Afghanistan is the New Auschwitz
By Eric Walberg
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Feb 15, 2008, 00:17
According to Gideon Polya, based on UNESCO data, the US
invasion of Afghanistan has led to as many as 6.6 million unnecessary deaths.
According to Washburn University law professor Liaquat Ali Khan, the �crime of
genocide applies to the intentional killings that NATO troops commit on a
weekly basis in the poor villages and mute mountains of Afghanistan to destroy
the Taliban.� The occupation forces, which ironically include former Axis
powers Germany and Japan, have created the New Auschwitz.
During a recent visit to Kabul by US Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, Afghan President Hamid Karzai defended his rule, saying the
economy and education systems had improved and there was more democratic
freedom under the new constitution. �It is not right that Afghanistan was
forgotten,� he said. Meaning, in diplo-speak, of course, it was, except
by the drug-crazed bomber pilots, who made a record-breaking 3,572 bombing raids
last year, 20 times the level two years earlier. But it has popped back
into the news recently with a string of gloomy reports, a series of terrifying
shoot-outs in Kabul, and a high-profile NATO meeting where words were had, and
not pretty ones.
The invasion -- well into its seventh year and approaching
the 1979-88 Soviet nine-year occupation record -- is increasingly being
compared to the ill-fated British 19th century invasions, intended to undermine
Russian influence in the so-called Great Game. Ironically, the current fiasco
was similarly inspired by a Western desire to undermine Russian influence, and,
taking a different and, as it turned out, extremely risky tack, began in 1979
to massively fund Osama bin Laden and other Muslim terrorists, something the
19th century Brits were not so foolhardy as to do. The result, of course, was
the 2001 invasion and occupation, at first hailed as a new chapter for the
hapless Afghans, but now seen as doomed, according to that pesky string of
Paddy Ashdown, the US choice as United Nations
�proconsul," �super-envoy," whatever, in Kabul, declared, �We are
losing in Afghanistan.� Quelle surprise, his appointment was vetoed by Karzai, who is desperately trying
to portray himself as an independent leader of a country that has �turned the
corner," despite the 6 million plus deaths and the recent tiff over
British military policy in the south, which Karzai claims led to the return of
the Taliban. He complains that he was forced by the British to remove the governor
of Helmand with disastrous consequences, and was furious that, at the same
time, Britain was secretly negotiating with the Taliban to set up �retirement
camps� there for possible rebel defectors.
But then what should he expect? A US citizen and UNOCAL oil
executive, he was parachuted into Afghanistan when the Americans invaded in
2001 and confirmed in US-orchestrated elections three years later. Widely
regarded as a US-British stooge, the �mayor of Kabul� surely remembers the fate
of his pre-Taliban predecessor, Mohamed Najibullah, who spent four years in a
UN basement in Kabul until liberated -- castrated and hung from a lamp post by
the Taliban in 1996.
Armed resistance to foreign occupation is growing and
spreading. NATO figures show that attacks on Western and Afghan troops were up
by almost a third last year, to more than 9,000 �significant actions," the
highest level since the invasion. Seventy percent of incidents took place in
the southern Taliban heartland of Helmand, though the Senlis Council estimates
that the Taliban now has a permanent presence in 54 per cent of Afghanistan,
arguing that �the question now appears to be not if the Taliban will return to
Kabul, but when.� Watch out, Mr Karzai.
In addition to the 3,572 bombing raids in 2007, suicide
bombings climbed to a record 140, compared to five between 2001 and 2005. The
Taliban�s base is increasingly the umbrella for a revived Pashtun nationalism
on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, as well as for jihadists and
others committed to fighting foreign occupation. The UN estimates the Taliban
have just 3,000 active fighters and about 7,000 part-timers, in contrast with
more than 50,000 US and NATO troops. Their command structure is diffuse and
when it comes to guerrilla tactics -- suicide attacks, roadside bombs,
kidnapping and assassination -- the militants have become frighteningly
�Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan,� said
a report issued 30 January by the Atlantic Council of the United States,
chaired by retired General James Jones, who until 2006 served as the supreme
allied commander of NATO in Afghanistan. �It remains a failing state. It could
become a failed state,� warned the report, which called for �urgent action� to
overhaul NATO strategy in coming weeks before an anticipated new offensive by
Taliban insurgents in the spring.
The Afghanistan Study Group, created by the Center for the
Study of the Presidency, which was also involved with the Iraq Study Group,
concluded, �the United States and the international community have tried to win
the struggle in Afghanistan with too few military forces and insufficient
economic aid,� and lack a clear strategy to �fill the power vacuum outside
Kabul and counter the combined challenges of reconstituted Taliban and Al-Qaeda
forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a runaway opium economy, and the stark
poverty faced by most Afghans.�
Whoa. Did it ever occur to these think-tankers that just
maybe they can never �win�? That the US invaded Afghanistan illegally, and the
Taliban, still the legitimate government there, will continue to battle on, to
wait it out, no matter how many bombs and dollars the US et al throw at it?
As if these reports aren�t enough for the frazzled
president, on 15 January rebels attacked Kabul�s posh five-star Serena Hotel,
targeting the ex-pat elite in the most fortified site in the capital, killing
seven guests and staff. This was no straightforward suicide bombing, but an
armed attack which allowed the gunmen to carry out a shooting spree before they
were stopped, the one phenomenon security agencies have no defence against.
Kabul, relatively incident-free in the first two years after the removal of the
Taliban, now sees regular rocket attacks, shootings, kidnappings, explosions
and suicide bombings.
A few weeks after Serena, Kabul witnessed dozens of armed
police laying siege to the house of Uzbek warlord and Chief of Staff to the
Afghan commander-in-chief General Abdul-Rashid Dostum, in the heart of the
diplomatic district, after 50 of his followers abducted political rival Akbar
Bai and several others, beating them to a pulp. �This is a conspiracy by the
government against General Dostum,� loyalist Mohamed Alim Sayee said. �If any
harm occurs to Dostum, seven to eight provinces will turn against the
government.� Watch out, Mr Karzai.
Major cracks are appearing every day, and not only in the
statues of the Bamyan Buddha, but in impregnable fortress-NATO, the latest
triggered by America�s closest ally Canada. It set off the current crisis by threatening
to withdraw all its troops this year unless other NATO members could be conned
into deploying troops in the dangerous southern province of Kandahar, where in
a brief two years, Canada lost 80 of its 2,500 troops, its highest casualty
rate since native tribes were mowed down in the 19th century by the British
army. This tantrum forced an emergency NATO meeting -- in Vilnius -- 7-8
February, to be followed by a summit in -- yes -- Romania in April. US generals
meeting deep in Eastern Europe pushing Western Europeans to cough up troops for
Central Asia. Most interesting.
Setting the stage the day before his junket to an obscure
country which just happens to border Russia, US Secretary of Defense Robert
Gates told the House Armed Services Committee that the alliance could split
into countries that were �willing to fight and die to protect people�s security
and those who were not. You can�t have some allies whose sons and daughters die
in combat and other allies who are shielded from that kind of a sacrifice.�
Did this blackmail work? Did Germany, Britain, Poland et al
cough up? In the UK, 62 percent want all 7,800 troops withdrawn within a year.
Similar polling results keep German Chancellor Angela Merkel from signing on
the dotted line. She said it would send around 200 combat soldiers to north
Afghanistan but no way would she bail out the Canadians. In Paris, a spokesman
for President Nicolas Sarkozy did not confirm reports that 700 paratroopers
could go to the south. The Polish chief of the defence staff said the
government is considering increasing their forces, despite being elected only
last October expressly on a policy of bringing its troops home from Iraq and,
presumably, Afghanistan. Only the US itself made any real effort to mollify the
Canadians, agreeing to deploy 3,200 US Marines temporarily, but warning that
the others must come through before the end of the year. Stay tuned.
At the love-in in Lithuania, Gates softened his undiplomatic
language somewhat: �I don�t think that there�s a crisis, that there�s a risk of
failure.� Which, in diplo-speak of course means there is a crisis, etc.
Gates also squelched early suggestions that the US would take over command of
combat operations in southern Afghanistan. �I don�t think that�s realistic any
time soon,� Gates said. Why bother? At present, an American four-star general
is in overall command of the NATO mission. Americans are in command of the
regional mission in eastern Afghanistan, while a Canadian is in command of the
�I worry that for many Europeans the missions in Iraq and
Afghanistan are confused,� Gates said as he flew to Munich to deliver a speech
at an international security conference 10 February. �Many of them, I think,
have a problem with our involvement in Iraq and project that to Afghanistan and
do not understand the very different -- for them -- the very different kind of
threat.� But wait! The US coordinator on Iraq, David Satterfield, suggested
only last month that Iraq would turn out to be America�s �good war," while
Afghanistan was going �bad." Can�t these guys get their stories straight?
Which is it, Mr Gates? Is good bad? Or is bad good? Just maybe bad is bad? Is
that too hard to believe?
The original aims of the US-led invasion were the capture of
Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, and Osama bin Laden, along with the
destruction of Al-Qaeda. None of those aims has been achieved. Instead, the two
leaders remain free, while Al-Qaeda has spread from its Afghan base into
Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere, and Afghanistan has become the heroin capital of
the world. For the majority of Afghans, occupation has meant the exchange of
obscurantist theocrats for brutal and corrupt warlords, rampant torture and
insecurity, depleted uranium bombing and the 6.6 million deaths -- all thanks
to Western altruism. Even the early limited gains for women and girls in some
urban areas are now being reversed, offset by an explosion of rape and violence
What we see is a classic case of blowback. With the decision
to expand NATO and use it as its proxy in illegal invasions after the collapse
of the Soviet Union -- notably Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan and again Iraq --
instead of dissolving it, the West is merely reaping its whirlwind in the form
of unending war and now internal squabbles.
�Events in Afghanistan have become a motor for the
transformation of the alliance,� said a senior NATO diplomat. In fact, the
collapse of Afghanistan is just another domino in a long line since the
�victory over Communism." �Fail� a state (remember Bill Clinton�s �grow
the economy�?) and what do you get? The resurgence of Pashtun nationalism in
southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, just like in the soon-to-be
republics of Kosovo and Kurdistan. Long live independent Pashtunistan!
Will NATO bombs soon be raining down on Islamabad, demanding
that Pakistan allow the heroic, suffering Pashtuns to unite with their brothers
in a just liberation struggle? God knows there are Pashtun guerrilla groups
who, like their Kosovan and Kurd soulmates, would eagerly accept US/NATO arms
and protection. After all, the US once generously equipped them with Stinger
missiles in their struggle to �liberate� Afghanistan.
Afghanistan in a nutshell
Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly. You can reach him at www.geocities.com/walberg2002.
of the �international community� put immediate gains and Western interests
before sustainable goals. In security, US Operation Enduring Freedom
focused solely on routing the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, while NATO forces were
confined largely to Kabul. Not until 2004 was security for the country
considered. Even now, security operations in the country are
compartmentalised into three distinct and uncoordinated areas, resulting
in confusion and controversy. The global �war against terror� is conducted
by US-led Coalition Forces; the counter-insurgency war is waged by the
NATO-led International Security Assistance Force; the war against drugs is
led by the Afghan police.
lack of troops means heavy reliance on air power with its concomitant
�collateral damage," a euphemism for killing civilians.
of creating a strong national army and police force, occupiers now endorse
the rearming of communities through the �auxiliary police," a
euphemism for rearming the very warlords they spent five years trying to
with the Taliban follow the pendulum principle. All dissenters are lumped
with the Taliban and policy swings between making peace with the Taliban
to deporting those who dare talk to them, as the recent retirement camp
scandal and deportation of German diplomats in December 2007 reveal.
2004 constitution established a strong presidential system, stoking
tensions in a war-torn state with tribal divisions, putting too much
formal power in the hands of the winner, who has heavy responsibilities
but little real authority, creating a breeding ground of nepotism and
corruption. Karzai relies heavily on his Northern Alliance Tajik and Uzbek
comrades, who make up 27 and 10 percent of the population respectively,
though Karzai is nominally Pashtun, the largest ethnic group. A more
inclusive parliamentary system of government, with a ceremonial president
or king and stronger local and regional governments, might help, though
this would most likely just accelerate the present collapse of all central
government and the return of warlord anarchy. At present, Karzai really
only answers to a fractious cluster of foreign donors.
there is the one flourishing industry -- opium and marijuana production.
Opium production was up 34 percent last year, 10 percent of proceeds being
tithed by the Taliban. Worse yet, it is not at all clear whether this is
good or bad from a Western point of view, despite loud protestations about
the evils of drugs. It is well documented that many governments in the
region, not to mention the CIA, are deeply involved in both sides of the so-called
war on drugs. The Taliban actually wiped out all drug production in
2000. Some critics of US foreign policy argue that the 2001 invasion was
actually prompted by a distaste for this successful campaign, which led to
a crisis in the European drug black-market.
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