The Guardian October 1, 2003


Afghanistan two years after "liberation"

On October 7, 2001, the US began bombing Afghanistan in response to the 
September 11 terrorist attacks. Afghanistan was the country headed by a 
reactionary government called the Taliban, which also was allegedly giving 
aid and comfort to terrorist Al Qaida boss Osama bin Laden. The bombing of 
Afghanistan and routing of the Taliban from power was supposed to bring 
liberation to a terribly impoverished people and war-torn country. US 
occupation and military operations continue two years later.

Promises made by both President George W Bush and British Prime Minister 
Tony Blair that Afghanistan will not be forgotten and human rights, 
economic vitality and other necessities of a democratic society will be 
restored, have not been fulfilled.

Reports paint a dismal picture of life for people in Afghanistan.

In a devastating account called, What Good Friends Left Behind, 
journalist and film maker John Pilger wrote about Afghanistan  two years 
later, in the September 20 British Guardian.

Pilger, who travelled to Afghanistan recently, describes the daily horrors: 
"It was my first visit. In a lifetime of making my way through places of 
upheaval, I had not seen anything like it. Kabul is a glimpse of Dresden 
post-1945, with contours of rubble rather than streets, where people live 
in collapsed buildings, like earthquake victims waiting for rescue.

"They have no light and heat; their apocalyptic fires burn through the 
night. Hardly a wall stands that does not bear the pock-marks of almost 
every calibre of weapon. Cars lie upended at roundabouts. Power poles built 
for a modern fleet of trolley buses are twisted like paperclips. The buses 
are stacked on top of each other, reminiscent of the pyramids of machines 
erected by the Khmer Rouge to mark Year Zero."

Pilger quotes earlier Guardian reports that up to 8000 Afghans have 
been killed by US bombs and as many as 20,000 more have died "as an 
indirect consequence of Bush's invasion, including those who fled their 
homes and were denied emergency relief in the middle of a drought."

Four US soldiers have been killed in the last two weeks. In all, 35 US 
soldiers have been killed in action in Afghanistan, and 162 wounded.

On September 7 Bush requested $11 billion more for military operations in 
Afghanistan and a mere US$800 million for reconstruction, half of which is 
for Afghan military and police. More than US$10 billion has already been 
spent on Afghanistan since October 7, 2001, according to Pilger.

"More than 80 percent of this has paid for bombing the country and paying 
the warlords, the former mujaheddin who called themselves the `Northern 
Alliance'", Pilger wrote.

No one knows what more misery this US$11.8 billion more will buy. Pilger 
describes another daily horror  land mines. "A hundred yards away, men in 
blue move stiffly in single file: mine-clearers. Mines are like litter 
here, killing and maiming, it is calculated, every hour of every day.

"Opposite what was Kabul's main cinema and is today an art deco shell, 
there is a busy roundabout with posters warning that unexploded cluster 
bombs `yellow and from USA' are in the vicinity. Children play here, 
chasing each other into the shadows. They are watched by a teenage boy with 
a stump and part of his face missing. In the countryside, people still 
confuse the cluster canisters with the yellow relief packages that were 
dropped by American planes almost two years ago, during the war, after Bush 
had prevented international relief convoys crossing from Pakistan."

The post-Taliban government is non-existent. US-approved, Afghan President 
Hamid Karzai cannot go anywhere without his US Special Forces bodyguards. 
The country is run by "Mafiosi" or organised crime bosses, often termed 
warlords, placed in power by the US.

They rule "by fear, extortion and monopolising the opium poppy trade that 
supplies Britain with 90 percent of its street heroin", Pilger said.

Pilger continues, "In a series of extraordinary reports, the latest 
published in July, Human Rights Watch has documented atrocities `committed 
by gunmen and warlords who were propelled into power by the United States 
and its coalition partners after the Taliban fell in 2001' and who have 
`essentially hijacked the country.'

"The report describes army and police troops controlled by the warlords 
kidnapping villagers with impunity and holding them for ransom in 
unofficial prisons; the widespread rape of women, girls and boys; routine 
extortion, robbery and arbitrary murder.

"Girls' schools are burned down. `Because the soldiers are targeting women 
and girls', the report says, `many are staying indoors, making it 
impossible for them to attend school [or] go to work.'"

All of which leads to the question: If Iraq is a quagmire, what is 
Afghanistan?

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To read Pilger's full story go to http://www.guardian.co.uk. People's Weekly World

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