What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Limits on domestic travel in Afghanistan

MStFB Commentary
Some random 'travel tips' for you if you're in Afghanistan right now, be thou Afghan or not.
If you are a Hazara, and live in the province of Dai Kundi for example, you might want to pay a visit to some other Hazaras related to you, your clan, your tribe, or just people you happen to know, in Quetta, Pakistan, where about 100,000 of your ethnic kinsmen live. Many Hazaras - previously a majority in today's Uruzgan - left for Quetta in the 1880s after they were collectively punished for a failed revolt. Hazaras in Dai Kundi cannot easily stay in touch with the ones in Quetta, because the road leading south across Uruzgan (the only road from Dai Kundi that can be travelled, weather-wise, all year round) is especially dangerous for them. One source has this to say about Talib presence along the road connecting Tarin Khowt in Uruzgan and Kandahar: "The Taliban are everywhere. The road between Kandahar and Tarin Kowt is very unsafe. Especially for those of us who are connected with the government. Taliban have impromptu checkpoints and they carry around chains to arrest anyone who is suspicious to them". So again, if you are a Hazara, you might not want to travel that road.
If you are a Kuchi nomad of the long range migratory type, unfortunately you cannot go to areas in Hazarajat, the Hazara belt, for the Hazara people there have bad memories from the times of Talib rule (with which for example the late Mollah Dadullah had a lot to do with). Those are mostly bad memories about what Pashtuns did to them back then, but part of their resentment is directed against Kuchis, too, who may have taken part in some attrocities against them. So, with the turning around of the situation on the Afghan battlefield, since 2002 those areas are not accessible to Kuchis.
I have written a couple of weeks ago, uncritically believing information from a source I usually appreciate a lot, that Musa Qala was taken back from Talib control, after Talibs have taken that town at the beginning of February (after the town was left behind by British-led forces on a deal with local tribal leaders). I should have indicated earlier, that that was not the case, so if you're a NATO or OEF soldier, that is still a no-go area for you, unless you can get a critical mass of ground troops and air power to accompany you on your trip.
If you are a Hungarian soldier, in the relatively calm north, you might also think twice about going to certain areas. The following excerpt (my raw translation) from an article by Hungarian journalist Eszter Zalán may give you a couple of useful tips, if you're considering going to areas in and around Andarab Valley, which the report mentions as being under warlords' control: "... up till now the Dutch were the last to pay a visit there. (Hungary took over the PRT in Baghlan Province from the Dutch forces - P.M.) Hungarians had their only tense moments in that area. When one of the 'arms' of the PRT, a Mission Team ventured out there to introduce themselves and survey needs of the village of Pol-e-Hesar and the people living there, a hail of stones awaited them, and they decided they had better leave. "It wasn't so dangerous, really, but in relative terms, in the local context, it did seem a bit frightening to our guys. The locals were basically indignant that nobody visited them from the PRT since such a long time, and that there was no development taking place there", recalls what happened Colonel László Szabó, commander of the Hungarian PRT'. Eventually, with the help of an Afghan liaison officer, and a rapidly executable project, it was possible to get the sympathy of even these villagers." So, if you're a Hungarian soldier in Baghlan, remember to have a quickly executable project around, when you venture out to these areas.
Well, no thorough summing up of the lessons of the day today. It's just something I wanted to point to in general, without even attempting to give a comprehensive overview of similar problems around Afghanistan. Let's say that it is food for thought that five and a half years after internationals' entering Afghanistan there are areas that people cannot freely go to, basically because of who they are. In the south, there is the currently more important arm of the insurgency, and arguably not a critical mass of troops facing it there. In the north (well, not just the north, but rather all over the areas that are usually referred to in news reports as 'relatively stable') there are mostly small PRTs operating, that are just not capable of maintaining a critical degree of presence in all their areas. (Read what the Safrang blog says about some of the more peaceful provinces - e.g. Badakhshan or Bamiyan - seeming like they were just forgotten.) And there are troubled relations between all the different communities in Afghanistan, too. (Read what Afghanistanica says about local communities in Afghanistan to sharpen your insight.)
This is not meant to pay an overall gloomy picture of the situation in Afghanistan. Merely, as I said, to point to something, call it a piece of dry fact or whatever else.

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