09 October 2010

Looking for perspective in Babur's playground

Barbur's Garden, the burial place of the 16th century Mughal emperor, is lush compared to most of dusty Kabul.

Gunmen torched another 29 fuel tankers this morning in southwestern Pakistan that supply western military actions in Afghanistan. The attacks on NATO fuel convoys have been daily since the Pakistan government shut down the Torkham border crossing in the Khyber tribal region last week. The closure was in retaliation for NATO airstrikes that killed two Pakistani soldiers at a military outpost. U.S. helicopter pilots mistook the soldiers for militants, according to a joint NATO-Pakistani investigation.

The Torkham crossing is porous, insecure, passports are not required for locals, some of whom are insurgency, reports NPR.
A taxi driver named Sadiqullah, who drives the route daily from Torkham up to Kabul, says he is dead certain that he has carried Talibs in his car before. “Out of a hundred who pass through the border," he says through an interpreter, "I think none of them get caught.”
Mohammad Omar, the governor of Kunduz province in Afghanistan and a vocal critic of the Taliban, was killed Friday in an explosion in a mosque that claimed more than a dozen others. Northern Afghanistan, historically, has not been supportive of the Taliban and Omar claimed that some insurgents in the area were al-Qaeda fighters from across the border in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, reports Al Jazeera.

On Saturday I went to Barbur’s Garden and strolled through the rose bushes and terraced lawns of one of the rare maintained public spaces in Kabul with two young Afghan men, former students from a Central Asian university. This was the favorite spot and the burial site of Babur, the 16th century Mughal emperor, who built an outdoor pool and a playhouse for the pleasures of the senses here. Babur was born in Ferghana in what is now Uzbekistan and claimed lineage with Timur (Tamerlane) through his father and Genghis Khan through his mother. He laid the foundation for an Islamic empire that ruled a swath of what are now Iran, Central Asia, and much of India for more than 300 years.

We talked about the future of their country, the behavior of mine, and what they feared might happen if the U.S.-led forces were suddenly to leave. The Taliban would attempt to fill the vacuum, which would also unleash the warlords, many of whom hold positions in the Karzai government, my friend explained. The factions would vie for aid from foreign governments and another civil war would rage among Muslims. What went unspoken was that the Karzai government, without western security forces, would quickly disappear.

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