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Kabul Korrespondence

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

CITR at Barcelona Docs

Monday, January 31, 2011

After 33 hours in transit, I finally made it to Barcelona this morning. I have been invited to take part in the Barcelonadocs film festival. Myself and 23 other budding doco makers will be presenting our projects to a panel of critiques from the global film industry.

If you havnt already seen the new version trailer for my doco: Crack in the Radio, then please watch below


Rockumentary Trailer: Crack in the Radio from Combat Commo on Vimeo.

Camera work by Travis Beard and Ruth Owen

posted by Travis, 5:35 pm | link | 5 comments |

Supermarket Attack: A Dangerous Turn in Kabul

The following article by a friend of mine highlights the change in tactics by elements in the conflict. In the past we have been able to distinguish ourselves from the obvious targets. Now it is a concern how we all could be harmed while doing the simple act of shopping

By Julius Cavendish

A suicide bomber blew himself up in a popular grocery close to the British, Canadian and Pakistani missions in Kabul Friday afternoon in an indiscriminate attack that analysts say could spell the beginning of a new trend in the Afghan capital. Unlike most previous attacks, this one fell on the Afghan weekend and was timed to inflict maximum civilian casualties as predominantly Western shoppers browsed through the store on their day off.

The bomber, a man in his 40s with dark skin and a long beard according to one witness, shot his way into the grocery, threw one or possibly two grenades and then detonated his vest. By late Friday night the death toll had reached nine, including a child and four Filipinos — probably employees of one of the many contractors working in Afghanistan. The nationalities of the other victims, including two wounded shoppers in critical condition, are still unknown.

Security analysts say that despite the relative calm that has existed in Kabul for almost a year, insurgents have been reconnoitring a number of targets in the Afghan capital, and that the supermarket had come under Taliban surveillance late last year. Several restaurants popular with foreigners are also thought to be under observation.

This time both the Taliban and a second insurgent faction, Hezb-i-Islami, claimed responsibility for the bombing, although until the identity and motivation of the bomber are established — and the kind of detonating device he was using known — it will be hard to gauge their veracity. In a text message sent to reporters, one insurgent spokesman said the attack was directed at the "chief of Blackwater" — a private security company.

Given that no Blackwater employees were in the store at the time of the attack, that may be an attempt to justify a vicious attack against civilians. Blackwater — now known as Xe, but still notorious for its record in Iraq — is symbolic of the worst excesses of mercenaries employed to protect Western officials. The mujahideen may simply have been tapping into popular anger against Western security firms.

In any case, Sami Kovanen, a senior analyst with Indicium Consulting in Kabul, which provides security information, warns that the assumption had to be that "this kind of attack will happen again." Says Kovanen: "It's a new kind of attack — in many ways the first direct attack against the whole international community, against civilians." He adds, "There have been really specific reasons behind previous attacks. The attack on the Bektar guesthouse [in October 2009] targeted the U.N. during elections; the attack against the Indian guesthouse [in February 2010] targeted Indians. But [this one targeted] foreign civilians known to go shopping on Friday at this time. It was against us — regardless of who you are, which organization you're working for or what your nationality is. So in that way it is really concerning."
posted by Travis, 5:26 pm | link | 4 comments |

Afghanistan Acid attack on prominent journalist

Reporters Without Borders condemns the assault yesterday on a leading journalist and writer who was the victim of an acid attack as he left his home in the Afghan capital Kabul.

Razaq Mamoon, who works for several media outlets and presents a program on the independent station Tolo TV, was taken to the military hospital in the capital. Doctors say though he is suffering from first-degree burns his injuries are not life-threatening and that his sight is not in danger.

“An acid attack is quite an unusual attack on journalists,” said Sediqolah Tohidi of the Afghan organization for the protection of journalists NIA.

“I at once went to the hospital. Several journalists were already there. I think this attack has a negative impact on journalists and free speech in Afghanistan. The government is doing all it can to ensure the successful outcome of the investigation and arrest the authors of this attack."
posted by Travis, 5:26 pm | link | 7 comments |

Warllords 2010 Video

Wallords 2011 from Combat Commo on Vimeo.

Wallords of Afghanistan - Stage 1 - Mission accomplished.

At the end of last year Combat Communications ran a weeklong workshop in the Afghan capital Kabul, teaching stencil art and graffiti to a group of young, Afghan artists. It culminated in a two-day painting session on the walls of an abandoned factory on the outskirts of Kabul.

Ten Afghan artists, (three women amongst them) took part in the project, dubbed “Wallords of Afghanistan”, and got an intensive crash course in all things graffiti by legendary street artist Chu.

Chu, who has been involved in street art for over twenty years, came to Afghanistan with no idea what to expect from the artists who signed up for the workshops. They were all extremely talented individuals but Chu brought three alien concepts to the table; SPRAY CANS, PUBLIC SPACE & BIG ART. As you can see in the video, they took to the new medium straight away and the results are pretty amazing.
Vimeo link

The main aim was give the students the tools and background knowledge to think about their own cultural environment. The youth of Kabul have little outlet for creativity, and self-expression is often mistaken for a challenge to authority.

Many countries with much more repressive governments have grasped the concept of ‘street art’ as a way of provoking thought and stimulating discussion but it seems that Afghanistan’s difficult recent history and unique set of cultural circumstances mean that somewhere along the way the concept of social and politically driven art has been lost.

These workshops will hopefully be the catalyst required to get more artists out of the classrooms and studios and onto the streets. Combat Communications are not trying to start a revolution. That’s the last thing this place needs, but we do believe that self-expression has a place here as much as the streets of Tehran or Palestine. Besides all that there’s a lot of blank, ugly looking, bullet-riddled walls crying out for a bit of colour.

Watch this space. Check out the blog and stay tuned for more happenings in the Summer of 2011.

For more info email info@combatcomms.org
posted by Travis, 5:24 pm | link | 6 comments |

Wallords 2010 Pics

Combat Comms Last project of 2010

More at:

Shots By Gill
posted by Travis, 5:22 pm | link | 7 comments |

Seasonal fighters

In Afghanistan, less snow coincides with uptick in violence this winter
By Joshua Partlow Washington

KABUL - The first snow of the winter that fell in Kabul this week was a welcome dusting for the war planners at NATO headquarters.

The level of violence across the country has so far been higher than in previous winters, a phenomenon U.S. military officials attribute at least in part to unseasonably warm weather. At one morning briefing this week, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, was shown aerial photographs of the lack of snow on the country's rugged mountains, which has allowed Taliban fighters more freedom of movement than usual for the season, according to a U.S. military official.

U.S. military officials often explain violence in terms of a counterinsurgency, or COIN, "curve." The idea is that violence rises as new troops pursue the Taliban in a given area but that this does not necessarily signify a worsening situation. It could mean the troops are pursuing insurgents in areas where they have found sanctuary in the past, forcing them to fight.

Then at some point, the theory goes, the curve breaks and heads downward. If all goes well, after some lag time this is followed by improvements in governance and Afghans' perception of the situation. Petraeus's office uses a graph of such a process to explain events in Nawa, the pacified district of the southern province of Helmand that Petraeus calls a "proof of COIN concept."

Compared with last summer, "the numbers of attacks right now are markedly down," said one senior NATO official. "We're in 2011 now. We'll see higher numbers overall than we did last year, month to month, day to day, throughout. Whether or not it dips off and we break that nexus sometime in 2011 remains to be seen, but we're not predicting that.
posted by Travis, 5:21 pm | link | 4 comments |

This one for my buddy Klint

posted by Travis, 5:19 pm | link | 7 comments |

Funky Fact 287

2010 Was By Far the Deadliest Year for U.S. Troops in Afghanistan—One American Killed Every 18 Hours
posted by Travis, 5:19 pm | link | 5 comments |

Journalists in 2010 targets and bargaining chips

This is one reason why Im getting out of the business

See all the figures and the graphs (http://en.rsf.org/journalists-in-2010-targets-and-30-12-2010,39188.html)

Figures in 2010
57 journalists killed (25% fewer than in 2009)
51 journalists kidnapped
535 journalists arrested
1374 physically attacked or threatened
504 media censored
127 journalists fled their country
152 bloggers and netizens arrested
52 physically attacked
62 countries affected by Internet censorship
posted by Travis, 5:19 pm | link | 0 comments |