Friday, April 22, 2011

Talks with Taliban by R Maryam

U.S. President Barack Obama is open to the idea of reaching out to moderate elements of the Taliban, The New York Times reported on Saturday. Many ordinary Afghans remain deeply uncomfortable with the idea of reconciling with the Taliban. The Karzai government advocates talking to the Taliban, but this is far from the will of the Afghan people, who have lived amid the violence and intolerance for years and they are far less naive than those in the West about their destructive intentions. From all accounts Taliban are even more extremist today than they were before. Violence is also at its highest in Afghanistan since U.S. led forces toppled the Taliban in 2001. President Obama, sees the Afghan conflict far more pressing concern than the unpopular war in Iraq. A majority of Americans now see the war in Afghanistan as not worth fighting, More than six in ten Americans oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan, according CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, it also indicates that 56 percent of the public believes that things are going badly for the U.S. in Afghanistan.

Admiral Mike Mullen traveled to Islamabad to repair the strained relationship between United States and Pakistan. Speaking to Pakistani TV, the Admiral directly and publicly accused elements of the Pakistani military, as well as Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, of supporting extremist groups.

Admiral Mullan said, "The ISI has a long-standing relationship with the Haqqani network, that doesn't mean everybody in the ISI, but it's there. I also have an understanding that the ISI and Pakistani military exist to protect their own citizens." The Haqqani is one of the most deadly obstacles to US and NATO operations in Afghanistan, it is accused of  launching attacks on foreign troops from its Waziristan bases.

It is no secret that Pakistan needs billions of U.S. dollars in aid because it's economy is in dire strait, but U.S. in returns expects a strong and reliable ally. Over the past 10 years U.S. has become increasingly frustrated at Pakistan's ineptness at tacking Taliban forces in the region.

U.S. is facing a very difficult challenge, on one hand the support for the war is dwindling at home and on the other side Talibans and Al-Qaida are still strongly operating in the region.
 Maybe President Obama is thinking of cutting the middle man out and having direct talks with the moderate elements of Talibans, but there is no evidence that any such group exists. It seems talibans and Al-Qaida are bidding their time until U.S. withdraw it's troops and they are back in the business of hanging people in the soccer field.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Three Cups of Tea Investigated by R Maryam

The book about "one man's mission to promote peace, one school at a time," was investigated by 60 minutes, and it charges author with fabrications and misuse of the charity funds. The book has sold millions of copies and became a must read for the US troops deployed to Afghanistan. Mr. Mortenson was a twice nominate for Nobel Peace Prize and was awarded Sitara-i-Pakistan, for service to Pakistan; the highest civilian honor rarely awarded to a foreigners.
Greg Mortenson, an author of the bestseller Three Cups of Tea, is also charged by CBS that he is using his foundation as “ a personal ATM” and that a number of his personal stories in Afghanistan and Pakistan were false. According to the book Mr. Mortenson was kidnapped in Waziristan for eight days and later released when he won the trust of kidnappers by asking for the copy of Quran.

The Central Asia Institute took in  $60 million in donations, including $100,000 from President Barack Obama from his Nobel Peace Prize fee. Mr Mortenson claims to have built more than 140 schools, mostly for girls. Accorded to CBS they visited or checked 30 schools and found they were "roughly half were empty, built by somebody else, or not receiving support at all".

Mr. Mortenson denies the alligations

 Mortenson, 53, founder and executive director of the Central Asia Institute, defended building schools for children, especially girls, in remote Pakistani and Afghan villages.
“I hope these allegations and attacks, the people doing these things, know this could be devastating for tens of thousands of girls, for the sake of Nielsen ratings and Emmys,” Mortenson told the Chronicle in a phone interview Friday.
“I stand by the information conveyed in my book,” he wrote in a statement, “and by the value of CAI’s work in empowering local communities to build and operate schools that have educated more than 60,000 students.”
Mortenson said CAI’s success in fundraising, $23.7 million last year means it can build 63 new schools this year, in addition to more than 170 already established.
He denied several “60 Minutes” allegations, and defended his financial dealings, but appeared to concede that one key story in his book was not literally true.
“I stand by the story of ‘Three Cups of Tea,’” Mortenson said in a written statement,“As the co-author of the book, along with David Oliver Relin, I am responsible for the content in the book. There were many people involved in the story and also those who produced the manuscript. What was done was to simplify the sequence of events for the purposes of telling what was, at times, a complicated story.”

Now that the allegations are out there, surly Pentagon will investigate the matter. As far as the Government of  Pakistan is concerned they should also investigate before bestowing someone with the Sitara-i-Pakistan.
The book is no doubt a good read and hopefully Mr. Mortenson will be more vigilant and continue building 63 much needed schools this year in Pakistan and Afghanistan.