Saturday, January 14

Culture force

Afghanis may have a better idea of the complete role of US special operation forces than many Americans do. And it's not just about tracking down culprits like Osama bin Laden.

Reporting for the Tampa, Tribune, Howard Altman quotes Air Force Maj. Ge. David J. Scott:  "[T]he larger role of special operators – on average older, better educated and better trained than general purpose troops – is in 'non-kinetic' missions like disaster relief, civil affairs, winning the hearts and minds at the village level and foreign internal defense, all designed to work 'by, with and through host governments.'"

Women soldiers can volunteer to join the Cultural Support Program:  "to serve as enablers supporting Army special-operations combat forces in and around secured objective areas....  training will primarily focus on basic human behavior, Islamic and Afghan cultures, women and their role in Afghanistan, and tribalism."

A year's commitment is required.

Photo, US Department of Defense

Tuesday, January 10

Afghan kittens

Even US Marines like kittens.

Daniela Caride of Taildom reports on a mission led by Marines to transfer pet cats from Afghanistan to the United States: "Brian Chambers found Kiki and his sister, Bones, at only 3 weeks old. Their mother had disappeared and the kittens were left alone to fend for themselves."

Expect to see kittens in the sequel to Fear of Beauty. In fact, a set of yellow tabbies opens the book, and they're based on experiences with Rosebud, shown above, in New York City, circa 1979.

Saturday, December 31

Ding dong

Reason to be thankful that Laashekoh has no cell phones: 

The Wall Street Journal reports that people load special ringtones on phones in case the Taliban stop them and check. "The growing popularity of Taliban-safe phones highlights the increasing sense of insecurity across Afghanistan - and in particular in Kabul," writes Dion Nissenbaum and Habib Khan Totakhil.

We can control what we show, we can hide what we know. But does that change how we think?

Thursday, December 22


Books allow strangers and those who are already very close to discover deeper connections. The inscriptions provide clues into the feelings behind these connections.

Wednesday, October 20


Noah Shachtman in Wired's Danger Room: "In Afghanistan, local and NATO forces are amassing biometric dossiers on hundreds of thousands of cops, crooks, soldiers, insurgents and ordinary citizens. And now, with NATO’s backing, the Kabul government is putting together a plan to issue biometrically backed identification cards to 1.65 million Afghans by next May."

One Army biometrics manager admitted in the article that such databases become "hit lists" if they fall into the wrong hands. 

The biometrics of an Afghanistan National Police officer from the Kuh-e Safi district are added to the national database with a  handheld monitor.  The system uses fingerprints, iris imaging and facial recognition technology. 

 (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia and US Army Spc. William E. Henry, Task Force Cyclon Public Affairs)

Wednesday, August 4

Climate change

People of every country must prepare for climate change, and Afghanistan is no different.

Some predictions from the UK Department for International Development Through the Livelihoods Resource Center: significant warming across all regions of Afghanistan and a small increase in rainfall in the short term and decreased rainfall later in this century.

The report continues:  "The climate models suggest that Afghanistan will be confronted by a range of new and increased climatic hazards. The most likely adverse impacts of climate change in Afghanistan are drought related, including associated dynamics of desertification and land degradation. Drought is likely to be regarded as the norm by 2030, rather than as a temporary or cyclical event."

Such predictions suggest that water supplies will be uncertain in the years ahead. This is not good news for farmers or the poor.

As climate change reshapes landscapes, it will also darken the moods of entire countries.