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New Statesman Magazine: The Real Afghan War
Date: Saturday, November 25 2006
Topic:


CONDENSED


The Taliban and the insurgency are not Afghanistan’s worst problems. The country is now ruled by a new mafia of corrupt police and officials, who are crippling any hopes for a democratic future. The problems fuelling the insurgency are nationwide: corruption, abusive provincial officials and a growing hostility towards the west and the Karzai’s government are found north and south.

......The influence of foreign powers has also waned. "We've had our chance - and I think we've failed" said one senior diplomat. Even America's allies from the Northern Alliance, show little loyalty to their old backers.

NORTHERN AREAS .

......This autumn, I travelled to areas of the north that are under no threat from the Taliban, and the situation there is just as troubling. After five years of international support, they should be havens of democracy, human rights and prosperity.

......I visited the provincial capital of Badakhshan, in the north-east where the Taliban never occupied. One father of a six-year-old girl who had been killed in a bomb attack targeting the commander of NATO forces said "the local authorities are corrupt, and ISAF works hand in hand with them." The bomb was not a Taliban attack, but a revenge attack by a Northern Alliance commander. Elsewhere, in another apparent revenge attack, armed men had come in the night and set fire to a school.

......The common complaint is that their lives are still controlled by the old factional networks. These networks, which combine state positions, civil-war era loyalties, and criminal activities are extremely strong - and look like a mafia.


ISAF INACTION.

......Civilians complain that ISAF never challenges local commanders because protection of its own soldiers comes before protection of Afghan civilians. It is a strategy favoured by many of the foreign forces and agencies nationwide.

......The NATO commander, Colonel Robrecht, was frank about his dilemma. "The problem is that our mandate doesn't allow us to take away any former commanders. . . It's up to Kabul and up to the government and if they need the support it will be provided." No request from Kabul, he added, had ever been made.


US-NATO ORIGINS OF MILITIA RULE

...... The persistence of the old militia networks was not inevitable when the Taliban collapsed. In spite their history of war crimes, the decision was made in 2001 to arm these groups, to speed the victory over the Taliban. They appointed themselves as police and army commanders, provincial governors and cabinet ministers. Some even drove back across the border to reclaim old fiefdoms.

......At the time, many I spoke to, assumed they would not be allowed to keep their new offices. But Karzai, the UN, and US preferred to work with them. The UK foreign secretary, in 2002, was unapologetic about the policy of aligning with "people in who have occupied positions of force and strength in the past”

......When these militias were last in charge in the 1990s, murder, rape and kidnapping were extensive/. The current situation is not as grave. People also say the presence of foreign troops leads to better behaviour from the former militiamen, although, as one peasant farmer said, the foreign deployment gives no guarantee for the future. "Who knows what they'll be like again when ISAF goes."


THE STATE OF POLICING.

......One senior diplomat described Afghan police simply as, "the providers of violence". Mawlawi Ibrahim, a defence lawyer with the Afghan Human Rights Organisation, says "We get cases of torture in police detention, for example, usually to extort money from prisoners ". Across the country, intelligence reports that it is often the police themselves who smuggle drugs and commit crimes have driven the international powers to demand reform.

......A US government report describes endemic corruption and incompetence in a police force with 70% being former mujahedin. About a third of Afghanistan is still being policed by men accused of serious crimes. Only two of the senior police chiefs are not from the old mujahedin factions of the Northern Alliance (who received the bulk of America's arms and funding.)


VIEWS OF AFGHANS

......Afghans have little faith in the state, which traditionally concentrates on taxes and conscription. However, expectations did rise after 2001, with talk of democracy, human rights, and aid. What has emerged is a state that cannot or will not protect its citizens, and in some places actively abuses them. In the past year, I have not met a single civilian with anything good to say about President Karzai.

......Before 2001, I rarely heard anti-western or anti-American sentiment - that goodwill has ebbed away. Deterrence capability has also been lost - in 2002, mentioning of a B52 bomber was enough to frighten armed men, now commanders north and south, pro- and anti-Taliban, just shrug their shoulders.

......Even those who benefited most from the anti-Taliban invasion are often now disgruntled about aid, services and jobs. One of the local leaders, was furious about the substandard US-funded road, now being built in the valley.

......"This road is like a symbol," of the lack of sympathy the foreigners and the government had for the people of the area. "We got rid of you lot [ie, the British]," he said. "We got rid of the Russians and the Chinese, and we can get rid of these others, too."


New Statesman Magazine: The Real Afghan War


SEE ALSO:

Afghan News Compendium – Nov 22

Afghanistan Failed: Sydney Morning Herald -&- Esprit de Corps ......Nov 17/06


Talking to the Taliban .....July 7/06






New Statesman Magazine:... Afghan News Compendiu... Afghanistan Failed: S... Talking to the Taliban



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