The “new order” for Afghanistan’s children

I received a horribly disturbing email feed today from the IWPR, which has been doing some great reporting from Afghanistan. This report is titled, LIVES SHATTERED BY SEXUAL ABUSE; Authorities say that incidents of young boys being kidnapped and abused by commanders may actually be increasing, and it was reported by Wahidullah Noori from Mazar-e-Sharif.
I’ll copy the whole text in beneath this, because it deserves very wide exposure.
After reading the email I went over to the Afghanistan section of the IWPR website to find a URL for this story, but it’s not there yet– (Ooops, it just went up there. Look here.) What I found there as well, from last week, was this story, on a disturbingly similar theme:

    Daughters Sold to Settle Debts
    Poppy growers say the government’s anti-drug program is forcing them to surrender their children to drug dealers.
    By Haytullah Gaheez in Jalalabad

I am almost beyond words.
Both pieces are very solidly reported and include some heart-rending interviews with some of the youngsters involved. In both cases, the reporters tried to get some reaction to their reporting, and some generally relevant policy statements, from local authorities and other opinion-makers in the cities they were reporting from.
Gaheez’s story begins like this:

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Afghan elections–a model?

In this Sept. 25 column in Al-Hayat, I asked:

    [I]s it possible that the upcoming Afghanistan election-like the one organized under U.S. military control in Vietnam in 1971-is more about consolidating U.S. military power around the world than it is about seeking and respecting the “free will of the (non-American) people”?

Sadly, as of now, it still appears that this answer may end up being answered with a yes.
The whole debacle in Afghanistan over the use of non-permanent inks by election officials is almost beyond belief.
Sometime during the day yesterday, all 15 of the opposition candidates announced their decision to withdraw from the elections because of the demonstrated seriousness of the ink-marking problem.
The AP’s Paul Haven wrote a great piece in which he contrasted the reactions of George Bush– who crowed about the election being a “marvellous thing”– with those of the actual election contenders in Afghanistan:

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David Passaro/ Hyder Akbar contd.

The second good piece in today’s NYT mag is a short “as told to” piece featuring Hyder Akbar. You may recall that Akbar is the young Bay Area Afghan-American who had the un-nerving experience of accompanying a “wanted” man in Afghanistan into the custody of some US soldiers and contractors– only to be called in three days later and told that the man, Abdul Wali, was dead.
US contract employee David Passaro is now being tried in connection with the torture of that suspect. (I wrote a post about that here, on June 17.)
Anyway, in this latest piece, Akbar gives many more details than he had done in an earlier, NPR-broadcast radio diary about the time he spent taking Abdul Wali to the American base back in June 2003.
In fact, he stayed with Abdul Wali and with the three Americans who were interrogating him inside the US base for quite a while, interpreting between the two sides. (It seems that none of the Americans apart from him knew any of Abdul Wali’s language. Nor, as seems equally clear, did they understand anything about the local culture.)
So there they were: Akbar, then 18 years old, Abdul Wali, and also (according to Akbar’s latest account)…

    Steve, Brian and Dave, who proved to be David A. Passaro, the C.I.A. contractor now facing trial. It was more than 100 degrees in the small room, and above us, a fan whirred wildly.
    The interrogation started casually enough. In his friendly Southern accent, Brian dispensed with the nuts and bolts: have you been in contact with Taliban? Were you Taliban? Then the subject turned to Wali’s recent visit to Pakistan.
    ”How long ago were you in Pakistan?” Brian asked.
    Wali looked confused, and I doubted he’d be able to answer. People in Kunar don’t have calendars; most of them don’t even know how old they are.
    ”You don’t have to give a specific date,” Brian said. ”Was it two, three days ago? Two, three weeks ago? Two, three months ago?”
    ”I don’t know,” Wali responded. ”It’s really hard for me to say.”

Soon therafter:

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Democratization as instant coffee?

The NYT has a lovely profile today of someone I have lots of admiration for: the veteran Algerian diplomat (and former Foreign Minister) Lakhdar Brahimi, who has also for the past two years been the UN’s top official in Afghanistan.
The profile is by Carlotta Gall. She gives one tiny vignette that indicates the importance Brahimi has had in the attempt to rebuild Afghanistan almost from scratch. It came from one of last week’s sessions of the country’s just-completed 502-person loya jirga (“big council”):

    [H]e proved his usefulness to the last. He had delayed his departure several times as the loya jirga faltered, and then almost fell apart. Nearly half the delegates boycotted a vote on amendments on Thursday, and tensions were rising as the assembly split along ethnic lines.
    That put the rest of the transition in jeopardy, from the United Nations-run disarmament and demobilization program to elections that, under the Bonn accords, would take place in six months.
    Mr. Brahimi spoke to the delegates boycotting a vote, entering the tent from the side door, slightly hunched in his overcoat. They had shouted down every other official, including their own faction leaders, but had asked for him to mediate. After a day of meetings Friday, delegates were saying that Mr. Brahimi had succeeded in breaking the logjam.

For me, the most significant part of the piece was where Gall was describing a memo that Brahimi recently gave to the still-precarious Afghan government and foreign diplomats in Kabul:

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