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Tags: nato | afghanistan | past | mistakes

Ghosts of Mistakes Past Continue to Haunt Afghanistan

Ghosts of Mistakes Past Continue to Haunt Afghanistan

By    |   Saturday, 16 July 2016 12:00 PM

Afghanistan might be poor. It might be backward. But it has a noticeable government.  It demonstrated its litheness during the NATO conference on July 8 and 9, 2016, in Warsaw.

President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah sat opposite NATO’s leaders and got exactly what they wanted: $5 billion to pay for their security forces for one year. For an administration that is known to be one of the two most corrupt on the planet, it isn’t a bad performance. 

So why does NATO finance this country’s military and police expenses without publicly demanding oversight conditions, when they know that a good portion of the money will be stolen?

The answer to this question is buried under several serious mistakes and a neo-colonial mindset on the part of donors.

The abandonment of war-shattered Afghanistan after the fall of the communist regime in Kabul in 1992 was the first error and the first sign of the West’s neo-colonial attitude toward the Afghan people.

True, the Afghans had fought and bled for their own freedom. However, they also had battled the last proxy war between the Free World and the Communist camp. 

This final proxy war was spectacularly successful. On December 25, 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. On December 25, 1991, the Soviet flag was lowered over the Kremlin never to be raised again.

The 1990s was a good decade for the Free World. The dark empire had disintegrated. Its ugly philosophy was discredited. At last, the United States and its allies could breathe easily — at least for awhile.

In their gusto to have won the Cold War, the West forgot the Afghan people’s sacrifice. As already mentioned, the Afghans had above all waged war for their own freedom. But their fight had also helped bring down the Free World’s deadly enemy.

After siding for a decade with the Afghan people in their fight against the mighty Soviet Union, the West abandoned that utterly broken country.

The years 1992 to 1996, brought Afghanistan the nightmare of civil war, continued devastation, plunder, murder, and rape.

In the 1990s, UNICAL, a Texas-based oil conglomerate, had ideas to tap the gas and oilfields of the newly independent Central Asian Republics, especially gas-rich Turkmenistan. UNICAL’s plan called for constructing a gas and oil pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the port city of Gwadar on the southwestern coast of Pakistani Baluchistan.

Prodded by UNICAL to bring an end to the raging civil war in Afghanistan, the Clinton administration, disinclined to get involved in the mess Afghanistan was, subcontracted the task to Pakistan.  Islamabad brought into the scheme Saudi Arabia whose financial ability was needed.

Assured of Saudi funding, Pakistan began training and organizing the hundreds of thousands of young Afghans, most of whom had lived all their lives in the refugee camps scattered over northern Pakistan. Their education consisted mainly of the Wahabi concept of Islam that was taught in Saudi-operated madrassas.     

Thus, in 1996, the Taliban came into being. The young fighters and future leaders of Afghanistan walked into war-torn Afghanistan with a white flag and the promise of peace and security. Except for some parts in the north of the country, the Taliban were received with open arms by the people who, above all, wished security and peace.

The tragedy of 9/11 reawakened America’s interest in Afghanistan. Feelings of anger and revenge drove America to unleash war upon that country.

While CIA operatives entered Afghanistan with bags full of 100-dollar bills to bribe former resistance commanders, and B2s bombed Taliban positions in the Shomali plains, in Bonn, Germany, a group of Afghans and diplomats from the U.S., UN, and other interested nations had assembled to form the post-Taliban government.

The second error — and an elemental one at that — was the Bonn Agreement.
Neo-conservative Zalmay Khalilzad and his friend Afghan-American Qayoum Karzai used the Bonn process to further their own interests. They had handpicked most attendants, enabling them to exercise a decisive degree of control over the proceeding. 

Knowing most of the attendants, they understood how to treat them. Some, they would threaten with obscurity. Others, they would motivate with promises of American largesse. And they made sure that Qayoum Karzai’s younger brother, Hamid Karzai got the top job in the Afghan government.

Instead of putting a leadership team in place with integrity and competence of government to serve the people, the Bonn process returned Afghanistan into the hands of the pre-Taliban leaders and their violence-prone and corruption-ridden ways of governance.

With what Zalmay Khalilzad, and the Karzai brothers constructed in Bonn, they preprogrammed the dissemination of the Afghan people’s hopes and expectations. 

In a study entitled “Crime and War in Afghanistan,” published by Oxford University Press in December 2012, the Center for Crime and Justice of the Australian National University concludes: “The Bonn agreement in 2001 did not usher in an effective ‘constitutional moment’ because it enabled a personalized division of spoils rather than an institutionalized division of power.”The report also observes that the Bonn agreement engendered “a culture of impunity.”       

The third mistake — no less a blunder than the first and second — was that the U.S. and its allies missed the critical moment to stop the war. They kept on fighting beyond it and are now faced with escalating cycles of violence, financial exhaustion, and public weariness of this war.

Military theoretician Carl von Clausewitz has observed that the failure in a war is the failure of policy. The rationale of the war and the policy that caused it were unworkable and unsuitable. The U.S. and its allies might want to look again into what they want to achieve in Afghanistan. They might wish deliberate anew about their goal and how better to proceed to reach it.     

Late in the game, the allies realized it would be much cheaper to build up an Afghan army and let the Afghans continue the fight. To maintain a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan for a year costs approximately $1 million. The yearly per capita cost of the Afghan security forces amounts to approximately $ 15, 000.00.   

The cost savings are surely palpable, but it is inconceivable that the alliance could not have known that, where a highly- trained and heavily-armed international force failed to destroy the enemy, a barely- trained, lightly-armed, and mainly-illiterate force could do the job. 

As the Bonn Agreement, this NATO plan did not take the Afghan people’s interest into account. It did not plan to leave behind a secure political system, a functioning economy, and a self-sustaining financial sector. The idea was to save money and avoid a sudden collapse of the Afghan government, something that would have exposed the alliance’s weakness.

Consequently, large sums of money were poured into the country to build the Afghan army and police force. Some of it, if not most of it, disappeared in the pockets of corrupt government elites. Donors’ verbal and behind-the-scene complaints had the effect that, at each donor conference, former President Karzai promised to fight corruption and illegalities of any kind. In reality, he never did anything at all. In fact, President Karzai was part and parcel of the corruption that thrived in Afghanistan during his 13-year reign.

In the last two years of the so-called unity-government, nothing has changed. Corruption and illegalities at all levels of government continue. The culture of impunity is alive and well.

For the sake of the Afghan people, for whom the funds are being allocated, and in the interest of the donors’ citizens, whose money is being spent, I was hoping that NATO at its Warsaw conference would publicly show its displeasure with the endless plunder that has been taking place in Afghanistan.

This did not happen. NATO members have once again failed the Afghan people   and their own.   

The donors’ policy of benign neglect looks very much like the manifestation of a neo-colonial attitude at play. This careless continuation of disbursing large sums to an unreliable regime can no longer be accepted as polite political behavior towards a sovereign state. It is rather the action of a group of rich neo-colonial powers dealing in classic-colonial fashion with corrupt Third World elites.

Nasir Shansab has maintained homes, business interests and dual citizenship in both the United States and Afghanistan for the past three decades. To read more of his work, CLICK HERE NOW.

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Afghanistan might be poor. It might be backward. But it has a noticeable government. It demonstrated its litheness during the NATO conference on July 8 and 9, 2016, in Warsaw.
nato, afghanistan, past, mistakes
Saturday, 16 July 2016 12:00 PM
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