This blog aims to highlight issues and information that don't always make it into the mainstream media. Recognising that comment is cheap, wherever possible it will link you directly to documents and sources that are mentioned in the text.
I realised some time ago that it was impossible to write about Afghanistan without writing about Pakistan and other neighbouring countries. With that in mind, the reader will come across articles that, while not specifically about Afghanistan, in some way shed light on the conflict.
Congratulations to the Afghan mountaineers who on Sunday became the first Afghans to conquer their homeland's highest peak, 7,492-metre Noshaq Month, in north-eastern Afghanistan. What a fantastic achievement! Malang, 35, and Amruddin, 25, both members of the Afghans to the Top expedition, made it to Noshaq's peak on Sunday, where they planted the Afghan national flag. Two other Afghan climbers, Gurg Ali (28) and Afiat Khan (28), made it to the mountain's base camp. All four are from Ishkashim, a town in the northern province of Badakhshan about an hour from Noshaq Valley. The idea for the expedition came about after a visit to the region by three French mountaineers in 2007. When they heard the four young Afghans express their dream of reaching the highest peak, they decided to do something about it. Using funds from Mountain Wilderness International, the Aga Khan Foundation, the United Nations and USAID, they were able to make the expedition possible. According to the Afghans to the Top website in October 2008, the Afghan mountaineers invited the organizers of the the project for a trek to Noshaq base camp to assess and conceptualize the timeline and budget that would be required for the expedition. Then in April and May this year the four Afghans were invited to a mountaineering course at Chamonix in the Alps to complete their mountaineering skills through a technical training course organized under the auspices of the national school of ski and alpinism (ENSA) by Jean Annequin and Simon Destombes, the two guides on the expedition. The training they received in France means the men will also be able to work as professional mountain guides on their return to Afghanistan. A diploma will confirm this instruction. Noshaq, the highest peak in Afghanistan and the second highest in the Hindu Kush range after Pakistan's Tirich Mir, attracted climbers from all over the world in 1960s and 1970s. The first ascent was made by two Japanese climbers in 1960. But three decades of war made climbing almost impossible - until now. "The Afghans to the Top expedition would like to send out a message of peace, and remind the world that it is, once again, safe to travel to the north part of the country," a statement posted at the expedition's website said. "The four young Afghan guides participating in this adventure will then be able to start their careers as mountain guides and organize more treks and expeditions in the years to come," it said.
Photos: L/R, T/B: Gurg Ali, Amruddin, Malang and Afiat Khan, ready to challenge Mt. Noshaq, main image. Pics courtesy of Afghans to the Top expedition website.