Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Blood Timber!

“Tell us why should any of us care about the timber forest in Afghanistan?" The committee asked my friend Archy.
Aarash, or Archy as I call him, is a passionate environmental activist. He is originally from Afghanistan. His family moved to the U.S right after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. We met at an environmental conference and we become friends.
Today, I am supporting him by attending his meeting with the House Committee on Armed Services.
“Because the timber mafia is killing the U.S soldiers in Kunar and Nuristan Provinces to smuggle timber to bordering Pakistan," Archy answered.
 “Why now, why are you bringing this issue to our attention now?"
There was a brief silence after Archy delivered his closing remarks. It was the “eye opener" kind of silence. I felt Archy presented his view well.
“Sir, the CIA is an agency that can't address every single issue around the globe. They are, like any other agency, stretched thin. Timber should be managed by enacting an effective policy not by issuing a decree that bans all timber cutting. Absolute policies have an adverse impact in post-conflict situations," Archy explained.
“Sir, which is better enacting an effective policy to manage timber or jeopardizing the lives of the U.S soldiers? Enacting a policy that involves the local stakeholders and addressing the ownerships is the best course of action. Otherwise, terrorist groups such ISIS will continue to exploit the timber to fund its activities. The decision is yours. Security is not only about who has the most updated weapon, it is also about what policies we use to manage our resources," Archy concluded.
“The security situation is active there because the terrorist organizations such Taliban are attacking the troops. We are well-aware of that; we are not interested in any mafia activities."
 “Sir, the security situation is active because of the timber policy that created a scarcity of timber. Thus, former Mujahedeen and terrorist organizations such as Lashkar-e-Toiba[1], Taliban[2], and the Korengal insurgency[3]  are launching a proxy war against the U.S troops to smuggle timber to the neighboring country Pakistan, " Archy explained.
"They have every reason to act as a united front against us; they all share the same ethnicity and background, aren't they all Pashtuns?" A committee member asked.
"Not quite. the Korengal insurgency does not consist of Pashtuns, the dominated ethnic and linguistic populace of Afghanistan, the Korengals are of a different ethnicity that speaks its own language. In fact, the Korengals are the business competitors of the Pashtuns.  It seems like the scarcity of timber is bringing the communities together in order to smuggle timber outside of Afghanistan," Archy answered.
“Why they are smuggling the timber in the first place?" Another member asked.
 "Timber is fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan where the Taliban is utilizing the profit to buy weapons and wage a proxy war against the U.S. soldiers.  Taliban in Pakistan smuggles the timber through the Pakistani borders in exchange for having these different insurgency groups fight the U.S. soldiers in a proxy war,[4]"   Archy explained.
"Where does the timber go after being smuggled into Pakistan?" Another member asked.
“The timber is sold in the global timber markets, and it will eventually find its way to the U.S. market.  I believe the U.S. buying timber that has the blood if its own soldiers on it," Archy answered. 
“Where is the CIA why they aren't dealing with the issue? Where is the FBI and how come they are not investigating the issue?" Another member asked.
“For two reasons; The U.S is planning to keep more troops in Afghanistan. I don’t want the timber mafia to target our sons and daughters. Also, ISIS is involved now in smuggling timber to fund its activity." Archy answered.  
Later, when he asked me, “How did I do?"
I answered, “I thought you kicked ass!''
[1] Founded in 1990 in Kunar province, a terrorist organization that is “a signatory to Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front for Jihad against the US and Israel” See Daan Van Der Schriek, ibid. Also see South Asia Terrorism Patrol,  Terrorist Groups, Lashar-e- Toiba.
[2] Students of the Islamic movement a radical Sunni group who governed Afghanistan since 1996 until they were removed by the U.S troops and NATO in 2001. See Gilles Dorronsoro, Who are the Taliban, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2009.
[3] The inhabitants of  the Korengal Valley in Kunar are not Pashtuns as the rest of the population of Kunar they speak their own language and share some ethnic ties with the Nuristanies. The Korengals are the business competitors of the majority of Pushtun in the timber trade.  “After the U.S. invasion in 2001, the Pech Valley timber barons sided with the Americans and convinced them to bomb the house of Hajji Matin, their biggest rival from Korengal. After this affront, Matin was radicalized and joined with Abu Ikhlas, the Egyptian al Qaeda operative who had settled in Kunar”. See Micheal Moore and James Fussell, P.21. Also, see Sebastian Junger, “Into the Valley of Death,” Vanity Fair, January 2008
 Elizabeth Rubin, “Battle Company is out there,” The New York Times Magazine, February 24, 2008.
[4]  Glenn Hurowitz, illegal logging funding Taliban attacks on U.S. troops,  Grist, April 2010

Can be found on the following link   


Alan said...

I recently came across your site, very nice. Keep it up.

Mishkat said...

Thank you Alan!

CombatMissionary said...

This is scratching the surface of Afghan tribal interactions. Pashtuns are the largest tribe in Afghanistan, but only constitute about 40(?) percent of the country's total population. The Pech River Valley runs roughly East-West. The Waygal Valley runs North from the Pech, and is populated by Nuristanis. The mouth of the Korengal Valley is east of the mouth of the Waygal, and the Korengal runs South from the Pech. The Korengal used to be populated by Pashtuns, but roughly 400 years ago, some Nuristanis (who hate everybody but Nuristanis) invaded the Korengal and drove out the Pashtuns. The Pashtuns in the Pech cut off those in the Korengal from those in the Waygal, and they became culturally isolated. The Korengalis developed their own dialect and culture, but are more culturally similar to Nuristanis than to Pashtuns. Whereas Pashtuns are happy to have infrastructure such as roads, electricity, and cell phones installed, Korengalis and Nuristanis would rather play the happy host to insurgent groups and bilk money from the Afghan Government and/or the US and our Allies as much as possible. When I was there, they were one of the big powerhouses smuggling weapons into Afghanistan to fight the Coalition Forces.

Mishkat said...

Thank you for your kind note and for providing an overview of the situation.

I have examined the case study of Kunar and Nuristan in my detailed research entitled Transition to Peace: Examining Divergent Approaches to Enacting Post-Conflict Environmental Laws in Afghanistan and El Salvador, Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, Vol. 22-4 2010.P755.

In the research, I examine the cultural issues, the isolation, lacking infrastructural, services, and economic development. Then, I connect these issues (cultural and development) with the environmental laws and policies governing timber. Finally, I provide recommendations to address the situation.

For example, I cited an incident where the locals in Kunar greeted the U.S. soldiers thinking they were the soldiers of the former Soviet Union!

Please feel free to review the research if you have a free access to any database. I am posting the introduction. I cannot post the entire research, because of copyright issues.'l+Envtl.+L.+Rev.+755&srctype=smi&srcid=3B15&key=c222fd5583cc9250920328a3124cabaf

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