For Farkhunda

The lynching of a young woman named Farkhunda in bustling downtown Kabul on March 19th just before nowruz (the Persian/Afghan New Year), has wracked Afghanistan and the Afghan community worldwide. Social media has been saturated with the bloodied pictures and videos of her, and thousands of demonstrators seeking justice for her killing and protesting lawlessness Read more about For Farkhunda[…]

ISIS’ Expedition Into Central Asia: A Spoiler or Boon for the Taliban?

Al-Qaeda concerned itself with establishing the “base conditions” for the Caliphate through its various franchised affiliates (i.e. AQIS, AQAP, AQIM, etc.). Other Islamist movements speak about establishing an Islamic State but are essentially national Islamist movements (such as the Chechen Islamists, Palestinian Hamas, Hezbollah in Lebanon and various Ansar al-Sharia franchises); these groups are pan-Islamist Read more about ISIS’ Expedition Into Central Asia: A Spoiler or Boon for the Taliban?[…]

Interrupting the War Image: SISMEC Interviews Graphic Artist Azim Fakhri

Farzana Marie (FM): Many of your works of art depict images of war and violence juxtaposed with, or altered in surprising ways to convey, instead, a vision for peace. Your tagline, “Imagination is my power,” directly implies a displacement of violent force with art. Can you talk about how this approach emerged for you, beginning Read more about Interrupting the War Image: SISMEC Interviews Graphic Artist Azim Fakhri[…]

CIA Drone Campaign Demonstrates Need for Greater Intelligence Oversight, Accountability

A year ago SISMEC pointed out that, although most of the victims of U.S. drone strikes have ostensibly been “militants,” the White House definition of “militant” is extremely vague (generally, any fighting-aged male). Moreover, the purpose of the program isn’t to target any and all possible combatants, but instead to eliminate high-value targets from international terror Read more about CIA Drone Campaign Demonstrates Need for Greater Intelligence Oversight, Accountability[…]

Why Mideast Elections Are Overrated and Often Counterproductive

In his 1997 piece “Was a Democracy Just a Moment?” Robert Kaplan predicted that like Christianity, democracy would not create a more moral or peaceful world, but rather, a more complex one. Right now the erstwhile young democracies of Pakistan and Afghanistan are finding this out the hard way. In Pakistan, the past three months Read more about Why Mideast Elections Are Overrated and Often Counterproductive[…]

At Least It’s Over (And Afghanistan has a CEO)

Over five months after Afghanistan’s first round of voting on April 5th, 2014, the election results are finally in. Sort of. As the longstanding President Hamid Karzai delivers his farewell address, the mood is one of disgusted relief. Overall, Afghan citizens are comforted that the election has been resolved without an outbreak of violence or even civil war. The intervening Read more about At Least It’s Over (And Afghanistan has a CEO)[…]

Using Non-State Actors to Undermine a Non-State: China, the Taliban and ISIS

A rift may be opening up between jihadist groups in Pakistan that do the bidding of Pakistan’s ISI and want to launch attacks in the Indian Sub-Continent and those bitterly opposed to the ISI who wish to avenge the perceived humiliation of Muslims in China, Central Asia and Myanmar. Included in this latter category is Read more about Using Non-State Actors to Undermine a Non-State: China, the Taliban and ISIS[…]

Barbarians at the Gate: ISIS, Al-Qaeda and India

On September 3rd, Ayman al Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda Central (AQC) announced the establishment of a new branch: al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Zawahiri, often described as “long on words and short on charm”  delivered a characteristically ambling and inchoate message. He explained how the new group was the “blessed result”  of Read more about Barbarians at the Gate: ISIS, Al-Qaeda and India[…]

Baghdad and Kabul – A Reminiscence of Saigon

The fall of Saigon in April of 1975 left an indelible scar on the American psyche. The memorable scenes of the U.S. embassy and intelligence officials boarding helicopters from the rooftop of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, surrounded by thousands of desperate and panicked South Vietnamese civilians, signaled the end of an almost 30 year Read more about Baghdad and Kabul – A Reminiscence of Saigon[…]

Afghan Election Fraud–Who is Responsible?

By Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam Despite security threats and many other challenges, the historic turnout of Afghan voters in the April 5th elections has shown democracy in action.  The Afghan people stalwartly contributed to their first-ever political transition from one elected president to another.  However, legitimate concerns and questions about the impartiality of the electoral bodies Read more about Afghan Election Fraud–Who is Responsible?[…]

Continuing the Conversation: Afghan-US Student Dialogues

With the arrival of the long-awaited year 2014, the outlook for Afghanistan remains tentative.  Security deals wait to be signed, votes are still being counted from the recent election, and the withdrawal of U.S. troops continues without clarity as to how many will remain.  Though Afghans are concerned for the future of their country, many Read more about Continuing the Conversation: Afghan-US Student Dialogues[…]

Uncertainty and Hope in the Afghan Presidential Elections

Uncertainty over the April 5th Afghan presidential elections and the future of the country abounded as Afghans flocked to the polls with a sense of pride and hope.  Concern from Afghans and the international community alike has stemmed from several sources. Given that outgoing president Hamid Karzai was chosen by Afghan leaders to lead the Read more about Uncertainty and Hope in the Afghan Presidential Elections[…]

Election Arts: Giving the Taliban the (Ink-stained) Finger

On Saturday, April 5th, 2014, the Afghan people delivered a resounding message to the Taliban and observers around the world. They voted not only for the presidential candidate and provincial council members of their choice but also for a democratic process in which citizens—both men and women—have a participatory role and can hold their leaders Read more about Election Arts: Giving the Taliban the (Ink-stained) Finger[…]

Campaign 2014: Of Candidates and Conflicts

The spring of 2014 will be yet another in a restive line of transformative periods in the broader Middle East, for better or worse, as the region’s people continue their political overhaul by electing new presidents, parliaments, and constitution-drafting bodies. Eight Middle Eastern countries have elections scheduled in 2014, and most will proceed without external Read more about Campaign 2014: Of Candidates and Conflicts[…]

Sectarian Jihad: A Confusing New Fashion

On December 10, 2013, Foreign Policy Magazine reported that the number of foreign fighters participating in the fight against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has eclipsed the number of jihadists who fought side-by-side in Afghanistan in the 1980s. “At this rate,” according to Foreign Policy’s Thomas Hegghammer, “the foreign fighter flow into Syria looks set to Read more about Sectarian Jihad: A Confusing New Fashion[…]

Droning on about UAVs: A Metacriticism

“Before we can talk about what is ‘effective’ we have to talk about what the goal is of using military force at all. Is it to make Americans safer? Is it to keep Afghanis, Pakistanis or Yemenis safe? What’s the goal?  The question of being ‘effective’ – if you’re asking do drones work to kill Read more about Droning on about UAVs: A Metacriticism[…]

Memento Mori: Poetry, Conflict & the Uncanny

How does poetry grapple with the conflicts and social issues of our time? What can a poem do in the face of rocket-thuds, choking smoke, a child’s pink sandal in a blood-pool on the street? Can it find meaning in THAT? Is poetry perhaps, as Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail put it, not medicine but an Read more about Memento Mori: Poetry, Conflict & the Uncanny[…]

The Problem with Pakistan: Drones or Delusions?

The Drone Smokescreen On October 23, 2013, President Obama hosted a meeting with the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in order to discuss a bilateral relationship greatly strained by the killing of Osama Bin Laden on Pakistani soil. Subsequent to the U.S. Navy Seal raid in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011, the U.S. suspended $800 Read more about The Problem with Pakistan: Drones or Delusions?[…]

Afghanistan 2014: Will the U.S. Exit Strategy Work?

SISMEC, in partnership with Civil Vision International, the UA School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies, the UA Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the UA Graduate & Professional Student Council  and Ricoh USA, is pleased to announce a symposium on Afghanistan. The event’s purpose is to spur vital dialogue about U.S. policy and what the future Read more about Afghanistan 2014: Will the U.S. Exit Strategy Work?[…]

Hearts for Sale! A Buyer’s Guide to Winning in Afghanistan (Excerpt)

A beloved and well-respected Afghan civil society leader, Dr. Mohammad Saeed Niazi once said, “The hearts of the people are for sale—but not for money.” Genuine caring, respect, and service “buy” hearts; and those hearts freely offer the legitimacy governments embroiled in counterinsurgency so crave. Dr. Niazi’s words suggest that neither the secret to earning Read more about Hearts for Sale! A Buyer’s Guide to Winning in Afghanistan (Excerpt)[…]

Street With Joy: The Afghan Triumph in South Asia

It was nearing midnight on September 11th, 2013, when chaos exploded in the streets: shouting, honking horns, tracers arching over people’s heads, scattered gunshots. But this time, for the first time in living memory, it was an overwhelmingly joyful frenzy; people were hugging, dancing, back-slapping, weeping, waving the red-black-and-green flag, blaring music from their cars, Read more about Street With Joy: The Afghan Triumph in South Asia[…]

The Taliban in Doha – Peace or Ruse?

The challenges of negotiating with the Taliban On Tuesday, June 18th, 2013, four major news-items collided in the headlines on Afghanistan. The first was the official security handover by the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) of remaining 95 districts in Southern and Eastern regions to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The second was a Read more about The Taliban in Doha – Peace or Ruse?[…]

Women and War: G8 makes rape a crime – wasn’t it already?

The G8 declares rape a war crime and vows to punish all perpetrators – will they start with themselves? At a recent summit in which representatives met to discuss various ongoing and possible conflicts,  the G8 announced that it has officially declared rape a crime against humanity and a breach of the Geneva Convention.  The Read more about Women and War: G8 makes rape a crime – wasn’t it already?[…]

Learning from Student Dialogue

Civil Dialogue and Better Ways to Build Afghan-U.S. Trust Earlier this week, Afghan and American university students held a video-dialogue covering a variety of policy issues as well as insight into their daily lives. The tone of the event from the Afghan side was upbeat, and both sides expressed enthusiastic openness and respect.  Many groups Read more about Learning from Student Dialogue[…]

Calling for talks, not more air strikes in Mali

Who’s fighting whom? And for What? The ongoing conflict in Mali continues to play out in the periphery of the international news and political machines. News of the death of an Al Qaeda in the Maghrib (AQIM) leader is seized upon in headlines and provides fodder for the never satiated “we-got-another-Islamist!” Western political machine. But Read more about Calling for talks, not more air strikes in Mali[…]