As everyone talks war in Syria, war in Afghanistan drags on

GlobalPost
An Afghan policeman a day after Taliban insurgents overran the strategic northern city of Kunduz, on Sept. 29, 2015.

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NEED TO KNOW:

As Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama bicker at the United Nations in New York about what to do in Syria, another terrible, decades-long war their two countries are deeply responsible for continues without a word from either leader.

Afghanistan has been at war since 1978. That’s 37 years. Almost four decades. For the first decade it was the former Soviet Union trying to assert control over the country. The Soviet Union gave up and withdrew, finally, in 1989.

Three more years of communist rule survived in Afghanistan before the various militias that were fighting the Russians, some of them backed by the United States, toppled the government and began to fight among themselves. That was 1992. Four years of civil war followed before the Taliban took control.

In 2001, despite repeated demands from the administration of US President George W. Bush, the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden, who was hiding out in Afghanistan after 9/11. This was a decision the Taliban leadership would quickly regret. The Taliban government was almost instantaneously toppled by America’s far superior arsenal. But the war was not over.

It continues today, 14 years after the United States first invaded. The Taliban is now resurgent. Earlier this month the group managed to free hundreds of fighters from a prison in central Afghanistan. And in the last few days, it managed to seize Kunduz, a major city in northern Afghanistan. It’s the first city the Taliban has taken since they were ousted. 

To mark their victory, a few Taliban fighters posed for selfies.  

WANT TO KNOW:

On to another war driven by foreign powers: the conflict in Yemen. Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s neighbor, competes for power in the region with Iran. And it worries Iran will benefit from — and is even supporting — the recent takeover of Yemen by Shiite Houthi rebels.

Most analysts doubt Iran is all that involved. The Houthis were pretty well armed and trained long before this latest conflict broke out. But that mattered little to Saudi Arabia, which — with the blessing of the United States — first launched airstrikes and then a ground war in an effort to restore power to the former president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Hadi is backed by both the United States and Saudi Arabia.

In its effort, the Saudi-led coalition on Monday may have launched two airstrikes into a wedding celebration, killing more than 130 people. Saudi Arabia has denied this, but it's hard to believe the strikes would have come from anyone else. Saud Arabia has controlled the skies over Yemen for months. The air campaign has been indiscriminate from the start. The UN says almost two-thirds of the civilian deaths reported in Yemen in the last year have been caused by Saudi-backed airstrikes.

This is not the first time a foreign power has accidentally bombed a wedding in Yemen. The United States did it in 2013 when a drone launched a missile on a wedding convoy that was on its way to the groom’s home village. Twelve civilians were killed. The Yemeni government eventually paid the families $1 million in compensation.  

STRANGE BUT TRUE:

One of the wealthiest and most privileged groups of people in India wants more benefits.

The Indian government offers affirmative action benefits to millions of Indians who were born into the lower part of the country’s antiquated caste system. These are people who experience deep discrimination and mostly live in poverty.

The Patels, on the other hand, have historically been landowners. More recently they’ve come to dominate politics in their home state of Gujarat and establish some of the largest diamond, ceramics and pharmaceutical companies in the region. They are also among the largest groups of Indians to have emigrated to the United States.

So it was in New York during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United Nations that some American Patels took the opportunity to protest, demanding the state of Gujarat extend affirmative action benefits to their community. They have protested at home too. Last month, half a million Patels mobilized to demand they be included in the “Other Backward Classes” category, which would allow them to receive the benefits.