Posted by: Sam Carson | 19 April, 2007

Camel Fighting and the Delicate Situation in Afghanistan

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting is an organization that teaches journalistic skills to the local people of war-torn areas, and then publishes some of their work on their web site.  The content can be quite interesting, its a little different from what you get in the New York Times.  There are accounts of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan from the ground, and also some other more “localized” pieces.

Camel fighting?  In the northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif to mark the Afghan New Year people get together to pit their cockerels, dogs and, yes, camels.  These aren’t regular camels, but special fighting camels, and can cost more than twenty times the price of a regular one, they are larger, darker in colour and come from bloodlines.  Once you own your fighting camel, you must hire a fighting camel trainer.  Of course.  The fights themselves take place on Fridays and go on six rounds of half an hour each. 

IWPR is good for reading about local “colour”, but it also has some interesting reports on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Each of these theatres are not as clear cut as news outlets often make them appear.  The recent successes by the International Forces against the Taleban in the Helmand region have less to do with a successful campaign and more to do with the poppy harvest. 

The Taliban, according to this IWPR report, has stepped down fighting on request of the local elders so that the poppy harvest can continue.  Many locals on the ground see this condition as temporary.

The report also highlights incidents where Afghan forces, police or military, have been stealing from the local community, sometimes aided by foreign military. 

Gul Agha, 45, who owns a clothing shop, had a similar tale. “This is
the first time I have seen the government authorities looting shops,”
he said. “I saw armed men in uniform come and begin to rob the bazaar.
They also came to my shop, and took away some very expensive fabrics.”

“If the government and foreigners won’t help us then we have to support the Taleban,” said one man.

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