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PHD Military and Strategic Studies, Journalist

A professional journalist from Pakistan, now 38 years old and the father of two children, I am making Canada my permanent home—in fact, my wife and children are already there getting settled in and building our new life. I am still in Prague running a bi-weekly talk show for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. I look forward to a complete immersion in your program into a critical analysis of the blood and treasure that Canada has spent since 911 in ‘my’ part of the world, Pakistan and most particularly Afghanistan, countries that I know extremely well for having worked as a journalist for years covering events on the ground. An ethnic Turkmen, I was born in Pakistan near the Afghan border. My languages skills are perhaps my greatest gift since, in addition to my native languages of Urdu, Uzbek, and Pashto, I am also fluent in Farsi, Arabic, Turkish, Punjabi, and English, more recently achieving fluency in the Russian and Czech languages.

Earning my PHD in your distinguished program at the Center for Military and Strategic Studies at the U of XXXX represents a change of focus that is complimentary to my desire to build a stable, permanent home for my family. I seek to travel less and to read more, move from the fields of journalism to security and to eventually earn my living as a thinker, researcher, and perhaps eventually as a teacher, making my living either in academia or working for a think tank. I would also be very much honored to serve the Canadian Ministries of Foreign affairs or Security at some point in time. I want to give all of my energy to the study and debate of Canadian security, especially with respect to policy directions for the future and particularly with respect to the Middle East and Central Asia. Canada is increasingly playing an international role in fast moving political events surrounding the West’s war on terror. Recent Western interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, have increasingly threatened to draw Canada into the fray, especially in Afghanistan, the center of my research focus.

I was one of the first journalists to enter Kabul in early 2002, when the Taliban regime was still in power in many parts of the country and the first to report the capture of John Walker Lindh, the first known American fighter among the Taliban forces. I quickly set up a news bureau for my employer at the time, the Turkish Television news agency (IHA) in Kabul in at the beginning of 2002. By that November, I found myself working as the Senior Broadcaster and Editor for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty based in Praque, Czech Republic. Still here to this day, I plan and editorial agendas; observing and reporting on daily events with a focus on Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East, and global developments relevant to the region. I produce and broadcaste news stories and media packages, host feature programs, and moderate radio talk shows. I also direct approximately 12 field reporters. Since 2002, I have returned to Afghanistan on numerous occasions in my role as a journalist. Most recently I launched a bi-weekly English language radio talk show in RFE/RL, focusing on the deteriorating security situation in northern Afghanistan and its implications for regional security, including poorly guarded Central Asia. 

I am most fascinated by the idea of writing a doctoral dissertation that compares the roles of Germany and Canada in Afghanistan over the last 13 years. This subject is especially intriguing for policy makers since it was the first German military combat deployment since World War II. I hope to research in-depth the reasons behind what was largely a Canadian success at turning a most volatile province into a relatively peaceful region while the German presence generated the opposite effect, turning a relatively peaceful region into a very violent one. I see the impressions of local people about the legacies of these respective military adventures to be particularly intriguing.

The rapidly deteriorating security situation in northern Afghanistan and its potential security implications for its immediate neighbors, is expected to raise many questions about the legacy of the German troops, I am very confident that this paper will create bases for any future discussions on this matter. After thirteen years of military operations, the thirty-nation combat coalition forces are winding down their presence in Afghanistan by end of 2014. After losses of some 3500 coalition military personnel and nearly 11,000 Afghan soldiers, and the country remaining unstable, there are mixed feelings about the outcome.  Among the coalition nations was the Germany, which joined the alliance initially sending some 5,350 troops to Afghanistan in the country’s first overseas combat military deployment since WWII with the clearly defined purpose of engaging solely in a peacekeeping mission. Germany was the third largest contributor to the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, and the country’s soldiers were assigned the regional command in relatively peaceful northern Afghanistan, and stationed at a major military base in Kunduz province. Though they entered as peacekeepers, when they handed over the base in October 2013 to Afghan troops, 57 German soldiers had been killed and 245 injured, the German troops were no longer peacekeepers, and the Kunduz was no longer a peaceful place.   On the top of that, throughout the deployment, each German casualty led to a major controversy back home, so did the Afghan casualties at the hands of German troops. 

While the first ever such overseas deployment of German troops remained an unpopular move in Germany, today five out of six districts in Taliban control, the German controlled Kunduz province is the most dangerous place in Afghanistan. The security developments as such that the authorities in neighboring Afghan provinces and countries (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan) are expressing concern about the fact that the province is increasingly turning into a launching pad for the Taliban in their further advances.  At a time when the Taliban are not able to hold even one village in the movement’s birthplace of Kandahar, their unchallenged authority in Kunduz raises many questions about the performance of German troops and the ability of German-trained Afghan forces.  Among those questions, how could the Taliban change the ground realities so quickly in Kunduz, even without direct geographical connection to its natural supporters in southern Afghanistan or the tribal region of Pakistan? Why has the non-Pashtun local population aligned themselves with the dominantly Pashtun Taliban? What is the local population’s perception of German mission and what legacy did they leave behind in areas of operation? There are some non-academic journalistic work available highlighting the German perspective of the subject, but I want to examine the legacy of the mission from the local’s perspective, so that the paper contributes better understanding of what really went wrong with the first-ever overseas German combat mission since World War II.

I believe, I am in a perfect position to handle the subject. I have family roots in Kunduz province, an advantage that will allow me to go back and conduct field research. Additionally in my professional life as a journalist I have reported extensively about northern Afghanistan over the past 18 years.   During my trip to Kunduz province in September 2010, I was the first, in my reporting, to shed light on reason behind recent advance of the Taliban and elements helping their advance in the province. During that trip I spent time with a village militia, who picked up arms to defend themselves in absence of help from German troops and their Afghan allies. My report was the first to reveal the local militia and their role in preventing the Taliban’s advance in the province.

The report later added significant value to an existing discussion about creating similar local community forces to prevent the Taliban’s advance. Among several others, I was invited to discuss my findings at the Annual International terrorism Conference held in National Press Club in Washington DC on December 10, 2010.

My thesis reflecting the local perspective on 13 years of Canada’s military engagement in Afghanistan, will be a unique paper, which I believe will help Canadians to understand it’s legacy and outcome of billions of financial investment and human sacrifices in Afghanistan. I believe, there is few people if any, with my qualification to shed light on this subject. Further, as a Canadian resident, I aim to remain in Canada after my graduation and continue to make my contribution to Canada’s growing community of foreign policy analysts.

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