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Kabul Korrespondence

Fresh, factual, and funky view of Afghanistan and the surrounding Central Asian region

Anthrax strikes back

Monday, December 31, 2007

Associated Press
By JASON STRAZIUSO
December 29, 2007
KABUL, Afghanistan

Eight Afghans who ate an infected camel as part of a religious celebration died of what health experts suspect is a rare case of naturally occurring anthrax, officials said Saturday.

The deaths, in the southwestern province of Nimroz, included two women and an infant, said Dr. Abdullah Fahim, an adviser to Afghanistan's health minister. Ten others fell sick.

The outbreak began when two men in a remote area of southwest Afghanistan along the border with Iran tried to sell a sick camel, said Ghulam Dastagir Azad, the governor of Nimroz province.

Nobody bought the camel and the men instead killed it and distributed the meat to needy families, as is the custom during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

The two men "were the first victims. They cooked the meat and 12 hours later they were dead," said Azad. "Then some of the families who cooked (the meat) in their homes became victims."

Anthrax—an acute infectious disease caused by a spore-forming bacterium—occurs in wild and domestic animals like cattle, sheep, goats and camels, according to the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It can also occur in humans when they are exposed to infected animals, or when anthrax spores are used as a weapon.
posted by Travis, 11:18 am | link | 3 comments |

Women's bodybuilding club opens in Afghanistan

RIA Novosti
December 29
KABUL

A bodybuilding club for women has been inaugurated in Afghanistan, news agency Bakhtar said on Saturday.

The Afghan agency said at least 20 women in Ngar in the Parwan province will be able to exercise from now on at the club built by the Women's Association of Ngar.

The inaugural ceremony was attended by some provincial authorities, representatives of human rights organizations and local people.

Women in the Asian country have been denied most legal rights. Under the Taliban rule they were even barred from going to school. Domestic violence and forced marriages remain common throughout the country.
posted by Travis, 11:15 am | link | 1 comments |

A big Thank you to all 2007 volunteers

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hey all, I just wanted to say a big thank you to all our volunteers from the year of 2007. Without their time, energy, ideas and patience I don't think we could have made Aina Photo the success it was.

So to:

Peter, Gitta and Fredrick

Simon

Elissa

Karin

Zohreh

Marianne

Oliver


Thank you from all of us at Aina Photo.

Take a bow guys!

T
posted by Travis, 5:58 pm | link | 1 comments |

US war bill hits $17bn a month!

Walter Pincus, Washington

THE cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the worldwide battle against terrorism has hit almost half a billion dollars a day, a US senator says.

"This cost of this war is approaching $US15 billion ($A17 billion) a month, with the army spending $US4.2 billion of that every month," said Ted Stevens, one of the Senate's leading proponents of a continued US military presence in Iraq.

The Congressional Research Service reported this month that the Bush Administration's request for $US189.3 billion for Defence Department operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and worldwide counter-terrorism activities in the 2008 financial year was 20% higher than for 2007 and 60% higher than for 2006.

"Stevens is being realistic," said Gordon Adams, who was the senior national security official at the Office of Management and Budget from 1993 to 1997. "Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terror are not getting cheaper."
posted by Travis, 5:48 pm | link | 0 comments |

If we cant even talk with the Taliban, how are we meant to end the conflict?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Diplomats kicked out of Afghanistan

Two diplomats accused of dealing with the Taleban have flown out of Afghanistan after talks failed to stop them being expelled.

One is a high-ranking British UN employee, Mervyn Patterson, the other is acting head of the EU mission in Afghanistan, Irishman Michael Semple.

The Kabul-based pair were accused of posing a threat to national security.

Their visit to Helmand, and a complaint lodged by the governor, has raised the issue of talking to the Taleban.

Return talks

The BBC's correspondent in Kabul, Alastair Leithead, says it has become clear parts of the Afghan government knew Mr Patterson and Mr Semple were in Helmand and had been meeting tribal elders, so there has been some confusion over the government's decision.

As yet, there has been no explanation from the foreign or interior ministries as to exactly why the men were told to leave.

Talks are continuing in the hope the pair, considered two of the most respected and knowledgeable international experts on Afghan affairs, will be allowed to return to the country.

Despite UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown's insistence that Britain does not negotiate with the Taleban, local-level talks are seen as a vital part of the strategy to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, our correspondent says.
posted by Travis, 12:24 pm | link | 0 comments |

Afghanistan's Insurgents Use Corpses to Hide Bombs

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bloomberg
By Camilla Hall
Dec. 24

Insurgents in southern Afghanistan have used corpses to hide bombs, a new tactic in their campaign of violence, NATO said.

Two Afghans died and two were hurt in the explosion of an improvised explosive device planted on the body of a decapitated Afghan found in a cemetery, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said today in an e-mailed statement. A second bomb exploded in a body about 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the first, the military said. No one was hurt in that attack. The blasts in Kandahar province took place over the past three days, NATO said.


``We condemn in the strongest possible terms the absolute disgraceful use of human corpses to place IEDs,'' Brigadier General Carlos Branco, an ISAF spokesman, said in the statement. ``For insurgents to use such tactics goes far beyond the pale of human decency, desecrating human remains in such a way.''
posted by Travis, 4:12 pm | link | 0 comments |

Australia vows Afghan commitment

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Australian PM Kevin Rudd has told Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a visit to Kabul he is committed to the "long haul" in Afghanistan. Mr Rudd also visited some of the 1,000 Australian troops in Uruzgan province.

Mr Rudd, who has said he will pull out combat troops from Iraq, stressed he was committed to reconstruction and stability in Afghanistan.

Failure 'not an option'

Mr Karzai thanked Mr Rudd for the work Australian special forces were doing alongside Dutch soldiers in the volatile Uruzgan province.

Mr Rudd said: "We're committed to being here for the long haul."
posted by Travis, 12:14 pm | link | 1 comments |

Santa died for your MasterCard.

AP

Art Conrad has an issue with the commercialism of Christmas, and his protest has gone way beyond just shunning the malls or turning off his television.

The US resident nailed Santa Claus to a 4.5 crucifix in front of his house in Bremerton, in Washington state on the US Pacific coast.

"Santa has been perverted from who he started out to be," Conrad said. "Now he's the person being used by corporations to get us to buy more stuff."

A photo of the crucified Santa adorns Conrad's Christmas cards, with the message "Santa died for your MasterCard".


The display is also Conrad's way of poking fun at political correctness. He believes people do not express their feelings because they are afraid of what others might think.

His neighbours found the will to express their feelings this past week. Some were offended but many were just curious.

AP
posted by Travis, 12:12 pm | link | 1 comments |

Food for thought

Friday, December 21, 2007

If you are even remotely interested in the work we do in Kabul, then you should read this article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-simon/the-year-of-reporting-dan_b_77208.html

pass it on


T
posted by Travis, 11:13 am | link | 0 comments |

Why has it taken this long. And what will come of it...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

The White House has reportedly begun three detailed reviews of the US mission in Afghanistan amid a rise in attacks by the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The reviews - by the US military, state department and the Nato alliance - will look at the security, economic and diplomatic aspects of the conflict, the New York Times said on Sunday.

"We are looking for ways to gain greater strategic coherence," an unnamed senior administration official said.

The report comes after Nato allies with troops in Afghanistan agreed to draw up a long-term plan to bring stability to the country over the next five years.

The US administration has become increasingly concerned about shortfalls in the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) and more sophisticated tactics by the Taliban, making 2007 the deadliest year since the Taliban was forced from power in 2001.

The reviews will be designed to better co-ordinate efforts to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda, counter the opium trade that reportedly funds the groups and bolster the position of the Kabul government, the Times said.

"It's looking at whether we've done enough or need to do more in terms of expanding governance and economic development, as well as wrestling with the difficult security issues that we have been dealing with in Afghanistan."

The White House also favours appointing an international co-ordinator or "super envoy" to oversee the entire international effort in Afghanistan, the newspaper said, citing US officials.

I love the "Super Envoy" bit. Sounds like they have a Dick Chaney wanabe with a cape, who will wooosh across the skies. The spin doctors are obviously having a creative week.
posted by Travis, 9:22 am | link | 0 comments |

UK losing troops to drug abuse

Sunday, December 16, 2007

[EPA]

The British army is dismissing the equivalent of around one battalion a year as a result of illegal drug use, a report by a UK security think tank has said.

Figures from Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) show the army is losing 500 to 600 soldiers a year after a four fold increase in troops testing positive for substances such as cocaine.

The findings, published on Friday in the institute's journal, come at a time when the British military is struggling to recruit and retain service members to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In 2003 there were 517 reported cases of illegal substance abuse, this rose to 769 in 2006.

The number of soldiers who are dismissed is higher than the number of fatalities and serious casualties in both conflicts. Researchers said the results may be a reflection of combat stress.
posted by Travis, 5:08 am | link | 0 comments |

Aina Photo goes on national TV!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I would like to congratulate Mr. Fardin Waezi, manager of the Photo Department, who gave a 1.5 hour interview on RTA (Afghanistan National TV) about all of AINA's activities. He spoke about the success of all the departments of AINA, as well as the protocols of photojournalism. The Minister of Culture and head of RTA were both so delighted with the interview that they have asked him to come one day a week and teach photojournalism on TV.


Additionally, the Minister of Culture has promised to arrange an exhibition of Fardin's work in Kabul. The head of RTA is very interested in the mission and accomplishments of AINA and has said he will look to AINA first when he requires a photographer, graphic designer, cameraman, or radio spot. To Mr. Azeem Noor Bakhsh who organized Fardin's interview with RTA, we are very grateful to him for his work.

You can see him in the top right hand corner of the image.

Fardin also got published on BBC webiste
http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/arts/story/2007/12/071216_ad-faridbyreza.shtml



Congratulations Sir!
posted by Travis, 4:01 pm | link | 0 comments |

A fantastic effort by some truely amazing women!

As you may know we have two new volunteers at Aina Photo. Photographer: Karin Mayer and Writer / Archivist: Marianne Harris. Four months ago they got in contact with me about doing a volunteer position. I told them what I tell all volunteers: "Certainly! Fill out the application form and start raising awareness and donations.

In all my time at Aina Photo have never had a volunteer taker those words so to heart. These ladies slaved for the next 3 months, harassing every connection they had until they had collected over 120kgs (!!!) of computers, laptops and other tech gizmos. (Yes there was even 25 hand powered flash lights in there)

YOU LADIES ARE TRULY AMAZING, THANK YOU SO MUCH! Also thank you to Earl Bridger from Griffith University who collected a lot of 120 kgs of gear.



The ladies even threw a fund raiser, with Afghan entertainment and images of Simon Duponts work in Afghanistan. The proceeds from that night, as well as Karin's Mum's little school fund raiser will go towards future photojournalism education programs.
Thanks Mum! (Elaine)

Thank you to the boys from Wolfbyte too. Another BIG thank you must also go to the boys at DHL Kabul: Jason and Marius. These boys whipped up shipping magic. Bringing the 120 Kgs all the way to Kabul in perfect condition.


All together it was a huge success and we now have a lot well needed gear, but its stuck in Afghan customs (Please Mr Afghan Customs let us have it!)

So once again thank you to everyone involved. And a message for future volunteers: To come to Afghanistan to work is a very kind gesture. To come here bearing gifts for the locals is like being Santa Claus for a day.

(I just cant say thank you enough!!!!!!)
posted by Travis, 3:59 pm | link | 1 comments |

What I want for Xmas!

I really don't get into the festive season, especially when in the West. But when my friend sent me this link, I couldn't resist.


The resemblance is quite uncanny, except for the denim jeans.


Actually I don't wear checked shirts or white sneakers, so this guy is a bit of a impostor.


But he does use the same camera gear as me, so that's cool.



Check all the cool stuff that comes including.

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION:
• bbi G1 body
• Life like head sculpture
• Blue jeans, checkered denim shirt
• Scarf
• Body armor vest
• Ballistic helmet w/ TV markings
• Journalist utility vest with working pouches
• Camcorder unit with 3x video tapes
• Camera set including 3 different/ interchangeable lens
• Rugged laptop PC w/ illuminated keyboard
• Rugged Handheld PC/GPS w/ illuminated keypad
• Equipment pouch
• White tennis shoes w/ shoe laces
• ID card in holder
• Sunglasses
• Pen
• Watch

Check out the site, you might even find a clone of yourself!
www.actionfigure2002.com



"Mum!"
posted by Travis, 3:01 pm | link | 6 comments |

They were off to such a good start.....

Just after the Labor Government won the election they promised to pull all troops out of Iraq in the next 2 years. I ask: Why one and not the other.........

Australia will play a leading role in drafting a new five-year plan for the war on terror in Afghanistan but has ruled out increasing troop numbers in the near future.

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said while Australia was committed for the long term in Afghanistan, other countries were not pulling their weight and needed to do more.

His comments came after he wrapped up talks in Edinburgh with his ministerial counterparts from the seven other countries with major troop commitments in strife-torn southern Afghanistan.

Mr Fitzgibbon said Australia would "play a leading role" in developing the plan, which will be presented at a NATO summit in April.

But he said until other NATO countries showed they were prepared to help the efforts of those countries with a military presence in southern Afghanistan, Australia would not be sending any more troops.

"I am concerned that a number of NATO countries are not taking up their share of the burden and on that basis we would have no intention of increasing our contribution."

There are currently about 40,000 allied troops in Afghanistan.

Australian troop numbers are expected to peak at 1,000 in the middle of next year.

Mr Fitzgibbon refused to set a timeline for how long Australia's troops would stay in Afghanistan, saying they would have to remain "for some time to come".

But, asked if any withdrawal could be made before 2010, he said "of course not", despite saying last weekend that there had been no change to the term of the deployment beyond August next year.

But he said while the planned withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq would leave it better placed to increase numbers in Afghanistan, the armed services would still be "overstretched regardless of that withdrawal".

"So no one should get the impression that because we have the actual capacity of the overwatch battle group (in Iraq) that we suddenly have all this additional capacity to deal with additional contingencies in Afghanistan."

"I think the public generally weren't given a clear picture of the state of the situation in Afghanistan and on receiving the information available to us in government we are very concerned and we accept that the challenges ahead are going to be significant," he said.
AAP
posted by Travis, 2:08 pm | link | 4 comments |

KKMC's last ride of 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

So with winter fast approaching the Kabul Knights Motorcycle Club headed out for one last ride foe the year.


Five guys riding with five girls on the back was the making for a perfect day on the rough roads of Afghanistan

We headed up to Salang Pass. A stretch of road built by the Russians back in the 80's and the center of some of the feircest fighting between the Taliban and the local inhabitants, the Panshiri's.


On reaching the summit some 3 hours later we were welcomed in for a cup of tea by the local police.


With a refreshed spirit we took off down the hill. One of our riders unfortunately had the steering on his bike lock up while riding through a mountain tunnel. The bike couriered into the wall, his passenger was injured and her camera damaged beyond repair. (This was our first ever accident)


We went into emergency mode and raced back to kabul, where we found medical treatment for the poor lassie. By the end of the night she was all bandaged up and we were all laughing about the days adventures.

Thanx to Marius and Karin for the extra photos!

Roll on KKMC.
posted by Travis, 3:50 am | link | 0 comments |

Argusphotography.blogpost 1st Birthday!

Monday, December 10, 2007

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!
Woooohhhhhooooo!!!!

In September last year I created up my first blog. At the time I didn't even really know what a blog was. It wasnt until I posted my first entry from Afghanistan in December 2006 that its took shape. At the time I didnt know that this was to become my main platform for communication to the 'outside world'.


What I have learnt is that a blog is a very effective means of communicating with a wide range of people. Not only is it easier to navigate than a website, but it is also a passive form of communication. All people have to do is scroll and read, its that simple.


The ease of sending a email with a link means people can check it out at the start of their day, in a lunch break or when they are meant to be working. My audience can pass the link onto who ever they want and they can also email me their friends addresses so I can add their address to my mailing list. (hint hint)


And the feedback has been great. I never realised that so many people read the whole damn thing. The most common response have been that it is informative, entertaining and with a equal balanced between the negative and positive aspects of life in Afghanistan. And thats all I ever aimed for it to be!


So to all my audience out there, I want to thank you for reading. Thank you for passing it onto your friends. And thank you for your feedback. Communication is the best platform for peace, I hope that my words and images might contribute towards that.....


stay tuned!


Travis
posted by Travis, 5:38 pm | link | 2 comments |

Through Afghan Eyes A photography exhibition by Fardin Waezi

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

We are very proud to announce the exhibition of one of our photographers: Through Afghan Eyes. A photography exhibition by Fardin Waezi at the lranian Artists Forum Mirmiran Art Gallery Dec 1_6, 2007



This was a collaboration between Aina Photo and Arseh.org A NGO that invites artist to exhibit in Iran. Their aim being to expose the Iranian community to international art despite the international sanctions and views of this wonderful country.


The night was a huge success with over 250 people attending the opening. Fardin also held a press conference and workshop for the local media.



Well Done Fardin!
posted by Travis, 5:32 pm | link | 5 comments |

Trends that say a lot more

Summary of drug prices in November 2007


Average dry opium price at farm gate level was USD 105/kg with 3.9% increase compared to October
2007.

Average dry opium price collected from traders was USD 110/kg with 5% increase compared to
October 2007.

Average fresh opium price at farm gate level was USD 83/kg with 5% increase compared to October
2007.

Average fresh opium price collected from traders was USD 93/kg with 8% increase compared to
October 2007.

Average heroin price in Afghanistan increased to USD 2,501/kg compared to USD 2,358/kg in
October 2007.

Average heroin price in Pakistan increased to USD 3,105/kg compared to USD 3,298/kg in October
2007.

posted by Travis, 5:22 pm | link | 0 comments |

Taliban attack cockfight fare, kill 3

Monday, December 03, 2007

By Gulzar Ahmad Khan
CHARSADDA, Dec 2

The local Taliban killed three people and injured five others in an attack on a cockfight bout at the Shene Ghundae village in Shabqadar tehsil’s Sro Kaley area on Sunday.


Witnesses said the weekly match was in progress when a group of local Taliban appeared from nowhere and opened indiscriminatly fire on the people.



Three persons, Nawar, Bismillah Jan and Mohammad Ali were killed on the spot. Witnesses said that the militants arrived in three pick-up trucks and were armed with sophisticated weapons, including Kalashnikovs. An official of the concerned Sro Kaley police station told Dawn that the militants had entered the area from the adjacent Mohmand Agency. He added that since the militants came through unfrequented routes, it was difficult for police to hunt them down.



The spokesman for the local Taliban, Abdu Nauman Askari, earlier warned the organiser of the cockfighting fare and alleged ringleader of gambling dens in the area, to abandon the ‘anti-Islam’ practices.

posted by Travis, 2:29 pm | link | 15 comments |

Engaged to wed, and still a toddler

The Associated Press
12/02/2007
By Alisa Tang

Despite efforts in Afghanistan, child marriage persists.

KABUL - When asked about her engagement party this summer, little Sunam glanced blankly at her family, then fiddled with her gold-sequined engagement outfit - a speechless response not out of shyness but because she does not yet talk much. Sunam is 3.

The toddler was engaged to a 7-year-old cousin, Nieem, in June, in a match made by their parents.

Despite the efforts of the government and rights groups, the engagement and marriage of children still persists in this country, especially among poor, uneducated families in the countryside.

About 16 percent of Afghan children are married under the age of 15, according to recent data from UNICEF. And there is evidence that the poverty of recent years is pushing down the marriage age further in some areas.

The practice can force couples into a miserable union and sometimes expose the girl to violence if she resists.

Sunam's father committed her in marriage as a gift to his sister, Fahima, who does not have a daughter and desperately wants one. Marriage between first cousins is common in Afghanistan because families believe it is better to know their in-laws well. The two families live in the same modest housing compound in Kabul.

In an unhappy forced marriage, the man can take a woman he loves as a second wife, according to Islamic and Afghan culture. But the girls are trapped. Some commit suicide. In Kapisa province, north of Kabul, an 18-year-old shot and killed herself because her family would not break off her three-year engagement to a drug addict, Afghanistan's Pajhwok News Agency reported in August.

Others run away, sometimes falling into drugs or prostitution.

'Bride price' The minimum legal age of marriage in Afghanistan is 16 for girls and 18 for boys. Yet, child marriages account for 43 percent of all marriages, according to the United Nations. The reasons are often economic: The girl's family gets a "bride price" of double the per-capita income for a year or more, according to the World Bank.

The families of Sunam and Nieem are convinced that if the two grow up together knowing they will be married, they will be happy to wed in the future. The plan is for them to marry when Sunam is 14 or 15.


"We are Pashtun people. If we engage them, there is no way to separate them. They will marry," Najiba said. "In our tribe, it is like this. When they get engaged, they cannot divorce."

It is nearly impossible to break engagements, "because you're considered the other family's property," said Manizha Naderi, director of Women for Afghan Women. "You're theirs now. You've been given away. It's obviously barbaric. It's going to take generations to change this custom."
posted by Travis, 1:23 pm | link | 1 comments |