Nigeria: At least 86 dead and hundreds injured in an attack by Boko Haram militants

February 21, Sayyidah Zaynab, Syria: Between 83 to 134 people killed after IS militants detonated a car bomb and launched two suicide bombings 400 metres from Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque, a Shia shrine
February 28, Sadr City Baghdad, Iraq: Up to 70 killed and 60 wounded as two bombs went off at a crowded market, in a mostly Shia Muslim district

March 6, Hillah, Iraq: At least 61 killed after a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-ridden truck into a security checkpoint
March 13, Ankara, Turkey: An estimated 37 killed after a car bombing in Turkey’s capital, with at least 125 wounded
March 22, Brussels and Zaventem, Belgium: 32 killed and 340 injured in three co-ordinated bombings in Belgium, two at Brussels Airport and one at a metro station
March 27, Lahore, Pakistan: At least 72 dead, including 29 children, and 200 injured in a suicide bombing that hit one of the largest parks in Lahore

April 19, Kabul, Afghanistan: Up to 64 dead and more than 320 wounded in the deadliest attack in the capital since 2011, after a suicide bomber and gun assault on a government security building
April 22, Mosul, Iraq: At least 250 Iraqi women were executed by IS fighters because they refused to become sex slaves
April 30, Baghdad, Iraq: At least 38 dead and 86 wounded after a suicide bomber detonated in a suburb

May 1, Samawa, Iraq: At least 33 killed and 75 wounded after twin suicide car explosions in Iraq’s mostly-Shia south, an area where such incidents are considered rare
May 11, Baghdad, Iraq: At least 110 dead and 165 injured in a series of attacks in and near Baghdad, which IS fighters said were aimed at Shias
May 17, Baghdad, Iraq: At least 101 people dead and 194 injured after a series of bombings and shootings in the city claimed by IS
May 23, Jableh and Tartus, Syria: Up to 184 killed and 200 wounded in a series of car bomb and suicide attacks, claimed by IS

June 12, Orlando, Florida, US: 49 people dead and 53 injured after a lone-wolf gunman entered a gay nightclub, resulting in the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter in the US and the the deadliest terrorist attack in the US since 9/11
June 14, Lake Chad, Cameroon, 52 fishermen killed by Boko Haram militants
June 28, Istanbul, Turkey: 44 dead and 239 wounded after three suicide attackers opened fire and blew themselves up at Atatürk Airport
June 30, Wardak, Afghanistan: At least 40 killed and 50 injured after two Taliban suicide bombers attacked police cadets returning from a graduation ceremony

July 1, Dhaka, Bangladesh: At least 24 killed and 50 injured after a number of gunmen attack a restaurant popular with foreigners in a wealthy area of Dhaka, following a hostage situation and shoot-out
July 3, Baghdad, Iraq: At least 308 killed and over 246 injured after a large car bomb explosion in the middle of a busy market in Karrada, which contains a Shia majority. The attack was the deadliest suicide attack in Iraq since the 2007 Yazidi communities bombings
July 4, Medina, Saudi Arabia: four dead and five injured after a suicide bomber targeted security forces outside the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina
July 7, Balad, Iraq: Between 56 to 100 dead and over 75 injured after a suicide car bomb blew up at the gate of the mausoleum of Sayid Mohammed bin Ali Al-Hadi, in an attack claimed by IS
July 14, Nice, France: At least 84 dead and over 65 injured after a truck drove through a crowd of people on the Promenade des Anglais as celebrations for French National Day ended