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Species on the Brink: Sydney Art Photographer Pamela Pauline October 16, 2021

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ONCE UPON A TIME Pamela Pauline

The plaudits Art Photographer Pamela Pauline is receiving for her composite works on plants and birds on the brink of extinction  in Australia are well deserved.

Featuring just 16 photographic artworks they have taken two years of full time work, more than 25000 photographs, and innumerable hours on a computer to complete.

Highlighting  hundreds of threatened  flora and fauna from across the country “Once Upon a Time” presents a landscape the shows the biodiversity crisis facing Australia. Her work is for sale on her website.

‘Solastagia’ Pamela Pauline

Pamela Pauline’s “Fragile Beauty, Rich and Rare” will be exhibited as part of the Head On curated exhibitions for 2021. The exhibition runs from Monday 1 November through 30 November at the Maunsell Wickes Gallery, 19 Glenmore Road, Paddington NSW. Her work can be seen at pamelapauline.com, on Instagram @paula pauline photography, and on Facebook at facebook.com/PamelaPauline Photography

Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie on the Reraising Parade of the 10th Light Horse: From WA today October 11, 2021

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A soldier from the 10th Light Horse at the Hawkei on Langley Park Photo Bohdan Warchomij

The moral force at the heart of Gallipoli is inspired by the sacrificial deeds of Western Australians. and the 10th Light Horse. Andrew Hastie uses Peter Weir’s  inspiration for  his film Gallipoli the words of Military historian Charles Bean and the deeds of sacrifice of the original Anzacs.

Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie and Governor Kim Beasley in front of a Hawkei Photo Bohdan Warchomij

10th Light Horse Photo Bohdan Warchomij

It’s no surprise then that Gallipoli remains Australia’s pre-eminent war film, still shaping how we think about the sacrifice of our ANZACs – particularly that of the Western Australians who served in the 10th Light Horse Regiment.

It should make Western Australians proud to have this special place in the pantheon of Australian history.

Photo Bohdan Warchomij

 Though the 10th Light Horse’s legacy and tradition remains, much has changed since Gallipoli. Since 1976 the regiment has been reduced in size to a sub-unit, serving in 13th Brigade as ‘A’ Squadron, 10th Light Horse. This was a consequence of post-Vietnam downsizing of the Australian Army.

But once more our nation faces new challenges to our security as great power competition increases in the Indo-Pacific region.

Photo Bohdan Warchomij

Western Australia is critically important in the defence of our country. Our geography straddles the most consequential region of the 21st century. The 2020 Defence Strategic Update highlighted the importance of investment and engagement in the Indian Ocean Region where we live.

The AUKUS trilateral agreement announced by the Prime Minister will drive greater investment in people, defence industry and our deterrence capabilities right here in Western Australia.

Today, with this strategic vista in view, we will re-raise the 10th Light Horse Regiment to full strength at a ceremony at Langley Park.

It will be the Regiment’s 107th birthday, and a fitting moment to forge a new direction whilst embracing the legacy of the brave Western Australian light horsemen from a century ago.

By increasing its size to a full regiment, the 10th Light Horse will play an important role supporting ADF operations here in WA and across the Indo-Pacific. We are equipping them for the challenges of the decade ahead, through the Army’s restructure and modernisation program.

Photo Bohdan Warchomij

The 10th Light Horse Regiment have already taken delivery of their first new Hawkei Protected Mobility Vehicles – 1100 of which are being built here in Australia. The unit manning will grow to 170 personnel by the end of 2022.

Their mission will remain a traditional cavalry one of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance – enabled by modern innovation and technology. The way we fight has changed over the last century but the 10th Light Horse Regiment esprit de corps endures today.

Governor Kim Beasley Photo Bohdan Warchomij

As we walk steadily into the future – with all its uncertainty – we are guided by the deeds of the past. The sacrifice, gallantry and dash of the 10th Light Horse Regiment shines the way forward for our great state and Australia.

Perth Zoo: Kitoto and Armani’s baby calf and the naming process October 3, 2021

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Photo Bohdan Warchomij METAPHOR IMAGES

Giraffes Kitoto and Armani welcomed a healthy female calf at the start of the month and names can now be submitted to the zoo’s website with the winner to be given an exclusive giraffe experience.

Photo Bohdan Warchomij METAPHOR IMAGES

Photo Bohdan Warchomij METAPHOR IMAGES

The calf frolicked in front of media introduced to it for the first time while Kitoto watched over it.

The name must be in an African dialect to reflect the species home range.

Photo Bohdan Warchomij METAPHOR IMAGES

Entries close on 7 October, 2021. To submit an entry, visit www.perthzoo.com.au

Photo Bohdan Warchomij METAPHOR IMAGES

Perth’s contribution to AFL Grand Final History: Melbourne defeats the Western Bulldogs by 74 points to end 57 years of drought. September 27, 2021

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Photo Bohdan Warchomij

Melbourne has ended the AFL’s longest premiership drought, kicking 12 unanswered goals to beat the Western Bulldogs by 74 points and win the 2021 Grand Final.

Photo Bohdan Warchomij

The Demons, who hadn’t won a premiership since 1964, looked in serious trouble when Marcus Bontempelli kicked his third goal of the night to put his Dogs up by 19 points midway through the third quarter.

But in front of 61,118 ravenous fans at Perth’s Optus Stadium, it was time for perhaps the greatest 17 minutes in Melbourne’s history. And the Dees, led by Luke Jackson, Clayton Oliver and Christian Petrarcha, exploded to wrap up the club’s place in history.

Photo Bohdan Warchomij

Photo Bohdan Warchomij

Perth partied hard into the night, celebrating the WA capital’s contribution to AFL history. The crowds brought chaos to the entertainment clubs in the city with huge lines endeavouring to party.

Photo Bohdan Warchomij

Photo Bohdan Warchomij

Melbourne Army Photo Bohdan Warchomij

Photo Bohdan Warchomij

Sunday’s reception in Forrest Chase added another dimension  to the story. Melbourne president Kate Roffey heaped praise on WA for treating her club ‘like family’ during their month long stay. Ms Roffey called Optus Stadium “fantastic” and revealed her club was blown away by the weekend’s spectacle.

Premier Mark MacGowan joins punters training it to Optus Stadium Photo Bohdan Warchomij

Photo Bohdan Warchomij

Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk defeats World Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium September 27, 2021

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There have been some tough world champions from Ukraine in the 21st Century, inclusive of the Klitschko brothers, and Oleksandr Usyk has joined them in the front line by defeating incumbent Heavyweight champion of the world Anthony Joshua in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium over night.

A short while after Oleksandr Usyk spoke of returning home to water his apple orchard, Anthony Joshua sat in the same seat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and began barking up what might be considered the wrong tree.

He wants to trigger his right to an immediate rematch, most likely in February or March at a venue in the UK or the Middle East, but already there is a sense that the problem of Usyk might be one best left alone.

They talk of repeat or revenge in these scenarios, but on the basis of the first running, there would appear only limited hope of success in a second. Usyk was by far the better fighter with the better plan on Saturday, and more so than the scorecards suggested.

But credit to Joshua for wanting it. And credit, too, for the manner in which he addressed it in the early hours of Sunday morning, when other fallen fighters might have bolted for the backdoor.

With a deep bruise under his right eye, he said he had serious issues with his vision from the ninth round onwards, but still saw enough to believe he can handle Usyk and win back his IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO heavyweight world titles.

Experts, armchair and real alike, will be dubious about that, but Joshua is convinced, saying: ‘I’m a different kind of animal. I’m not a sulker. This is a blessed opportunity, to be able to fight for the heavyweight title of the world, fight good fighters time and time again and for people to come out.

‘I’m not going to be going home and be crying about it, because this is war. It’s a long process. This isn’t just one fight and then I’m done.

‘I’m going back to look at way that I can improve. Straight away, I’ve already been watching the fight and thinking, “I could’ve done that better”.’

He added: ‘When I was walking back through the tunnel, I just said to myself, “I’m ready to get back to the gym, I’m ready to just put that work in”.

‘I know we can look at it from a negative point of view but, for me, I’ve got to take it as a great lesson and build on that situation.’

While Joshua denied there were errors in his game plan, it felt like a shallow argument given he repeatedly tried and failed to out-box such a refined, slick mover. Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing, but it was nonetheless baffling that Joshua remained so cautious through 36 minutes, rather than seeking to utilise his size and power advantages.

Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, said Joshua was possibly ‘too respectful’ of Usyk’s reputation, whereas Frank Warren was more pointed in telling Sportsmail he was ‘gun shy’.

The Genius of Chrissie Parrott’s FACADE from Tanya MacNaughton The West Australian Photos Bohdan Warchomij Metaphor Images September 13, 2021

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Photo Bohdan Warchomij

To define Chrissie Parrott’s latest multi-layered creative offering Façade is not as simple as calling it a dance, opera, comedy or live music event, because it is all of these and more.

The journey began in 1986 when director, choreographer and visual artist Parrott returned to Perth after living in Sweden at the time of the Chernobyl disaster and made a 20-minute piece for Perth Fringe Festival as one of six environmental site-specific works.

It was called DecaDance (as in decay dance) in reference to the plaster falling off the walls of the performance venue, the Moores Building in Fremantle, where she plastered up her dancers and had them fall apart in front of people’s eyes.

Returning to the Moores Building, Parrott has re-imagined, re-scored and re-scaled it into Façade, a huge extravaganza of a brutal baroque variety performance event with big costumes, big powdered wigs, puppetry, live lute playing, comedy, opera singing and dancers (two from the original season) performing pure baroque dance movement.

“We’ve researched and gone back to the orchestration of the original choreography from the court of Louis XV,” Parrott shares.

“The original version was similar but we didn’t have all the theatricality around it then that we have now. There’s no storyline, it’s all short pieces, vignettes, that are very punchy and each one has a little segue in between.

“The biggest part of this new extravaganza is the 5m x 8m proscenium arch which has a backcloth painted by Deborah McKendrick to make it look 200 years old.”

Extending the glimpse into Parrott’s imagination is exhibition Brutal Baroque featuring 12 large portraits she has painted of people she has worked with over the past 40 years, a career that included her choreographing a version of Coppelia for WA Ballet in the late 1990s that was filmed by the ABC and had three return seasons.

Photos Bohdan Warchomij Metaphor Images

The experience made her the ideal person for cybernetics artist Geoffrey Drake-Brockman to collaborate with who, among other cybernetic, interactive and kinetic artworks from the past 20 years of his career, will show his robot ballerina Coppelia Doll One and the augmented reality ballerina Parallax Dancer for the first time in Perth in exhibition Simulacra Lounge in the upstairs gallery.

The twin simulacrum ballerinas are modelled on former WA Ballet principal Jayne Smeulders and were exhibited in 2018 at the Morris Museum in New York after more than a decade of working on them.

Since then they have stayed in their sealed shipping crate at the back of Drake-Brockman’s studio until Parrott contacted him about Façade.

“As part of the Facade performance, Chrissie will choreograph an encounter between real human dancers and my simulacra ballet dancers,” Drake-Brockman, who created Totem aka The Pineapple outside Perth Arena, says.

“The dance movements will be quite simple, but I see them as explorations of reactions ranging from horror to love, as well as the possibility of freely giving, or having stolen, one’s life force.

“I am interested in robot mythologies, well-known stories about created beings, artificial people that interact with humans and in the process reveal something about us; Frankenstein, Pinocchio, the replicants in Blade Runner. My favourite is the ballet Coppelia, about a clockwork girl who becomes the centre of a complex web of love and infatuation.”

Drake-Brockman explains that cybernetics art concentrates on the phenomenon of feedback.

Via the feedback process, an artwork produces an action, that action prompts the audience to respond in some way, and the artwork senses the response and in turn formulates its next action based on what has just happened.

“The process repeats and repeats, but each time differently, depending on how varied the responses of the artwork are, and all the possible reactions of the audience,” he informs.

“You can get strange and surprising things happening in this environment, which is what fascinates me. It’s not just a simple loop without variation.”

Photos Bohdan Warchomij Metaphor Images

Façade is a ticketed event performed nightly at The Moores Building Contemporary Art Gallery, Fremantle, September 12 to 20.

The Brutal Baroque exhibition is open at the performance and 10am-4pm daily until September 20.

Simulacra Lounge is also showing 10am-4pm daily, September 13 to 20.

The Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts passes from the World Stage he dominated for so long August 25, 2021

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Drummer Charlie Watts, whose adept, powerful skin work propelled the Rolling Stones for more than half a century, died in London on Tuesday morning, according to his spokesperson. No cause of death was cited; he was 80.

A statement from the band and Watts’ spokesperson reads: “It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts. He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family.

“Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also a member of the Rolling Stones one of the greatest drummers of his generation.

“We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time.”

On August 4, Watts abruptly withdrew from the Stones’ upcoming pandemic-postponed U.S. tour, citing the need to recover from an unspecified but “successful” recent medical procedure. A spokesperson said, “Charlie has had a procedure which was completely successful, but I gather his doctors this week concluded that he now needs proper rest and recuperation. With rehearsals starting in a couple of weeks it’s very disappointing to say the least, but it’s also fair to say no one saw this coming.” Unconfirmed reports said Watts had undergone heart surgery; drummer Steve Jordan, a longtime associate of Stones guitarist Keith Richards, is filling in for the tour, which launches in St. Louis on Sept. 26.

Watts had generally been healthy throughout his entire career with the Stones. He was stricken with throat cancer in 2004 but successfully recovered, and suffered from substance abuse in the 1970s and ’80s, but beat that as well.

Universally recognized as one of the greatest rock drummers of all time, Watts and guitarist Keith Richards have been the core of the Rolling Stones’ instrumental sound: Richards spends upwards of half the group’s concerts turned around, facing Watts, bobbing his head to the drummer’s rhythm. A 2012 review of a Rolling Stones concert reads in part: “For all of Mick and Keith’s supremacy, there’s no question that the heart of this band is and will always be Watts: At 71, his whipcrack snare and preternatural sense of swing drive the songs with peerless authority, and define the contradictory uptight-laid-back-ness that’s at the heart of the Stones’ rhythm.” Watts was never a flashy drummer, but driving the beat for “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” for a two-hour set — in a stadium, no less — is an act of great physical endurance that Watts performed until he was 78.

His last concert with the group took place in Miami on August 30, 2019, although he did appear with the band during the April 2020 “One World Together” all-star livestream early in the pandemic. Reviewing a show earlier in the 2019 tourVariety wrote, “Sitting at a minimalist kit and moving even more minimally with his casual jazz grip, [Watts looks] like the mild-mannered banker who no one in the heist movie realizes is the guy actually blowing up the vault.”

The wiry, basset-faced musician was a jazz-schooled player who came to the Stones through London’s “trad” scene of the early ‘60s. He was the missing piece in the group’s early lineup, joining in January 1963; with Jagger and Keith Richards, he remained a constant with “the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band” on record and on stage for more than 50 years.



He provided nimble, energetic support on the band’s long run of dirty, blues- and R&B-based hits of the early and mid-‘60s. He reached the pinnacle of his prowess on a series of mature recordings, made with producer Jimmy Miller in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, in which his sharp playing caromed off Richards’ serrated guitar riffs.

In the 2003 oral history “According to the Rolling Stones,” Richards said, “To have a drummer from the beginning who could play with the sensibility of Charlie Watts is one of the best hidden assets I’ve had, because I never had to think about the drummer and what he’s going to do. I just say, ‘Charlie, it goes like this,’ and we’ll kick it around a bit and it’s done. I can throw him ideas and I never have to worry about the beat…It’s a blessing.”

A flexible player, Watts displayed his malleable chops on the Stones’ forays into off-brand styles – psychedelia, reggae and (on the 1978 hit single “Miss You”) disco.

Though he grew weary of the band’s touring pace as early as the 1980s, he soldiered on with the Stones for three more decades, in what was arguably the most comfortable and lucrative drumming gig in music. He prevailed through bouts with heroin addiction and a battle with throat cancer, quietly addressing these challenges as the spotlight shined more brightly on his more flamboyant band mates.

Watts remained a picture of domestic bliss and tranquility amid the soap-operatic lives of his fellow Stones: He wed his wife Shirley in 1964, and the couple remained together, even amid rough patches, for the duration.

He maintained a love of jazz throughout his life, and from the ‘80s on would record regularly with various ad hoc lineups of his Charlie Watts Quintet, essaying the hard-swinging instrumental music that fired his early interest in music.

Watts was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Stones in 1989.

He was born June 2, 1941, in London; his father was a truck driver for the English rail system. Raised in Wembley, he gravitated as a youth to the music of early jazz pianist Jelly Roll Morton and bop saxophonist Charlie Parker. He was an indifferent music student in school, but began playing at 14 or 15.

In “The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones,” Watts told Stanley Booth, “Fortunately my parents were perceptive enough to buy me a drum kit. I’d bought a banjo myself and taken the neck off and started playing it as a drum…[I] played newspaper with wire brushes. My parents bought me one of those first drum kits every drummer knows too well.”

He emblazoned the bass drum head of his early kit with the name “Chico,” after saxophonist Gerry Mulligan’s drummer Chico Hamilton. In his teens, he worked in various regional jazz groups.

He was schooled as a graphic designer at Harrow Art School, and worked for a London ad firm. In 1961, he illustrated and wrote a fanciful tribute to Charlie Parker; it was subsequently published in 1964, after the Rolling Stones’ rise to fame, as “Ode to a High Flying Bird.”

In 1962, Watts first encountered some of his future band mates at London’s Ealing Club, a subterranean venue where first-generation trad-to-blues players like Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies took early stabs at replicating American R&B and blues.

After a stint doing design work in Copenhagen, Watts returned to London and accepted an offer from Korner to drum in his group Blues Incorporated, which for a time had featured Jagger as its singer.

Jagger was in the process of establishing his own blues-based band, originally called the Rollin’ Stones, with Richards, guitarist Brian Jones, bassist Bill Wyman and pianist Ian Stewart. The weak link in the unit was drummer Tony Chapman, and, after pleas from Richards and Jones, Watts replaced Chapman in the nascent group; he was replaced in Korner’s band by Ginger Baker, later of Cream.

Watts later admitted, “It was from Brian, Mick and Keith that I first seriously learned about R&B. I knew nothing about it. The blues to me was Charlie Parker or [New Orleans jazz clarinetist] Johnny Dodds playing slow.” He schooled himself by listening to recorded performances such drummers by Earl Phillips, Jimmy Reed’s accompanist, and Fred Below, who powered many of Chess Records’ major blues hits of the ‘50s.

He proved an apt pupil, and he forcefully completed the sound of the Stones (who soon subtracted Stewart from the permanent lineup and employed him as a sideman and road manager). From the band’s debut 1963 single, a cranked-up cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On,” he pushed the unit with seemingly effortless power and swing.

Watts lent potent support to the R&B- and blues-derived material recorded in the era when the purist Jones enjoyed parity in the Stones with Richards and Jagger. However, he was much more than a four-on-the-floor timekeeper, and flourished as Jagger-Richards originals pushed the band to the top of the U.S. and U.K. charts.

Face to face with Charlie Watts in Perth. Photo Bohdan Warchomij



He stood out on the Stones’ first U.S. No. 1, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965) and on latter-day exotica like “Paint It Black” (1966) and “Ruby Tuesday,” “Dandelion,” “We Love You” and “She’s a Rainbow” (all 1967).

He came into his own with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Street Fighting Man” (1968) and “Honky Tonk Women” (1969), convulsive singles produced by Miller that marked the end of Jones’ tenure with the group (he died in 1969) and the arrival of guitarist Mick Taylor.

Those numbers and the subsequent “Brown Sugar” (No. 1, 1969) and “Tumbling Dice” (1972) – respectively drawn from the Stones’ landmark albums “Sticky Fingers” and “Exile on Main St” – all exhibited the trademark sound of the Stones at their apex, with Watts bouncing hard off a lacerating Richards guitar intro.

From 1971-81, Watts appeared on eight consecutive No. 1 studio albums by the Stones, and appeared on three of the biggest-grossing tours of the era. From 1975 on, he brought his design skills to bear and worked with Jagger on configuring the elaborate stage sets that became a hallmark of the act’s later tours.

In the late ‘70s, he began using heroin, and his addiction became so acute that he nodded out in the studio during the recording of “Some Girls” (1978). He later said in an interview with the BBC that Richards – an enthusiastic abuser of the drug – shook him awake at the session and counseled him, “You should do this when you’re older.” Watts said he took the guitarist’s advice and stopped using the drug.

Despite his difficulties during that era, Watts smoothly navigated the dancefloor backbeat that propelled “Miss You,” the Stones’ last No. 1 single, released in ’78. During the ‘80s, he brought his whipcracking skills to the band’s top-10 hits of the period, the perennial show-opener “Start Me Up” (1981) and the dark fusillade “Undercover of the Night” (1983).

He again grappled with alcohol and drug issues in the mid-‘80s, but once again discreetly and successfully shook off his addictions, cleaning up for good in 1986.

In his 2002 book “Rolling With the Stones,” bassist Wyman (who exited the Stones in 1993) claims that Watts’ enthusiasm for working with the band waned in the late ‘80s, when conflict between Jagger and Richards over direction of the group threatened to run it aground permanently.

He increasingly recorded and toured on his own as a jazz band leader. He cut a big band album for Columbia in 1986; four sets with his own quintet from 1991-96; and worked on a collaborative project with fellow drummer Jim Keltner in 2000. In 2004, an album featuring his tentet was recorded at Ronnie Scott’s famous jazz venue in London.

Watts still dutifully clocked in with the Stones after Jagger and Richards reconciled: Their four studio albums between 1989-2005 were succeeded by mammoth tours that broke records internationally. His tour duty was not broken by a siege of throat cancer, diagnosed in 2004 and treated successfully.

At the half-century mark, the group made successful treks in the new millennium without any new product in stores, hitting the road for arenas in 2012-16.

In October 2016, the act filled the Empire Polo Field in Indio, Calif., site of the annual Coachella music festival on a double bill with Bob Dylan, as part of the three-day “Desert Trip” festival featuring ‘60s classic rock acts.

Watts is survived by his wife and daughter Serafina.

Chaos in Kabul: The Rise of the Taliban August 17, 2021

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The Taliban in Afghanistan

Since its ouster in 2001, the Taliban has maintained its insurgency against the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan and the Afghan government. As U.S. troops have withdrawn in 2021, the group has rapidly expanded its control, positioning itself for a return to power.


The Taliban is a predominantly Pashtun, Islamic fundamentalist group that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when a U.S.-led invasion toppled the regime for providing refuge to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The Taliban regrouped across the border in Pakistan and has led an insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul for nearly twenty years.

In 2020, the Taliban signed a peace agreement [PDF] with the United States and entered into power-sharing negotiations with the Afghan government. However, little progress has been made in the intra-Afghan talks. Meanwhile, as the United States withdrew its troops in the country as part of the deal, the Taliban launched an offensive that has more than tripled the number of Afghan districts under its control. Analysts warn that an expanded civil war and more civilian casualties are likely if power-sharing talks remain stalled.

Top Conflicts to Watch in 2021: Increasing Violence in Afghanistan
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U.S.-Taliban Peace Deal: What to Know

Does the Taliban pose a threat?

Many experts say the Taliban threatens Afghan democratic institutions, citizens’ rights, and regional security. The group has withstood counterinsurgency operations from the world’s most powerful security alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and three U.S. administrations in a war that has killed more than 6,000 U.S. troops and contractors [PDF] and over 1,100 NATO troops. Some 47,000 civilians have died, and an estimated 73,000 Afghan troops and police officers have been killed since 2007. Tens of thousands of Taliban fighters are also believed to have died.

The Taliban, which has between fifty-eight thousand and one hundred thousand full-time fighters, is stronger now than at any point in the last twenty years. As the United States has withdrawn its remaining forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban has increased attacks on civilians, seized control of critical border crossings, and dramatically expanded its presence throughout the country. In July 2021, the group controlled an estimated 54 percent of Afghan districts, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Long War Journal, a U.S.-based publication that has covered the U.S. fight against al-Qaeda and other militant groups since 2007; just months earlier it controlled only 20 percent. By midsummer 2021, sixteen of the country’s thirty-four provincial capitals were at risk of falling under Taliban control.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has documented a steep uptick in violence and has warned that 2021 could see the most civilian casualties since the agency started keeping records in 2009. It documented 5,183 civilian deaths and injuries [PDF] in the first half of 2021, significantly higher than the total killed or injured during the same period in prior years. Women and children made up a larger proportion of casualties than ever recorded by UNAMA in the first half of a year. Of the many armed groups involved in clashes, the Taliban was responsible for the highest percentage of casualties, at nearly 40 percent. Targeted assassinationsand improvised explosive device attacks accounted for many of the casualties. Civilians were also caught in the crossfire between insurgents and government forces. Afghan government forces also caused casualties. No casualties were attributed to international forces.

International observers remain concerned that the Taliban supports terrorist organizations, particularly al-Qaeda. The United States invaded Afghanistan after it refused to hand over bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Many U.S. security experts remain concerned that under the Taliban’s rule, Afghanistan would remain a safe haven for terrorists who could launch attacks against the United States and its allies.

In its 2021 report, the UN team that monitors the Taliban said the group still has strong ties with al-Qaeda. The Taliban has started to “tighten its control over al-Qaeda by gathering information on foreign terrorist fighters and registering and restricting them,” the UN experts report. But it remains unclear, they say, if the Taliban will follow through on its commitment under the U.S. peace deal to prevent an international terrorist attack emanating from Afghanistan. The Taliban continues to provide al-Qaeda with protection in exchange for resources and training. Between two hundred and five hundred al-Qaeda fighters are believed to be in Afghanistan, and its leaders are believed to be based in regions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. U.S. authorities reportedly think that al-Qaeda’s chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is in Afghanistan [PDF], though in 2020 there were unconfirmed rumors that he had died. Up to 2,200 members of the Islamic State Khorasan are also thought to be in Afghanistan.

How was the Taliban formed?

The group was formed in the early 1990s by Afghan mujahideen, or Islamic guerilla fighters, who had resisted the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979–89) with the covert backing of the CIA and its Pakistani counterpart, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). They were joined by younger Pashtun tribesmen who studied in Pakistani madrassas, or seminaries; taliban is Pashto for “students.” Pashtuns comprise a plurality in Afghanistan and are the predominant ethnic group in much of the country’s south and east. They are also a major ethnic group in Pakistan’s north and west.

The movement attracted popular support in the initial post-Soviet era by promising to impose stability and rule of law after four years of conflict (1992–1996) among rival mujahideen groups. The Taliban entered Kandahar in November 1994 to pacify the crime-ridden southern city, and by September 1996 seized the capital, Kabul, from President Burhanuddin Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik whom it viewed as anti-Pashtun and corrupt. That year, the Taliban declared Afghanistan an Islamic emirate, with Mullah Mohammed Omar, a cleric and veteran of the anti-Soviet resistance, leading as amir al-mu’minin, or “commander of the faithful.” The regime controlled some 90 percent of the country before its 2001 overthrow.

The Taliban imposed a harsh brand of justice as it consolidated territorial control. Taliban jurisprudence was drawn from the Pashtuns’ pre-Islamic tribal code and interpretations of sharia colored by the austere Wahhabi doctrines of the madrassas’ Saudi benefactors. The regime neglected social services and other basic state functions even as its Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice enforced prohibitions on behavior the Taliban deemed un-Islamic. It required women to wear the head-to-toe burqa, or chadri; banned music and television; and jailed men whose beards it deemed too short.

How has the world responded to the Taliban?

Over the past two decades, governments and international bodies joined U.S.-led efforts to oust the Taliban and bolster Afghanistan’s government, democratic institutions, and civil society in the following ways:

Military force. U.S. troops quickly overthrew the Taliban after they invaded Afghanistan in October 2001. Since then, the Taliban has waged an insurgency against the U.S.-backed Afghan government. The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan peaked at around one hundred thousand in 2011. In the 2020 U.S.-Taliban agreement, the United States committed to withdrawing all U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan if the Taliban carries out commitments that include cutting ties with terrorist groups. President Biden has said he plans to have all troops removed by August 2021. NATO assumed leadership of foreign forces in 2003, marking its first operational commitment outside of Europe. At its height, NATO had more than 130,000 troops from fifty nations stationed in Afghanistan.

Sanctions. The UN Security Council first imposed sanctions on the regime for harboring al-Qaeda in 1999 and expanded the sanctions after 9/11. They target Taliban leaders’ financial assets and ban them from most travel. The Security Council also imposed an arms embargo on the Taliban. The United States and the European Union introduced additional sanctions.

Democratic reforms and aid. Months after the U.S. invasion, UN member states committed to supporting Afghanistan’s transition away from Taliban rule. The United States and NATO spearheaded reconstruction efforts. Dozens of countries also provide assistance to Afghanistan, with 75 percent of the government’s public expenditures currently covered by grants from international partners, according to a 2019 World Bank report. During a conference in 2020, donors pledged a total of $3.3 billion in aid.

Investigation. The Taliban is now under investigation in the International Criminal Court for alleged abuses of Afghan civilians, including crimes against humanity, carried out since 2003. U.S. and Afghan forces are also being investigated for alleged war crimes.


How the Afghan Army Collapsed Under the Taliban’s Pressure

By Max Boot, CFR Expert

August 16, 2021 4:45 pm (EST)


Despite having larger numbers and better equipment than the Taliban, Afghan forces were never strong enough to sustain government control in the absence of U.S. firepower.


A reporter asked U.S. President Joe Biden in July whether a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was inevitable. “No, it is not,” he said, pointing to the presence of three hundred thousand “well-equipped” Afghan security personnel.

Little more than a month later, the Afghan military completely collapsed. It lost control of much of the country, often without putting up a fight, and allowed the Taliban to take over. Near the end, provincial capitals fell with dizzying rapidity. On August 15, Taliban fighters marched into Kabul.

How did the $83 billion U.S. effort to train and equip the Afghan military go so wrong? Why didn’t the Afghan military fight harder to stop the Taliban?

Fatally Demoralized

The answer could be found in Napoleon Bonaparte’s maxim: “In war, the moral is to the physical as ten is to one.” Quite simply, an Afghan military that over the past twenty years had learned to rely on U.S. support for airpower, intelligence, logistics, planning, and other vital enablers was fatally demoralized by the U.S. decision to abandon it. An Afghan special forces officer told the Washington Post that many Afghans saw the troop withdrawal deal that the Donald Trump administration signed with the Taliban in February 2020 as “the end” and that the United States “left [the Afghan military] to fail.” As a result, he said, “Everyone was just looking out for himself.”

Trace the History
The U.S. War in Afghanistan

It’s possible that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani thought his government would receive a reprieve from President Biden. But in April, Biden announced that the remaining three thousand U.S. troops in Afghanistan would be withdrawn by September 11, 2021. Not only did those troops depart, but so did eight thousand allied troops and eighteen thousand contractors that the Afghan forces relied upon to operate their air force and for logistical support. In recent months, the Afghan military was unable to provide vital supplies such as food and ammunition to outposts scattered around the country. Some Afghan units, particularly the elite commandos, fought hard nearly to the end. But seeing the writing on the wall, most troops chose to cut deals with the Taliban, surrender, or simply melt away rather than risk their lives for a hopeless cause.

U.S. Military Mistakes

The fall of Afghanistan rightly raises serious questions about the mistakes the United States made during its twenty-year effort to train the Afghan military. The U.S. armed forces will need to process lessons learned, and there will need to be a great deal of critical self-examination. The U.S. training effort had many shortcomings, such as deficiencies in language and cultural knowledge and lack of expertise in training police rather than soldiers, which hurt local-level security. In addition, the U.S. effort concentrated too much on teaching tactical infantry skills while neglecting the kind of higher-level expertise in logistics, planning, training, and command and control that is needed to maintain a military force.

An Afghan army soldier stands next to a heap of barbed wire.
Afghan security forces quickly lose control of the country amid a Taliban offensive in August 2021.Mohammad Ismail/Reuters


The U.S. training effort was also hindered by factors beyond its control, including the lack of education in one of the world’s poorest countries and the pervasiveness of corruption. As a police officer in Kandahar recently told the New York Times, “We are drowning in corruption.”

 All of that corruption meant Afghan troop numbers, such as the one cited by Biden, were vastly exaggerated. The Washington Post’Afghanistan Papers project found that of the 352,000 soldiers and police counted as members of the country’s security forces, only 254,000 could be confirmed by the Afghan government. Commanders not only created “ghost soldiers” to pad their payrolls but also skimmed the pay of serving soldiers and failed to deliver necessary supplies, the Post reported. To a large extent, that corruption was enabled by the United States’ free-spending ways. U.S. attempts to fight corruption were, by contrast, half-hearted and ineffectual.

Who’s to Blame?

Many now criticize the U.S. military for building an Afghan force in its own image—heavily reliant on airpower and technology that the Afghans could not maintain by themselves. The criticism has some validity, but there is a logic to the U.S. approach: The Afghan forces were far too small to defend a far-flung nation of thirty-eight million people, and no U.S. administration wanted to fund a larger force. There was no way to maintain a security-force presence across such a vast country without supplying outposts by air. Once U.S. troops and contractors abruptly pulled out, the Afghans simply lost the ability to keep their military machine functioning, and the military disintegrated.

Although it’s easy to blame Afghan troops for not fighting harder, it’s important to remember that more than sixty thousand Afghan security-force members were killed in the past twenty years—that’s twenty-seven times more than U.S. fatalities in the war. While some three thousand U.S. advisors remained in the country, the Afghan military still controlled every city. It was the U.S. pullout that brutally exposed the shortcomings of the Afghan forces and precipitated the military’s collapse.

THAT’S HOW IT GOES: A film that follows photographers Roger Garwood and Trish Ainslie as they revisit images of Goldfields Prospectors taken 30 years ago August 10, 2021

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That’s How It Goes: A film that follows photographers Roger Garwood and Trish Ainslie as they revisit images of Goldfields Prospectors taken 30 years ago. The screening on Thursday 12 August 2021 6 60 8pm will be followed by a discussion with the film’s makers and subjects and offers a glimpse at how this collection of photos came about ad how it was adapted into a memorable short film.

Director Mel Branson Photographer Roger Garwood Photo Bohdan Warchomij

Photographer with one of his rare publications Photo Bohdan Warchomij

World Press Photo at the State Library August 10, 2021

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from Saturday 31 July 2021 09:00AM to Friday 20 August 2021 05:30PM

Ground Floor Gallery

Visit the World Press Photo Exhibition 2021 on its world-wide tour showcasing the stories that matter with photographs from the 64th annual World Press Photo Contest. The winners were chosen by an independent jury that reviewed more than 74,470 photographs entered by 4,315 photographers from 130 countries.

The State Library is a partner of the World Press Photo Foundation. Find out more at www.worldpressphoto.org

FREE event. No booking required.