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No Subject
by Saima Alvi
25 August 2002 09:12 UTC
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Afghanistan is on the Brink of Another Disaster 
by Robert Fisk
UK Independent 
August 14, 2002 

The garden was overgrown, the roses scrawny after a
day of Kandahar heat, the dust in our eyes, noses,
mouth, fingernails. But the message was
straightforward. "This is a secret war," the Special
Forces man told me. "And this is a dirty war. You
don't know what is happening." And of course, we are
not supposed to know. In a "war against terror",
journalists are supposed to keep silent and rely on
the good guys to sort out the bad guys without
worrying too much about human rights.

How many human rights did the mass killers of 11
September allow their victims? You are either with us
or against us. Whose side are you on? But the man in
the garden was worried. He was not an American. He was
one of the "coalition allies", as the Americans like
to call the patsies who have trotted after them into
the Afghan midden. "The Americans don't know what to
do here now," he went on. "Their morale in Afghanistan
is going downhill  though there's no problem with the
generals running things in Tampa. They're still
gung-ho. But here the soldiers know things haven't
gone right, that things aren't working. Even their
interrogations went wrong". Brutally so, it seems.

In the early weeks of this year, the Americans raided
two Afghan villages, killed 10 policemen belonging to
the US-supported government of Hamid Karzai and
started mistreating the survivors. American reporters
 in a rare show of mouse-like courage amid the
self-censorship of their usual reporting  quoted the
prisoners as saying they had been beaten by US troops.
According to Western officials in Kandahar, the US
troops "gave the prisoners a thrashing".

Things have since changed. The American forces in
Afghanistan, it seems, now leave the beatings to their
Afghan allies, especially members of the so-called
Afghan Special Forces, a Washington-supported group of
thugs who are based in the former Khad secret police
torture centre in Kabul. "It's the Afghan Special
Forces who beat the Pashtun prisoners for information
now  not the Americans," the Western military man
told me. "But the CIA are there during the beatings,
so the Americans are culpable, they let it happen."

This is just how the Americans began in Vietnam. They
went in squeaky clean with advisers, there were some
incidents of "termination with extreme prejudice",
after which it was the Vietnamese intelligence boys
who did the torture. The same with the Russians. When
their soldiers poured across the border in 1979, they
quickly left it to their Afghan allies in the Parcham
and Khad secret police to carry out the "serious"
interrogations. And if this is what the Americans are
now up to in Afghanistan, what is happening to their
prisoners at Guantanamo? Or, for that matter, at
Bagram, the airbase north of Kabul to which all
prisoners in Kandahar are now sent for investigation
if local interrogators believe their captives have
more to say.

Of course, it's possible to take a step back from this
dark and sinister corner of America's Afghan
adventure. In the aftermath of the Taliban's defeat
humanitarian workers have achieved some little
miracles. Unicef reports 486 female teachers at work
in the five south-western provinces of the country
with 16,674 girls now at school. Only in Uruzgan,
where the Taliban were strongest, has not a single
female teacher been employed. UN officials can boast
that in these same, poverty-belt provinces, polio has
now been almost eradicated.

The UN was fighting polio before the Taliban
collapsed, and the drugs whose production the Taliban
banned are now back on the market. The poppy fields
are growing in Helmand province again, and in Uruzgan
local warlords are trying to avoid government control
in order to cultivate their own new poppy production
centres. In Kabul, where two government ministers have
been murdered in seven months, President Karzai is now
protected  at his own request  by American
bodyguards. And you don't have to be a political
analyst to know what kind of message this sends to

Kabul is alive with the kind of rumours that can never
be substantiated but that stick in the mind, just as
the dust of Kandahar stays in the throat and on the
lips of all who go there. "The British forces were
right to leave," a British humanitarian worker
announced over dinner in Kabul one night. "They
realised that the Americans had no real interest in
returning this country to law and order. They knew
that the Americans were going to fail. So they got out
as soon as they could. The Americans say they want
peace and stability. So why don't they let Isaf (the
international force in Kabul) move into the other big
cities of Afghanistan? Why do they let their friendly
warlords persecute the rest of the country?"

Far more disturbing are persistent reports from
northern Afghanistan of the massacre of thousands of
Pashtuns after the slaughter at General Dostum's
Qal-i-Jangi fort last November These mass murders,
according to a humanitarian worker I have known for
two decades  he played a brave role in preventing
killings in Lebanon in 1982  went on into December
with the full knowledge of the Americans. But the US
did nothing about it, any more than they did about the
600 Pakistani prisoners at Shirbagan, some of whom are
still dying of starvation and ill-treatment at the
hands of their Northern Alliance captors.

"There are mass graves all across the north, and the
Americans, who know about this, have said nothing," my
old friend said. "The British intelligence people knew
this, too. And the British have said nothing."

There are those in Kabul who suspect that the
Americans are now in Afghanistan for secondary
reasons: to operate in and out of Pakistan, rather
than in Afghanistan itself. "They've had plenty of
muck-ups in Afghanistan and they could not base
thousands of their soldiers in Pakistan," a Western
officer in Kabul said. "They're safer here, and now
they can go in and out of Pakistan and keep the
pressure on Musharraf from here  and on the Iranians

Last week, The Independent revealed that FBI officers
have been seizing Arabs from their homes in Pakistan
and bringing them across the border to Afghanistan for
interrogation at Bagram.

It was the Special Forces man in the south who saw
things a little more globally. "Perhaps the Americans
can start withdrawing if there's another war  if they
go to war in Iraq. But the US can't handle two wars at
the same time. They would be overstretched." So to end
America's "war against terror" in Afghanistan  a war
that has left the drug-dealers of the Northern
Alliance in disproportionate control of the Afghan
government, many al-Qa'ida men on the loose and
absolutely no peace in the country  we have to have
another war in Iraq.

As if the Israeli-Palestine conflict is not enough.
But when Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of State,
can identify only a "so-called" Israeli-occupied
territory on the West Bank  the occupation troops
there presumably being mistaken by the Pentagon as
Swiss or Burmese soldiers  there's not much point in
taking a reality check in Washington.

The truth is that Afghanistan is on the brink of
another disaster. Pakistan is now slipping into the
very anarchy of which its opposition warned. And the
Palestinian-Israeli war is now out of control. So we
really need a war in Iraq, don't we? 

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