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Kabul Korrespondence

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

Rockin the US embassy

Monday, July 28, 2008

With new members Diego on sax and me on bass, White city rocked the US embassy farewell party for an employee. After we had got through the tight security check of metal detectors, sniffer dogs and armed Gurkha guards we set up on a roof top over looking Kabul.

The crowd was understandably pretty stiff, but after a few warm up songs they started to loosen up and by the end of the night we had them head banging to "Smells Like Teen Spirit". An oldie but a goodie and yes the last time I played that I was a teenager.

Anyone get any better pics of us?

More gigs to come.
posted by Travis, 11:11 pm | link | 2 comments |

Rock the Kas-bul!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Some of you may remember that last year I reported on one of the two rock bands in Kabul: The Insurgents; A misfit bunch of soldiers and me rocking Kabul's limited venues. Unfortunately we disbanded due to all the other members being on rotation and one by one they all went home.

Side step to the only other band in Kabul: White City, formally known as the Taliband. White City contacted me last month and asked me if I would like to play bass, I naturally accepted.

The name White City is taken from the term used in the NGO (aid organisations) world for when there has been a increase in insecurity in Kabul and all international staff are advised to lock down and await further instructions. Meaning no movement outside their compounds.

Kabul does host a fair amount of house parties and this was always the playground of the bands tunes. The guests come from all fields of the NGO stratosphere and it does happen sometimes that guests cant come to a party because code White City has been called.

Heres a pic from my first jam with White City. If your in Tajikistan, Pakistan or Iraq keep an eye and ear out for our touring dates!
posted by Travis, 1:55 pm | link | 47 comments |

The Imapct of Obama's visit

Monday, July 21, 2008


Due to the unannounced visit by presidential candidate Barack Obama, the local authorities closed off key arterial roads.

The blockage has restricted access to various buildings including three hospitals, (Jamhuriat, Malalai Zejantoon and Ali Abad), creating numerous logistical problems for emergency vehicles (ambulances), doctors, hospital employees and patients.

The situation is so serious that doctors have warned a continuation of the blockage may result in loss of life of patients.

Those wanting to access the hospitals are forced to carry patients using stretchers or on their backs for long distances from the end of the road.

Doctors have claimed that there have already been patients dying on their way to hospital, deaths which could possibly have been avoided.
posted by Travis, 11:28 am | link | 0 comments |

Congatulations Aina Photo graduate: Nasim Fekrat!

Again I am very proud to inform you all that one of our students Nasim Fekrat is off to Germany for a short-term training course. It is called The Summer Academy on Freedom and Responsibility in the Media.

The two week workshop will include 23 participants, who will discuss among many things what it is like to be a media practitioner in their country.

Nasim wrote to me in a email: "I don’t know if I can screen some pictures from Afghanistan for participants, but I hope so...."
posted by Travis, 11:17 am | link | 1 comments |

The Entrepreneurial Taliban

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Scotsman
THE mountain of white marble shines with such brilliance in the sun it looks like snow. For four years, the quarry beneath it lay dormant, its riches captive to tribal squabbles and government ineptitude in Pakistan's tribal areas. But the Taliban appeared and imposed a firm hand.

They settled the feud between the tribes, demanded a fat fee up front and a tax on every truck that ferried the treasure from the quarry. Since then, Mir Zaman, a local contractor has watched contentedly as his trucks roll out with colossal boulders bound for refining in nearby towns.

"With the Taliban it is not a question of a request to us, but a question of force," said Zaman, a bearded, middle-aged tribal leader, who seemed philosophical about the reality of Taliban authority here. At least the quarry was now operating, he said.

The takeover of the Ziarat marble quarry, a coveted national asset, is one of the boldest examples of how the Taliban have made Pakistan's tribal areas far more than a base for training camps or a launching pad for sending fighters into Afghanistan.

The quarry in the Mohmand tribal district, strategically situated between the city of Peshawar and the Afghan border, is a new effort by the Taliban to harness the abundant natural resources of a region where there are plenty of other mining operations for coal, gold, copper and chromate.

Of all the minerals in the tribal areas, the marble from Ziarat which is particularly fine texture and purity, comparable to Italian Carrara marble and is one of the most highly prized for use in expensive floors and walls in Pakistan and elsewhere.

A government body, the FATA Development Authority, has failed over the past few years to mediate a dispute between the Masaud and Gurbaz sub-tribes over how the mining rights should be allocated, according to Pakistani government officials.

The Taliban came eager for a share of the business. Their reputation for brutality and the weakness of the local government then allowed them to settle the dispute in short order.

The Taliban decided that one mountain in the Ziarat area belonged to the Masaud division of the main Safi tribe, and said that the Gurbaz sub-tribe would be rewarded with another mountain.

The mountain assigned to the Masauds was divided into 30 portions and each of six villages in the area was assigned five of the 30 portions. Zaman said the Taliban demanded about $1,500 commission upfront for each portion, giving the insurgents a quick $45,000.

The Taliban also demanded a tax of about $7 on each truckload of marble, he said. With a constant flow of trucks, the Taliban were now collecting up to $500 a day, Zaman said.

The local tribes are profiting along with the Taliban. Once the trucks reach the processing plants, the government, too, collects a hefty tax, nearly double that of the Taliban.
posted by Travis, 10:08 am | link | 1 comments |

Helping hand from outside

Friday, July 18, 2008

Earlier this year we were contacted by a young lady in Poland named Kasia Lukasik. Kasia had read about our work at Aina Photo and was so impressed that she asked us how she could help. We told her that any way she could promote Aina Photo's work in the general public would be appreciated.

Kasia asked us for some posters, postcards and videos and we kindly sent them on to her. Kasia set up her own information sessions for the students and teachers at her high school and presented to them the work that Aina Photo does.

Kasia also had a donation tin and raised several hundred Euros for Aina Photo. We just want to say thank you to Kasia not only for helping to promote the work that we do, but also for taking the initiative to create a communication arena from within her own country.
posted by Travis, 8:14 pm | link | 1 comments |

Taliban in control....?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN-More districts of Kandahar are controlled by the Taliban than by the Afghan government, according to a U.S. assessment that casts doubt on Canada's upbeat view of the war.

The assessment divides Kandahar's districts into four categories: contested, Taliban controlled, locally controlled, and government controlled. Only four of 16 districts were classified as government controlled. The Taliban were described as controlling six districts.

The rest are held by local tribes or warlords, or they are battlefields with nobody clearly dominating.

The study was completed in January, but the findings were made available only recently to The Globe and Mail as the claims of progress by Canadian officials have increasingly contrasted with U.S. leaders' statements of concern about Afghanistan.

Other assessments of the province have been even more pessimistic: Over the past two years, the United Nations' periodically updated security maps have shown encroaching areas of ?extreme risk? filling large swaths of the countryside described as government controlled in the U.S. assessment.

Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier said the military's count of significant acts, enemy-initiated direct attacks, IED attacks [bombings], and so on, all of those incidents combined, had increased only 3 or 4 per cent in June, 2008, as compared with June, 2007.

At the same time, Canada's regular troops have abandoned positions in the north of the province over the past two years, including Ghorak district centre, about 70 kilometres northwest of Kandahar city; Forward Operating Base Martello, about 100 kilometres north of Kandahar city; and Gumbad Platoon House, about 80 kilometres north of Kandahar city.

These outposts were located in districts now listed as Taliban-controlled in the U.S. assessment.

The idea that security has deteriorated in Afghanistan is not unique to U.S. analysts; it is now the mainstream view among most observers of the war. Equally mainstream is the belief that withdrawing foreign troops would cause a disaster on a vastly greater scale, and many experts are calling for more international forces.
posted by Travis, 9:44 am | link | 0 comments |

Back from the Wak

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

You may have or may not have not noticed that there has been no posts for the lasts few weeks. The reason being is that I have been away on assignment / holiday in the Wakhan Corrdor.

Myself and 3 other Journo's (friends) rode motorcycles for 12 days over 1500 kms to basically the end of the world.

It was a action packed trip through the Badakhshan province('Badaction' as the local call it). The tour was full of dramas, accidents, laughs and interesting interactions with the local Wakhi people.
Id like to show the extensive collection of images...BUT! you'll have to wait for the magazine article, exhibition and TV documentary.

More details to come.
posted by Travis, 9:36 am | link | 9 comments |

Another Aina Photo Student Success

Monday, July 14, 2008

Once again Aina Photo has successfully placed one of our students into employment. Jawad Jalali was accepted to be the new UNAMA (Afghan UN) official photographer.
Congratulations Jawad, we wish you all the best in your new position and we look forward to seeing some great images from your time at UNAMA.

posted by Travis, 10:06 pm | link | 3 comments |

The Ferocious South

From an anonymous source, I received these images of a supply convoy. The German company trucks supplies food and catering to the international forces in Afghanistan.

The attack happened on the infamous Highway in Zabul on 1 that connects Kabul to Kandahar.

The source told me that up to 50 drivers were beheaded. The possibility of bandits being behind the attack was dismissed. Bandits don't burn the cargo....
posted by Travis, 9:52 pm | link | 1 comments |

Aina Photographer is shortlisted for competition

We at Aina Photo are proud to announce that Farzana Wahidy has been shortlisted for the 'All Roads Photographic Exhibition" in the US. Farzana will be flown to the US to attend the exhibition in 4 different states.

Congratulations Farzana!
posted by Travis, 10:19 am | link | 3 comments |

Loosing wars aint popular......

Lara Logan, the chief foreign correspondent for CBS News:

Getting a story on the evening news isn't easy for any correspondent. And for reporters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Five years into the war in Iraq and nearly seven years into the war in Afghanistan, getting news of the conflicts onto television is harder than ever. "If I were to watch the news that you hear here in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts," Ms. Logan said.

According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of Iraq has been "massively scaled back this year." Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007.

Coverage of the war in Afghanistan has increased slightly this year, with 46 minutes of total coverage year-to-date compared with 83 minutes for all of 2007. NBC has spent 25 minutes covering Afghanistan, partly because the anchor Brian Williams visited the country earlier in the month. Through Wednesday, when an ABC correspondent was in the middle of a prolonged visit to the country, ABC had spent 13 minutes covering Afghanistan. CBS has spent eight minutes covering Afghanistan so far this year.

More coalition soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in May than in Iraq.
posted by Travis, 10:07 am | link | 3 comments |