June 6, 2006
"We will continue our jihad until the foreign troops are driven out."
Mullah Hayat Khan
George Bush has broken every promise he made to the people of Afghanistan. In 2001 he said he would remove the Taliban, establish order, and rebuild the country along the lines of the Marshall Plan.
He lied on all accounts.
The Taliban have reclaimed southern Afghanistan, reconstruction has been miniscule, and there’s been no attempt to establish security beyond the capital of Kabul. Afghanistan continues to languish in grinding poverty with less clean water and electricity than before the war. It is a failed narco-state with 99% of the countryside under the iron-grip of the regional warlords and drug-kingpins.
Is this Bush’s definition of a democratic utopia?
At the time of the invasion, 95% of the American people supported the decision to go to war. Bolstered by the attacks of 9-11, Bush distorted the nations’ grief into a cry for revenge. Five years later, the results are predictably bleak; Afghanistan is a shambles and there is little prospect for improvement in the foreseeable future. There’s no more chance of a Marshall Plan in Afghanistan than there is in New Orleans. The only notable developments have been the American military bases which now dot the landscape like lesions on leper and the oil pipelines that snake through the barren countryside. Apart from these the Afghan campaign has been a complete flop.
Afghanistan’s President Karzai, is an ineffective, caricature of a man, who has no broad mandate or widespread public support. He’s simply another American stooge who is satisfied to drag about in flowing robes and comical cap with an entourage of 75 fully-armed mercenaries following his every step. His role as head-of-state is an irritant to every Afghan with even a drop of patriotic blood in his veins.
Americans should be furious with this charade. We should have seen through Bush’s flag-waving, chest-thumping deception and resisted the call to war. Now the country is mired in another ruinous adventure with no end in sight.
Last week, rioting broke out in Kabul when the brakes on an army transport went out and the vehicle plowed headfirst into crowded traffic. 2 civilians were killed. The incident turned into a spontaneous demonstration of anti-Americanism which quickly escalated into a bloodbath. Trigger-happy American soldiers fired into the crowd killing 8 civilians. Many readers will recall that a similar incident took place in Falluja in 2003 which had grave long-term implications for the US occupation. Angry Fallujans took to the streets to protest the appointment of the city’s mayor by American forces. The crowd was irate but nonviolent. Never the less, inexperienced US troops overreacted, as they did in Kabul, and fired into the crowd killing 14 civilians. The incident soured the people on the occupation and became a powerful recruitment tool for the nascent Iraqi resistance. Three years later we can look at that day’s violence as a turning point in the course of events in Iraq and the genesis of the resistance. Now Iraq is embroiled in a full-scale war and the outcome is far from certain.
Will the same thing happen in Afghanistan?
Tim Albone, correspondent for the Times of London thinks so. Albone said,
"I’ve spoken to friends who’ve worked in Iraq and they say that there was one day when it all changed. That could be the case here….The Afghans realize that they can take on the police and take on the Americans—they could easily do it again." ("The Day that Changed Afghanistan" M.K. Bhadrakumar)
Albone is right. Afghanistan is a powder-keg that was ignited last week by a simple incident of reckless driving. There’s been a steady erosion of support for the occupation as well as dramatic up-tick in the violence.
Afghanistan has begun to unravel. The Taliban have reemerged in the south and are engaged in a spring offensive that is disrupting wide swathes of the countryside. In many towns they roam freely during the daytime and are attracting more disgruntled locals to their cause. In some areas they are allowed to preach in the mosques and try to persuade adherents to join the struggle. 5 years of occupation have produced nothing for the rural people. Unemployment is soaring at 45%, the drug trade is booming, and the presence of foreign troops hasn’t improved security. As unsavory as the Taliban may seem, they are gaining ground in an atmosphere that is increasingly charged with religious fervor and Afghan nationalism. The riots in Kabul will undoubtedly factor in heavily in this new paradigm of burgeoning resistance.
The Bush administration has had ample opportunity to wage a "hearts and minds" campaign in Afghanistan. Instead, they’ve shrugged off their duties and discarded the country like a poor relative. There’s growing recognition that America has no plan to honor its commitment to bring Afghanistan into the 21st century. Instead, Afghans are faced with the vexing disparity between well-fed occupiers and the grueling hardship of their daily lives.
"We don’t want these foreigners. They should go home," says Faisal Agha. "They’re damaging our society and we’re so poor. And they are looting Afghanistan. Why aren’t they building factories?" (AP)
Agha’s disappointment is nearly universal. The American presence has only exacerbated the religious and cultural differences that alienate the people from the occupiers. The availability of alcohol and prostitution is deeply offensive to devout Muslims and is contributing the general sense of frustration and anger.
Presently, the United States has 23,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. The NATO-led multinational force adds another 9,000 to that number. That provides one foreign soldier for every 35 square miles of territory; an impossible formula for establishing security. As a result, the US forces are compelled to use scattershot means of engaging the enemy which invariably end in the deaths of innocent civilians. A recent bombing raid on an "alleged" Taliban stronghold resulted in the deaths of 16 civilians many of whom were women and children. The incident has only fueled the public’s rage and created a more volatile atmosphere.
In a recent Asia Times article the author, Syed Shahzad, spoke with the Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Hamid Gul. Gul has followed developments in Afghanistan since the days that the Taliban mounted their successful war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. He has a firm grasp of what is currently taking place on the ground. Gul said:
"When this sort of mass resistance starts, it means it is a collective decision of the Afghans. So, you can see that though the Taliban resistance is centered in a very specific area, sporadic incidents have erupted all over….This is the tip of the iceberg you are watching; the situation will further escalate as the whole environment is now conducive to resistance."
Then Gul added ominously, "The jirgas are unanimous…there will be an all-out war in Afghanistan". (
Syed Saleem Shahzad; Asia Times Online)
It is unlikely that anyone in the Bush administration will heed Gul’s warnings. Their bull-headedness makes it inconceivable that they would consider the advice of someone who has intimate knowledge of the country’s recent history and grasps the looming signs of disaster. Instead, America will blunder ahead creating another quagmire potentially as great as the one in Iraq.
There’s no cure for hubris except failure.
The drug trade is now feeding the resistance; providing the Taliban the resources they need to buy weaponry and explosives. Drugs are being routed through Russia which casually ignores the trafficking since relations with Washington have gone downhill. The US has been unable to adapt its strategy to the changing conditions; sticking with a bare-bones battle plan of bombing raids and mass detention. Their clumsy handling has only added to the public’s outrage. Imperial negligence is feeding the "cauldron of animosities" and transforming an effortless colonial enterprise into a brutal conflagration.
Washington’s honeymoon in Afghanistan is over. The violence has resumed in the south and the dormant forces of political discontent are brewing in Kabul. America is sleepwalking into another catastrophe while Afghans are gearing up for their second Intifada in a generation.