Vercellin, Crime de Silence

by Fred Halliday
published in MER141

Giorgio Vercellin, Crime de Silence et Crime de Tapage: Panorama des lectures sur l'Afghanistan contemporain (Naples: Institute Universitario Orientale, 1985).

 

Giorgio Vercellin, of the University of Venice, has undertaken the unusual and difficult task of reviewing the mass of recent published material on Afghanistan in Western European languages and critiquing the ways in which that country has been presented. The title of his study is almost untranslatable—Crime of Silence and Crime of Blather would be a rough rendition. The point he is making, though, is extremely clear and direct: a lot of the recent writing on Afghanistan has been so strident and partisan as to tell us very little about the country itself.

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

The CIA in Afghanistan

by Joe Stork
published in MER141

President Reagan’s campaign to fund the Nicaraguan contras has distracted public attention from the much larger covert war operation in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan funding is currently at least $275 million per year but it may be double that—the exact sums are discreetly hidden as “other procurement” lines in military appropriations bills. The absence of Congressional controversy over the US role in Afghanistan has kept the sum secret. “As the Nicaraguan operation became the bad war,” said one administration official, “the one in Afghanistan became the good war.”

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

Changes at the Top

by Jonathan Steele
published in MER141

Babrak Karmal was replaced as general secretary of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) six weeks after this series of articles first appeared. It was the first non-violent change in the party’s leadership since it came to power in April 1978.

There is some evidence that the new leader, Major-General Najibullah (the official media shortened his name to Najib a few days later) was not the Soviet Union’s first choice to replace Karmal. Shortly before the leadership change on May 4, the Prime Minister, Sultan Ali Keshtmand, visited Moscow where he was prominently received. Keshtmand had long been known as the number two man in the regime, and his visit was given generous coverage in the Soviet media.

Bull About Kabul

by Jonathan Steele
published in MER141

Most British correspondents covering the Falklands war were indignant at the way the Ministry of Defense fed them selected and one-sided reports of the fighting. Supported by colleagues from other countries, they vowed they would never be “used” this way in a war again.

Moscow's Kabul Campaign

by Jonathan Steele
published in MER141

Six years after they invaded Afghanistan and were condemned by virtually the entire international community, Soviet troops with their Afghan government allies have slowly begun to win the war.

Most of the reports received in the West over the last six years have come from journalists travelling with the rebels or from Western embassies in Kabul. It has been a mixed picture of heroism and incompetence, determination and disunity, courage and corruption, but the general tone has usually been upbeat. The mujahidin, it is argued, have right on their side and will ultimately prevail, even though no one knows what kind of government—reactionary, progressive, or Islamic fundamentalist—they would put in place.

Quetta's Sectarian Violence and the Global Hazara Awakening

by Zuzanna Olszewska
published in MER266

On a cold February day in London, over 40 Hazara men, women and children sat wrapped in blankets at the foot of the King George V monument opposite the Houses of Parliament. They were protesting the bombing of a vegetable market on February 16 in Quetta, Pakistan, that killed at least 91 of their brethren and wounded 190 more. It was the second day of their three-day sit-in and many had braved the freezing temperatures and the rain overnight. They had chosen to protest in this way as Hazaras -- a predominantly Shi‘i Afghan ethnic group with a large, long-standing community in southwestern Pakistan -- rather than joining the larger and more vocal crowd of diverse Shi‘i protesters outside the Pakistani High Commission two miles away.

The Great Powers and the Middle East

by Fred Halliday
published in MER151

The December 1987 Reagan-Gorbachev summit raised once again the issue of linkage between Third World conflicts and East-West relations. Two broad questions are involved. First, how does the nuclear arms race intersect with social and political upheaval in the Third World? The second question involves the character of the East-West conflict as it affects the Third World, and the degree to which great power involvement can cause, exacerbate or potentially resolve conflicts in Asia, Africa and Latin America. A central maxim of much recent writing on East-West relations holds that the nuclear arms race is a means of regulating Third World conflict and impeding escalation to the point of war between the outside powers.

Lessing, The Wind Blows Away Our Words

by Fred Halliday
published in MER153

Doris Lessing, The Wind Blows Away Our Words (London: Picador and NY: Random House, 1987).

 

The travel book that touches on the political is a tricky genre. At its best it enables the author, freed from the constraints of formal narrative and factual analysis, to present a special insight into a society in turmoil and into his or her encounter with the protagonists. The anecdotal and the experiential can provide a unique access. The contrasting accounts of China in the 1930s by Edgar Snow and Peter Fleming are classics of this kind: more recent examples might be Graham Greene, Paul Theroux, Ryszard Kapuscinski, James Fenton at his more considered, the Naipauls at their less dyspeptic.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Gulf

by Ahmed Rashid
published in MER148

After the Iraqi attack on the USS Stark in mid-May 1987, senior State Department officials scurried around the Gulf to drum up political support. Pakistan received a more significant visit. In late June, Gen. George Crist, commander-in-chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) arrived in Islamabad with 15 military experts for a five-day visit. It was Crist’s second visit to Pakistan in eight months, and it underlined the growing importance of Pakistan in Washington’s military plans for the Gulf.

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

Pakistan After Zia

by
published in MER155

Just a few weeks before he died in the plane crash with Zia ul-Haq, even General Akhtar Abd ul-Rahman Khan was anxious over the possibility of a shift in US policy under a new administration. General Khan had engineered and administered the secret war in Afghanistan, first as director of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and then as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. “The outcome of the war in Afghanistan may not be decided by November,” he told us. “We can only hope that the US will continue to see the great benefits of the mujahidin’s victory.”

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.