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Twittering from Kabul

Posted by robertgreenwald on March 28th, 2009

Click here for more information about the Afghanistan war.

One day back from my trip to Afghanistan, and I first want to thank so many of you who sent wonderful messages, encouragement, and suggestions. Being in a dark room in Kabul while being able to post on Facebook and Twitter truly speaks to the connected universe.

The final day in Kabul: We were on our way to the peace and reconciliation committee when our “fixer” (that is the official name of the person who translates and helps arrange interviews, accommodations, and security) let me know that there would be 20 or so members of the Taliban turning in their weapons that day! I almost jumped out of my seat, which is relatively simple because virtually none of the roads are paved and so the bumps are big and continuous.

When we arrived, sitting in the courtyard were 20 or more men, their weapons lined up against the wall. I conducted an abbreviated interview with the head of the committee, then raced with cameramen to begin talking and interviewing the Taliban. Within a few minutes I was engaged in interviewing, talking, and asking the various Taliban how long they had been fighting (from 2-30 years), why they fought, what they wanted to say to the United States, and what they wanted in general (jobs and to take care of their families).

As we raced to the airport after the interviews, I emailed our Producer Jason Zaro to find a translator who could work this weekend so we could get the interviews translated and begin editing Monday.

At the airport in Kabul I met Nazir, who had found me through Facebook/Twitter. He had film of the refugee camps that he wanted me to have. Sitting in the general waiting area, surrounded by many Afghans waiting for flights, Nazir popped a DVD of his footage into my computer, and proceeded to show me deeply dramatic faces of “collateral damage”: children, tents, hunger, deprivation.

With both the video of the Taliban interviews and the DVD of the refugee camp, I boarded my plane back to the States. I will be posting clips as we edit and get them translated in the coming days. You will be able to see them on Facebook, Brave New Films, the Rethink Afghanistan website.

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to “Twittering from Kabul”

  1. ralphlopez says:

    “…what they wanted in general (jobs and to take care of their families).”

    Robert, thank you for putting a spotlight on this most overlooked aspect of the insurgency. Following is a recent post of mine on that very subject

    Obama Making the Taliban Shadow Into the Real Thing

    by Ralph Lopez

    As Afghanistan experts in NGOs which actually work among the people frantically try to tell Obama that he is making a big, big, mistake, the arrival of the first of 17,000 more American troops has already borne fruit. It has managed to unite different factions of Taliban under the banner of Mullah Omar, who a month ago was wondering how to stay alive day-to-day against Predator strikes on one hand and radical young Taliban commanders who would like to take his place on the other. Obama single-handedly solved many of his problems. The UK Guardian:

    “three rival Pakistani Taliban groups have agreed to fight together against international troops in Afghanistan. The pact occurred after Mullah Omar, the cleric who leads the Afghan Taliban, called for all militants fighting in Pakistan to stop and come to Afghanistan to “liberate Afghanistan from the occupation forces.” The united group is calling itself Shura Ittihad-ul-Mujahideen, or Council of United Holy Warriors.”

    Most of the “Taliban” rank-and-file in Afghanistan currently consists of 19-year-old kids who stash their weapons under rocks until some Americans come around, which gives them the chance to fight and make a few bucks.

    The Obama plan is missing the forest for the trees, as do almost all present discussions of the insurgency. The West cannot understand that you cannot have 50% of children stunted through malnutrition, a 40% unemployment rate, no alternative to growing poppies as a means to feed your family, and foreign troops on the ground as a nice big red flag and not have an insurgency.

    They don't need a hundred more civilian engineers looking for places to build bridges. Spend $5 billion on indigenous jobs clearing canals and digging ditches for water pipeline, and your problem goes away, with all due respect to regional “no peace without Pakistan” analysis. The West is throwing away its most potent tool: most Afghans hate the Taliban. But a few months of killing these kids, whose crime is to want to feed their families, along with the inevitable civilian casualties and an atrocity or two, and by God now you've got a shooting war with real legs. As in, quagmire.

    American forces should decline to chase the “Taliban” across the countryside, and aim their guns outward to protect Afghan work-crews. If I were on a road crew leveling ground with a shovel and laying gravel, I would feel real safe with a company of Marines looking outwards around me. The Pakistan Taliban/Al Qaeda problem? Pakistani Pashtuns will likely start slipping across the border to get in on the jobs action.

    Day-labor-for-cash jobs, $5 a day, 500,000 of them. No chasing Taliban. Problem solved, we go home in a year.

    Fighting the “Taliban” shadow will only generate the hatred necessary to turn this into a genuinely nationalistic, ideology-driven conflict. Now NGOs, area experts, and I know how Cassandra felt. Please, Mr. President, there is still time to correct course.

    Afghanistan may never have a true central government. They have the Loya Jirga. The political goal should be to negotiate neutrality toward the West among all factions, and an inter-factional peace enforced with 90% carrots and 10% sticks. You may never stop Afghans from fighting each other. That's what Afghans do. But gradually warlordism will give way to a younger, better educated generation who will leave that behind and discover better ways to live life.

    this at http://www.mydd.com/story/2009/3/28/161944/992

    Ralph Lopez is the co-founder of Jobs for Afghans
    http://jobsforafghans.org

  2. Susy W Sardjono says:

    Actually the Afghanistan problems are beyond my comprehension. They are only for ' the big persons' in the world to solve, though what they have done to could impact the people like me.
    Since there are too many 'stubborn' thing in the air of Afghanistan, it will take much times consume to get the word “Peace” there; and it leads me to the thought of an utopia-ideas.
    What about the strong leader who can conduct the people and rebuild them into a “brand new nation”? (it will take 23 years minimum)
    What about to send the sociologists and anthropologists?… (50 years?)
    What about the NGO and the volunteers?… (..?)
    What about media?
    What about you? :D
    Me? (What?!)
    What about GOD?
    Oh! I come to my own conclusion, let the people do as what they are,then I just can see who is the best 'player' in this world-role…
    Let's do our best. and I must say this, i proud of your ideas and brave!
    Susy

  3. starchild2 says:

    Can't wait to see to see it all!

  4. Ron Callari says:

    I look forward to reading your Taliban interviews.You have a lot to share with Americans re: Talibans surrendering. This type of reporting is so needed, as we have been kept in the dark regarding the various Taliban factions and how willing or unwilling they are to cooperate with Americans. BRAVO to you… I look forward to your updates!

  5. Lindy says:

    Whoa! Thank you, Robert!

  6. JGASS says:

    SUPPORT OBAMA'S PLAN TO FIGHT TERRORISM IN AFGHANISTAN!

    Until this site deletes this, freedom loving “progressives that they are”. . . . There are millions of progressive, liberal Democrats like me that have a differing perspective on Afghanistan. You might say we believe what Barack Obama believes. That Afghanistan is a lawless country where the terrorists that attacked us on 9-11 thrive because of the safe harbor and support they are provided by their ideological brethren the Taliban. You know those guys don't you? the ones that shoot people in the head in soccer stadiums and behead women for going to school. We must never leave Afghanistan in the control of the despots; all they will do if allowed to prosper freely, is continue to train and plot attacks against the West.

  7. aline Bier says:

    It is so nice to know that somebody who represents me, and hopefully the people of the U. S.. has gone to this region, and has returned with impressions and ideas. Hungry people who need housing, schools, food, powerful friends? I can understand that. People who are' uncomfortable' with being bombed? I can understand that, too.

    If the U. S. is sending agricultural experts, good!

  8. [...] Robert Greenwald, on a recent trip to Afghanistan for his project “Rethink Afghanistan” caught up with about 20 men who were turning in their weapons and leaving the Taliban. He wrote in [...]

  9. [...] many Democrats label “the right war.” And as BNF’s Robert Greenwald suggested, after a recent visit to Kabul, Afghanistan, let’s explore alternatives to the militarization of that country’s problems. In doing [...]

  10. Bahizet Nasr says:

    to help afghanistan and their people,
    contact Mr. Nasr: nbahizet@yahoo.com

  11. Bahizet Nasr says:

    to help afghanistan and their people,
    contact Mr. Nasr: nbahizet@yahoo.com

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