Archive for February, 2010
Washington D.C.- The Jamestown Foundation is hosting a conference on Thursday, March 4th at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (at 1779 Massachusetts Avenue Northwest; Metro Dupont Circle) on the country-wide elections to be held on March 7th and the future of the country’s stability and security. The lunch hour will feature keynote speakers Zalmay Khalilzad & Dr. Colin Kahl.
The topics will include:
•The Iraqi Elections and the Shifting Political Landscape
•Iraq’s Changing Security Environment
•Foreign Relations & Energy Policy
•Future Challenges to Iraqi Stability
To register for the conference, please click HERE.
New York- The BBC is reporting yet another round of violence against the stateless Rohingya being perpetrated by the Bangladeshi authorities. One of the most violently persecuted people in the world today, the Rohingya cannot seem to find safe quarter anywhere. Every so often, the Bangladesh Rifles and border police seem to like to go into one of their ad hoc refugee settlements and give them a good thrashing to put them in their place. Bangladesh is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and does not feel the need to adhere to people’s most basic human rights. The Rohingya have not feared much better upon landing ashore in Thailand where many of them have been pushed back out to sea by the Thai armed forces to drown. Two years ago I reported on the plight of the Rohingya for the Huffington Post; first on the underground migrant scene in Karachi, Pakistan, and then on the squalid refugee camps of Bangladesh’s deep southeast. Apparently nothing has improved for these immensely desperate people and nothing looks to change in the near term. After coming back to New York from South Asia in the spring of 2008, I just happened to meet Ismat Jahan, who was then the Bangladeshi ambassador to the UN and politely but firmly asked her to assist these people in what I termed a South Asian Darfur. She demurred saying that the UN was sending her on a good governance junket to Sierra Leone while her own country festered. Isn’t the international system just fabulous!
New York- Jason Florio has a big photo essay in the current Winter 2010 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review called The Pirate Port about the quasi ragtag Somaliland coast guard in Berbera and their dealings with pirates based out of Bossaso in neighboring Puntland. The whole issue of VQR is dedicated to Africa and seems pretty interesting. I saw the bold cover shot on the rack at Barnes & Noble and it caught my eye. The photo essay is pretty lush especially in a time when a lot of publications seem to cutting back on their photo budgets. I love that the article shows a different side of the struggle for Somalia than the Shabab/Ethiopia angle. It shows that Somalia, well the breakaway Somaliland region anyway, is a region that you can actually visit and tour around within reason. The Somalilanders who inherited some of the ideas of parliamentary democracy from the British who ran the region as a protectorate, have been running the area as an independent state since the fall of Siad Barre in 1991 but have obviously failed to get anyone to care outside of their own diaspora and the odd internationalist intellectual. This VQR is definitely worth a look for anyone tired of the same stories being run in the MSM.
More of Jason’s work can be seen on his revamped site here. Jason did an article last year for Men’s Journal called “The New War for Hearts and Minds” on Human Terrain Teams in Kapisa Province in Afghanistan that became pretty controversial for some reason (I think having to do with a subset of right-wing bloggers called “Mil (-itary) bloggers.”). There are more great photos on his site than were printed in the original article. Makes me wish I still had my photography site up….
New York- I saw on the news yesterday that former Texas congressman of Hollywood legend, Charlie Wilson, died. In a way, I suppose his passing kind of represents the end of an opaque era. For some reason, the story, and that of the newly released 9/11 aerial photos made me realize that that era in Afghanistan history is really just that now; history. These stories jogged my memory of a foggy party night in Kabul last fall where I wound up in an underground karaoke bar called the Golden Key in Wazir Akbar Khan with some temporary journalist friends and a bevy of obnoxious NGO expat types. The bathroom was upstairs and on one trip I saw a kind of strange photo on the wall of this Chinese father and son who I think owned the restaurant bar establishment. From the looks of the photo, which they have proudly displayed, they were either doing business with Massoud or his cohorts or perhaps they had an establishment in the Panjshir Valley in 2001 (I didn’t see a Chinese bar in Khwaja Bauhuddin, that’s for sure)? What the photo basically says to me is these guys are OG and therefore untouchable in the Karzai government’s crackdown on places dispensing booze to debauched foreigners. Earlier that same evening, we were at Peter Jouvenal’s place and the waiters had shut the bar because there were rumors of a possible raid after another place was liberated of all its spirits a few days before in Wazir Akbar Khan. I was even further surprised to learn this sketchy place has a website upon googling it today: Golden Key Seafood Restaurant. I would love to know what the story behind this picture is. If anyone knows, please email me.
New York- I attended an event at Asia Society in New York last Thursday called India and Pakistan: Back from the Brink? that dealt largely with the never ending fight over Kashmir. From India was C. Raja Mohan, author of Crossing the Rubicon: The Shaping of India’s New Foreign Policy and current Kissenger Chair at the Library of Congress. From Pakistan was Dr. Adil Najam, professor of International Relations at Boston University. No one from the other major stakeholder, China (with its own slice of occupied Kashmir called Aksai Chin) was present nor was there a Kashmiri to represent the people of Kashmir save for an audience member who spoke up. The event was moderated by Briton Robert Templer from the International Crisis Group. Raja Mohan explained to the audience that the Musharraf years between 2004-2007 were more productive toward a modicum of Indo-Pak peace than the sum of foreign relations in the previous four decades. All of this was derailed by the end of Musharraf’s one-man, rather unipolar military-civilian government, and of course the vile Mumbai terror attack in late November of 2008. Mohan said that the post-Musharraf power structure in Islamabad had complicated things in that the Singh government was now dealing with a Kayani-Zardari-Gilani troika rather than just talking to and dealing with one man as it had done for years with General Pervez Musharraf.
With the prospect of a getting a peace process back on track, Mohan said that such a process must be able withstand pressure from the spoilers. That is to say if Lashkar-e-Tayyba or another Pakistani terror group launches a large scale attack on the Indian heartland, that peace talks will not automatically be turned off at the tap in response. Doing so would hand another victory to those waging asymmetrical warfare/mass murder in South Asia. Adil Najam stated that he was more of an optimist than a realist when considering territorial disputes between India and Pakistan in a broader context. Najam is hopeful that by working on the Sir Creek dispute on the Arabian Sea and the Siachen glacier dispute on the Chinese frontier abutting the Chinese-controlled Shaksgam valley, the larger Kashmir dispute can be talked about more amicably if the less ideologically and emotionally-based conflicts can be settled peacefully. Najam believes there is currently a viable window open for the two primary players to work on the Kashmir dispute but that this window will not last and must be taken advantage of in the near term. Mohan said the Indians were unclear if Musharraf’s policies on Kashmir had been grandfathered in by the current Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani and were therefore not sure of some of the parameters for discussion with their Himalayan opponent. On the subject of cross border terrorism, often Delhi’s biggest contention, Najam said that Pakistan will reign in terror groups when it realizes it is in its own interest to do so rather than as a component of Indian demands (that may further bruise Pakistan’s battered ego). Mohan concluded that Kashmir and the other disputes between India and Pakistan (he left out poor Bangladesh) are more of a post-1947 South Asian civil war stemming from the massive internecine partition than a classic war in the international sense.
New York- On Friday evening, I launched the first issue of my new publication with the Jamestown Foundation called Militant Leadership Monitor. I have the free teaser article about the death of a Moro militant in Waziristan a few weeks ago. It’s a subscription-based site that we are doing for $150 a year for twelve issues ($300 for institutions). Our inaugural issue has profiles of Qais al-Khazali by Rafid Fadhil Ali, Dr. Khalil Ibrahim by Dr. Andrew McGregor, and Ilyas Kashmiri by Arif Jamal plus briefs by yours truly on the surrender of an Oromo Liberation Front leaders in Addis Ababa and the shoot up of Mullah Krekar’s flat in Oslo. I think we’re off to a good start…2010 is shaping up to be an interesting year.