Situation at a glance

After the 11 September tragedy and US-led invasion, Afghanistan has achieved much in the past three years. Around 80% of the Afghan people are happy that the US overthrew the Taliban and installed a democracy. The reason some people are not happy is because they are against freedom and they are warlords and they want to be in power and they only think about their own benefits. And they don't want foreign forces in Afghanistan as in the presence of coalition forces they cant harm the new Afghan Government. Afghan people think that the coalition must stay till the ANA (Afghan National Army) is capable of protecting Afghanistan. At the moment we have more than 25000 soldiers in ANA formation and the plan to have 75000 soldiers in the national army is expected to be completed in 2006. ANA still needs US help to fight against the enemy because we don't have an air force. But in every mission there are some US Advisors with the ANA, so if they need air strikes their advisor can call for it. The new training academy for ANA officers was inaugurated 3 days ago. 110 ANA officers from different parts of Afghanistan will be trained at this academy. The 32nd battalion graduated two weeks ago and moved to their units. There are also some classes for ANA to learn English and they have US and Afghan teachers. Sometimes when some ANA do their homework they call me to help. I saw some that are so good in learning English. Their books come from the US. The disarmament process goes well but there are still some warlords with militias. More than 40,000 former militias have been disarmed. Afghanistan's New Beginnings Program (ANBP) reintegrates former militias through the teacher training, agriculture, vocational training and small businesses training courses in order to support their families. The local Afghan and militias worked well in the 2001 war. I think they should still co-operate in order to find the enemy.

The people are feeling free - women can go to work. Some women wear burkhas and some women not, but they are no longer forced to wear burkhas, it's their choice. School girls and college girls put a little scarf on their heads. The people of some provinces are still facing problems with their kids' education and hospitals. In some villages there are no health clinics and drinking water. There are still some clashes in southern provinces but the central provinces and northern are quite calm.

Afghans learn English as they know its an international language. Especially in the capital Kabul, there are almost 1500 English courses where thousands of girls and boys learn English at school. English teaching starts from Year 7, but most students still go to English classes after school because they think they can learn better. As I mentioned in my first blog, it's the first time that we have four TV channels in the capital, Kabul. Also there are cable networks so that people who can afford it get cable connection. Afghan TV channels also have good programs. There is a channel called "Tolo TV" which is the youngsters favorite channel. It plays music like Arabic, Indian, Turkish, English. Also they have nice sports channels and play movies every night. We have female and male announcers in all channels and female singers after the new election held last year.

Drug smuggling is still continuous in Afghanistan, however Afghan police confiscated many tons of opium. But because we have a long border with Pakistan and Iran it's hard for the ANA and national police to control, but still they arrested many drug dealers over the last few months. Air strikes also damaged many plants. The government wants to talk peacefully with the farmers to eradicate their fields, but the farmers want financial help from the government to support their family or to cultivate useful plants.

There is some Government welfare available for poor people where they learn short courses like tailoring, carpet-weaving and mechanics, but there are still many poor people and that welfare is not enough for all poor people. There are many beggars in Kabul streets begging for money.

As an interpreter, I go on patrols to some villages around the ANA Central Corps. When we go to the villages we ask the people if they have any problem with thieves or bad people and we make sure they are secure. There is a refugee camp beside the ANA central corps. They live in tents. Before winter started we went on a patrol and talked to them and they complained about the cold winter. So after 2 weeks we issued them blankets and food amd also we had some US doctors give their kids a check-up and provided medicine for them. That was a good day for me because I was the only interpreter with 60 soldiers and medics, so I was happy to help those people by interpreting. Most kids follow us, asking for pens and notebooks and pipes. Little kids can't pronounce "mister" so they say "Mishter pen please, mishter pencil" and its funny. Sometimes we give them stuff. When we go to villages all kids run and try to talk with soldiers.

Most people like president Karzai. He seems to be very loyal to his people and we hope Afghanistan will achieve and be well-promoted during his government. I like him too. He is a very good president. Only one day I was sad with his decision in which he released Pakistani prisoners without exchanging with Afghan prisoners who are in Pakistani jails for a long time without committing any big crime. I think he should have exchanged the Pakistani prisoners with Afghan prisoners who are in Pakistan. Because the Pakistanis came to Afghanistan to fight in support of the Taliban. But our prisoners were only in Pakistan as refugees.

Good Post -- Your assesement of the situation is interesting. The only way to preserve peace is with a strong millitary under CIVILIAN leadership and loyal to the STATE not the PRESIDENT.

You wrote, "Some women wear burkhas and some women not,..."

What is your estimate of the percentage of women who wear burkhas in Kabul? Is it more than 50 percent?

How about other cities?

How about small towns in rural areas?

Were all females required to wear burkhas under the Taliban? Or was it just females above a certain age?

Best wishes,
Keep up the good work, Waheed. Thank you for the information about your country.
Great update, Waheed, thank you. Karzai seems most impressive. He clearly cares very much for Afghanistan and its people and wants the best for them. He fights very hard for them when giving speeches in the US and is an impressive speaker. I hope the people keep him in power long enough to get some of these problems straightened out, for it will take some time to turn around those warlords and drug growers. And I don't see anyone capable of succeeding him. We have faith that your country will win in the end, Waheed. The rest of the world has to become more involved and help out more. Best wishes.
Thanks for the comprehensive update Waheed. Best to you!
I really enjoy this blog and try to link to it, like I did here. Keep up the good work and congratulations on being the first Afghani blogger.
It was very nice to find your blog. I have been disappointed about finding very little about Afghanistan on the internet. I have two sons serving in your country, one is in Kabul and the other in Khowst, and I have been looking for a source of information about Afghanistan since they were deployed.
I think that it would be very interesting if you were able to tell us more about you and what you do and about you interactions with the Americans that you work with. Do you post from an internet cafe or are you able to use the internet at your work? Where did you learn English? What city do you work in?
I look forward to reading your postings.
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JDW News Digest:

Afghan National Army (ANA) is increasing efforts in training and equipments, which will allow operations in 2006 December. Regarding the expansion of capabilities for training from 4 to 5 battalions at the same time by the OMC-A, the objectives to have 70000 ANA soldiers until 2007 October is likely to be achieved. Afghanistan Department of Defense has desires to have upto 150000 soldiers for the Army but has difficulties which the ceiling seems to be 70000. Until today, 20000 have finished training.
Waheed, Thank you for your time. You are providing us with a much needed service. I would caution you to give too much personal information, we do not want something to get out which might make you a target.

Mark, under Taliban rule, women could not show any skin under pain of death, according to reports I've read.
Excellent post!

I’m heartened by the progress that your country is making. I only wish that more Americans were aware of the gains being made there. I’ll check in for updates.
Excellent post!

I’m heartened by the progress that your country is making. I only wish that more Americans were aware of the gains being made there. I’ll check in for updates.
Waheed, just wanted to tell you that it's fantastic to have you blogging out of Afghanistan. Your English is very good and I appreciate your efforts, both here on this blog and as an interpreter.

All the best,
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ANA still needs US help to fight against the enemy because we don't have an air force. But in every mission there are some US Advisors with the ANA, so if they need air strikes their advisor can call for it.

If Afghanistan was to have an Air Force in the near future, and the major threats are to be the Islamists operating in Central Asia, I would advise Afghanistan to get AV-8B Harrier II or Yak-141M Free Style (Improved), A-10/OA-10 Thunderbolt II or Su-25/Su-39 Frogfoot, AH-1Z Super Cobra or Mi-24 Hind, AH-64D Apache LongBow or Ka-52 Alligator, and C-130. US has some extra C-130 (too much for some military officials) that they will be happy to give away some C-130s. US will probably build F-35 that will replace A-10 and AV-8B and if lucky, Afghanistan may recieve some of these old A-10s and AV-8s. In fact, some of the US Air Force officials do not like the A-10s for traditional reason and want to get rid of it. A-10/OA-10 and Su-25/Su-39 are both ground support aircrafts which also have use for border patrol missions as well as supporting the Army for its low altitude maneuverability. AV-8B and Yak-141M are VTOL aircrafts. These aircrafts also may have similar roles as A-10 and Su-25/Su-39. All of the listed aircrafts have abilities to fly at low altitudes supporting ground units with fire power and bird eye's view to spot guerilla forces. The reason why I mentioned Russian aircraft is the affordibility. However, if the Afghanistan force would want to cooperate for a long term with US military installations in Afghanistan, US aircrafts may also allow sharing of parts under war conditions.
kat, I am correcting most of the English before the posts go out.

norman, it's my opinion that a poor country like Afghanistan shouldn't waste money on an air force, and should simply whistle up NATO air power as required. Afghanistan can't afford an air force that could beat an oil-rich nation like Iran if it were to attack. But what I would like to see is the Afghans themselves having those laser designators and communication equipment required to call in air strikes by themselves. Is that possible? I assume the ANA need to know English to be able to do this?
Thank you for the update, Waheed. I agree with all you said. Maybe Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan will finally be able to learn from YOU! lol Take care.
norman, it's my opinion that a poor country like Afghanistan shouldn't waste money on an air force, and should simply whistle up NATO air power as required. Afghanistan can't afford an air force that could beat an oil-rich nation like Iran if it were to attack.

That is why I mentioned Russian products for the affordibility, and if the price is still an obstacle, US may donate some of the aircrafts. US also have donated some of the C-130s to Iraq, then why not to Afghanistan? Of course, Afghanistan may rely on other forces, but so does NATO members will not remain for ever in Afghanistan. An airforce is not just a forse versus another country, but also against terrorists and for rescue missions. I have read many news about the impact of low altitude aircrafts of the US Armed force against Taliban of Afghanistan and militants in Iraq. Air Force also has role for rescue misions. Afghanistan may request help from other countries but when foreign forces are no more in Afghanistan in the far future, it will take time for foreign force to reach the country resulting in a lost time, as well as for assistance for the country under attack. I won't say Afghanistan would need to build an Air Force soon, nor has to be large, but at least a small number of aircrafts to start out so the Air Force of Afghanistan may pass on the skills for future expansion whenever the economy allows. The oil pipeline planned to be built through Afghanistan into India and other countries should give some benifits to Afghanistan to add on to the economy, and allow some money for building the Air Force. This is my vision but I won't say I am correct.
Karzai may have released those prisoners as a payment for something Pakistan helped with, or it may have been a simple goodwill gesture. The idea is to do something for somebody with no strings attached, no request for payment or compensation. Hopefully, the recipient will show reciprocity by a similar gesture. Trust can then develop by steps.
norman, I think Afghanistan and NATO both need to sit down and think about what we're all doing here. We're all (now) members of the free world. I think Afghanistan should out-source its air force requirements to NATO. What's the point in having aircraft doing nothing in France, Germany etc when they could instead be permanently stationed in Afghanistan? The free world needs to band together and protect the whole of the free world, including Afghanistan, instead of each country nominally only being concerned with its own territorial defence. It is the outskirts of the free world that need defending. Not places like Germany who are well within the democratic zone of peace.
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