From the public opening of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum to unprecedented flooding in Bosnia and Serbia, from student protests in Kenya and a traveling panda, TIME presents the best photos of the week.
The secret-spilling group says Afghanistan is the country The Intercept declined to name out of concern that doing so could stoke violence
The National Security Agency records every cell phone call in Afghanistan, claims the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which named the country despite the fact that other news organizations did not out of concern that doing so could lead to violence.
The Intercept, a media organization founded by journalists with access to classified documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, reported Monday that the NSA records all cell phone calls in the Bahamas and one unnamed country. The Intercept chose not to release the name of the country, the outlet said in its report, due to “credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence.” WikiLeaks responded to The Intercept’s report by criticizing the decision to redact the country’s name and said it would do so itself 72 hours later.
That threat led many to wonder if it meant WikiLeaks has obtained access to documents leaked by Snowden or if someone with access to the documents gave someone at WikiLeaks the name of the country in question. As the leak site Cryptome noted earlier, it may be that WikiLeaks simply believes that the mystery country is Afghanistan given the already-public information available.
An earlier report on the documents from The Washington Post did not name any of the countries involved.
After 35 years in uniform, retired three-star says he will explain where U.S. war strategy failed
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ book sparked a firestorm upon its release in January, although you would never have predicted it by its humdrum title: Duty. But recently retired Army lieutenant general Daniel Bolger, who played key roles in Afghanistan and Iraq in his 35-year career, wasn’t coy when it came time to titling his upcoming book Why We Lost.
It’s a jaw-dropping phrase in a political-military world given to mealy-mouthed assessments of military progress in the two wars the U.S. has fought since 9/11. Its assertion calls into question the wars’ costs — 6,800 U.S. troops, untold enemy and civilian dead, and a $2 trillion, and rising, bill for U.S. taxpayers. Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is publishing the book Nov. 11. Its publication date is exactly two years after Bolger declared, during a Veterans Day ceremony in Afghanistan, that “our nations count on us, and we’ll deliver.”
“By next Memorial Day, who’s going to say that we won these two wars?” Bolger said in an interview Thursday. “We committed ourselves to counterinsurgency without having a real discussion between the military and civilian leadership, and the American population —’Hey, are you good with this? Do you want to stay here for 30 or 40 years like the Korean peninsula, or are you going to run out of energy?’ It’s obvious: we ran out of energy.”
The military fumbled the ball by not making clear how long it would take to prevail in both nations. “Once you get past that initial knockout shot, and decide you’re going to stay awhile, you’d better define ‘a while,’ because in counter-insurgency you’re talking decades,” Bolger says. “Neither [the Bush nor the Obama] Administration was going to do that, yet I was in a military that was planning for deployments forever, basically. An all-volunteer force made it easy to commit the military to a long-term operation because they were volunteers.”
The nation and its military would have been far smarter to invade, topple the governments they didn’t like, and get out. “Both wars were won, and we didn’t know enough to go home” after about six months, Bolger argues. “It would have been messy and unpleasant, and our allies would have pissed and moaned, because limited wars by their nature have limited, unpalatable results. But what result would have been better — that, or this?”
The mindset persists. “The senior guys say, ‘Well, it’s not lost yet — we may still pull it out’,” Bolger said, as Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, returned from a NATO session in Brussels where Afghanistan was a topic. “I don’t give military advice to the Taliban,” Dempsey told Jim Garamone of the Pentagon’s American Forces Press Service. “But if I were giving them advice, I’d tell them their negotiating position is not going to improve, it’s going to erode.”
There was a belief in some quarters of the U.S. government that Washington and its allies were going to remake that troubled part of the world. “Don’t be so arrogant and think you’re going to reshape the Middle East,” Bolger says. “We’ve basically installed authoritarian dictators.” The U.S. wanted to keep about 10,000 troops in Iraq post-2011 (the two sides couldn’t agree on legal protections for U.S. troops, so none remain) and a similar sized force is being debated for Afghanistan once the U.S. combat role formally ends at the end of 2014. “You could have gone to that plan in 2002 in Afghanistan, and 2003 or ’04 in Iraq, and you wouldn’t have had an outcome much worse than what we’ve had,” Bolger says.
“They should have been limited incursions and [then] pull out — basically like Desert Storm,” he adds, referring to the 1991 Gulf War that forced Saddam Hussein’s forces out of neighboring Kuwait after an air campaign and 100-hour ground war. The U.S. wasn’t up to perpetual war, even post-9/11. “This enemy wasn’t amenable to the type of war we’re good at fighting, which is a Desert Storm or a Kosovo.”
Bolger — “rhymes with soldier,” he likes to say — is no disgruntled grunt. He retired from the Army last year after commanding the training of Iraqi forces in 2005-06, running the 1st Cavalry Division in Baghdad in 2009-10, and leading the training of Afghan forces in 2011-13. A graduate of the Citadel, he has a master’s and doctorate in history from the University of Chicago, and wrote frequently on military history while in uniform. He helped develop strategy in both campaigns and took time to pick up a rifle to accompany his troops in the field. “I am glad to see someone of his caliber tackling this subject,” military author Tom Ricks posted on his blog. In 2012, Defense News pegged Bolger at #40 in the list of the nation’s 100 most influential people in defense, two steps higher than “Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, Atlantic Council chairman.”
Bolger said his views on the wars grew more sour during his three tours. “My guilt is not having earlier figured out what was going wrong, and making a more forceful case and working with my peer generals to make a better military recommendation,” he says. “What eats at me the most is the 80 dead people I had in my command over my three tours, that eats at me a hell of a lot.”
What would he tell the families of the fallen? “I’d tell the families we need to unscrew ourselves and make sure we don’t do this again,” Bolger says. “What we didn’t do was use their precious service in the best way.” Their bravery and pluck won key victories, and he hopes his book will “make this sacrifice worth it.” Bolger also has a personal reason for writing: his son has served in Afghanistan and Iraq. “It is his own decision; he’s an adult,” his father says. The retired general is now teaching military history at North Carolina State University.
Bolger recently wondered when the U.S. military was going to conduct a formal and traditional After-Action Report (AAR) on its performance in the two wars. “Some say the Iraq surge of 2007 proved counterinsurgency tactics worked. Others point out that today’s Iraq is a sectarian mess, undermining that belief. As for the Afghan surge of 2010-11, well, who knows? We cannot even say, or will not even say, who won these campaigns. It sure does not seem to be us,” Bolger wrote in the February issue in Signals, the journal of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.
Such studies, long a part of military learning, have lessons for both the past and the future. “You might think such an assessment might be rather useful as we prepare to carve up and rearrange our armed forces to face today’s uncertain world. Facts offer a better starting point than hunches, emotions and ‘the way we’ve always done it.’ What did we learn from the current war? We owe it to the citizens we serve, and we certainly owe it to the men and women we have lost. We are past due for a long, hard look.”
Bolger repeated the question Thursday. “Where is the AAR?” he asked. Apparently, he got tired of waiting. “My book,” he says wistfully, “is going to be the first one.”
Pierre Terdjman shares many of his colleagues’ frustrations. “Each time I finish a story, it’s the same struggle to get my images published, ” he told TIME, “magazines are rarely interested in showing what’s happening in Egypt, in Georgia, in Afghanistan. Sometimes they’ll publish one or two images, but that’s it. So, everything started from a very selfish idea. I wanted to show my photographs. I wanted to inform people, show them what I’d seen.”
In February, fresh from his latest trip to Central African Republic, Terdjman, 34, called a few friends, printed poster versions of his images and, armed with brushes and a pot of glue, started posting his work in the streets of Paris, France. “The street is the ultimate social network,” Terdjman added. “You’re reaching everyone.”
The response was overwhelmingly positive, said the French photographer. “I reached out to some of my colleagues, including Benjamin Girette, and we founded Dysturb.” What is Dysturb? Moving beyond his own photographs, Terdjman has invited photojournalists to send some of their work to paste them on Paris’ walls. “The goal is to raise awareness about what’s actually going on in the world. We’re not looking to make a name or to degrade a city’s public spaces. It’s really about telling the story of what’s happening in CAR, in Egypt, in Ukraine.”
“We go to these places to bring back the news,” said Girette. “We often spend weeks getting the story so, of course, when we come back home, we want people to listen to what we have to say. But, in the majority of cases, we don’t get any feedback, especially if you’re a young photographer starting in this industry. Plus, the news moves too quickly. After a couple of weeks, no one’s interested in our work. Yet, these images remain important.”
Terdjman readily admits that he didn’t invent anything. “Fly-posting has been done for ages, in advertising but also in the art world.” And in photography, there’s JR, another French photographer and artist renowned for his Face2Face project where he used the Separation Barrier in Israel as a canvas for his portraits of Palestinians and Israeli people. “JR is doing a great job,” said Terjdman, “but what we’re doing is different. We’re trying to bring the news to people.”
Dysturb is the latest step in a movement that has seen photographers cut out traditional publishing avenues. With the popularity of social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, Terdjman and his colleagues have been able to build their own audiences, free of any editorial control. “Naturally, the next step was the street – that’s the only social platform that’s bigger than Facebook,” explained Girette.
For award-winning photographer Guillaume Herbaut, Dysturb also brings back documentary photography to its activism roots. “Photojournalism used to be a transgressive, militant act. Wild posting these images puts photography back in that context. It asks questions about representation and the different realities we’re faced with in this world.”
So far, the City of Paris has remained quiet. “We’ve had a run-in with the police once when they destroyed two of our images,” said Terdjman. “Otherwise, we’ve yet to hear from City Hall, but we’d love to collaborate with them to grow this project.”
While Terdjman is benefiting from a new-found popularity in the photojournalism community, his initiative won’t pay the bills. “But that was never the goal,” he explained. With each poster costing only $40 to print, and everyone working on a voluntary basis, Dysturb’s founders are focussed on expanding their operations to other cities in France and Europe, before taking on New York and San Francisco in the US. Later on, Terdjman will consider crowdfunding future operations.
Terdjman and Girette are already developing a new version of the Dysturb website that will bring more context to their images. “The new site will have a map of the different locations where we put up our work,” said Girette. “On that map, you’ll find the name of the photographer, the caption, but also a link to the full edit of images. We want to create a link between the image, the photographer and the story.”
If Dysturb achieves critical mass, then it will also be able to react quickly to the news. “Let’s say Vladimir Poutine, for example, decides to invade Ukraine tomorrow, we can react by putting up the same image in 10 different cities the next day,” said Girette. “We want people to wake up to the news. We want to spark a debate.”
And last week, the group was able to do just that, but for heartbreaking reasons. When one of their friends and colleagues, Camille Lepage, was killed in Central African Republic, they met in grief at a bar in Paris, before taking to the streets to paste her work all across town. “We will remember her,” the group said. “You will remember her.”
Olivier Laurent is the incoming editor of TIME LightBox
Frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah, a former leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, received 45% of the vote, missing the majority marker necessary for an outright win. He'll face Ashraf Ghani on June 14.
Afghanistan’s election commission announced Friday the long-awaited results of last month’s presidential vote, slightly tweaking the final numbers but still sending the vote to a two-candidate runoff.
Frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah, a former leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, received 45% of the vote, missing the majority marker necessary for an outright win, the Independent Election Commission said. He’ll face Ashraf Ghani, who received 31.6% of the vote, in a June 14 decision.
More than seven million Afghans went to the polls last month in the country’s election to replace President Hamid Karzai, who has been in power since 2001. Election day was mostly peaceful despite Taliban threats to disrupt the vote. It’s unclear, however, if the runoff elections will draw the same turnout. The runoff will take place during the height of the country’s so-called “fighting season,” during which insurgent attacks typically spike.
Both candidates have said they will sign a security deal with the U.S. to allow some American troops to stay beyond 2014, which Karzai has refused to do. They have also both said they are open to a peace deal with the Taliban.
The results of the runoff are expected to be announced July 22.
A U.K. veterans mental health charity reported a 57% increase over one year in Afghanistan veterans seeking support
The number of British veterans of the war in Afghanistan seeking help for mental health issues increased sharply from 2012 to 2013, a charity group said Monday, warning that need would continue to rise as the country ends its involvement in the war.
Combat Stress, a U.K. veterans mental health charity, said the number of veterans seeking its help went up 57% in the course of a year. The group received referrals for 358 veterans last year, compared to 228 in 2012. Its caseload now includes more than 660 veterans. The increase is linked to the withdrawal of British troops in Afghanistan from all but two bases in Helmand province.
The charity said it found that veterans wait an average of 13 years after serving before seeking help, but the average time has now fallen to 18 months for Afghanistan veterans. Combat Stress also reported that their total caseload of 5,400 veterans across the country was the highest number in its 95-year history.
“We have had great support from the Government and the public over recent years and we simply could not operate without the generosity we have experienced, ” said Commodore Andrew Cameron, chief executive of Combat Stress. “We cannot allow the ex-Service men and women who suffer from the invisible injuries of war to go unnoticed and untreated.”
Afghanistan's cricket team is on the rise following qualification for the World Cup last October+ READ ARTICLE
Afghanistan’s fairytale-like rise from the fifth division of world cricket in 2008 to qualifying for next year’s World Cup has been hailed as one of the sport’s biggest-ever success stories.
“I hope the World Cup is not a make-or-break for Afghanistan,” Rashid Latif, a coach with the Afghan team who was formerly a skipper on Pakistan’s team, said. “Their real cricket will start after the World Cup.”
Latif told AFP that the challenges the Afghan players had to face in their own lives meant they had shown admirable stamina when facing the pressure of the game.
“They are mentally tough and well built, too. As a coach I came to teach, but I have learned from them,” he said.
Watch the video above for more.
President Hamid Karzai visited the site of last week's deadly landslide to calm tensions over a tepid government response to the disaster, which left an estimated 2,100 dead
Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledged Wednesday to rebuild homes of victims displaced in the deadly landslide in Badakhsan province Wednesday, after his government received widespread criticism for its handling of the disaster.
Karzai visited people in tents relocated from the destroyed Abay Baryek village and promised aid to victims, including rebuilding lost homes and providing food and water. An estimated 2,100 people lost their lives in landslides over the weekend, after rescue efforts were hampered by a lack of equipment and poor weather.
“My minister of rural development will remain here and will build you new shelters, provide you with food and water and won’t leave until it is all done,” he told hundreds of victims in a dusty open area near the camp, Reuters reports.
The Afghan government has received criticism for not sufficiently providing shelter and food to the more than 4,000 displaced villagers and helping recover the remains of hundreds of people buried under the earth. Scuffles have broken out between security forces and needy villagers, hindering aid distribution.
Supplies from nearby Tajikistan remain in the provincial capital as local officials wait for improved security measures.
At least 2,100 people are presumed dead after two catastrophic landslides buried hundreds of homes in the Argo district in the mountainous northeastern state of Badakhshan, Afghanistan
Rescuers have called off the search in the mountainous Argo district after at least 2,100 villagers were buried under hundreds of feet of mud. They are now focusing on helping the estimated 4,000 people displaced by the disaster
The death toll of a catastrophic landslide in a remote part of Afghanistan reportedly rose to at least 2,100 on Saturday, after a rescue effort slowed by lack of equipment and bad conditions.
Rescuers called off a search in the mountainous Argo district of the northeastern state of Badakhshan after over 2,000 villagers were buried under hundreds of feet of mud, Reuters reports, and turned their attention to the estimated 4,000 displaced by the disaster.
“More than 2,100 people from 300 families are all dead,” Naweed Forotan, a spokesman for Badakhshan’s provincial governor, told Reuters.
Two consecutive landslides took place on Friday morning after the area had been pummeled by heavy rains all week, according to the United Nations. The organization said that in addition to the mounting loss of life, the landslide had caused widespread damage to property and agriculture in the district. Badakhshan, a mountainous province in the far northeast of the country, borders Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.
Local officials had warned that the search for survivors and bodies would be slow, given the lack of equipment on hand in the far-flung district. Rescuers themselves faced a third potential landslide as they set to manually trying dig through the some 330 feet of mud.
With scores assumed dead, the U.N. mission in Afghanistan was said to have shifted its attention to at least 4,000 people forced to leave their homes, either directly due to Friday’s landslide or as a precautionary measure against future landslides.
The operation will test the capacity of Afghan security forces, which were deployed to the area to assist on Friday, according to reports. President Hamid Karzai, who is set to step down in the next few months once a new government is formed, said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened,” and that he had “ordered relevant entities to provide immediate assistance to people affected by the natural disaster and to urgently rescue those who are trapped under the debris.”
President Barack Obama, offering his condolences to the victims and their families during a press conference on Friday, said the U.S. was ready to help if requested. “Even as our war there comes to an end this year, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people will endure,” Obama said. “We stand ready to help our Afghan partners as they respond to this disaster.”
The disaster follows close on the heels of deadly flash floods in northern Afghanistan that left over 100 dead and displaced thousands more. “On behalf of the UN humanitarian agencies, I wish to extend our condolences to all those families who have lost loved ones as a result of these landslides,” Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, said in a UN news release. “There have now been more Afghans killed through natural disasters in the past seven days than all of 2013.”