Will the “October Children” from Afghanistan Get Fair Treatment?

Is Norway’s asylum policy simply strict – or is it also fair and humane?

In the coming weeks, approximately 200 young Afghans – the so-called “October children” – will have their cases re-assessed.

Originally these children were granted temporary residence permits until they turned 18. Thereafter they were to be returned to life as internally displaced persons in Afghanistan, which in practice meant being sent to Kabul. Then the Norwegian Parliament voted for their cases to be re-assessed. The government was required to attach greater emphasis to the young people’s vulnerability and to assessing whether they had access to adequate contacts and resources to cope with life in Kabul.

Zendegi Soltani in front of the Norwegian parliament, November 2017. Foto Mónica Orjuela / Norwegian Afghanistan Commitee

Too strict! This was Parliament’s view of the initial assessments. Parliament considered that the assessments failed to attach sufficient importance to Norway’s objective of implementing a fair and humane asylum policy. Accordingly, the new assessments must be different – something more – than the initial assessments. The new review must not be merely a hurried  repetition of the first. The number of young people affected is not large. But the Directorate of Immigration must facilitate case-by-case assessments to establish whether each young person will cope on his or her own in Afghanistan today.Read More

The Taliban’s Choice

The Taliban have, for the first time, been presented with a comprehensive peace initiative. This is an invitation they can not turn down.

Kabul … challenges the Taliban to demonstrate that they are capable not only of producing war and terror, but also of engaging politically. Photo: Creative Commons

President Ashraf Ghani’s proposal at the conclusion of the recent meeting of the Kabul Process on Peace and Security Cooperation was as bold as it was surprising. The package contains many new elements, and some things remain ambiguous, but the main news is that what is offered is a comprehensive package, without conditions or deadlines.

Many Afghans remain skeptical towards a peace process, and many are skeptical of the Taliban, the government, or both. If the Taliban reject the invitation, they also give a loud message that their preference is enduring armed confrontation.

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No Peace Without Women!

The recent #MeToo campaign was a watershed moment that has brought global attention to the issue of violence against women and has shown us how women continue to be objects of exploitation.

Time Magazine names ‘The Silence Breakers’ 2017 person of the year

Violence is manifested in so many different ways, from intimate partner violence, domestic violence, rape, honour killing to dowry and to sexual harassment and exploitation – the topic at the centre of this campaign.

The #MeToo campaign has taken us toward reducing the stigma of sexual violence survivors, which exists in all corners of the world and to addressing the impunity of perpetrators. But what it has also done is to forcefully spotlight attention on gender issues.

On this International Women’s Day as we reflect on gender issues, women’s rights and equal access to opportunities we must not only reflect on the progress that has been made but also on how much more needs to be done and how to achieve gender equality in societal life and in all sectors.Read More

The Beginning of a Peace Process in Afghanistan – Finally?

Is Afghanistan finally at a turning point – after so many disappointments and wasted opportunities?

At the Kabul Process II conference on 28 February, President Ashraf Ghani proposed to launch peace talks with the Taliban without preconditions, offering to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political group, and presenting a number of significant proposals to be included in a peace process.

The new peace plan was more comprehensive than anything previously presented and did not contain any of the aggressive language so often heard in the past. It did not offend the Taliban by calling on Pakistan to “deliver” the enemy to the negotiating table, but appealed to the Taliban directly.Read More

Theses on Peacemaking in Afghanistan: a Manifesto

Author’s Note: Royalist and republican, Khalqi and Parchami, Soviet Union and the West, communist and Islamist, mujahid and Talib, Hanafi and takfiri, al Qaeda and America, warlord and technocrat, Pashtun and non-Pashtun, Islamic Emirate and Islamic State, KGB, ISI, and CIA – all have for decades carried on an uninterrupted struggle in Afghanistan.

Wikimedia Commons

Attempts to end the war have but established new antagonisms, new conditions of conflict, new forms of warfare. The conflict generates these antagonisms rather than the reverse, forcing us to face the real origins of violence: Afghanistan’s relations to the state system from which it emerged. These theses delineate the ever-changing conflict’s constant causes, which any effort at peacemaking in Afghanistan must address.Read More

Afghanistan – a new chapter in the Great Game?

May the shifting superpower dynamics bring hope for Afghanistan?

Both Moscow and Beijing are displaying increasing interest in Afghanistan, after a decade and a half of domination by Washington. This shift is having effects in both Afghanistan and among its neighbours.

The US focus is now the war against the Taliban. Few believe this will last long. Meanwhile, Russia is in dialogue with the Taliban. Photo: US Army Europe / Flickr

Recent news from Afghanistan has been dominated by a series of dramatic terrorist attacks. It seems as though the Taliban and IS are engaging in a gruesome competition to cause the greatest harm to civilians. Discontent with the government is expressing itself in widespread protests in large cities. The Taliban seem to be gaining ground. President Ashraf Ghani is pressing on with his reform agenda, replacing a number of people in his administration. But so far he has not succeeded in his initiative to oust Atta Noor, the powerful governor of Balkh Province. Two months past being sacked, Noor remains in his position. Alongside this dramatic domestic situation, the international power play surrounding Afghanistan is changing.Read More

Putin Brags about Missiles and Remains Mum about Mercenaries

Putin meets with al-Assad on the Russian air base.

The annual presidential address to the parliament is usually a rather dull affair in Russia, but President Putin has certainly managed to make an impression with the speech delivered on March 1, 2018.

He elaborated at great length about Russia’s military might, but before describing new weapon systems (some of them entirely phantasmagorical), he briefly mentioned that the Syrian operation had shown increased capabilities of the Russian Armed Forces. This is a change of tone from yet another declaration of “victory”, and indeed, Syria constitutes a paradox in Russia’s relations with the USA as Moscow seeks simultaneously to maintain military cooperation and defeat presumed U.S. political intentions in this messy conflict.

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Aid Agencies Can’t Police Themselves. It’s Time for a Change

The spreading “Oxfam scandal” will affect the entire humanitarian sector painfully. It brings into plain sight what observers of the internal workings of NGOs have known for a long time: NGOs have an organisational reflex of banning outsiders from their kitchen, and keeping their potentially dangerous secrets hidden.

Abuses of power are common in any situation where vulnerable people depend on powerful service providers. But the key question that still haunts this sector is how organisations should deal with the rotten apples – the abusers of power. Even though Oxfam has taken earlier abuses and misconduct seriously, the organisation has acted alone and resorted to internal measures in dealing with the problem.Read More

Turkey’s Risky Adventure in Afrin

Turkey’s military incursion into Kurdish-controlled northern Syria risks straining diplomatic ties and exposing Turkey to increased terror threats.

The Turkish offensive on Afrin that began on January 20 had long been anticipated. But while the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) may hope this campaign can drum up anti-Kurdish nationalism ahead of the 2019 elections, it could also generate severe diplomatic backlash and exacerbate Turkey’s security issues.

Demonstration in Afrin to support the YPG and the YPJ against the Turkish military operation, 19 January 2018. Wikimedia Commons

In terms of foreign policy, Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria strains its already precarious relations with the United States and places further stress on the Turkey – NATO relationship. One of the triggers for Turkey’s Afrin operation was the U.S. announcement on January 14 that it would create a Kurdish force of 30,000 to secure Syria’s border with Turkey and Iraq in areas held by the Kurds.Read More

Valuing Critical Feminist Insights on Militarism and Security

By Annick Wibben Many Security Studies scholars still query the usefulness of feminist approaches to security. Or rather, they quite simply ignore the significant contributions made by Feminist Security Studies scholars [see e.g. Stern & Wibben 2015]. Sometimes this means that they miss, or are puzzled by, observations such as the finding that women might… Read more »