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AFGHAN POVERTY DEEPENS, FIGHTING GROWS (english)
by Workers World
Email: boston (nospam) workers.org
16 Sep 2003
VICTIM OF SHAM "WAR ON TERRORISM":
AFGHAN POVERTY DEEPENS, FIGHTING GROWS
By Leslie Feinberg
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Sept. 18, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper
VICTIM OF SHAM "WAR ON TERRORISM":
AFGHAN POVERTY DEEPENS, FIGHTING GROWS
By Leslie Feinberg
The Bush administration is using the second anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to squeeze billions of dollars more out of U.S. taxpayers, to pay for the Pentagon's ongoing military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The White House had used the Sept. 11 attacks as a justification to
launch a bloody, high-tech war against the impoverished people of
Afghanistan in the name of a supposed "war on terrorism."
On Sept. 6--the day before President George W. Bush delivered a
televised speech asking the U.S. Congress to authorize an additional $87 billion for the occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan--the Guardian of London published an article by Michael Meacher, a senior Labor Party member of Parliament and until June a member of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet. The piece was headlined, "This war on terrorism is bogus."
Referring to Afghanistan, the first country to be hit in the "endless
war," Meacher wrote: "Until July 2001 the U.S. government saw the
Taliban regime as a source of stability in Central Asia that would
enable the construction of hydrocarbon pipelines from the oil and gas
fields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean. But confronted with the Taliban's refusal to accept U.S. conditions, the U.S. representatives told them 'either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.'"
The day after Meacher's article appeared, a London Mail article recalled that "the BBC reported (Sept. 18, 2001) that Niaz Niak, a former Pakistan foreign secretary, was told by senior American officials at a meeting in mid-July 2001 that 'military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October.'"
All that was needed was an excuse to unleash the war--which the White
House got on Sept. 11. Congress immediately fell into line.
The might of the Pentagon military machine delivered the threatened
carpet of ordnance. But two years later, the military occupation and
recolonization of Afghanistan is not going well for the Pentagon brass, or for Wall Street.
Since the end of August--four months after U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared the war was "over"--U.S. Special Forces have been carrying out the biggest military offensives in Afghanistan since the original Pentagon onslaught in late 2001.
The military campaigns are concentrated in the southern and southeastern regions of the country, where resistance to occupation is strong and reportedly gaining momentum. The Pentagon has 15,000 troops deployed in the entire country--not enough to effectively act as a boot heel on the necks of some 25 million people who do not want to be colonial "possessions."
The weekend that Bush delivered his speech demanding more "aid,"
resistance fighters wounded two U.S. soldiers and killed six proxy
Within a two-week period at the end of August, about 150 people--
including Afghani troops and police--were killed in fighting in southern Afghanistan. Some 400 Taliban militia troops briefly captured one of the districts of Zabul province.
Taliban recruit Habibullah told journalists: "We've the strength, guts
and force to take even Kabul any time, but we know our limitations and
we wouldn't be able to sustain that control. We don't have the
technology to withstand B-52 air strikes. What we are trying to do is
inflict maximum damage to the U.S. troops and their allies so that they get fed up and leave our country."
MONEY EARMARKED FOR BULLETS, NOT BREAD
Mohammed Hasan, a villager in a remote valley near the Afghani border
with Pakistan, told reporters, "We supported the coalition because we
thought that they would change our life, but so far nothing has
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries on the planet. A progressive revolution in 1978 promised land reform and freedom for women, but was soon under attack by landlord armies financed and armed by the CIA. In December 1979, when the Soviet Union sent troops in to rescue the besieged revolutionary government, Washington called it a "Soviet invasion" and began openly spending billions of dollars on the war, hiring not only Afghanis but fundamentalists from other countries, including Osama bin Laden.
These reactionary forces overthrew the revolutionary government in 1996, only to themselves become targets of Washington five years later.
The U.S.-led bombardment of the country since then has further ravaged
the population and the countryside.
Most Afghanis have no access to health care. Rates of infant and
maternal mortality are among the highest in the world. Cholera, typhoid and other diseases are rampant. (The Economist, Aug. 16)
Today, in the provinces, people have little or no access to education or even to wells for drinking water. Few landlords allow girls to go to school or women to work. Women are still regarded as chattel to be
traded for debt or profit.
The bullet-scarred capital of Kabul, a city that can barely support
600,000 people, is now reportedly home to more than 3 million--most
living in desperate poverty in densely populated slums.
Yet while the United States officially forks over almost $1 billion a
month on continued military expenditures in Afghanistan, it spends less than $1 billion per year in aid.
On Sept. 6, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced in a major speech at George Washington University in the U.S. capital that his
administration would soon unveil an "accelerated" assistance package
which could perhaps double this to $1.8 billion a year. However, Afghani Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani said in June that his country needs $30 billion in aid and investment over the next five years to escape dire poverty.
The lion's share of U.S. aid to "rebuild" the country is not earmarked
for food or medicine. It's to create an Afghani army and police.
Both Rumsfeld and Powell stress the need to create a domestic repressive force to take over policing from U.S. and NATO occupation forces--and to take the casualties involved.
Rumsfeld visited Afghanistan on Sept. 7 to meet with Hamid Karzai--
Washington's hand-picked president of the country and a former
consultant for the U.S. oil company Unocal. Rumsfeld's trip was intended to strengthen Karzai before presidential elections next June. On Sept. 7 the French Press Agency explained that Washington is trying to keep Karzai from paying a political price for the dearth of aid coming from the United States.
The weak reach of the puppet Karzai government hardly stretches beyond
Kabul, the only part of the country patrolled by foreign forces. Karzai barely survived an assassination attempt in the southern city of Kandahar in September. Pentagon bodyguards saved his life. Keeping him alive is now the full-time job of pistol-packing mercenaries employed by the infamous U.S. private military contractor, DynCorp.
SQUEEZING PROFITS FROM MISERY
Much of the almost $1 billion a month being spent on U.S. military and
intelligence operations in Afghanistan goes as "humanitarian aid" to the military-industrial complex.
"A good chunk of the money being spent for the war goes into the pockets of companies like the Kellog, Brown & Root subsidiary of Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former company," noted the July 12 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The Aug. 11 Financial Times of London wrote: "Companies such as Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of oil service giant Halliburton, carry out a vast range of services that once were performed by military personnel. They have supported U.S. forces in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo during the 1990s and have had a huge role in the recent U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq."
This summer, for example, KBR received an open-ended $300 million
contract to build more cells for some 680 prisoners from 42 countries,
captured by the Pentagon in Afghanistan in late 2001. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 12) They are being caged without formal charges or trials at the Guantanamo naval base, which the U.S. illegally occupies in Cuba.
While Afghanistan is not like oil-rich Iraq, imperialist oil cartels are eager to use this strategically located country to exploit fossil-fuel reserves in central Asia.
Bush's appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as special envoy to Afghanistan
illuminates this greedy goal. Like Karzai, Khalilzad is a former Unocal consultant.
Khalilzad, whom some speculate will be named the next U.S. ambassador to Kabul, is positioned to play an important role in shaping the post-war Afghani administration, according to the April 8 Financial Times of London.
"Before coming to office, he was working to help Unocal secure a
pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan, cutting out Iran and
Russia. The project involved seeking the Clinton administration's
support for the Taliban regime, which Khalilzad backed before changing
Khalilzad worked closely with his former boss--Deputy Secretary of
Defense Paul Wolfowitz--in urging the United States to invade Iraq. (The Herald of April 13) Khalilzad is a founding member of the Project for the New American Century, whose September 2000 report stated, "The need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."
Since then, the May 12 New Statesman noted, "The U.S. has established
bases at the gateways to all the major sources of fossil fuels,
especially in central Asia."
Khalilzad wants to put up to 100 senior U.S. personnel into the core of Afghan government ministries. Washington is attempting a similar
accomplishment in Iraq. (Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 8)
Some in the U.S. establishment fear the move could backfire by
highlighting the colonial character of the occupation. One official
complained to the Aug. 26 French Press Agency that Khalilzad "wants to
build an empire. He wants to 'Bremerize' the operation"--a reference to the role of the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer.
The article reported that "debate over the shape of the U.S. effort to
rebuild Afghanistan--taking place as officials also wrestle with how to subdue resistance and build institutions in Iraq--has unleashed a turf war between the State Department and White House, sources said."
Khalilzad reports directly to Bush's National Security Adviser,
Condoleezza Rice, bypassing both the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and the State Department. Khalilzad worked under Rice when she served as a director of Chevron.
EASIER SAID THAN DONE
Yet while Unocal is well placed in Afghanistan, resistance to the
occupation has blocked its plans to construct a 1,500-kilometer, $3.5-
billion trans-Afghan natural gas pipeline.
Even attempts by German and other European powers to reopen sections of the legendary "Silk Road" trade route between Asia and Europe are
At this point, bankers, investors, technical advisors and aid agencies
are holed up in Kabul, afraid to travel outside the capital.
Washington, which had earlier balked at letting its imperialist rivals
deploy troops in Afghanistan, is now eager to use multinational forces. But one State Department official admitted that by the time the United States had changed its mind, everyone else had lost interest.
Whether Unocal can ultimately pipe the gas out of Central Asia through
Afghanistan or has to find another route, the Afghani economy is not
operating in a void in the meantime.
The country's economy grew by more than 30 percent last year. The boom
is largely due to a bumper poppy crop.
After the Taliban banned opium cultivation in 1999, poppy production
plummeted for a three-year period. Now Afghanistan is once again the
world's number one exporter, noted World Bank president James
Wolfensohn. Some 70 percent of the world's heroin--75 percent of
Europe's and 90 percent of Britain's--comes from Afghanistan. (The
Guardian, Aug. 7)
Financial experts in Kabul estimate that fully one-third of
Afghanistan's economy--roughly $1.2 billion a year--is now drawn from
opium cultivation. Once refined into heroin, the value skyrockets to up to $14 billion. And by the time it hits urban centers around the world, cut and diluted, the street value shoots up to more than $25 billion.
When Rumsfeld was asked at an Aug. 14 Pentagon news conference what U.S. occupation forces are going to do about the soaring opium production, he demurred: "I don't really know. It's a whale of a tough problem."
Afghani peasants and townspeople say the drug landlords, their private
armies and the Pentagon occupation forces work hand in hand.
"We Afghans know who these people are and what they are doing," said low-level poppy grower Mohammed Jan. He pointed to a line of mansions in a poor, rural area of eastern Afghanistan. "They belong to the commanders. Their money is from drugs, from smuggling." (Associated Press, Sept. 8)
He added, "We know that without the Americans, they would be nobody."
Abdul Raouf, a car dealer in the eastern city of Jalalabad, told AP
journalists: "Everybody says warlords, but who are these warlords? They are commanders, they are government ministers."
- END -
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