TIME Innovation

Why Iran Wants a Nuclear Deal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Here’s the real reason Iran wants a nuclear deal.

By Kathy Gilsinan in the Atlantic

2. We need a Marshall Plan for the victims of America’s War on Drugs.

By Nancy Gertner at the Aspen Ideas Festival

3. Investors and entrepreneurs are getting creative to weather Greece’s crumbling economy.

By Elmira Bayrasli in TechCrunch

4. We need a partner to stabilize Afghanistan. India is right for the job.

By Alyssa Ayres at the Council on Foreign Relations

5. Though a cleaner source of power, hydroelectric dams drastically slash biodiversity.

By the University of East Anglia

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Afghanistan

Suicide Car Bomb Explosion Shakes Afghan Capital Near Shopping District

kabul Afghanistan explosion
Rahmat Gul—AP An Afghan woman cries out at the site of a suicide attack on a NATO convoy in Kabul, June 30, 2015.

At least one person was killed

(KABUL, Afghanistan)—A suicide attacker driving an explosives-packed vehicle targeted a NATO military convoy in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Tuesday, killing at least one person and wounding up to 22, police, military and government officials said.

“It was a suicide car bomber,” said Kabul deputy police chief Sayed Gulagha. The blast sent a huge plume of black smoke over the city and scattered glass and metal across the main highway to Kabul’s airport.

A spokesman for NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Col. Brian Tribus, said that no coalition personnel were injured by the blast. The Taliban sent a text message to The Associated Press claiming responsibility for the attack.

At least two of the convoy’s armored vehicles were badly damaged in the explosion, which happened around 1.20 p.m. less than a kilometer (half a mile) from the American Embassy.

Embassy spokeswoman Heather Eaton said all personnel were accounted for.

The spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Sediq Sediqqi, said that at least one person, a civilian, was killed in the attack and at least 22 wounded.

Chief of Kabul hospitals for the Ministry of Public Health, Kabir Amiri, said at least 19 people were wounded, including four children and three women.

Eyewitnesses said it happened during early afternoon prayers, and that people who rushed out of a nearby mosque had attacked the foreign soldiers and journalists, throwing stones at them.

The blast badly damaged at least two of the heavily armored military vehicles in the convoy. The nationality of the coalition soldiers was not immediately clear.

The attack happened as government employees were leaving their offices and roads were choked with vehicles as the working day is shortened during the Ramadan fasting month.

Eyewitness Ahmad Farhad said: “I saw a Toyota Corolla target the convoy of foreign forces, I saw two to three damaged vehicles and wounded victims were everywhere and there was no one to help them.”

It comes a week after an audacious attack on the nation’s parliament, which highlighted the ability of insurgents, who have been fighting to overthrow the Kabul government for almost 14 years, to enter the highly fortified capital to stage deadly attacks.

Also on Tuesday, a suicide attack on the police headquarters of southern Helmand province killed up to three people and wounded more than 50, including policemen, officials said.

Omar Zawak, spokesman for the governor of Helmand province, said most of the injured in the Tuesday morning attack were women and children.

Police spokesman Farid Hamad Obaid said a car packed with explosives was driven into the back wall of the police headquarters in an attempt to breach a gate. All the gunmen fled the area, he said.

Also Tuesday in eastern Paktya province, three people were killed and one wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside mine, the provincial police chief Zalmai Oryakhel said.

TIME On Our Radar

Finding Afghanistan’s Resilient Spirit Amid the Destruction

Afghan-born photographer Zalmaï documents an everyday war to survive

Struggle, grief, and yet the dream of normalcy — these are just some in a complex mix of emotions pictured in a new book by Afghan-born photographer Zalmaï.

After the Soviet invasion in 1980, he left Afghanistan for Switzerland, where he pursued his passion for photography and eventually began to work internationally as a freelance photographer.

Following the 9/11 attacks, he returned to his home country to cover the fall of the Taliban where he discovered a resilience he hadn’t known was there. “I felt there was a lot of hope and a desire to build the country,” he says. “Everything was interesting for me, and I was in a beautiful situation because I could speak the language.”

Instead of reiterating the narrative of Afghanistan from the perspective of Western intervention, Zalmaï chose to focus on the Afghan spirit, deliberately circumventing the spectacle of war and illuminating the everyday fight for normalcy in the midst, wake and in spite of destruction. “We could not handle one day of what they have lived through for 35 years,” he says. “And yet people think everything started in 2001. I felt it was necessary to talk about Afghanistan in a different way.”

Between 2008 and 2013, he photographed in remote villages as well as the big cities, where he found deep pain and misery lurking behind each door he knocked upon. But underneath this struggle, there was also defiance. “It’s there, from dawn until sunset,” he says. “Boys and girls are going to school. When you have a child in a country at war, and you send this child to school — for me, this is a force of life, because you believe things are going to change one day.”

The book’s cover features no image, but is cloth-bound in a shade of blue that hints at either dawn or dusk. Its contents, intentionally left uncaptioned, sandwich colorful smartphone snapshots between more classic black-and-white reportage. “You see dread, dream, and you go back to the dread,” Zalmaï tells TIME. “And that, I think, is more accurate to what is happening in Afghanistan.” The emotional seesaw is echoed in his work method — the color images are energetic, loose and spontaneously captured, while the monochromatic images are moodier, with more deliberate compositions.

The release of the work comes at a significant time, says Zalmaï, as the security situation on the ground becomes more precarious. “With all these warlords, corruption and different ethnic groups, it’s very difficult to have a real democracy,” he says. “I think this year it’s going to be a huge test for the Afghan army and coalition government. If they cannot really unite all their political forces right now, it could become a nightmare that I don’t even want to think about.”

Zalmaï hopes his photographs will be a reminder to the world not to forget about Afghanistan again. “Because in 10 years,” he says, “who’s going to send 500,000 soldiers to fix the problem, when you didn’t fix it?”

Zalmaï‘s Dread and Dreams is published by Daylight and is available now.

Jen Tse is a photo editor and contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter @jentse and Instagram.

TIME well-being

This Surprising Country Leads the World in Feeling Good

RODRIGO ARANGUA—AFP/Getty Images A merchant ship sails along the Panama Canal.

The U.S. has fallen to No. 23

Panama leads the world in well-being, surpassing even wealthier countries such as Switzerland, Norway, and the United States, according to the research released Wednesday.

It’s the second-year running that Panama has topped the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index. About 53% of residents are thriving in three or more areas of well-being tracked by Gallup, which includes a person’s sense of purpose, financial well-being, and physical health.

“People in Panama will report a lot of daily happiness, a lot of daily smiling and laughter, and a lot of daily enjoyment without a lot of stress and worry,” Dan Witters, who compiled the index, told Reuters.

Panama’s also had the benefit of a strong and growing economy in the last year, plus the country’s had relative political stability and investments in national development.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has fallen in its well-being ranking, dropping to No. 23 of 145 countries, territories and areas tracked by the index. That’s down from 12th place a year earlier. The decline is credited to a drop in the number of people saying they are satisfied with their sense of community, which includes safety as well as strong social ties, according to Witters.

At the bottom of the list are Afghanistan areas across sub-Saharan Africa, including Togo and Cameroon.

The index is compiled using feedback from more than 146,000 people who are 15-years-old or older. It asks them questions relating to five key areas of well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical.

TIME Afghanistan

Afghan Extremists Have United in New Offensive, U.N. Envoy Says

Members of Afghan security forces stand at the site of an attack near the Afghan parliament in Kabul, Afghanistan
Omar Sobhani—Reuters Security forces stand at the site of an attack near the Afghan parliament in Kabul on June 22, 2015

Afghan forces have been stretched, tested and faced operational challenges

(UNITED NATIONS) — A new offensive against the Afghan government and people is being compounded by “an unprecedented convergence” of Taliban insurgents, more than 7,000 foreign fighters, and violent groups including the Islamic State, Afghanistan’s U.N. ambassador said Monday.

Zahir Tanin told the U.N. Security Council that these groups not only target Afghan troops and civilians with suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, hostage-taking and assassinations but they seek control of districts and provinces as bases for their activities in Afghanistan as well as south and central Asia.

Nicholas Haysom, the U.N. envoy for Afghanistan, said Afghan forces have been stretched, tested, and faced operational challenges since taking on full security responsibilities following an end to the U.S. and NATO combat mission.

Nonetheless, he said, “Afghanistan is meeting its security challenges” in the face of an intensifying conflict across the country,

The commitment of Afghan troops “is beyond question,” Haysom added, “and they are demonstrating resilience in the face of insurgent efforts to take and hold ground.”

Both Tanin and Haysom said the influx of foreign fighters into Afghanistan is a result of the Pakistani military’s campaign in neighboring North Waziristan which began last year.

“Our estimate is that there are more than 7,000 foreign terrorist fighters” in Afghanistan now, Tanin said, including Chechens, Uzbeks, Tajiks and Pakistanis.

The government also estimates “there may be hundreds or thousands of people” operating under the black flag of the Islamic State, including some “extreme-oriented Taliban,” he said.

Haysom said he told the Security Council “that increasingly Afghanistan, one of the 10 poorest countries in the world, is finding itself in the forefront of dealing with terrorists whose origins are the neighbors, and possibly whose eventual destination are its neighbors.”

He urged greater collaboration and support for Afghanistan “in dealing with what is a regional, shared threat.”

TIME Afghanistan

Witness the Taliban Attack on Afghanistan’s Parliament

Seven Taliban militants were killed on Monday after launching a major attack, involving a suicide bomb and gunmen, on the Afghan Parliament. No lawmakers lost their lives

TIME Afghanistan

Taliban Suicide Bomber, Gunmen Attack Afghan Parliament

All seven attackers were killed by police

(KABUL, Afghanistan) —The Taliban launched a complex attack on the Afghan parliament Monday, with a suicide car bomber striking at the entrance and gunmen battling police as lawmakers were meeting inside to confirm the appointment of a defense minister, police and witnesses said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the attack began with a car bomb explosion near the entrance. Gunmen then attempted to storm the compound but were pushed back by security forces and eventually took refuge in a nearby building under construction, he said.

Sediqqi later said all seven attackers were killed by police. He said no members of parliament were wounded in the incident. “It is over now,” he said.

Health Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ismail Kahousi said 18 civilians were wounded, including two women and two children.

Sidiqa Mubarez, a member of parliament, said the building was rocked by a large explosion and that some people were wounded by flying glass. She said the explosion happened shortly after Masoom Stanekzai had arrived to be confirmed as defense minister, a post that has been vacant for nine months.

The Taliban said in a statement that they carried out a suicide bombing outside parliament.

An Associated Press reporter heard heavy gunfire outside the parliament and saw black smoke billowing from the entrance as ambulances raced to the scene. The reporter later heard sporadic shooting from the building where the militants were said to be holed up.

Just down the street, hundreds of children were evacuated from a school.

Taliban insurgents have launched complex attacks on government targets in the capital in the past.

The insurgents have also been advancing across the country’s north, capturing two districts of the Kunduz province in as many days.

Mohammad Yusuf Ayubi, head of the provincial council, said the insurgents attacked the district of Dashti Archi from four sides, setting off heavy fighting before seizing full control of the area early Monday. He said local forces suffered casualties but did not have a precise count.

He said around 150,000 residents of the district were unable to leave.

The Taliban confirmed that they had captured the district, as well as ammunition and four tanks, in an emailed statement.

The Taliban seized control of the Chardara district in Kunduz on Sunday. The insurgents attacked the provincial capital, also called Kunduz, in a surprise attack in April and nearly captured the city before Afghan forces pushed them back.

Afghan forces have struggled to fend off Taliban advances since the U.S. and NATO combat mission officially concluded at the end of last year.


TIME United Nations

There Have Never Been More Displaced People Across the World Than Now

If the number of displaced persons formed a nation, it would be the 24th largest country in the world

The total number of people forcibly displaced by war, conflict and persecution rose to a record 59.5 million at the end of 2014, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) has said.

The agency’s annual Global Trends Report: World at War, released Thursday, found forced displacement worldwide has reached unprecedented levels, with a record annual rise of 8.3 million more displaced people since 2013. Some 38.2 million of the total were internally displaced in their own countries.

If the number of displaced persons formed a nation, the report said, it would be the 24th largest country in the world.

Speaking in Turkey on Thursday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres confirmed worldwide displacement was at the highest ever recorded.

“When you see the news in any global network, we clearly get the impression that the world is at war,” he said. “Indeed many areas of the world are today in a completely chaotic situation and the result is this staggering escalation of displacement, the staggering escalation of suffering, because each displaced person is a tragic story,” he said.

Syria overtook Afghanistan to become the biggest source of refugees last year, with 1.77 million Syrians having fled the nation’s ongoing civil war.

Just over half of all refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility worldwide came from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. The report also pointed to new and continuing conflicts in South Sudan, Ukraine and Iraq, among others, which have caused suffering and widespread displacement.

Guterres warned that humanitarian organizations were “no longer able to clean up the mess.”

“U.N. agencies, NGOs, the Red Cross — we no longer have the capacities and the resources to respond to such a dramatic increase in humanitarian needs,” he said.

Turkey overtook Pakistan to become the nation hosting the most refugees in the world with 1.59 million people currently displaced within its borders. Guterres praised Turkey’s willingness to keep its frontiers open and called on richer countries to do more.

“That has a special meaning in a world where so many borders are closed or restricted,” he said. “And where new walls are being built or announced.”

TIME Afghanistan

Taliban Kill 20 Police Officers in Afghanistan Attack

Abdul Khaliq—AP Afghan security forces and civilians walk at the site of a suicide attack in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 4, 2015.

The militants have been targeting vulnerable police checkpoints across the country since launching their summer offensive in April

(KANDAHAR, Afghanistan)—Taliban fighters overran multiple checkpoints in a nighttime raid in Afghanistan’s volatile southern Helmand province, killing at least 20 police officers as the battle raged into Saturday, authorities said.

The assault came as Afghanistan’s military acknowledged the Taliban controls at least four districts across the country.

The attacks in Helmand hit police checkpoints in the Musa Qala district, said Mohammad Ismail Hotak, the head of the province’s joint coordination of police and military operations.

He said the attacks wounded at least 10 officers, though the Taliban also seemed to have suffered high casualties.

The spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Sediq Sediqqi, said fighting ended Saturday afternoon with around 30 insurgents killed, including a group leader he named as Abdul Hadi.

Saqi Jan, the head of police logistics in Musa Qala, said area checkpoints were manned by officers from the neighboring district of Baghran who had been forced out by earlier Taliban attacks.

“Baghran has been under Taliban control since last year, so these police came to Musa Qala and built themselves a small compound and some checkpoints,” he said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks. The militants have been targeting vulnerable police checkpoints across the country since launching their summer offensive in April. Last month, a Taliban attack in Helmand’s Naw Zad district killed at least 19 police officers.

Afghan army Gen. Afzel Aman, the head of the Defense Ministry’s operational department, told journalists Saturday that four districts are now under Taliban control in the country: Nawa in Ghazni province, Baghran and Dishu in Helmand province and Khak-e Afghan in Zabul province.

“Fighting is going on almost everywhere compared to last year, and many places are under threat of enemy attack,” Aman said.

Afghan forces are fighting alone this year as the U.S. and NATO have ended their combat mission and their casualties are soaring. Between Jan. 1 and May 7, 2,322 army, police and local police personnel were killed, 53 percent more than the same period in 2014, according to NATO.

By comparison, a total of 2,217 American service members have been killed since the 2001 invasion.

TIME Military

U.S. Adapts ‘Lily Pad’ Strategy to Defeat ISIS in Iraq

Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked against the Taliban in Afghanistan

The top U.S. military officer likened the expanding American footprint in Iraq Thursday to “lily pads” that will sprout across the pond known as Anbar Province, where the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria seized the capital last month.

“Our campaign is built on establishing these ‘lily pads’ that allow us to encourage the Iraqi security forces forward,” Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters during a visit in Italy. “As they go forward, they may exceed the reach of the particular lily pad”—leading to the creation of new ones.

While the strategy may be a new one since the U.S. pulled its forces out of Iraq in 2011, it has been done before. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, similar campaigns were carried out, often called “oil spot” or “ink blot” strategies.

Retired Army lieutenant colonel Andrew Krepinevich popularized the oil-spot notion in a 2005 article in Foreign Affairs, during the darkest days of the U.S.-led alliance in Iraq. “Since the U.S. and Iraqi armies cannot guarantee security to all of Iraq simultaneously, they should start by focusing on certain key areas and then, over time, broadening the effort—hence the image of an expanding oil spot,” wrote Krepinevich, who heads the non-profit Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Military scholar Max Boot advocated using what he called the “‘spreading inkblot’ strategy” in and around Baghdad in 2007.

It makes sense to establish protected bases in potentially-hostile terrain that can be linked to safer rear areas by air and roads. Each lily pad (or oil spot, or ink blot) gets bigger if its troops succeed in expanding the secure zones around them. Military momentum can lead to the creation of additional lily pads. Ultimately, they all expand until the entire region is free of enemy forces and secure.

Wednesday’s announcement boosts the number of U.S. bases in Iraq to five. “We’re looking all the time to see if additional sites might be necessary,” Dempsey said, although he said the two now in Anbar would probably suffice for that province. “I could foresee one in the corridor that runs from Baghdad to Tikrit to Kirkuk over into Mosul,” he added.

Dempsey detailed the evolving U.S. strategy the day after the White House said it would send up to 450 trainers and advisers to a base near Ramadi in eastern Anbar, within easy range of ISIS attacks. President Obama has pledged to keep U.S. troops out of combat with ISIS, even though allowing small numbers to embed with Iraqi forces to call in U.S. air strikes would make them more effective. The additional forces would push the U.S. troop total in Iraq to 3,550. Any decision to plant additional lily pads could require more U.S. troops in Iraq. U.S. troop strength in the 2003-2011 Iraq war peaked at 158,000 in 2008.

Adding U.S. troops to the Taqaddum military base is significant, Dempsey added, because “it gives us access to another Iraqi division and extends their reach into al Anbar province and gives us access to more tribes.” The U.S. is eager to enlist the Sunni tribes in Anbar in the fight against ISIS, whose members are Sunni. Sending the largely Shi’ite forces in Iraq’s national army to battle Sunnis in the Sunni heartland could inflame sectarian tensions.

Of course, lily pads don’t always thrive. In Afghanistan, they’ve shrunk in recent years. John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, warned two years ago that danger was spreading across the country and limiting the places his inspectors could visit to do their jobs. “U.S. officials have told us that it is often difficult for program and contracting staff to visit reconstruction sites in Afghanistan,” he said in October 2013. “U.S. military officials have told us that they will provide civilian access only to areas within a one-hour round trip of an advanced medical facility.”

The Afghan lily pads have continued to shrivel. “Americans can only really travel safely in Kabul, and for most part no travel outside of green zone in Kabul,” one U.S. official said Thursday, speaking of travel in and around the Afghan capital. “Helicopters are needed to travel less than a mile from the embassy to airport.”


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