Monday, October 8, 2012

It’s Green On Blue In Afghanistan

By Junaid Maseeh
There have been increasing incidents of men in Afghan security forces uniform attacking foreign soldiers in Afghanistan. This has given rise to mistrust between the NATO forces and the Afghans they are training. As many as four US soldiers were killed on September 16 by Afghans dressed in police uniforms. The incident took place at the district headquarter in the Mizan district of Zabul province. It is the latest fatal “insider” attack; the new threat faced by the allied forces in the country. Only on the day before, two British soldiers had died in a similar attack in the southern province of Helmand. NATO refers to these incidents as “green on blue” attacks wherein Afghans—police, soldiers or individuals wearing the green uniforms—attack the blue-clad coalition forces. These attacks are a cause of great worry as regards the security of the allied forces and that of long term security of Afghanistan. If the same Afghan police personnel and soldiers, who are trained by and supposedly work hand in hand with International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), turn their guns on allied troops then the men in blue have every reason to worry about their security. The international forces are training Afghans for taking the charge of the country after withdrawal of the NATO forces by 2014. It will be a clear defeat of the international community led by the United States which attacked Afghanistan to liberate it from Taliban, if the country again goes in the hand of the Islamist fundamentalists. This, unfortunately, is what many of the analysts fear in the view of the ground realities in Afghanistan. Even after more than a decade of war the foreign troops are unable to weaken the Taliban. They strike at will whenever they want. Their claim of having infiltrated the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), which is trained by NATO, is not baseless. These very infiltrators are believed to be the inside attackers. Taliban have taken responsibility for many of the "green on blue" attacks. Afghan and NATO officials, however, say that about 75 per cent of the attacks are not connected to the Taliban and are mostly triggered by misunderstandings and cultural differences among the Afghans and their Western allies. Factors Leading To Insider Attacks In fact there are multiple reasons behind increase in inside attacks targeting especially the US troops. After withdrawing the 33,000 troops ordered into the fight as part of a military surge three years ago the US has 68,000 forces on the ground in Afghanistan. One of the factors that might be urging the Afghan security forces to go against the alien troops is said to be personal grievances. Some of them might have lost their dearest and nearest ones into NATO strikes. In their views the foreign troops are murderers of their kith and kin. Participating in a TV debate over insider attacks Brigadier General Gunter Katz, NATO forces spokesperson, said, “The main cause for those incidents were personal grievances. Knowing this, we still have confidence in our Afghan partners, the troops out there are still willing to work with them, they have the trust that we all are working together to achieve the same objective.” There are also the reports that the western troops do not treat the Afghan security forces the way they expect. In a conversation with a member of the ANSF in the southern province of Kandahar, Wazhma Frogh, executive director of the Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security, says the soldier told her: “We didn’t have water to drink or food to eat and we were fighting on the front lines. The American forces behind us, who weren’t on the front lines, would have the best food and bottles of water in front of them.” Besides, like a majority of the Afghan society, many inside the security forces are unhappy with the current state of affairs in the country. It has been twelve years since Taliban were ousted. Still there is widespread anarchy in the country. Civilians are killed both in militant and NATO strikes. Out of frustration the Afghan security forces may pull the trigger against the western troops whom many of them hold responsible for the current state of affairs in the country. Martine van Bijlert, co-director of the Afghanistan Analyst Network, told that the expectations of soldiers and average citizens may have been too high but general frustration that the past decade “didn’t bring peace ... didn’t bring stability” to the country, permeates across the ANSF ranks. Barring Taliban, a large section of the Afghans holds foreign troops responsible for anarchy in Afghanistan. “The claim ... [that] each of these events is an isolated incident ... simply doesn't fly .... It may be that everyone of those attackers had some personal grievance [but] that doesn't explain the trends. It doesn't take into account the fact that beyond the Taliban, there is massive opposition throughout Afghanistan to the presence of foreign forces occupying their country,” said Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of Ending the US war in Afghanistan: A primer. The feeling of being occupied is common in Afghans. Talking to Al Jazeera news channel Omaid Sharifi, a transition coordination consultant, said that regardless of who is actually responsible for Afghanistan's problems, there is "a lot of propaganda" by the Taliban and government opponents to "paint a negative image of this government and international forces". Though the international community claims that it is there to establish peace in Afghanistan a major section of Afghans see them as mere occupiers. In fact, the night-time raids and drone attacks, of which civilians have to bear the brunt, have lent credential to their perception. Abul Rahim, a shopkeeper in the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, says that night-time raids into Afghan houses by foreign forces are one cause of local resentment. “We are traditional...Maintaining safety and authority over our own households is everything for us.” Rahim says such “insults” against the local population leave a lasting mark on the psyche of Afghan troops. According to Iqbal Hussain Gajri, a university student in Kabul, the NATO and US soldiers “have created the opportunity for these green-on- blue incidents". “They did many things insulting our religious beliefs, like burning the Quran.” The incident of burning the Qur’an at the Bagram airbase had led not only to a series of angry protests, but also to one of the year’s first insider attacks when two US advisers were shot dead by an Afghan “ believed ” to have been a police employee, in a heavily guarded area of the Ministry of Interior, only accessible through a numerical combination. The members of Afghan security forces come out of these common Afghans who are not necessarily Taliban sympathisers but do see the western forces as occupiers and insensitive to their religious sentiments. However, the big reason behind increase in insider attacks may be successful infiltration of Taliban in the rank of ANSF. This possibility cannot be denied. It is hard to detect the loyalty of any aspirant while recruiting as the Afghans are same in appearance and Taliban are but common Afghans. According to the reports, ANSF has increased recruitment rates by more than 60,000 in 2012. Taliban can take advantage of the situation and infiltrate in the ANSF. Some days back Afghanistan's defence ministry issued a statement saying that it had arrested or sacked hundreds of Afghan soldiers for suspected links to the Taliban or other anti-state fighters. However, Aimal Faizi, the spokesman of Afghan President Hamid Karzai says that these killings were the result of “infiltration by foreign spy agencies into Afghan security forces”. Reaction of the Coalition Forces The international community is taking the new trend of rogue Afghan soldiers and police turning their guns on the foreign troops very seriously. According to the reports, the American Forces Press Service, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey said the Afghan government needs to take the problem as seriously as do US commanders and officials. "We're all seized with (the) problem," Dempsey was quoted as saying. "You can't whitewash it. We can't convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it. Something has to change." According to Mr. Dempsey, the current situation is worrisome for both the foreign troops and the Afghan security forces. "But we've got to make sure our Afghan counterparts are as seized about it as we are...We have to get on top of this. It is a very serious threat to the campaign." United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said that he views rogue Afghan troops and police turning their guns on allied forces attacks as the "last gasp" of a Taliban insurgency that has not been able to regain lost ground. Afghans To Be Left On Mercy Of Taliban? The insider attackers target mainly US soldiers. These attacks have come at a time when the NATO-led forces are preparing to leave and hand over security responsibility to the Afghan army and police, with the withdrawal process due to be completed by 2014. NATO troops have been in the country since the US-led invasion in October 2001. By 2003 the US secretary of defence claimed that "major combat" had ended. But a decade later the number of the NATO-led force had risen to 150,000 with no significant let up in the level of violence. By 2014, however, they will be leaving Afghanistan. The question remains how they will be successful in establishing peace within the remaining two years or so while they could not do this in ten years? Will the Afghans who had supported the coalition forces be left on the mercy of Taliban? If ANSF has been infiltrated by Taliban, will the insurgents dominate Afghanistan security establishment after NATO turns the security operations over to Afghan forces?

Innocence Of Muslims: Voices Of Sanity And Reason Needed

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed
Till these lines going to the press, 30 Muslims have lost their lives in protests against the absurd film Innocence of Muslims. As a devout Muslim myself, I plead with Muslims all over the world that they must, at any cost, not lose their lives and leave the matter to God , today and even after as they’ll always be, till the world lives, be hurt like that. Undoubtedly, it is a stupid film clip put on YouTube and translated into Arabic that has, obviously triggered heartburn and violence. It’s not the first time that the Prophet Mohammed and Islam have been demeaned. Prophet had himself prophesied that Islam will be put down and he will be debased, however, Muslims must never react to that. Best to ignore such issues that they die their natural death rather than being framed. Muslims should not allow themselves to be exploited by radical and reactionary groups to ferment anti-Western feelings. The problem with us Muslims is that without having read the holy Quran, without having truly followed the Prophet and Islam, we are ready to lay or take lives if someone is critical. We forget that both Islam and the Prophet invite dissent. That’s how it has spread through the Sufi saints. Mark Twain quite genuinely once wrote, “It is by the grace of God that in our country, we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and the prudence never to use them.” Muslims should not react but respond patiently depicting tolerance and sabr (patience), two of the umpteen positive aspects of Islam in spite of the fact that the manner in which the film was made, gave credence to the suggestion that the point of this exercise was not defending freedom of expression but offending Muslims. Blasphemy is common place as it’s a global fact. Christians have become accustomed to artists’ offending their religious symbols. They can protest — cut off public funding but the right of the individual to say or depict offensive messages or symbols is not denied. M. F. Hussain, the famed Indian artist drew a nude pose of deity Saraswati but no death sentence was announced, rather Hindus tolerated and more than that — ignored the best treatment to such things. No protest took or no death sentence was announced to Hussain! Let’s be objective. The non-Muslims ask about the community’s response regarding another blasphemy that occurred on September 11, 2001 when fanatics murdered thousands of innocents. “So where were the Muslim protests and boycotts of Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan after that horrifying event? Since 9/11, mosques have been bombed in Iraq and Pakistan by terrorists in the name of jehad. Where were the protests condemning attacks on holiest of shrines?” questions Andrew Sullivan in Time. This is a common grudge that is often heard by non-Muslims whenever there’s a terrorist attack on innocents. Nevertheless, this doesn’t justify the demonizing of the Prophet as two wrongs never make a right. The film, Innocence of Muslims is harmful as it tends to misinform, mislead, generalize and characterize about the Prophet and Muslims on the whole as violent and sexually pervert (as had also been in the case of Danish cartoons). Both sides including the makers of the said film disparaging Prophet Mohammed and reacting Muslims have exaggerated showing not clash of civilizations but fundamentalisms and orthodoxies. If it’s a fact that Prophet Mohammed’s picture is strictly prohibited, Muslims must open heartedly understand that there is an old tradition in the secular Western society to make fun of everything. Besides, Prophet himself has borne such attacks throughout rather sportingly when he propagated Islam. Not only this, he had strictly refused his followers to be violent if he were demeaned or attacked. He asked them to be tolerant and patient. Simultaneously the West too should be sensible not to insult Prophet. The community must introspect as to what’s lacking in their attitude that time and again the Muslims in India and globally, are at pangs the way the media ill portrays them pertaining to issues like — Danish cartoons, triple talaq, family planning, jehad, position of women, Vande Mataram, Muslim identity etc. Truth is that the problem lies with us as we are not able to explain to them comprehensively and lucidly the concepts of Islam that are all astoundingly modern and practicable. When we don’t educate ourselves about Islam, how can we instruct others? Muslims should articulate their response to these provocations and outline a peaceful and intellectual course of action to be undertaken in protest of this blasphemy. To react emotionally is excessive. Islam never asks to react to the extent that one lays down one’s life. Sanctity of life must be above every issue be it Babri mosque, Taslima, Rushdie, cartoons, a blasphemous film or any other issue. We have to calm down. Moreover, in the Quran, it has clearly been mentioned that there will always be non-believers trying to off track the ummah but it is not for the Muslims to take revenge or even react but to leave it to Allah. At the same time, secular fundamentalism and orthodoxy too must be reined in that we see in some Western societies. France, supposedly the champion of freedom of expression, by prohibiting the hijab (veil), wearing a turban, skull cap or applying a bindi (decorative spot applied on forehead by Hindu women), has joined hands with what it castigates — zealous jehad. Is this French jehad? The range of reactions to the film among Muslims and non-Muslims simultaneously served as a reminder of the gaping wedge that still exists between the West and much of the Islamic world. This gap should be lessened as much as possible. What is of paramount importance is that along with the right to expression is also attached the duty of not to ignore others’ rights. This applies as much to Jyllands-Posten as to the protesters who are burning and trampling US flags. It’s on record that Muslims have never portrayed Jesus or any other deity like that as Islam asks its followers to respects all faiths. It has been seen that time and again, the Western media has been cajoling and provoking Muslims on such issues. The film disgracing the Prophet, hurt not only the religious sentiments of Muslims but the soul of freedom of expression, fraternity, secularism and civil society. In the given situation, a moderate Muslim is pushed to the fringes. If he speaks up for the protestors, he would be branded as a fundamentalist and if he sides with the freedom of expression, he would be declared a heretic by a fatwa or more so, done to death. The film seems to be a part of the conspiracy to malign Islam and Muslims as they are on a fast track of anti-terrorism movement. Moreover after the innovation of websites and other communicative organs, since Islam happens to be the most propagated and popular religion in the Western world, diatribes like this have been common to undermine the faith. Prophet Mohammed himself used to be very calm and composed in such situations. He never criticized people but through magnanimity, a trait of his character, he used to win his opponents’ hearts. He always advised people cater to the voice of sanity. He was beset with enemies for most of his missionary life but he faced all persecution and tortures with a smiling face, and never complained; he carried out his duties undeterred. But despite that I am completely against banning of these newspapers. Muslims have the right not to read these newspapers but they don’t need to shut them down and we certainly don’t need to indulge in arson and kill people. The film, despite knowing the seriousness and consequences of the subject of deprecating the prophet, wanted to provoke a reaction. That reaction has been provoked. But along with the right to speech should also be clubbed the right to conscience as all the adherents of various faiths have an unwritten consensus to mutually respect each other’s faith.

Prime Minister Admonishes Media

By A Hameed Yousuf
Being a democracy India gives freedom to the media. Rather, the media is considered to be the fourth pillar of democracy. With this freedom come many responsibilities which the media cannot ignore. In India, which is home to various cultures and religions, media is supposed to promote co-existence and tolerance. In the case of failing to do so, the media will be demolishing the very structure of democracy which it is expected to support. It is worrisome that a section of the media, both electronic and print, tends to ignore this responsibility. In some of the cases, it even takes a stand with the elements who openly denounce cosmopolitanism of Indian society. Surprisingly the likes of Narendra Modi and L. K. Advani, best known for their divisive politics, have their supporters in the media. Similar is the case with some minority community leaders who enjoy the patronage of some media houses. Besides this, the approach of the media over some issues is sowing the seeds of hatred among Indian communities. This is true especially in the case of terrorism. After media bashing of anyone accused of terrorism, the person and his family face social boycott. Though he is acquitted as innocent later, the hatred towards him in the hearts of people is hard to remove. In an attempt to sensationalize a simple case, the media in fact tears apart the Indian society. Recently addressing a gathering of Kerala Union of Working Journalists the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said that media should avoid the desire to be sensational and exercise restraint. According to him, it will help prevent the division of society and country. “The desire to be sensational should be avoided even though it is very tempting sometimes. Restraint should be exercised so that nothing that divides our society and country is written, broadcast or telecast,” he said. Singh’s advice to the media came while referring to the recent violence in Assam and its reverberations in other parts of the country, especially in South, which saw exodus of thousands of north-easterners back to their home states. In fact, the media has a very important role to play in promoting greater communal harmony and inter-group and inter-community dialogue. It is so that the Prime Minister emphasised that media should be constantly vigilant and work continuously towards this cause. “Freedom for multiple, often opposing, viewpoints to co-exist is one of the defining characteristics of our society and polity. An independent and responsible media is a pre-requisite for sustaining such a society and polity,” he said adding, “...We are proud that freedom of expression is a constitutional guarantee in India. The media in our country is not just a reliable barometer of public opinion; it is also the conscience-keeper of our nation.” Mr. Singh also urged the media to be “fair, objective and balanced” in its reporting and opinion. The media should promote optimism among its audience. This could be done through more focus on positive reporting. It would be laudable if the media carries the reports of development activities. Mr. Manmohan Singh praised the Kerala press for its development journalism. To act upon the suggestions by the Prime Minister is not only in the interest of the country but also of the media. Sane people are fed up with the negativity found in media reporting.