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

Friday, November 9, 2007

Terrorism hits Baghlan: More details plus theories, good and bad

BBC reports that ball bearings were used mixed in with the explosives to make the suicide bomber's payload more lethal in the November 6 Baghlan attack. As many as a thousand ball bearings possibly. That's an explanation regarding the high number of the victims (for an attack by a single suicide bomber). It is also noted in the article that this wasn't the first time ball bearings were used in a suicide attack in Afghanistan - and you know who are responsible for suicide attacks so far in Afghan history.
The official death toll could still grow, meanwhile.

" Later on Friday, officials will go house to house in Baghlan, asking if any members of the family were killed in the blast.

This is necessary because some families took away the bodies of their relatives before they could be added to the casualty figures. "

Afghan society works that way. The state doesn't see everything really. How many women there are per household. Which family decided to take and bury their dead on their own. Et cetera.
I'm still with the BBC at this point - later they also note that Baghlan's governor wasn't there at the factory ceremony. He had a meeting with "one of Afghanistan's Vice-Presidents" in Mazar-i-Sharif at that time. He is now criticised for that. As to me, myself and I - we wonder. Partly because of the BBC, I mean, what sort of reporting is that? Afghanistan has a million Vice-Presidents, so why bother naming the one? Or what? But more important is the question of why a governor wouldn't be interested in participating at an event like this? And the Baghlan police chief wasn't there, either, he was "at a conference."
The Hungarian Index now mentions seventy-five dead. A possible breakdown of the death toll, citing from Index, suggests there were six MPs, five body guards, five teachers and a lot of schoolchildren killed. Index says Hanif Atmar, Afghanistan's education minister, "again" banned the participation of schoolchildren at events like the one on November 6. (Many of them might have been sent there from schools I guess.)
Reuters has details over those detained in connection with the attack. One of the two men detained was a cleric (I suppose he might be the one who told schoolgirls not to go to the sugar factory ceremony). The other is a New Baghlan resident.
So much for the small details. As to the big picture, I'd say that the rumours spreading around nowadays in Kabul might have to do with the Karzai administration looking to score points against the UNF, as the latter is organising demonstrations here and there against the government for not having provided sufficient security. Delving themselves into a conflict, both sides might be acting short-sightedly, furthering other parties' aims.
Whose aims?
M.K. Bhadrakumar's articles at Asia Times Online are always interesting, and this time he wrote of the Baghlan bombing. When I read one of his first sentences, that the attack "bears all the hallmarks of a political assassination," I was disappointed at first. That's not true in that form. If this was a political assassination, it was rather an unusual one, actually. But M.K. Bhadrakumar is getting at something other than a UNF-focused conspiracy theory, highlighting a possible ISI role behind the attack, basically for all the same reasons for which the attack might have been beneficial to the Taliban or Hizb-i-Islami on their own, too (rift-creating and disruption) - a view not altogether unexpected from a former Indian diplomat, as skeptics will inevitably say.
A longer excerpt, with a lot of useful background (but read the entire article):

" Along with "Ustad" Abdul Ali Mazari and Karim Khalili, he was one of the founders of the Hizb-e-Wahdat Islami Afghanistan, the main Hazara Shi'ite mujahideen group, which was supported by Iran in the Afghan jihad of the 1980s against the Soviet Union.

Kazimi was a rare combination of brilliant organizer and suave spokesman. For his community, which was traditionally bereft of such talented leaders, he was a great asset. It came as no surprise that when the so-called National United Front, Jabhe-ye-Motahed-e-Milli, an assorted coalition of erstwhile mujahideen leaders (and former communists) in political opposition to the government of President Hamid Karzai took shape in March, Kazimi was appointed its main spokesman.

Kazimi's role in the National United Front was tacit recognition of his consistent stance that Afghan politics must cross ethnic and regional boundaries. In the exasperating internecine tensions within the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in the late 1990s, Kazimi often played a key role, bridging ethnic, personal rivalries among various groups.

But for Kazimi's tireless role, it is doubtful if rapprochement between the Tajik groups led by the late Ahmad Shah Massoud and the Hezb-e-Wahdat would have been possible within the framework of the Northern Alliance. The mutual antipathies of the two sides were well-founded as Tajik forces had killed about 1,000 Hazara women and children in a massacre in the west Kabul district of Afshar, a predominantly Hazara area, during the mujahideen rule in 1993.

Kazimi had an easy way of working with political adversaries, which is uncommon in Afghanistan. "

So Bhadrakumar makes the point that the Taliban in general lack the foresight to carry out such a strategically cunning attack at a strategic location like Baghlan. Therefore he goes for a "Hizb-i-Islami clients assisted by ISI patrons" option, and he concludes that in his view "a master plan to destabilize the northern regions of Afghanistan is in the works."
The ISI involved or not, ISAF should definitely pay attention to the conclusion here. And IGO and NGO people should think twice before starting to bash the warlords they dislike so much as insufficiently liberal democrats, and not give credit automatically to wild theories of false flag operations, over the mere confusion about certain facts.
A good example of the latter is Radio Free Europe claiming that a Nangarhar MP's eyewitness account raises questions. Quote:
"Meanwhile, an interview conducted by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan with Safia Siddiqi, a female member of parliament from Nangarhar Province, has fueled further speculation in Afghanistan about the bomb attack.
Siddiqi was meant to be with Kazemi's parliamentary delegation when the explosion occurred. But she says she arrived late at the event because of mechanical problems with her car -- and that she watched from a distance as the lawmakers entered the sugar factory and the bomb went off.
Siddiqi also said the explosion sounded like an incoming missile attack rather than a blast caused by a suicide bomber or an improvised explosive device."
Two things come to my mind reading this. 1.) If I would have avoided being there at an attack site by such a twist of fate as a seemingly "well-timed" car problem, I'd perhaps also feel some pressure to further speculation - not about my role, but about that of invisible others of course. 2.) A missile, accurately hitting Mustafa Kazemi, the central - Hazara - figure conspiracy theories zero in on? That must have been an accurate strike, in the middle of the crowd, indeed!
An MP from Baghlan notes to RFE that what conspiracy theorists, focused usually on events instead of trends, ignore: "Najia Iamaq, a member of parliament from Baghlan Province, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan today that she had repeatedly complained to Afghanistan's central government about the growing security threat posed by armed local militia fighters: "Security has been getting worse and worse every day," Iamaq said. "We, as witnesses, have complained several times and raised the security issue with government officials. Residents of Baghlan, tribal leaders, and elders have been complaining all the time. Unfortunately, the government never seemed to take those complaints seriously." " Just as I noted, too, that the security situation in Baghlan has been deteriorating since at least September.

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