WASHINGTON BLOCKED AFGHAN KING — Did the Americans foist Hamid Karzai on the Afghan people even though Zahir Shah, the former king of Afghanistan who died this week at 92, would have been the far more popular choice? Yes, says Ishak Shariar, Afghanistan’s first ambassador to the United States following the 2001 defeat of the Taliban. At the December 2001 U.N.-sponsored conference in Bonn to plan Afghanistan’s future and appoint an interim government, the two main Afghan political blocs were the so-called Rome group, which supported the king, and the Northern Alliance of mainly smaller ethnic groups that had spearheaded […]

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — In the fading light of a summer’s evening, the three-story yellow building, standing in the middle of a cozy yard of coniferous trees in the north of this city, seems warm and inviting. It has the allure of a new house. But the high walls topped with concertina wire, the metal doors, and bars on the windows remind visitors it is a prison — albeit a very special kind of prison. A man who introduces himself as foreman Sasha emphasizes that the prison “fully meets all international standards.” He offers a tour of the facility his team […]

On July 18, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher met with representatives from South and Central Asian countries to discuss how the United States could promote economic integration in their region. The session was part of a dialogue conducted as part of the Third Annual Meeting of the U.S.-Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The day before, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative hosted the third annual TIFA Meeting. The United States and the five Central Asian countries signed the TIFA agreement in June 2004. The TIFA process focuses on identifying means to […]

One of the more disturbing sights greeting travelers to the Middle East and other regions with Muslim populations in the days after September 11 was a t-shirt defiantly bearing a familiar face. I saw the new fashions hanging for sale in markets in Southeast Asia, shirts adorned with the gaunt, bearded likeness of Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden had captured the imagination of a large number of people. Clearly, defeating him would require more than military might. Years later, the long, painful, and error-filled campaign to defeat Islamic extremists brings news that seems to go from bad to worse. America, […]

Photo Feature: Istanbul’s Breakdancing Gypsies

ISTANBUL, Turkey — They have lived for almost a thousand years around the remains of Istanbul’s Byzantine walls, but when the time came to remove them, the Gypsies of Sulukule claim that they only found out about their intended future from the journalists flocking to their shantytowns to cover the story. “We heard from the media that the neighborhood would be destroyed to make way for residential developments,” said Mehmet Asim Hallaq, 55, a spokesman for the ongoing campaign opposing the removal. “This is a kind of aesthetic assimilation they’re trying to impose on us.” Istanbul’s Gypsies have lived in […]

NEW DELHI, India — Notwithstanding the deployment of an estimated 90,000 Pakistani troops along the Afghan border in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, the situation is far from stable in a region that is vital to Islamabad and Washington. State authority is increasingly fragile in the region, with recurrent violence undermining official Pakistani claims that the situation is “under control.” Despite the “intense” Army operations in FATA, frontline Taliban and al-Qaida operatives still maintain a significant presence in the region, adding to the problems of the already-challenged U.S.-led coalition forces in neighboring Afghanistan. Although the Musharraf regime […]

NEW YORK — America generally has had an uneasy relationship with the Non-Alignment Movement, which represents some 118 countries, mainly in the developing world. More than a half century ago — on June 9, 1955, to be precise — John Foster Dulles, the U.S. Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, upset the leaders of several non-aligned countries, including former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, when he chastised in a speech that “neutrality (a term used by the then U.S. administration to refer to non-alignment) has increasingly become an obsolete and, except under very special circumstances . . . […]

On June 13, the Japanese government approved the latest edition of its annual defense white paper, “Defense of Japan 2007.” The report identifies North Korea and China as Tokyo’s primary strategic concerns while reaffirming Japan’s alliance with the United States, commitment to international peacekeeping, and intent to keep defense spending slightly below 1 percent of its gross domestic product (some $39 billion). This version of the white paper was the first published by Japan’s new Ministry of Defense, which before January 2007 only had “agency” status. Compared with the previous Defense Agency, whose main function was to manage the Japanese […]

BANGKOK, Thailand – Ethnic clashes that have led to 11 deaths in Moreh, an Indian town on the border with Burma, have barely raised a blip on the global news meter but have brought much trade between the two countries to a standstill. Moreh is a fly-blown place in a remote corner of India’s troubled and underdeveloped northeast region and remains largely under lock and key guard by units of the Assam Rifles regiment. And yet Moreh is regarded by the central government in faraway New Delhi as the gateway to Southeast Asia in its “Look East” economic growth policy. […]

The “Color Revolutions” that swept through Eastern Europe and Central Asia in 2004-2005 have mostly faded out. Ukraine’s Orange Revolution has given way to political clan warfare and hopes for reform have been put on hold. The Tulip Revolution brought little more than a change of personnel to Kyrgyzstan. Only Georgia’s Rose Revolution has maintained its hue. Why has Georgia been able to maintain its revolutionary spirit despite several setbacks over the past three years? One reason seems to be the talented, young technocrats the revolution placed in Georgian ministries. Just as the “Chicago Boys” famously helped right Chile’s economy […]

Editor’s Note: Rights & Wrongs is a weekly column on the world’s major human rights-related happenings. It is written by regular WPR contributor Juliette Terzieff. MEDICS’ DEATH PENALTY CONVICTION UPHELD — The Libyan Supreme Court decided Wednesday to uphold earlier convictions of five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor on charges of intentionally infecting over 400 Libyan children with the HIV/AIDS virus. The court’s ruling was widely expected and — as it signals the official end to the appeals process — paves the way for an out-of-court settlement to financially compensate the children’s families and bring an end to the […]

TARIN KOWT, Afghanistan — On June 15, a suicide bomber struck a Dutch army education delegation in the town of Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan, killing one Dutch soldier and 11 Afghan children. The blast was the opening salvo in a five-day battle pitting hundreds of Taliban fighters against the 3,000-strong Dutch-led Task Force Uruzgan and hundreds of Afghan police and militia. At stake was control of a key valley connecting Pakistan’s Taliban bases to the opium production centers in Helmand province.<<ad>>The Tarin Kowt battle represented the first major fighting for the Dutch army in decades. Since […]

KABUL, Afghanistan — The first question Zebulon Simentov asked his uninvited guest, eyes wide open at the prospect: “Are you Jewish?” There was a tinge of disappointment when the reply came back negative, but the last Jew standing in Afghanistan didn’t miss a beat. “Humanity is one, religion doesn’t matter,” he said. Moments later, a Muslim friend entered the room, unfurled a prayer rug in the corner and bowed toward Mecca. An open box of Manischewitz motsas sat next to an empty bottle of booze on a table nearby. Locals refer to Simentov, 47, simply as “the Jew.” Originally from […]

Editor’s Note: For more, watch our Web cast with Luke Hunt in Hong Kong. HONG KONG — When Britain’s Prince Charles shook hands with then-Chinese leader Jiang Zemin and farewelled an empire, opinion was firmly divided over how Hong Kong would prosper under an estranged motherland. The optimists predicted democracy, unparalleled wealth and autonomy. Hong Kong would thrive as a center for commerce, the gateway to China and prove itself truly independent and international. Others were far less generous, forecasting the territory would become “just another Chinese city” dictated to by Communist authorities in Beijing who had only a scant […]

Editor’s Note: Rights & Wrongs is a weekly column covering the world’s major human rights-related happenings. It is written by regular WPR contributor Juliette Terzieff and appears every Friday. ICRC BREAKS SILENCE OVER BURMA — In an extremely rare move, the International Committee of the Red Cross June 29 issued a harsh public censure of the Burmese government over systematic human right abuses of civilians and detainees, including forced relocations, arbitrary detentions and murder. “The ICRC has repeatedly drawn attention to these abuses but the authorities have failed to put a stop to them. . . . The continuing deadlock […]

Two weeks ago, ABC News broadcast images of a bizarre so-called “graduation ceremony” taking place somewhere in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The host of the event was none other than Mansoor Dadullah: the newly appointed military chief of the Taliban. The “graduates” consisted of supposed candidates for suicide attacks who, having completed their “training,” were allegedly being dispatched to the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Germany: all countries with troops in Afghanistan. Mansoor Dadullah is the younger brother of the late Mullah Dadullah: the former Taliban military chief who was killed by coalition forces in mid-May. […]