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Hot Spot! Afghanistan
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Supplement to Sept. 11 Links
- Left Behind: An interview with RAWA's Sahar Saba
Kristie Reilly (March 29, 2002) In These Times
It is the same thing with the Northern Alliance. The Northern Alliance is just another form of Taliban. They’re just the same. Someone said that the only difference may be in the size of their beards. But the mentality is the same. The power they have is just with the guns they have. And the guns are coming from where? Everyone knows. They are the guns of the United States, Iran, Russia, France and many other countries.
- The strange battle of Shah-i-Kot
Brendan O'Neill (March 22, 2002) Spiked Online
As military commanders on the ground claimed to be 'on top' of the battle, a senior Air Force commander in Washington said, 'The way we lost those seven guys was a repeat of Somalia' (18) - conjuring up images of 1993's disastrous Battle of Mogadishu when 18 soldiers were killed, otherwise known in US military circles as 'our other Vietnam' (19).
- For the Sins of the Taliban
Peter Bouckaert and Saman Zia-Zarifi (March 20, 2002) Human Rights Watch
For ethnic Pashtuns in northern Afghanistan, it is payback time. They are paying for the sins of the Taliban, simply because most of the Taliban leadership were also ethnic Pashtuns. In the past month, Human Rights Watch has visited dozens of Pashtun communities in northern Afghanistan, personally documenting the devastation. We visited village after village that had been stripped bare by ethnic militias who had sometimes even taken the window frames. We found case after case of beatings, looting, murders, extortion and sexual violence against Pashtun communities.
- The new empire loyalists
Tariq Ali (March 16, 2002) The Guardian
At a time when much of the world is beginning to tire of being "emancipated" by the US, many liberals have been numbed into silence. One of the most attractive aspects of the US has always been the layers of dissent that have flourished beneath the surface. The generals in the Pentagon suffered a far greater blow than September 11 in the 1970s, when tens of thousands of serving and former GIs demonstrated in front of it in their uniforms and medals and declared their hope that the Vietnamese would win. The new empire loyalists, currently helping to snuff out this tradition, are creating the conditions for more blowbacks.
- Why Congress Has to Ask Questions
US Sen. Robert C. Byrd (March 12, 2002)
The loss of American lives in Afghanistan requires that we question the president's wartime policies, no matter how uncomfortable the questioning may be. We owe that to the Americans who have died, and who will die, in the course of what may be a long and murky war.
- Women's Day Statement
RAWA (March 8, 2002)
As is evident, Mr Lakhdar Barahimi's indigenous advisors have unfortunately, in the matter of selecting members of the Preparatory Committee for the Convocation of the Loya Jirga, advised him in a direction contrary to the aspirations of the Afghan people. Mr Barahimi needs to know that should the stench of fundamentalist composition rise from the Loya Jirga -as it does from the Transitional Administration-the UN and the UN only will be held responsible for the renewed Afghan tragedy, as no one will ascribe the blame to his indigenous advisers. Selection of players for any role or function in any institution solely on the basis of their religious or ethnic affiliation is highly inadequate and totally misguided. The crucial issue needs to be freedom from fundamentalist contamination for representatives of each and every religious or ethnic denomination. Otherwise, it is highly likely that the composition of the Loya Jirga will comprise representatives from all tribal, ethnic ! and religious groups in Afghanistan, but most or all of them will be carriers of the fundamentalist contagion. The outcome is in need of no elaboration.
- Thoughts about America
Edward Said (March 2, 2002) Al-Ahram
From my point of view, the most shocking thing of all is that with few exceptions most prominent intellectuals and commentators in this country have tolerated the Bush programme, tolerated and in some flagrant cases, tried to go beyond it, toward more self- righteous sophistry, more uncritical self-flattery, more specious argument. What they will not accept is that the world we live in, the historical world of nations and peoples, is moved and can be understood by politics, not by huge general absolutes like good and evil, with America always on the side of good, its enemies on the side of evil. When Thomas Friedman tiresomely sermonises to Arabs that they have to be more self-critical, missing in anything he says is the slightest tone of self- criticism. Somehow, he thinks, the atrocities of 11 September entitle him to preach at others, as if only the US had suffered such terrible losses, and as if lives lost elsewhere in the world were not worth lamenting quite as much or drawing as large moral conclusions from.
- Media Indifference to Afghan Crisis
David Edwards (Feb. 22, 2002) The Ecologist
A careful reader of the press might discover that Afghan casualties of the bombing now exceed the loss of life on 11 September. But this 'collateral damage' represents a small fraction of the total horror inflicted on Afghanistan. On 16 September, the press reported that the US government had demanded that Pakistan stop the truck convoys of food on which much of the already starving Afghan population depended. In late September, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation warned that more than 7 million people were facing a crisis that could lead to widespread starvation if military action were initiated, with a likely 'humanitarian catastrophe' unless aid were immediately resumed and the threat of military action terminated. Dominic Nutt of Christian Aid warned: 'It's as if a mass grave has been dug behind millions of people. We can drag them back from it or push them in. We could be looking at millions of deaths.'(1)
- peaceful tomorrows
"Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows"–Martin Luther King, Jr.
"We believe that the American people have been denied a dialogue on
appropriate responses to the events of September 11," said David Potorti, East Coast Co-Director of Peaceful Tomorrows, who lost his brother at the World Trade Center. "Our single-minded rush to war has been made without thoughtful consideration of long-term consequences for our safety, security, and freedom. We will use our voices to promote a discussion about better solutions, ones based on justice, not vengeance."
Peaceful Tomorrows is an advocacy organization founded by family members of September Eleventh victims. Its mission is to seek effective nonviolent responses to terrorism, and identify a commonality with all people similarly affected by violence throughout the world. By conscientiously exploring peaceful options in our search for justice, we choose to spare additional innocent families the suffering that we have already experienced—as well as to break the endless cycle of violence and retaliation engendered by war.
- Reflections on a war of ghosts
Pankaj Mishra (February 11, 2002) New Statesman
Irresistible power of the kind wielded at present by America seems to sweep the world clean of its enemies. But it deals not with inert matter - which vanquished countries come to resemble from afar - but with human beings possessed of will and intelligence, who can also acquire, in time and with effort, at least some of the technical secrets of power. Hence the inescapable paradox of such power, demonstrated in the past by empires more self-aware than America: that as they grow more oppressive, both internally and externally, in the hope of making the world safe for themselves, they succeed in making it a more dangerous place for everyone.
- The Great Game
Uri Avnery (Feb. 9, 2002)
If one looks at the map of the big American bases created for the war, one is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the route of the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean....
And so a new idea came up in Washington: Why lay a long pipeline around Iran (through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan) if one can lay a much shorter pipeline through Iran itself? One has only to topple the Ayatullah regime and install a new pro-American government. In the past, that seemed impossible. Now, after the Afghani episode, it looks eminently practicable. One has only to prepare American public opinion and to acquire the support of the congress for an attack on Iran.
- Cheney Made Millions Off Oil Deals with Hussein
Martin A. Lee (November 13, 2000) San Francisco Bay Guardian
According to the Financial Times of London, between September 1988 and last winter, Cheney, as CEO of Halliburton, oversaw $23.8 million of business contracts for the sale of oil-industry equipment and services to Iraq through two of its subsidiaries, Dresser Rand and Ingersoll-Dresser Pump, which helped rebuild Iraq's war-damaged petroleum-production infrastructure. The combined value of these contracts exceeded those of any other U.S. company doing business with Baghdad.
- US Campaign Poses Threat to Central Asia
Chinara Jakypova in Bishkek, Vladimir Davlatov in Dushanbe (RCA No.103, 8-Feb-02) Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
But by lending support to authoritarian political regimes [in Uzbekistan & Tajikistan], the US-led anti-terrorist coalition is weakening civil society across Central Asia....
Nurbulat Masanov believes there are parallels with US policy in the Middle East, where Washington has lent strong support to undemocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. He says that in Central Asia a direct correlation can be drawn between increased Western influence and growing pressure on opposition politicians and the independent media.
- The Afghanistan Command: If Oil, Then US There to Stay,
Greg Moses (Nov. 26, 2001) NVUSA Sept. 11 Collection, Page H
Soon after the horrific destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, the US administration began aggressive pursuit of a goal to institute an internationally recognized government in Afghanistan. As the above timeline of developing interests shows, the US for several years had been organizing the will and resources for such a campaign, consistent with a strategy aimed at energy development and geo-political influence in the Central Asian sphere. While the official text of US military action in Afghanistan may be articulated as a discourse of war against terrorism, there are good reasons to believe that a pre-text may be working to define terms of engagement that will secure US interests in Central Asian oil. The oil motive may be one reason why the US administration quickly defined the Sept. 11 provocation as "war" rather than "crime against humanity" and then pursued a military strategy directed more toward the re-conquest of Afghanistan than incisive strikes against alleged co-conspirators. The model of an oil framework also suggests that US attacks will be followed by attempts to secure permanent bases in the region in support of long-lasting petro-political policies.
- Strategies for Peace-Building in Afghanistan: Lessons from the Past
Astri Suhrke, Arne Strand, & Kristian Berg Harpviken (Jan. 16, 2002) Chr. Michelsen Institute
"As the international community prepares to assist Afghanistan to recover from two decades of war and natural disasters, a report prepared at the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Bergen, Norway, for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs finds that the most promising strategy is to strengthen national institutions. . . The report Peace-building Strategies for Afghanistan (Part I) has been prepared by Astri Suhrke and Arne Strand at the Chr. Michelsen Institute, and Kristian Berg Harpviken at the University of Oslo."
Fourteen Conclusions (pp. 50-52):
Afghanistan’s future is deeply uncertain. The fragility of the peace process must be recognised at the outset. By reviewing past experiences of international involvement in the country, this report has sought to identify approaches to assist peace-building in the future.
Three fundamental strategies appear to be most appropriate at the present time.
Emphasise National Structures and National Solutions
1. The viability of a peace-building process depends ultimately on the establishment of a legitimate Afghan state that is responsive to the demands of the population and that is gradually able to resist threats from regional military groups within the country as well as pressure from international actors.
2. The Afghan central state has traditionally been weak vis-à-vis local forces. At present, this is even more so, given the growth of powerful regionally based groups. It may seem tempting to recognise this fact by supporting a heavily decentralised state and channelling support to regional leaders. Arguments are being advanced in favour of establishing a federal structure. This approach, however, would strengthen local- regional groups that
are based on military power rather than traditional social ties or other forms of legitimacy. Essentially, these are warlord structures that originated in the military conflicts of the past two decades and have sustained themselves through a political economy of war based on drug production, smuggling, plunder and foreign aid. Some have appalling human rights records.
3. To reduce the militarisation of politics in the transitional structure, and to break the country's regional economies of war, the international community should support national institutions at the national, provincial and district level, as well as local- level authorities such as the shura. Central institutions of the modern state (a national army, police, educational system, etc) were first introduced in the 1920s and progressively strengthened by the modernising monarchs of the 1960s and 70s. While severely weakened during the past two decades of war, a skeletal structure remains. The idea of a central state does not have to be invented.
4. Sensitivity is required when it comes to international expectations regarding Western, secular concepts of human rights and democratic development. These areas cover traditionally contentious questions that are likely to remain so in the foreseeable future.
5. To make reconstruction and peace-building an Afghan process requires mobilising Afghan human resources and supporting local capacity- and institution-building on a large scale. The international community has done little in this regard in the past. Most assistance has been in the form of relief, organised by an international aid community based in Pakistan. For the past two years, the rights-based approach of the UN-centred Strategic Framework and Principled Common Programming meant that there was little or no support for institution-building in Afghanistan, and minimal contact with the Afghan authorities. A principal challenge at present is to overcome this legacy and turn foreign aid into development co-operation.
6. The high visibility of the Afghan conflict has generated widespread international interest in the recovery phase. Massive funding is on the horizon. As a large number of aid agencies, NGOs and donor governments converge on Kabul, there is a real danger
that the weak transitional structures will be overwhelmed and marginalised in the decision- making processes. Constructive international sup port requires great care so as not to undermine the Afghan transitional government.
A Careful Start and Long-term Perspective
7. Bringing Afghan society, polity, and economy to some state of normalcy will clearly take time. The Bonn Agreement has a sensibly slow schedule for the transition process that respects Afghan traditions of time-consuming consultation. Institution- and capacity-building requires a long-term perspective as well.
8. The international community should resist the temptation to move in rapidly with large -scale funding and quick- fix solutions to demonstrate that "peace pays". Setting authoritative policy priorities requires serious inputs from the Afghan side. Most funding decisions to rebuild the state and economy will necessarily affect the distribution of political power by benefiting some groups and regions more than others. Until the political transition envisaged in the Bonn Agreement has solidified, the international
community should limits its investments to strategic support for that process and for meeting the more immediate recovery needs.
9. The need for relief operations will continue for many months to come. Recovery can focus on some urgent and relatively non-controversial sectors that have well-established programmes (e.g. demining and repatriation of refugees), where basic infrastructure is lacking (rebuilding administrative offices in Kabul, restoring water and power supplies in the cities), or where unique opportunities may present themselves (possibly in alternatives to poppy cultivation).
10. Injecting large funding into the early phase of a peace-building process may be an incentive to fight rather than a stimulus to peace. In civil wars that end in a stalemate, there is a danger that one or the other belligerent may resume fighting unless rapidly integrated into a system of rewards. Afghanistan is different. With a clear victory and defeat in this round, the potential for conflict lies rather in how to divide the spoils of peace. To discourage such fights, the aid community should make haste slowly.
A Supportive International Environment
11. For the past two decades, the Afghan conflict has been characterised by the mutually reinforcing effects of external and internal divisions. Divisions among the Afghans virtually invited competitive foreign interference. By supporting their respective Afghan factions with arms and money, these states fuelled the conflict and intensified the violence. To break the cycle of interlocking conflicts, peace-building in Afghanistan must be situated in a broader regional context. States in the area should be encouraged to participate in joint efforts and common institutions to support a peace-building agenda. An appropriate regional forum may be explored in this connection, perhaps building on the 6+2 group.
12. A more general lesson from the 1990s is that leadership from the UN Secretary-General's office may be a necessary but certainly not a sufficient condition for success. UN efforts to negotiate a peace agreement in Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992 received only token support from member states, particularly those that previously had been most involved in Afghanistan. Unless UN members actively support the Bonn Agreement with the understanding that peace and stability in Afghanistan is an important objective in itself, events may slip back into the pattern of the 1990s with well- intentioned but ineffectual UN leadership.
13. On the assistance side, it appears that the institutions developed in the late 1990s to coordinate aid policies in a common political and human rights perspective (Strategic Framework and Principled Common Programming) have outlived their usefulness. In part they have been overtaken by other structures and actors. Moreover, after two years of operation it became evident that the framework did not significantly help to set common aid priorities, and efforts to streamline policy encountered resistance within the aid community.
14. Numerous organisations and agencies are at present preparing to participate in the massive recovery and reconstruction activities being discussed for Afghanistan. Some authoritative coordination structures clearly are necessary, both on the international side and at the central administrative level in Afghanistan. In this connection, the Afghan Support Group, the Islamabad forum composed of donor governments, may usefully redefine its function in line with the literal meaning of its name, that is, primarily to assist
the Afghan government in dealing with numerous and powerful foreign actors. For Norway, which this year has taken over the chairmanship of the ASG, this would appropriately be in the "like- minded" tradition as well.