This is What Peace Can Look Like, Afghans Win Gold in Basketball
by ralphlopez, Sat Feb 06, 2010 at 02:12:02 PM EST
So much hope. Last summer I blogged from Kabul about Afghans in sports and predicted that they would become a world power once the futile, pointless nonsense of war was over:
I saw a couple of boys, maybe eight or nine, laughing and throwing a sock stuffed with sand or something, all you can afford for a ball. Their arms were great, and they were winging that thing 70, 80 feet and nailing each other, just fooling around, and any little league coach would have drafted them. Afghan is a mountain country, and everyone has the balance, coordination, and endurance of a mountain goat. After 9/11 Special Forces reported seeing Taliban fighters hopping from rock to rock barefoot in the snow...When these people pick up baseball bats and gymnastic equipment, and start getting proper nutrition...That will be something.
Sure enough, today it was reported that at the South Asia Games Afghanistan won a Gold Medal in basketball:
First the Afghan basketball team beat Pakistan, then Sri Lanka, then India, and in the semi-finals they crushed Nepal 104 to 36. Today, Afghanistan did it once again, and beat India one more time to win a gold medal in basketball in the 2010 South Asian Games (SAG) being held in Bangladesh.
The news was reported in the poignantly-named site "Good Afghan News: Afghan News That Will Make You Happy."
All told, they so far have 6 medals, the Gold, and 5 Bronze, 4 in Judo and 1 in weightlifting.
Afghans are tired of war. One competition bodybuilder -- bodybuilding is the all rage here, even if they use old car parts and pulleys for equipment -- said last year:
"We are tired of war. We want to be healthy. We want to be famous in the world, not for our fighting, not for war. We want to be famous for our good behavior, our health."
Next to the Afghan hero Massoud, the likeness you'll see most of on billboards in Afghanistan is of Arnold Schwarznegger. Whatever his politics, he is seen to embody the values of discipline, determination, and persistence. In Kabul on almost any night somewhere you can catch a showing of "Pumping Iron."
Although the Taliban is doing the usual dance of rejecting talks before all US forces leave, a radio report from Kabul indicates that the back-channel talk, i.e. what really counts, is continuing.
A top security adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai said today that the government is talking with Taliban leadership. He said the meetings were ongoing on the "local, regional, national and broader political level." This contradicts a statement released over the weekend by Taliban leadership that denied that they were talking with the Afghan government.
The US State Department and the Obama administration is having an "internal debate" over Karzai's overtures for peace talks with Taliban leadership. That the Taliban high command is even considering this is a sign of weakness, and readiness to renounce Al Qaeda and come in from the cold. The Pakistan Daily reports:
The Taliban leader in Afghanistan, Mullah Muhammad Omar, is also ready to break with his al-Qaida allies in order to make peace in the country, according to the former Pakistani intelligence officer who trained him.
Brigadier Sultan Amir Tarar (known as Colonel Imam), a retired officer with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, said: "The moment he gets control, the first target will be the al-Qaida people. He wants peace in the country, he doesn’t want adventure. He has had enough of that."
The Taliban leadership's relation to Al Qaeda, who they often refer to as "the Arabs," has always been problematic. Afghan culture and its language groups are descendants of the Indo-European Farsi, spoken in Iran and distantly related to English rather than the Semitic languages of the Middle East.
In an interview with bin Laden's fourth eldest son Omar, Reuters reported in a piece entitled "No Love Lost for Al Qaeda" that:
Omar bin Laden witnessed a 1998 encounter in which the Taliban leader demanded the al Qaeda chief leave Afghanistan following al Qaeda bombings of East African U.S. embassies that drew U.S. strikes on Afghanistan.
In tense exchanges, Osama bin Laden won a reprieve by telling Mullah Omar the demand was "giving in to infidel pressure" and therefore un-Islamic, the book says.
But according to this account, Mullah Omar ended the encounter by refusing to eat a meal bin Laden's men had prepared and did not bid farewell, an insult his father had to accept.
"He (Osama bin Laden) could not afford to get into a battle with the Taliban. He would lose, and he knew it," wrote Omar.
Perhaps the war contractors are seeing all those billions slipping away. There is no good reason to avoid talking to the leadership, since they resemble nothing more than a spent force looking for a face-saving way out. Any posts they are offered will be largely ceremonial. Afghanistan will never return to Shiara law.
Please join Robert Naiman's campaign to push the Obama administration into supporting talks. It's okay; Afghans are rather used to shooting at each other one day and then eating goat stew together the next. It's no big deal. It's a warrior society. Go to Robert's End the War in Afghanistan Action Page and send an email to your representatives.
Perhaps this long-suffering people's time in the sun can finally begin, after the tragic misfortune of being born in a place which powerful empires consider a "chess piece," to be buffetted in one direction or another by backing one extremeist faction over another as the people starve. It's time for the real games to begin.
The diarist is co-founder of Jobs for Afghans.