Canadian Policy in Afghanistan: Following Directions from the US Government Has Undermined Democracy and Boosted the Islamists
Creating a Failed State
The U.S. and Canada in Afghanistan
by John W. Warnock
Black Point, N.S.: Fernwood Publishing, 2008.
By the end of 2001, the United States and their local allies, the Northern Alliance, had chased the hated Taliban government out of Afghanistan. A process had begun to create a new constitution and elect a democratic government, and the United Nations was leading a broad coalition starting reconstruction and development. Canada made major commitments to this project, but the Taliban are back and are expanding a war of insurgence against the Karzai government and its NATO supporters. As the conflict spreads, it appears that there is no end in sight.
As John Warnock so deftly explains, this situation is only understandable within a broad geopolitical framework. Under the guise of intending to capture Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, Afghanistan continued as a focus for the U.S. imperial policy, its desire to dominate the world through its massive military force and to control the oil and gas resources so essential ot its economy. Shamefully, but not surprisingly, successive Canadian governments have participated in this American project, which began in Afghanistan in 1979. The Afghan people have been the victims of this long geopolitical war. It is time for the Canadian government to change direction and support a process to bring peace and democracy to Afgfhanistan.
John W. Warnock has recently retired from teaching political economy and sociology at the University of Regina. He is author of a number of books, including The Politics of Hunger: The Global Food System, Free Trade and the New Right Agenda, and The Other Mexico: The North American Triangle Completed. He has a long history of political activism in environmental and social justice organizations.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Humanitarian Intervention: Guns v. Spears
Chapter 2: Afghanistan as a Failed State?
Chapter 3: Modernization and Modernity in Afghanistan
Chapter 4: The United States and the Burden of Empire
Chapter 5: 9/11, al Qaeda and the War on Terrorism
Chapter 6: B-52 Democracy
Chapter 7: The Politics of Women’s Rights
Chapter 8: Canada’s Role in Afghanistan
Chapter 9: What Are the Alternatives?
Appendix: What Is Terrorism ?
Afghanistan and Empire
by John W. Warnock.
Chapter in Jerome Klassen, Greg Albo and Angela Joya, eds. Empire's Ally: Canadian Foreign Policy and the War in Afghanistan. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.
Geopolitics: The New Great Game
In the period after World War II the U.S. government had two basic strategic goals. The first was to contain and reverse the development of communist and left wing governments. The second was to guarantee access to the oil resources of the Persian Gulf area. A key aspect of this policy has been the support of the reactionary and feudal regimes of Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf mini-states and other anti-democratic governments in the Middle East. When a popular leftist government was elected in Iran in 1953, the U.S. and British governments intervened to overthrow the government and restore Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi as the absolute ruler and U.S. proconsul.
U.S. President Jimmy Carter faced a challenge to this policy in 1978 when the PDPA seized power in Afghanistan. Many in the U.S. government saw this as an expansion of the Soviet sphere of influence and a threat to U.S. interests. Then in January 1979 the Shah of Iran was overthrown by a revolution led by Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, a radical Islamist who not only attacked the communists but was also critical of U.S. policy in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf in particular.
In July 1978 Carter accepted the advice of his National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and agreed to provide major military and financial assistance to the Islamists in Afghanistan who were beginning an armed resistance to the PDPA government. As the rebellion spread, and the government weakened, the Marxist leaders convinced the USSR to go beyond their financial and technical support and provide military forces. Soviet troops began to arrive in December 1979.
In his State of the Union address on January 23, 1980, President Carter issued what is now known as the Carter Doctrine. He declared that the movement of Soviet troops into Afghanistan represented “a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.” If the U.S. government had not responded, it “would have resulted in the temptation to move again until they reached warm water ports or until they acquired control over a major portion of the world’s oil supplies.” The move into Afghanistan “places the Soviets within aircraft striking range of vital oil resources of the Persian Gulf.” Carter set forth U.S. policy for Central Asia and the Middle East:
Let our position be absolutely clear. An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force. (Quoted in Emadi, 1990: 113-4.)
The President then established the Rapid Deployment Force, which was expanded to become CENTCOM during the administration of Ronald Reagan. The U.S. would station aircraft carrier strike groups in the region as well as develop new permanent military bases. President Reagan expanded the Carter Doctrine by proclaiming that the U.S. government would guarantee the “internal stability” of the Royalist regime of Saudi Arabia, the protectors of the key strategic source of U.S. oil and indirectly the U.S. voice in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
This Carter Doctrine has been the cornerstone of U.S. policy in the Middle East and Central Asia since that time. As Brzezinski argued, giving assistance to the Islamist radicals in Afghanistan would lure the USSR into a trap where they would bleed away in their own Vietnam War (Johnson, 2004: 217-53; Klare, 2001: 29-40; Warnock, 2008: 62-86; Cordovez and Harrison, 1995: 32-25).
The Revised Carter Doctrine
The collapse of the Soviet Union was a great victory for the United States in its world wide battle against socialism and communism. It also opened the door for a more aggressive political and military expansion into the former Soviet sphere of influence. New U.S. policy goals included the establishment of capitalist regimes in the states of the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe. Many of these countries would then be invited to join NATO and accept the presence of U.S. military bases. In Central Asia the U.S. government moved to create close political ties to the new regimes in the independent republics.
In addition, the goals of the Carter Doctrine were amended. The American Petroleum Institute, worried about peak oil and the disappearance of new sources of oil, urged the U.S. government to focus on the newly discovered oil and gas resources in the Caspian Basin, “the area of greatest resource potential outside of the Middle East.” (Klare, 2002: 82-92)
By the early 1990s U.S. oil corporations, including Chevron, Amoco (BP), Exxon and Conoco-Phillips, were becoming active in Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Many prominent Americans were involved in the negotiations between the oil corporations and the new governments, including Richard Armitage, James Baker, Dick Cheney, Alexander Haig, Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice and Brent Snowcroft. Sheila Heslin of the National Security Council and Laila Helms, chief consultant for the Taliban, became the key promoters of the development of Caspian Sea oil.
The Carter Doctrine was amended to include the goal of the development of Caspian Sea oil and gas by private western oil corporations and the export of these resources by pipelines which did not traverse either Russia or Iran. In 1993 the governments of Pakistan and Turkmenistan negotiated an agreement to support the building of oil and gas pipelines running from the Caspian Sea to the Arabian Sea. These pipelines would have to traverse Afghanistan. The instrument was the Union Oil Corporation of California (UNOCAL) and its junior partners in the Central Asia Gas and Pipeline Consortium (CentGas). The key to this geopolitical strategy, strongly supported by the administration of Bill Clinton, was the creation of a stable government in Afghanistan. This rquired the U.S. government to negotiate with and promote the new Taliban government. (Klare, 2008: 115-45; Forsythe, 1996; Johnson, 2004: 168-77; Warnock, 2008: 81-7; U.S. Congress, 1997 ).
Is the Afghan Conflict an Imperialist War?
By John W. Warnock
April 11, 2010
Recently a small group of professors at the University of Regina suggested that Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan was an act of imperialism and should not be glorified. The professors were vigorously attacked by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, a number of Conservative Members of Parliament, and a long list of editorial writers, columnists and directors of news in the mainstream Canadian media.
On this subject, a new group of scholars argues that the United States is a major imperial power, dominating the world, and this is a good thing. These would include Antonia Negri, Michael Hardt, Deepak Lal and Naill Ferguson. Canadian Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, is often seen as part of this group. Samuel P. Huntington, the eminent U.S. scholar, writes that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are part of the “war of civilizations” between Christianity and Islam, and there is no question who we should support.
The American empire
Chalmers Johnson reminds us that the United States is much more than just a major military power. It has 735 known bases in 38 countries, five Central Commands which cover the world, 12 aircraft carrier strike groups, a fleet of strategic bombers which strike anywhere in the world, an arsenal of nuclear missiles and 1.5 million active military personnel. The official U.S. policy of Full Spectrum Dominance includes military devices in space, the ability to carry out surveillance of entire populations, monitoring everyone’s telephone calls, faxes, emails, internet communications, telegrams, cell phones and the books you take out at the local library. There are also a good number of secret bases around the world used for holding “suspects” indefinitely and subjecting them to “aggressive interrogation.” The most important one is at Bagram Air Force Base near Kabul.
The world is the U.S. sphere of influence. President Barrack Obama has intervened in Pakistan, Honduras, Haiti, Columbia, Yemen and Somalia, greatly increased the number of U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan, and has produced the largest military budget in history.
The U.S. Petroleum Institute and the Anglo and American oil corporations strongly supported the war on Iraq as Saddam Hussein was cutting them out of the second largest oil resource in the world. They also supported the war in Afghanistan, a necessary part of gaining control over the oil and gas resources around the Caspian Sea. This has been the official U.S. geopolitical strategy in Central Asia since the declaration of the Carter Doctrine in January1980.
What is imperialism? Imperialism has been around at least since 2500 B.C. It has always been the imposition of the rule or authority of a more powerful country or state over a weaker one. It takes the form of the domination of another country’s political, economic, religious and cultural systems. It is the denial of a weaker country’s right to democracy and self determination.
Regime change and creating a puppet government
On October 7, 2001 the U.S. government launched a massive air and missile attack on Afghanistan. The U.S. allies on the ground were the Northern Alliance warlords, the remnants of the horrendous Islamist government (1992 to 1996) that had been driven out of Kabul by the Taliban. With the U.S. bombing, it was not long before the Taliban fled and the Northern Alliance forces captured Kabul. U.S. and NATO forces arrived on the ground and they are still occupying the country after nine years. Michael Ignatieff has referred to the U.S. invasion as “necessary imperialism.”
How did the U.S. government and its NATO allies create the present puppet government? On November 27, 2001 the United States brought together a group of Afghans at Bonn, Germany to create an interim government. Five new broad-based Afghan democratic political parties and alliances asked to be represented at this conference, but the U.S. government said no. The representatives chosen were mainly from the Islamist Northern Alliance.
When it came time to select an interim leader, the “representatives” voted for Abdul Satar Sirat of the Rome group which wanted the restoration of the constitutional monarchy established in 1964. Hamid Karzai received no votes. But the U.S. government made it clear that Karzai had to be their choice. The interim government established by this process was mainly composed of Islamist war lords.
An Emergency Loya Jirga (or Grand Council) was held in June 2002. Around 1500 delegates were selected, although the new democratic parties were almost completely excluded. Nevertheless, 900 delegates signed a petition calling for the restoration of the constitutional monarchy. The U.S. government, Hamid Karzai and the Northern Alliance warlords rejected this demand.
The U.S. government made it clear that they were not going to allow the Afghans to reinstate their liberal democratic Constitution of 1964. They insisted on a new constitution with a very strong, centralized presidential system. They rejected the creation of a federal state. Canadian officials supported and assisted the U.S. government in this process. The Afghan people had no role in drafting the new constitution. There was no public debate on the draft, which was kept secret.
A Constitutional Loya Jirga was convened in December 2003. The 500 delegates were carefully selected by the political allies of the U.S. government. Nevertheless, there was strong opposition to the proposed constitution. At one point 48% of the delegates walked out in protest. No vote was taken, yet interim president Hamid Karzai declared that the constitution was adopted “unanimously.”
Backing the narco warlords
The new constitution allows for the formation of political parties. Around 80 have registered, and 50 are considered to be strongly committed to democracy. Yet the U.S. government and President Karzai have refused to allow them to participate in any election. They prefer the present system, where warlords, drug lords and radical Islamists control the legislature and hold prominent positions in the Karzai government, beginning with the two Vice Presidents. It is no surprise that at least 65% of eligible voters refused to participate in the last presidential election.
Afghanistan is a very poor country and it has not yet developed a capitalist class. Therefore, past governments followed the model created by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Turkey, which relied on the state for important and necessary developments. The U.S. government and its NATO allies, especially Canada, have rejected this Afghan model and imposed a free market free trade model of development, emphasizing foreign ownership and control, especial in the resource area.
Today US/NATO forces continue to expand the war, killing thousands of innocent Afghan men, women and children. Canadian troops specialize in the night raids in towns and villages, kicking in the doors of people’s homes, assaulting and arresting “suspects.” All recent polls indicate that the Afghans strongly want a negotiated end to the war. Who stands in their way?
The U.S. and Canadian governments, and their NATO allies, have imposed on the people of Afghanistan a corrupt and detested government. Many Canadians are fully behind this project, just as many Canadians strongly supported British imperialism and colonialism. But other Canadians are not at all proud of the role of their government and military in this poor country. The latest Ekos Research poll shows 34% of Canadians support the mission in Afghanistan and 49% oppose.
John W. Warnock is retired from teaching political economy and sociology at the University of Regina. He is author of Creating a Failed State: the U.S. and Canada in Afghanistan (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2008).
Crushing Democracy in Afghanistan
by John W. Warnock
On May Day Afghan President Hamid Karzai filed his papers with the country’s Independent Election Commission, formally declaring that he is going to stand for re-election. The presidential election has been set for August 20, 2009. What surprised the western media were his choices for vice president and deputy vice president.
Running on Karzai’s ticket will be Mohammad Qasum Fahim, one of the most notorious warlords in Afghan history. He has been accused by Human Rights Watch and other organizations of human rights abuses as a mujahideen commander in the war against the leftist government and the Soviets in the 1980s and then during the bloody civil war of the Islamists between 1992 and 1996. A prominent Tajik, he was a military commander for the Northern Alliance in the 2001 conflict, served as minister of defence in Karzai’s regime and then as vice president. Until April 2009 he was a prominent member of the National United Front, the opposition coalition which dominates the Afghan parliament. He retains his militia groups and is widely accused of corruption, trafficking in narcotics and other criminal activities.
Also on the ticket is Muhammad Karim Khalili from Hazarajat, a prominent Harzara Shi’ite. Presently serving as the second vice president, Khalili is a well known warlord and long time head of the Whadat party, with strong support from Iran. During the civil war he was also accused of human rights abuses. Like Fahim, he maintains a sizeable militia and until recently was a member of the National United Front.
Karzai has demonstrated that the old system of patriarchal tribal politics is still deeply entrenched in the new Afghanistan. He convinced Gul Aga Sherzai to stand down as a presidential candidate. A prominent Pashtun warlord from the period of the civil war, Sherzai has also been accused of human rights violations. Karzai had appointed him as governor of Nangahar Province. A favourite of Washington, Barack Obama had stopped to visit Sherzai in July 2008 during a trip to Afghanistan by members of the U.S. Congress.
A divided and weakened opposition
Karzai appears to have locked up the presidential election. The Economist reported in early May that private polling found his support stood at only 15%, but the opposition to him is badly divided. The main opposition was expected to come from the United National Front, which has dominated the Afghan parliament. Their candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, the former Foreign Minister and prominent mujahideen leader, registered on May 6. In order to have a chance of defeating Karzai, Abdullah must build an alliance with Pashtun tribal elders. The deadline for registration was May 8, but coalitions can be formed after this date.
However, an incredible 44 people have registered to run for the office of president, including two women. This reflects the failure of the political system that the U.S. government and its allies foisted on Afghanistan after 2001.
The real alternative to the old tribal and ethnic politics comes from the National Democratic Front, an alliance of 13 political parties. The parties of the NDF support a process of peace to end the current conflict and have a strong commitment to expanding democracy, human rights and liberal, constitutional government. They are opposed to the Islamist agenda and prefer a secular state as under the 1964 Constitution.
However, since 2003 political parties have been prohibited from participating in elections, and they have a limited presence. The new democratic parties have been fearful of campaigning in public for the law now makes it illegal for political parties to oppose the holy religion of Islam. The Islamist forces, key allies of the U.S. government over the years, insist that secularism, as in Turkey, has no place in Afghanistan. As Thomas Ruttig pointed out in his comprehensive study of Afghan’s political parties, the fundamental political division in Afghanistan is between those who want separation of church and state and the Islamists.
The mass media in North America rarely give any coverage to political events in Afghanistan. However, on April 22, 2009 the Globe and Mail (Toronto) carried a background piece on the potential Afghan candidates for president. Dr. Ramazan Bashardost was featured, identified as the “Obama of Afghanistan.” He has a strong commitment to democracy, human rights and is an outspoken opponent of corruption. As minister of planning in the Karzai government, he criticized the dominant presence of foreign non-government organizations, their corrupting influence, and proposed that 1,900 be expelled from the country. When Karzai rejected his proposal, he resigned from the government and won a seat in the legislature. He has a major following among Afghan youth, and a majority of the population is under 25.
Unfortunately, Bashardost is a Hazara leader. As such, given the political system fostered on Afghanistan by the U.S. government, he has little chance of being elected. If there were political parties involved in election campaigns, he would be part of a national movement rather than identified simply as a member of a minority ethnic group and a minority religious faction. Based on his public record, he already has a solid following in many areas of the country.
The constitution and the election
Under the present constitution, the end of the presidential term is May 21, 2009. An election is required within 30 to 60 days of the end of the president’s term. However, the U.S. government and NATO took the position that the present Afghan government would be unable to hold an election in the spring and that they would not be able to guarantee security in all areas of the country. The Independent Election Commission (IEC), appointed by Karzai, then chose to bypass the constitution and set the date of the election for August 20.
The opposition United National Front then proposed that an interim president be named to hold office between the end of Karzai’s term and the election. This was rejected by the IEC. The Afghan Supreme Court, also appointed by the president, then ruled that Karzai could stay on as president until the election was completed. Opposition parties objected, noting that this was not only unconstitutional it also gave Karzai an enormous advantage over all other candidates. There are already protests against the way government officials are working for Karzai’s re-election. The postponement of the presidential election had the support of U.S. and NATO governments.
U.S. policy in Afghanistan
The United States has long been involved in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Aside from foreign aid, political interference began during the Cold War. It is now widely known that in July 1979 the U.S. government began funding the Islamist mujahideen, which were beginning an armed rebellion against the leftist government of the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PPDA). But few know that the U.S. government, via the CIA and its front organization, the Asian Foundation, had in 1970 begun to finance the militant Islamist movement at Kabul University. The U.S. government as early as the 1950s was financing and supporting the radical Islamist movement in an effort to undermine the Marxist, socialist, nationalist and anti-imperialist movements in the Muslim world. The CIA funded and armed Islamist groups which tried to instigate rebellions in the Soviet Central Asian Republics, deemed to be the “soft underbelly” of the Soviet federation.
President Jimmy Carter formally proclaimed U.S. policy in January 1980, following the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. Unimpeded access to oil resources in the Persian Gulf was deemed to be a “vital interest” and the U.S. government would use all means at its disposal, including its vast military machine, to protect those interests. This was the justification for the major intervention in Afghanistan in support of the militant Islamist forces.
Little has changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The United States has greatly increased its military presence in the Middle East; its naval forces control all the seas in the region. Following the discovery of significant oil and gas resources in the Caspian Sea area, the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia increased. Policy goals were broadened to include attempts to secure U.S. corporate control of these new oil and gas resources, have the oil and gas shipped to Europe and the west without passing through Russia or Iran, and build pipelines from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea.
The U.S. government hoped that its clients in Afghanistan, the mujahideen Islamist warlords, would be able to provide a stable government after the collapse of the leftist regime in 1992. But they became bogged down in a brutal civil war. The UNOCAL-led oil and gas consortium negotiated pipeline deals, but construction could not proceed because of the chaotic political situation.
Thus it was no surprise that UNOCAL and the U.S. government were among the early supporters of the Taliban rebellion. It was hoped that this new Islamist movement would be able to form a stable government and the pipelines could be built. Once in office, however, the Taliban dragged their feet. The Six-Plus-Two negotiations, begun in the fall of 1997 and brokered by the United Nations, were unsuccessful. The Taliban was unwilling to broaden their government to include other Afghan political elements. The Bush administration finally broke off these negotiations in July 2001 and began preparing for an invasion and regime change, scheduled to begin in October.
The necessity of regime change
In October 2001 President George W. Bush, with the strong support of the Democrats in the Congress, launched a devastating military attack on Afghanistan. The goal was not to arrest Osama bin Laden and his small group of Islamists and bring them to trial for fomenting 9/11. From the beginning it was to overthrow the Taliban regime and replace it with one favourable to the U.S. government and its policy objectives. This was accomplished in a very short order. Their allies were the Northern Alliance, the remnants of the brutal Islamist government of 1992-1996.
The next order of business was the creation of a neo-colony with a compliant, dependent government. This was to take the form of a liberal state - not a democratic state. The U.S. government insisted that there was to be a presidential system of government with a strong, centralized concentration of power. The only precedent for this in Afghan history was the dictatorship created by Mohammad Daoud Khan, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1973. In 1977 Daoud proclaimed a new constitution with a strong presidency and a one party system led by himself.
The new Afghan liberal state would have a constitution, regular elections, and a legal system created by a subordinate parliament. Most important, the new government was to be held to the neoliberal policies of the Washington Consensus: the free market, free trade, privatization of all state owned enterprises, and government deregulation. All natural resources would now be developed by the private sector, including foreign corporations. The implementation of the liberal state would be assisted by the administrative arm of the United Nations and the U.N.-affiliated financial organizations, all under U.S. political control.
The practical implementation of this regime change would be enabled by those “democracy promotion” organizations financed by the U.S. government: the National Endowment for Democracy, the Center for International Private Enterprise, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. Additional support came from the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening, which is financed by USAID.
The Bonn process
In November 2001 the U.S. government convened a conference in Bonn, Germany to create an interim government. They chose the delegates from Afghanistan. Five broad groups who had formed democratic political parties asked for representation: the Republican Party of Afghanistan, the Afghanistan Freedom and Democracy Movement, the People’s Party, the Council of Afghanistan’s Tribes, and the Alliance of Peace and Progress Fighters of Afghanistan. Their participation was vetoed by the U.S. government, and this set the tone for everything that followed.
In the first round of voting at Bonn for the chairman of the Interim Administration, the large majority of delegates voted for Abdul Satar Sirat, who represented the Afghans who wanted a constitutional monarchy as they had under the 1964 Constitution. The other votes went to Burhanaddin Rabbani, representing the Northern Alliance. Hamid Karzai, the candidate of the U.S. government, received no votes.
Time out was called. After threats and pressure from U.S. government and U.N. officials, on December 5 the representatives reluctantly agreed to accept Karzai as chairman of the Interim Administration. He then selected 30 people to head a new transitional administration, the large majority of whom were Islamist commanders from the Northern Alliance.
Following the terms of the Bonn Agreement, an Emergency Loya Jirga (grand council) was held in June 2002 to more formally chose an Interim President and a cabinet to govern until elections were held. A total of 1500 delegates were either locally chosen or appointed by Karzai, but the democratic parties were again excluded. Nevertheless, 900 signed a petition requesting a parliamentary government based on the 1964 Constitution. The U.S. government vetoed this proposal. Delegates were then pressured by members of the Northern Alliance, as well as U.S. and U.N. officials. If they did not follow the path chosen by the U.S. government, there would be no U.S. money for reconstruction. Karzai was then chosen Interim President and formed a new interim government, again dominated by the radical Islamists and warlords, the allies of the U.S. government.
Next on the agenda was the adoption of a new constitution. The Northern Alliance Islamists opposed the 1964 Constitution because it had as it core the principle of separation of church and state and the defence of historic human and individual rights. The U.S. government wanted a highly centralized presidential system of government with Karzai in charge.
In stark contrast to the adoption of the 1964 Constitution, the U.S./Karzai process was held completely behind closed doors. The new draft constitution was never seen by the general public. There was no public debate. The draft was presented for approval to a special conference of 500 carefully selected delegates. Nevertheless, 48% of the delegates walked out in protest and refused to vote on the draft. No vote was taken, but Interim President Karzai proclaimed that it had been “adopted unanimously.” The U.S. and Canadian governments praised this “democratic process.”
The elections for President in October 2004 and for the Afghan parliament in September 2005 were deeply flawed. The main concern of Afghan liberals and democrats was the refusal of the U.S. government and Karzai to permit the participation of political parties. In the presidential election, Karzai won 55% of the vote, with strong support among the Pushtun communities, but he failed to win a majority in the areas of strength of the other ethnic groups. He had the support of the democrats who feared the election of one of the Islamist warlords. He was always the lesser evil.
The election for the new parliament was worse. While 34 political parties petitioned the government for an electoral system based on proportional representation, this was rejected. Instead, the U.S. government and President Karzai decreed the Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV) system where only individuals could run for office and there would be no party identification or party lists. There were 2,800 candidates. Voter turnout for these elections was much lower, in Kabul only 30%. Voters were confronted by many candidates with no political identification.
The SNTV electoral system proved to be profoundly anti-democratic. As Andrew Reynolds points out, the winning candidates received just 2 million votes or 32% of the total. The losing candidates received 4.5 million votes or around two-thirds of the total.
The electoral law disqualified criminals, warlords, commanders and drug lords. However, only 11 candidates were disqualified for having links to armed groups. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission reported that “more than 80% of winning candidates in the provinces and more than 60% in the capital Kabul have links to armed groups.” The Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit concluded that 133 of those elected to the Wolesi Jirga had fought in the mujahideen war. Islamist forces dominate both houses of the legislature. Only seven members of the National Democratic Front were elected.
The reality is that the Afghan legislature has very little credibility or legitimacy in the eyes of most Afghan citizens. President Karzai is generally regarded as the front man for the U.S. government.
Afghans want democratic rights
It is often argued that as a very patriarchal Muslim country with a strong presence of militant Islamists there is limited support for democracy. Democracy can’t work in a country where the majority of adults are illiterate.
However, this is just a rationalization for the U.S. imperial project in Afghanistan. In the period after World War II the country was moving steadily towards a constitutional democracy. The 1964 Constitution was every bit as democratic as the U.S. Constitution.
The public opinion surveys done by the Asia Foundation reveal a strong commitment of the majority of Afghans to personal freedom, peace, democratic government, and respect for a system of rights and laws. Large majorities support the principle of equal rights under the law, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. Two thirds of those surveyed in 2007 believe that there is no conflict between Islam and democracy. However, they also believe that democracy and freedom of speech are presently restricted by government and local political authorities.
The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit recently conducted focus group discussions on Islam and democracy. There was general agreement that democracy means government by the people, where the rights of all are protected. Democracy includes the principles of greater equality, security, adequate food and health, and rights for women. There was also a general consensus that democracy does not exist in Afghanistan. There are only “slogans of democracy.” Warlords have too much influence over government. There is no peace.
Contrary to the propaganda from the mass media, Afghanistan has a tradition of representative, constitutional democracy that goes back in history. Political parties were recognized under the 1964 Constitution. In the 1960s the parties with the largest memberships were on the political left, which was of concern to the king and the political and economic elite. The right wing Islamist parties were weak until they began to receive massive economic and other support from the U.S. government.
Today there are over 80 registered political parties, and there are around 50 broad based democratic parties committed to running on issues, rising above religion, ethnic ties, and regional loyalties. But they have received virtually no support from the countries allied to the U.S. government or the aid agencies. President Karzai recently decreed that political parties will again be barred from the August 2009 Presidential election.
What the Afghan people want and need is the democratic right to self determination: the right to choose their own government, their own institutions, and their own economic development strategy. The fact that the people of Afghanistan have been denied these fundamental democratic rights is the main reason for the unpopularity of the government and the strength of the insurgency.
John W. Warnock is author of Creating a Failed State: The US and Canada in Afghanistan. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2008.
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Shah, Barbar. 2004. The Constitutional Process in Afghanistan. Islamabad: Institute for Strategic Studies.
Wilder, Andrew. 2005. A House Divided? Analysing the 2005 Afghan Election. Kabul: Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, December.
Wordsworth, Anna. 2007. A Matter of Interests: Gender and the Politics of Presence in Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga. Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, Issues Paper Series, Kabul, June.
The Status of Women in Karzai’s Afghanistan
by John W. Warnock
April 14, 2009
The mass media in Canada, including the CBC, rarely provide any coverage to political, economic and social developments in Afghanistan. They have chosen to focus almost exclusively on the state of the military conflict with the insurgency and in particular the experience of the Canadian Forces.
Thus many were surprised in early April when the Canadian media gave some coverage to the new law passed in Afghanistan concerning the status of women in Shia Muslim communities. This story was broken by the British media, right at the time of the top level meetings in Europe of the G-20, the conference on the state of aid to Afghanistan, and the special meeting of NATO. The Canadian media had no option but to pick it up.
Some political leaders expressed shock to learn that the new legislation limited guardianship of children to fathers and paternal grandfathers, that a wife could not leave her house without the permission of her husband, that women could only inherit moveable property, and that the wife is “bound to preen for her husband, as and when he desires.” A wife is allowed to work outside the house “unless her work affects the interest of the family in a negative way.”
President Hamid Karzai said that he did not see anything wrong with the new law and that the concerns expressed by the international community were based on poor translation or “misinterpretation.” The law was passed by the Afghan legislature, which is dominated by members of the opposition United National Front which is contesting the presidential election scheduled for August 2009.
But there was no mention in any of the Canadian media that this new Sharia law reflects the general state of women across all of Afghanistan. Indeed, in many Sunni Muslim communities the situation for women is much worse.
All we hear from our political leaders, and read in the Canadian media, is that the lot of women has greatly improved since the days of the Taliban government. But how does life today compare to pre-Taliban periods? Ann Jones, who spent a number of years in Afghanistan working with women’s organizations, writes that “Afghan women of the Kabul elite haven’t yet caught up to where they were thirty-five years ago.” While the politicians and the media boast that five million children are now going to school, they do not mention that this is less that half of school aged children and that less than one-third of all girls are in school.
In February 2008 the British group Womankind Worldwide released their latest report on the status of women in Afghanistan. The most serious problem they identified is the failure of the Karzai government and its international supporters to establish a legal system that actually functions. While the constitution and Afghan law guarantee women rights, they are not enforced.
Today 85% of administered justice takes place outside the official legal system, using Sharia, customary and tribal traditions. For example, Womankind points out that “the vast majority of women in prison are there for zina,” which is for supposedly having sexual relations outside marriage (which includes being raped), for running away from home, or for eloping with a partner to escape forced marriage.
They note that “a culture of impunity reigns around honour crimes... There is a general acceptance in society (and sympathy among judges) of men’s right to murder or harm women to ‘preserve honour.’”
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission reached similar conclusions in its December 2008 report on Economic and Social Rights. Under the Constitution, girls are not to be married until they reach the age of 16. But 57% of all marriages involve female children under the age of 16. The AIHRC points out that “not one sentence has been issued under this article of the law.”
Women as the property of men
The root of the problem, noted by AIHRC, is that in Afghanistan women are treated as commodities, the property of men. The survey by Womankind found that 60% of marriages are still arranged and enforced by the families involved.
Some practices are hardly different from slavery. It is common for a father to sell his daughter for a fixed amount of goods or cash to settle a debt, a practice which is known as badal. There is also bad dadan, where girls and women are given to settle a dispute between families, often a blood dispute.
Violence against women is widespread. A 2008 survey by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) found that 80% of this violence occurs within the family. Womankind found that 87% of the women they surveyed had experienced physical and/or psychological abuse. They concluded that “violence against women is an epidemic.”
In March the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued her annual report on Afghanistan. It focused on the “deteriorating human rights situation,” made worse by the escalating civil war. But Ms. Navi Pillay also stressed that “Violence is tolerated or condoned within the family and community, within traditional and religious leadership circles as well as the formal and informal justice system - in this regard the Afghan government has failed to adequately protect the rights of women despite constitutional guarantees.” The report cites the “dramatic increase in threats and intimidation against women in public life or who work outside the home.” The rape of women and children remains widespread. A climate of impunity exists because of the refusal of the Karzai government to prosecute perpetrators of past crimes. Indeed, in August 2008 President Karzai pardoned three men who had been found guilty of gang raping a woman in the province of Samangan.
Life expectancy for a woman in Afghanistan is 42. Childbirth remains the main cause of death for women of childbearing age. Afghanistan is the only country in the world where the suicide rate for women is higher than for men.
In the streets in Afghanistan today, a large number of women still wear the burqa, even in Kabul. In southern Afghanistan, it is very rare to see a woman in the streets who is not wearing a burqa. As one woman wrote in Kabul Press: “The Taliban are gone, but the burqa still rules women. This is not just an isolated or a traditional aspect of life in Afghanistan. The burqa is related to the position of women in Afghan society. There is no crucial difference between the Taliban burqa and the burqa that women wear in Karzai’s Afghanistan.”
John W. Warnock is author of Creating a Failed State: the US and Canada in Afghanistan. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing 2008.
Promoting Democracy in Afghanistan
By John W. Warnock
Afghanistan and Canada: Is there an Alternative to the War?
Lyle Stewart, Editor
Montreal: Black Rose Books, April 2009.
Extract of chapter:
The U.S. assault on Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001.The war was short, given the overwhelming military superiority of the U.S. military and the massive bombing campaign. On November 12 the Taliban fled Kabul, and the U.S. allies, the Islamist Northern Alliance, assumed the role of defacto government. In early December Kandahar fell and the war was over.
The war having been won, and a new regime installed in Kabul, the U.S. government then called for support from the United Nations. On December 20, 2001 the U.N. Security Council agreed to sanction the creation of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, an enforcement mandate. The ISAF, completely outside the United Nations, is part of the “coalition of the willing” created by the U.S. government. This “stabilization mission” was to support the U.N. humanitarian assistance program. Canada was to be part of the ISAF, under British command. This peacekeeping mission changed in July 2006 when Canadian forces in ISAF were shifted to Kandahar to engage in a counter insurgency war in support of U.S. political and military objectives.
Over this period the governments of Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper all gave unqualified support to the position of the administration of George W. Bush on Afghanistan. In April 2008 a resolution passed the Parliament authorizing Stephen Harper’s government to extend Canada’s role in the counter insurgency war through 2011. The resolution by the Conservative government received the support of the Liberal opposition headed by Stephane Dion.
Persistence of the Taliban
The Afghan people at first welcomed the formation of the Taliban in 1994 and their military campaign to seize power. Between 1992 and 1996 Afghans experienced the military regime of the Islamist mujahideen parties, the primary allies of the U.S. government in the proxy war with the Russians. This government, headed by Burhanuddin Rabbani, was an oppressive regime, and civil war and human rights abuses were the order of the day.
Where the Taliban took control, they successfully restored law and order. But soon after seizing power in Kabul it became clear that they were if anything worse than the mujahideen armies. While the Afghan people expressed opposition to the U.S. bombing campaign, they were pleased to see the Taliban removed from power. Public opinion polls taken in Afghanistan over the last several years all indicate that at least 70% of the population do not want to see the Taliban return to government.
Yet in spite of this widespread public disapproval, and the counter insurgency war waged by around 65,000 U.S./NATO troops and close to 40,000 members of the Afghan National Army, over the past two years the Taliban and their allies have grown in strength and the conflict has spread to all parts of the country, including Kabul. The number of conflicts has doubled in the past year. Why is this happening?
The main problem is the unpopularity of the government of President Hamid Karzai and the national parliament. President Karzai has no base of support in the country; he is seen by all as the puppet of the U.S. government. His government is notoriously corrupt and characterized by nepotism and favouritism. The central focus of the economy is still the production of poppies for opium and heroin, and drug lords have great power and influence locally, in the Karzai government and the legislature.
In February 2008 the U.S. Director of National Intelligence reported to Congress that regional warlords control around 60% of the country. It is widely known that 65% of the members of the national legislature are commanders and warlords. They are stronger than they were in 2001 because of their official status in the Afghan government and the income they receive from the drug economy and the funds they obtain from the economic assistance provided by external donors. (1)
The Afghan government has also failed to deliver on its promised improvements in the life of ordinary citizens. Some parts of the economy are growing, mostly those sectors linked to the large foreign presence in the country. But the vast majority have poor housing and are having a very difficult time finding adequate food. At least 40% of the labour force is unemployed. The average annual income is only around $350. Health care is unavailable to most. Electricity has yet to be restored. Heating in winter is a serious problem. The educational system is lagging, especially for women.
The only legal opposition to President Karzai is the United National Front, based primarily in the national legislature. But this political coalition is completely dominated by the Islamist parties of the right and their warlords. If anything, it has less public legitimacy than the president. The public widely sees their leadership as dominated by war criminals. It is reported that Yunus Qanooni of the Northern Alliance, and the Speaker in the House of the People, will be their candidate for the presidency in 2009.
Afghanistan: U.S. Escalates the Illegal Drug Industry
by John W. Warnock
February 16, 2009
It is common knowledge that Afghanistan remains the primary source of the world’s supply of opium and heroin. A recent United Nations’ report claims that three quarters of the world’s heroin comes from the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. But there is also recognition that poppies are grown in almost all of the country’s 34 provinces.
The western media argues that most of the production of illegal drugs is being done by the Taliban or that the Taliban are protecting the farmers. The fact that there are well known drug lords in the government of President Hamid Karzai, and many are members of the parliament, is usually ignored. Yet the Asian press carries photos of “narco palaces” in Kabul and describes the local “narcotecture.” The Afghan population is well aware of the close ties between the drug lords and the government.
Of course this is quite embarrassing to the U.S. government, which put Karzai in office and created the present Afghan constitution and system of government. Thus Hillary Clinton, nominated for Secretary of State, created quite a shock when she referred to Afghanistan as a “narco state” in her testimony before the U.S. Senate.
Forgotten in all this is the key role that the U.S. government played in the development and expansion of the illegal drug industry in Afghanistan. It goes back to the decision made in July 1978 by the administration of Jimmy Carter to give aid and assistance to the radical Islamists in their rebellion against the government of the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan.
The CIA and the Afghan Drug Trade
The U.S. government devoted billions of dollars to the proxy war in Afghanistan. Most of this was funneled through the Pentagon’s infamous Black Budget, secret funds for secret operations. In 1981 this budget was estimated at $9 billion but rose to $36 billion by 1990. The CIA obtained cash to buy weapons and other equipment which was then channeled to the Islamist rebels.
In the Afghan operation the CIA provided cash to the Pakistan government, primarily through its accounts with the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), best known for laundering illegal drug money. As John Cooley notes, “The CIA already had a history of using corrupt or criminal banks for its overseas operations.” In the 1980s the CIA and the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency were using the BCCI for covert operations. First American, in Washington, D.C., was one of the CIA banks of choice, and it had been acquired by BCCI.
BCCI had close links to the Pakistan government. During the Afghan jihad BCCI officials actually took control of the customs house at the port of Karachi where shipments of arms were sent by the CIA to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). They made cash payments to the ISI, part of which were payoffs, but large sums were also needed to finance the transportation of armaments to the Afghan border and beyond. As Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf reports, much of the CIA aid came in the form of cash. This was used to purchase hundreds of trucks and thousands of horses, mules and camels, in addition to the materials needed to build the training bases for the mujahideen fighters.
The CIA would inform the Pakistan government about the shipments. When the armaments and supplies were landed in Karachi they came under the control of the National Logistics Cell of the Pakistan army and the ISI. They trucked the materials north to the various bases. On the way back the trucks carried opium and heroin for export from Karachi, mainly to the United States. Some of the heroin factories were directly under the control of the ISI, and the whole operation had the support of Pakistan General Fazle Haq, the protector of the industry. President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq had appointed him the military commander of the Northwest Frontier Province. He was also directly involved in the heroin trade and laundering money through the BCCI.
The Islamist Drug Lords
Many of the key Islamist commanders and warlords were heavily involved in the illegal drug industry. One was Yunas Khalis, a brutal commander who boasted of the slaughter of prisoners of war as well as defectors from the communist government. Based in Helmand province, he spent much of his time fighting with other commanders over the control of the poppy crop and the roads and passes from the poppy fields to his seven heroin laboratories at his headquarters in Ribat al Ali. As Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair point out, at this time around 60% of the crop was produced under irrigation in the Helmand Valley, developed with a grant from USAID. This is still largely true today.
The biggest producer of heroin was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the primary recipient of CIA funds, who maintained six heroin factories at Koh-i-Soltan. He was in competition with another favourite of the U.S. government, Mullah Nassim Akhundzada, for control of the poppy crop produced in the Helmand Valley. The cash from the sale of the opium and heroin was channeled through accounts in the BCCI.
In the north, poppy cultivation and heroin production were primarily under the control of commanders Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ahmad Shah Massoud, both of whom were key allies of the U.S. government, particularly after the fall of the Marxist government in 1992. The fruits of this industry were exported through the Central Asian Republics via Kosovo and Albania and into Europe. It was estimated that this source accounted for around 60% of the European market. To this day commanders in the North, now in the Karzai government and the parliament, engage in production and trade. But this is overlooked by the North American media.
It was not only the U.S.-backed radical Islamists who were in the drug business. One of the key players was Sayad Ahmed Gaylani of the moderate National Islamic Front, who was very close to the exiled King Zahir Shah. The Soviets argued that Gaylani produced and exported more illegal drugs than Hekmatyar.
Afghan poppy production tripled between 1979-82, and according to figures from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, came to dominate the heroin market in the United States and Europe. The DEA reported that by 1984 51% of the heroin supply in the United States came from the operations of the U.S. allies on the Pakistan border. The situation remains the same today; it is estimated that the illegal drug industry presently accounts for around 50% of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product.
John W. Warnock is author of Creating a Failed State: the US and Canada in Afghanistan. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2008.
Cockburn, Alexander and Jeffrey St. Clair. 1998. Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press. New York: Pluto Press.
Coll, Steve. 2004. Ghost Wars: the Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. New York: Penguin Books.
Cooley, John. 2002. Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, American and International Terrorism. London: Pluto Press.
McCoy, Alfred W. 2003. The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books.
Potts, Mark, Nicholas Kochan and Robert Whittington. 1992. Dirty Money: BCCI - the Inside Story of the World’s Sleaziest Bank. Washington, D.C.: National Press Books.
Scott, Peter Dale. 2007. The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire and the Future of America. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Yousaf, Mohammad and Mark Adkin. 2004. Afghanistan - The Bear Trap: the Defeat of a Superpower. Havertown, Pa.: Casemate.
The Disaster in Afghanistan
by John W. Warnock
September 9, 2008
It is difficult to find out what is really going on in Afghanistan. The focus of the mass media is almost entirely on the military activities of the Canadian and NATO forces. There is absolutely no coverage of political developments. The news on the economy is limited to the state of the poppy industry. This is no accident. The North American media, including the CBC, has strongly supported the U.S./NATO strategy and the administration of President Hamid Karzai. Contrary to the mainstream message, things are not going well.
Rise in civilian casualties
Over the past few weeks NATO forces have killed civilians in a number of incidents, and popular opposition to the western military effort is increasing. On August 22 the United States bombed the village of Azizabad in Herat province; the result was the death of 91 civilians, including over 60 children. Rockets and missiles were also used. Many homes were destroyed. Local citizens stoned the Afghan army when they tried to distribute supplies.
NATO forces in Paktika province launched an artillery attack on a village on September 1 as part of a general sweep-and-destroy mission against Taliban forces. Three children were killed and seven injured. That same day U.S. and Afghan forces carried out an overnight raid in Hud Kheil, east of Kabul. A family of four, including two children, were killed when hand grenades were thrown into their house. In Kabul hundreds blocked the main road out of town protesting the military practices of the international forces.
Afghan government and NATO attacks
In response to the steady increase of civilian deaths this year, the Afghan parliament passed a resolution in August calling on the Karzai administration to negotiate a new status-of-forces agreement with NATO and United States, making it consistent with Afghan and international law. President Karzai’s cabinet demanded “an end to air attacks in civilian areas, illegal detentions and unilateral house searches.”
There is growing opposition to the presence of the occupying forces. The Senlis Council reported in June 2008 that in their most recent recent public opinion survey “more than six out of ten of those interviewed ... said that foreign troops should leave.” This is the position taken by many of the democratic parties in Afghanistan. Malalai Joya, the outspoken critic of the Karzai government, has called for all foreign troops to leave the country. She argues that Afghans can settle this dispute better on their own.
The approaching famine
However, the most important current issue in Afghanistan is the drought, the crop failure, and the prospect of famine. This story has received no coverage in the North American media.
Over the last winter Afghanistan received well-below normal rainfall and mountain snow pack. The spring runoff was light, and crop yields from irrigated agriculture have been significantly reduced. There are conditions of drought throughout the country. In many areas there are no crops and livestock has perished from lack of pasture. Wheat provides the staple food, and production is 60 percent below average.
Recent rains have brought flooding, as the land has been hardened by the drought. Floods are more common because over the past few decades 60% of the woodland has been removed by the population seeking fuel for cooking and winter heating.
The jump in fuel prices has raised the cost of the delivery of food from neighbouring countries. Food prices are rising. The price of a 50 kg bag of wheat flour is now $35. One half of the population in Afghanistan lives on less than $2 per day. The government of Afghanistan reports that 42% of the population lives in “extreme poverty”, defined as a per capita income of less than $120 per year. The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan reported in August that “at least four million most vulnerable people have already been pushed into the ‘high-risk food-insecurity ‘ category.” Children are the most vulnerable. One in five children die before the age of five, mainly due to malnutrition.
In response, the United Nations and other food agencies have called for an emergency fund of $404 million in order to purchase food. To date less than 20% has been forthcoming from donor countries.
What is happening to women’s rights?
Supporters of the U.S. project in Afghanistan always point to how many girls are now going to school. But as Ann Jones points out, the number cited (5 million) is fewer than half the children of school age. In Kabul 85% are in school; in the Pashtun south, less than 20% and “near zero for girls.”
Radio Free Afghanistan’s Jan Alekozai recently toured eastern Afghanistan. He noted that there were schools but no teachers, no chairs and tables, no electricity or water, no books, and no labs. “The participation of women is zero in the provinces,” he argued. While some are going to school “they cannot walk, for example, in a park - or with their families.”
In February 2008 Womankind Worldwide (UK) released a survey of the status of women in Afghanistan. They found that 87% of Afghan women report domestic violence, 60% of all marriages are still forced, and 57% of all recent marriages involved girls under the age of sixteen, which is contrary to the law.
Ann Jones, who spent a number of years in Afghanistan working for women’s rights, is not surprised. President Karzai’ wife is a qualified gynecologist but does not practice her skills. She remains locked up in the presidential fortress, the Arg, and is not seen by the general public. Since the onset of the 20th century, she is the first wife of a state leader who has not publicly championed women’s rights.
Change of regime in Afghanistan
Few Canadians would know that there is a presidential election scheduled for Afghanistan in 2009. Hamid Karzai has announced that he will run again. After his tour of eastern Afghanistan, Jan Alekozai reported strong opposition to the local warlords and the Karzai government. He judged that Karzai would have a hard time getting 20% of the votes in the 2009 election. The people blame the Americans and NATO for the increase in the power of the warlords.
The main opposition to Karzai will come from the United National Front, which is largely a coalition of the warlords and Islamist leaders based in the parliament. They have demanded a change in the constitution to bring in a parliamentary system of government with political parties and elections by proportional representation. The Front is dominated by the Islamist forces from the Northern Alliance.
The Front has called for a new international meeting to settle the ongoing civil war in Afghanistan. This would be hosted by the United Nations and include all neighbouring states as well as representation from Afghanistan’s political groups, including the armed opposition. In late August Fazel Sangcharaki, speaking for the Front, stated that many foreign envoys have supported this proposal. But the problem is the opposition of the U.S. government.
Canadian government stresses militarism
The policy of the Canadian government since 2001 has been to put the highest priority on its military role in Afghanistan. In support of the Afghan “war on terrorism”, the Canadian government has been spending around $1 billion per year on the military and only $100 million on humanitarian assistance and economic development. Much of the military budget has been spent on acquiring new military hardware, needed for counter-insurgency warfare..
Just before Stephen Harper forced a fall election, polls emerged which showed that Canadians remain skeptical of the role in Afghanistan. A poll by Ipsos Reid for the Department of National Defence revealed that the majority of Canadians still want Canada to emphasize peacekeeping. A CBC poll done by Environics reported that 56% of Canadians disapprove of Canada’s military role in Afghanistan.
Since the March 2008 agreement by the Conservatives and Liberals to extend Canada’s mission to 2011, Afghanistan has largely disappeared from political discussion. The challenge for Canadians is to make this disastrous war in Afghanistan an issue in the current election.
John W. Warnock is a Regina political economist and author of Creating a Failed State: the US and Canada in Afghanistan. Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing, May 2008.
Peace and Democracy in Afghanistan
by John W. Warnock
The Harper Record
Teresa Healy, Editor
Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, September 2008.
Extract from chapter:
The Harper-Bush military strategy
While Stephen Harper’s government and Canada’s military leaders insist progress is being made in Afghanistan, this view is not shared by U.S. and British military commanders. The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported in June 2008 that the Afghan Army cannot operate without the support of NATO. Only 52 of 433 units of the Afghan National Police are capable of being deployed. There are widespread reports that over 40% of all economic assistance funds disappear within the system. NATO governments, mindful of their own public opinion, are refusing to send additional armed forces to Afghanistan.
Stephen Harper’s new Canada First Defence Strategy dismisses peacekeeping and promises even further integration of Canadian Forces into those of the United States. Military spending will focus on expanding the capacity to be “interoperable with the U.S. military.” NATO will be Canada’s first priority, described by President George W. Bush as a new “expeditionary force” for the First World. The United Nations and peacekeeping are ignored in the new Tory policy statement.
But a large percentage of the Canadian public does not agree with this policy direction. It is time for Canadians to stand up and be counted, to pressure the political parties and the government to break with U.S. policy in Afghanistan. It is time to switch to supporting the people of Afghanistan who want an end to the war and a chance to improve their lives.
What can be done
An opportunity for change appeared beginning in 2007 when the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) put Afghanistan high on their agenda and called for regional negotiations to settle the conflict and promote reconstruction. The SCO members are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
At the April 2008 meeting of NATO at Bucharest, the SCO position was advanced by President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan. He proposed the reconstitution of the old Six Plus Two negotiations (1998-2001), hosted by the United Nations, which included the six countries on the border of Afghanistan plus the United States and Russia. To this group would be added NATO. This body would design a general regional plan for establishing peace and democracy in Afghanistan. The United Nations would then replace NATO as the lead organization to direct peace and redevelopment.
Unfortunately, this proposal was rejected out of hand by the U.S. government, and the Harper government agreed. None of Canada’s opposition parties seemed to be aware of this peace proposal which would have had the broad support of the majority of Canadians and been welcomed by the Afghan people.
Since 2001 our Canadian governments have given complete support to the United States on Afghanistan. But this policy has failed to date and is doomed to fail in the long run. The challenge for Canada is to take a different position, one which puts the interests of the Afghan people first. In public opinion polls in Canada over recent years a consistent 70% have indicated that they want Canada to return to a role of peace keeper. Higher majorities want Canada to emphasize humanitarian and economic assistance. The challenge we face is how to convince our elected governments and political parties to join with this majority opinion.
It’s Time to Promote Peace in Afghanistan
by John W. Warnock
March 24, 2008
In Canada the debate on Afghanistan has had a very narrow focus. The primary concern has been the role of the Canadian Forces in the counter-insurgency war. How many more Canadians will be killed? How long will our forces be in Kandahar province? What will the U.S. government think if Canada withdraws from the southern zone of conflict? If Canada pulls its forces out of Afghanistan, will there be chaos?
It is time for Canadians to consider what the Afghan people want. At the top of the list would certainly be an end to the death, destruction and despair, the other 3-D policy. A variety of surveys show at least 70% of Afghans do not want to see a return of the dreaded Taliban. Yet an even larger percentage supports a negotiated settlement with the Taliban to end the war. The U.S.-NATO policy, supported by recent Canadian governments, perpetuates the war.
Outside of Canada there is widespread understanding that the counter insurgency war is not working. This past year was the most destructive since the U.S. invasion, with at least 6200 Afghans killed, a 24% increase in roadside bombs, and a dramatic increase in suicide bombs. The United Nations, as well as U.S. and U.K. military leaders, report that the zone of operation of the insurgents is spreading. Attacks are now up to 550 per month.
There is an opportunity for a new approach to the Afghanistan problem. The NATO countries will be meeting in Bucharest, Romania from April 2 to 4, and the key issue on the agenda is the war. For the first time in history Russia has been invited to attend. Russia will be representing the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The Russians and their allies in the two organizations are proposing a joint NATO-CSTO agreement for the settlement of the Afghan conflict. This proposal appears to have the support of the governments of France and Germany and several other European NATO countries. The new governments in Pakistan are supporting a negotiated settlement to the Afghan war. This is an opportunity for the Canadian government to take the initiative and promote this new peace initiative.
This is not a new development. The annual meeting of the SCO at Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in August 2007 focused on Afghanistan. The organization declared that they are willing to participate in the resolution of the problems in Afghanistan and improve the work of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group. The SCO was jointly created with China and includes several countries which border on Afghanistan. Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan have applied for membership. The SCO has expressed concern about the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in the region and the expansion of the drug industry and trade. They have offered to provide political, military and economic assistance to Afghanistan. The government of Hamid Karzai, which has official observer status at the SCO, is supportive of such a development.
The Russian and Chinese governments believe that the United Nations should be taking the lead in reaching a consensus position and finding a political solution. They argue that the expansion of the resistance in Afghanistan is due to the fact that the counterinsurgency war and the development strategy have been directed by the U.S. government with the support of its NATO allies. A successful settlement of the conflict has to be a U.N.-supported regional agreement.
This is not out of the question. It brings to mind the Six-Plus-Two negotiations held in Berlin between March and July 2001 where the United States and Russia, and the six countries bordering on Afghanistan, held negotiations, sponsored by the United Nations. The goal was to get the Taliban government to agree to a broad government of national unity. If this was achieved, the countries involved pledged economic assistance. The main goal of the Bush Administration at the time was to provide a stable Afghan government which would permit the building of the oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan to the Arabian Sea.
Since September 14, 2001 Canadian policy on Afghanistan has been to always support U.S. policy. Now is the time for our government to stand up and take a lead in peacemaking. It is time to back the people of Afghanistan who want an end to this war. Canada’s reputation around the world is not our ability to fight with the United States in counterinsurgency wars. We are known for peacemaking and peacekeeping. Let us cash in on that reputation.
John W. Warnock is author of Creating a Failed State: the U.S. and Canada in Afghanistan, to be published by Fernwood Publishing in May 2008.
Why Are Canadians Dying in Afghanistan? For Oil?
by John W. Warnock
November 16, 2006
Remembrance Day this year brought home to many Canadians the reality of Canada’s war in Afghanistan. Despite a campaign by the mass media, recent public opinion polls reveal that around fifty percent of Canadians think the government should bring our kids home. Our Conservative and Liberal leaders insist we must stay the course and continue to back the U.S. government and NATO. The Bloc Quebecois says we should pull out. Jack Layton and the NDP have offered a qualified call for withdrawal. Elizabeth May and the Green Party have maintained a strange silence on the issue.
Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear some Canadian general or colonel strongly advocate an active military role in Afghanistan. We are told every day that Canadian forces are fighting a war to defeat the Taliban, defend the democratic government in Kabul, and help with economic reconstruction. But when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice comes to Canada, she emphasizes that Canada is in Afghanistan to support U.S. policy objectives.
The U.S. in Afghanistan
The U.S. government has been in Afghanistan since July 1979, when President Jimmy Carter issued directives to aid the right wing forces trying to overthrow the leftist government headed by Noor Mohammad Taraki. In concert with the governments of Saudi Arabia and Pakiston, the mujadiheen resistance movement grew, with its core support among militant Muslim fundamentalists and those from the old deposed feudal order. With cash, arms and training from these sources, the Islamic resistence forced the Soviet Union to withdraw in January 1989.
In 1984 Osama Bin Laden founded Makhtab al Khadimat, which recruited Muslims from the Middle East to go to Afghanistan to fight in the war against the Soviet Union. His operation was heavily financed by Saudi Arabia, but also the United States. The aid was funneled through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Bin Laden went back to Saudi Arabia in 1989 but returned to Afghanistan in 1996 to set up his al-Qa’eda operation with the toleration of the Taliban leadership.
Once the Soviet Union withdrew, the U.S. government abandoned the country, focusing on events in Iran, the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the first Gulf War. The Afghan government under Dr. Mohammed Najibullah lasted for another three years. When he was ousted in 1992, Afghanistan collapsed into a vicious civil war between various political-military forces, ethnic groups, and religious factions. Kabul was destroyed by artillery and rocket assaults from all sorts of warring groups. An estimated 50,000 civilians were killed. Massacres were common. Women and children were murdered. Hundreds of thousands of people became refugees. Chaos reigned. From 1992 to 1996 the Northern Alliance between Tajik and Uzbek warlords ran the Afghan government, supported by the U.S. government.
In 1994 the Taliban emerged, primarily a Pushtun group of Sunni Moslems with a fiercely radical political and religious orientation. They received strong support from the government of Pakistan. The Taliban military force moved north to unite the country. Like the other political factions, they launched a murderous assault on Kabul and seized power in 1995. Many commentators have attributed their success to the desires of the Afghan people for an end to civil war and a stable government. The Taliban forces then pushed further north to take possession of 90 percent of the country. Very quickly they received the full support of the governments of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Why was this the case?
The Struggle for Oil
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the U.S. government sought political and military agreements with the new Central Asian governments. The key here was the undeveloped oil and gas deposits in the Caspian Sea region. U.S. national security policy shifted from the Cold War against communism to protection of existing sources of oil and diversification away from reliance on the Persian Gulf. In support of this goal, the United States today maintains 250,000 servicemen and women overseas at 725 bases in 38 countries, in addition to five aircraft carrier battle groups. This is outside their commitments to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Central Asia has been a key focus of U.S. policy. The goal has been to tie the oil and gas resources to the West and bloc Russian domination of the area. As always, the U.S. government operates closely with the U.S. oil corporations. In 1993 Chevron ventured into Kazakstan. In 1994 a consortium of oil corporations, including Amoco, BP, Unocal and Pennzoil signed a joint venture with Azerbaijan. The American Petroleum Institute supported this objective, calling the Caspian region “the area of greatest resource potential outside of the Middle East.”
From the beginning, the U.S. government strongly supported the building of an oil and gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Arabian Sea. They refused to support a pipeline through either Russia or Iran. The American oil corporations also supported this policy, preferring the major markets in India, China, Japan and the west coast of the United States to the more competitive markets in Europe.
In 1993 the governments of Turkmenistan and Pakistan negotiated the building of the pipelines. They were joined by the Union Oil Corporation of California (Unocal), who hired Henry Kissinger, Hamid Karzi and Zalmay Khalilzad as advisers. Amoco hired Zbigniew Brzezinsky,. Turkmenistan hired U.S. General Alexander Haig. When the Central Asia Gas and Pipeline Consortium (CentGas) was created in 1996, both Enron (Kenneth Lay) and Halliburton (Dick Cheney) were to be involved with the development. Condoleezza Rice, then on the board of directors of Chevron, supported the project.
The key to the building of the pipelines was always the creation of a stable government in Afghanistan. Even before they seized power, the U.S. government supported the Taliban, concluding that it was the only political force which could create a national government. The Clinton Administration actively supported the pipeline agreement with Turkmenistan. Khalilzad became the special link between Unocal, the Taliban and the U.S. government. Unocal and the CentGas consortium were quite willing to deal with any government which could control the country.
The pipeline plan received a setback in 1998 when terrorists with supposed links to bin Laden bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa. Bill Clinton responded by launching Cruise missiles on bin Laden’s bases in Afghanistan. The Taliban government agreed to extradite bin Laden to Saudi Arabia for trial for terrorism, provided evidence of his complicity was produced. None was produced. But Unocal withdrew from the pipeline project, concluding that the Taliban government was unstable and unreliable.
The Pipeline Must Go Ahead
In 1999 the governments of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan signed a new agreement to promote the pipelines. The following year Unocal resumed talks with the Taliban government. Additional UN Security Council sanctions were imposed on Afghanistan after the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000. The Taliban government continued to agree to extradite bin Laden provided proof was presented tying him to the terrorist acts. But still no evidence was produced. The Taliban government hired Laila Helms, niece of Richard Helms, former director of the CIA, as their negotiator in talks with the U.S. government.
The new administration of George W. Bush began talks with the Taliban government, which went from February 2 to August 6, 2001. Dick Cheney’s report on U.S. energy needs, released in May 2001, called for major U.S. involvement in the development of the Caspian Sea reserves. The allies for this project were the Taliban and Pakistan governments, both of which were strongly anti-Iranian.
What could be done with the Taliban government? In June 2001 Chokila Iyer, the Indian Foreign Secretary, reported that the United States and the Russian government were planning a military attack on the Taliban through the borders of Tajikstan and Uzbekistan. They were to back the warlords of the Northern Alliance in an effort to overthrow the Taliban government. The Indian government agreed to “facilitate” this action. The planned attack on Afghanistan was widely discussed at the July 2001 meeting of the G-8 countries in Geneva.
Shortly after in July the United Nations hosted a meeting between the U.S., Russia and the six countries that border Afghanistan in Berlin. The eight governments agreed that what was needed was a new government of natural unity which would be followed by international economic aid and the building of the pipelines. Naif Naik, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, reported that at the meeting the U.S. government threatened the Taliban that if they did not agree to this proposal they would bring on “a military operation.” Naik reported that U.S. officials told him that military action against the Taliban government would begin by the middle of October 2001. Then came the events of September 11, 2001. The Bush administration made new demands on the Taliban government. Once again, the Taliban agreed to extradite bin Laden to another country for trial, but only if some evidence was presented demonstrating that he had some ties to the U.S. airline hijackings. An agreement was reached to extradite bin Laden to Pakistan, but this was then rejected by President Pervez Musharraf, now closely allied with the U.S. government. The White House stated that “there would be no negotiations, no discussions with the Taliban.” On October 7 US and UK bombers attacked Afghanistan and increased their economic and military aid to the warlords of the Northern Alliance.
The New Afghan Government
Under massive air attack from the U.S. and UK forces, the Taliban government was rapidly defeated. Hamid Karzai was chosen by the U.S. government to head the new regime in Kabul. He had long been closely linked to the U.S. government, as the CIA agent, based in Pakistan, who channeled the $2billion in U.S. aid to the mujahideen. The core of power in the new government is held by the Tajik and Uzbek warlords.
By February 2002 the Karzai government had revived plans for the oil pipelines, and a new proposal was drafted in May, and a formal agreement was signed in December. Unocal was again the lead company.
However, construction has been blocked by the advancing resistance to the government in Kabul, which is corrupt, incompetent and very unpopular. The legislature is dominated by regional warlords, drug traffickers, members of known criminal gangs, and many who should be indicted for war crimes and murder. Other forces have joined the revived Taliban in the resistance movement. The rallying cry, once again, is to rid Afghanistan of foreign invaders.
. Despite what we hear from our political and military leaders, this war to support U.S. oil policy is not going well. Just recently it was reported that in 2005 there were 150 insurgent attacks against NATO forces each month; this has risen to 600 in 2006. Back in 1979 Zbigniew Brzesinski urged President Jimmy Carter to lure the Soviet Union into Afghanistan to trap them in their own “Vietnam war.” How long will Canadian forces stay in Afghanistan? We have already surrendered our tradition of peacekeeping under the United Nations
John W. Warnock recently retired from teaching at the University of Regina where he specialized in the political economy of Canada-U.S. relations.
Canada, the United States and Afghanistan
by John W. Warnock
October 3, 2006
"After watching Pte. Josh Klukie die, the members of 4 Platoon, Bravo Company, vow to finish their ugly little war." Globe and Mail, October 2, 2006
Why are Canadian armed forces fighting a war in Afghanistan? The official position of the Canadian government is that we are there to prevent the relapse of that country into a "failed state" where the Taliban regains political control. Canadian forces support the democratically elected government headed by Hamid Karzai, which includes training the new national armed forces and police. We are helping to extend the central government's control over the large areas of the country which have traditionally been controlled by local ethnic groups, their militias, and their "warlords." While the preponderance of Canada's spending has gone to support our military forces in Afghanistan, our Liberal and Conservative governments have emphasized that we are also there to implement humanitarian assistance programs. This view is strongly supported by the mass media and Canada's "embedded" reporters in Afghanistan.
How quickly Canadians conveniently forget the origins of this war. Following the disaster of 9/11 in New York and Washington, Art Eggleton, the Minister of National Defence, immediately announced that Canadian forces operating within U.S. military units would participate in any U.S. operations in Afghanistan designed to eliminate the al Qaeda organization and even to replace the Taliban regime which protected them.
President George W. Bush took his case to NATO, which on October 2 gave its full support to a US/UK military attack on Afghanistan. Enough evidence was presented to convince the European governments that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were behind the 9/11 attack. For the first time NATO invoked Article 5, the joint defence clause, that holds that an attack upon one member is an attack against all. The Chretien government strongly supported this decision. Tony Blair spoke to a convention of the Labour Party, describing and promoting the forthcoming attack on Afghanistan. President Bush declared that no negotiations were being made and rejected offers by the Taliban government to close al Qaeda bases and extradite bin Laden for trial in a third country or an international court.
The UN General Assembly condemned the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon and called for "international co-operation to bring justice to the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of the outrages." Back in 1991 UN Secretary General Perez de Cuellar set forth basic principles for solving the political conflict in Afghanistan:
(1) The necessity of preserving the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and non-aligned and Islamic character of Afghanistan;
(2) The recognition of the right of the Afghan people to determine their own form of government and to choose their economic, political and social system, free from outside intervention, subversion, coercion or constraint of any kind whatsoever.
Massive bombing attack
Yet on October 7, 2001 the United States and British forces unilaterally launched a massive bombing attack on Afghanistan. In the ground war that followed they supported the warlords of the Northern Alliance in their efforts to overthrow the Taliban government.
On that very day Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced that Canada would contribute a military force to support the US/UK "war on terrorism," and Operation Apollo was formed. The next day the government sent Canadian ships to join the US fleet in the Persian Gulf. On October 14 Chretien announced that Canada was offering "unqualified support" for the US war effort in Afghanistan.
With strong air support from the United States and Great Britain, the Northern Alliance was able to defeat the Taliban government in a short time. On November 12 the Taliban forces fled Kabul. On November 25 Konduz surrendered. In early December Kandahar fell. At a five day meeting in Bonn, organized by the US government under the cover of the United Nations, various Afghan ethnic and political representatives gathered to form an interim government. On December 5, 2001 this government was recognized by the UN Security Council. It was headed by Hamid Karzai, the candidate supported by the U.S. government. Karzai had worked closely with the CIA channeling arms and cash to the Islamic mujahideen war against the Soviet Union.
There have been two military operations in Afghanistan. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), which launched the war, is completely controlled by the United States with some military support from a few European countries. This force, designed to overthrow the Taliban government, regularly engages in counter-insurgency warfare against the various resistance forces.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established by a UN Security Council resolution on December 20, 2001, following the defeat of the Taliban and the installation of the new interim Afghan government. This was done under Chapter VII of the Charter, an enforcement mandate. It is not a peacekeeping force. It is not a force in any way under UN authority. All financing comes from the participating governments and none from the United Nations. At the beginning it was under the leadership of the British government. During the first Gulf War the United States was able to use its political pressure and economic power to obtain a similar resolution from the UN Security Council.
Canada jumps in
For the first two years, the ISAF force was confined to Kabul. This allowed US forces to operate throughout the country with very little outside observation. By mid-November 2001 the Chretien government committed 2,000 Canadian troops to Afghanistan as part of the ISAF forces. By December 20 there were members of the Joint Task Force 2 special forces operating near Kandahar as part of the U.S. military operation. Under Operation Apollo Canadian forces were deployed to Kandahar in February 2002 to defend the airport and engage in combat activities with insurgent forces.
The armed resistance to the US-led occupation began to expand over the summer of 2003. NATO formally took over the command of the ISAF in August 2003. The largest contingent of Canadian forces served in Kabul between October 2003 and November 2005. As part of the ISAF command, they were to provide security and support for the new Afghan government.
The bulk of the Canadian forces in Afghanistan were then shifted to Kandahar where they were part of the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom, working with forces from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, in military actions against insurgents. In July 2006 these Canadian forces came under ISAF authority. In September the US government agreed that all of their ground forces in the eastern region of Afghanistan would be put under the direction of NATO and the ISAF Command. However, the US government also announced that both US forces (OEF) and NATO forces in Afghanistan will be jointly under the command of US General Dan McNeil.
There is little distinction between operating in Afghanistan directly under the US government through OEF or through the NATO-led ISAF. Canadian forces have operated within both command systems. Furthermore, the Provincial Reconstruction Teams have all been closely integrated with the military commands, both OEF and ISAF. The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan has also been closely linked to the two military commands. InterAction, a coalition of around 160 independent aid organizations, has protested that the links between their organizations and the military organizations have undermined their efforts and made them vulnerable to violent attacks.
"Everything is going well," public told
According to our political leaders, generals and the mass media everything is going well in Afghanistan. The government is getting stronger and the insurgency is on its last legs. But reports from Europe are quite different. The central government under Hamid Karzai is seen as corrupt and incompetent. There is growing criticism of the destruction and civilian casualties caused by NATO military actions. The insurgency is reported to be growing stronger. The Northern Alliance appears to be as ruthless as ever. Sharia law has been re-introduced, forms the core of the new Constitution, and women are still very oppressed. The international aid programs are failing, criticized for being too closely integrated into the US and NATO military system. There is a serious hunger situation. Unemployment is rampant. The only part of the economy that is doing well is the production of poppies for heroin. There is still no sight of Osama bin Laden, and on a world wide basis, terrorist attacks are on the increase. The Senlis Council now reports that the revived Taliban and its supporters control around one half of the country.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been to Canada several times. On each occasion she has praised Canada for supporting US policy in Afghanistan and Haiti. This is seen as offsetting the decision of the Chretien government not to send armed forces to the Iraq war.
NATO was formed in 1948 as a military alliance to defend Europe against a possible invasion from the USSR. Of course that reason for existence is obsolete. As the Bush Administration proclaimed in its famous National Security Paper in September 2002, the United States is determined to continue as the world's only superpower. It will oppose the attempt of any other countries, friends or foes, to challenge US domination. NATO, under US control, serves as a major obstacle to the development of Europe as a power bloc separate from the United States.
The Afghan war also demonstrates that the present role of NATO is to support the general policy goals of the US government. By assuming military tasks in Afghanistan, NATO countries allow the United States to transfer more of its own armed forces to the war in Iraq.
The U.S. government has another objective being played out in Afghanistan. The Bush Administration is setting a precedent where it can use NATO to support its "war on terrorism" and bypass the UN Security Council. Our Canadian Liberal and Conservative governments have agreed with this basic political strategy.
There is an alternate course of action for the Canadian government. This would mean a return to our traditional role of peacekeeping and humanitarian aid:
(1) Withdraw all military forces from Afghanistan and withdraw from all projects being sponsored by the U.S. government and NATO.
(2) Work within the UN General Assembly to develop a new project for Afghanistan which would emphasize emergency food aid, a significant program to help Afghan farmers to produce food for their own people, and health care. This would be completely separate from any US or NATO project..
(3) The application of this revised UN program would exclude the participation of all countries involved in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
(4) Any security forces needed to protect this UN operation would be drawn, if possible, from Muslim countries and would be financially supported by peacekeeping countries like Canada.
John W. Warnock has recently retired from teaching political economy and sociology at the University of Regina.
"What is Terrorism?"
Appendix from Creating a Failed State:
by John W. Warnock
My Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (1961) defines terror as a “State or instance of extreme fear.” Terrorism is defined as an “Act of terrorizing, or state of being terrorized; specifically, a mode of governing, or of opposing government, by intimidation.” It is common to identify this with the Reign of Terror in France (1793-4). This definition makes it clear that terror is used by both governments and those opposed to a particular government. Individual or group activities (like bombing a subway) are crimes and not acts of war.
This definition was created before President Ronald Reagan declared his “war on international terrorism” while launching the Contra war of terrorism against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
George Orwell argued that governments use the power of language as a weapon. He concluded in 1946 that “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible.” In his novel 1984 Orwell argued that “war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is to keep the structure of society intact.”
This brings back memories of the Vietnam War. When the National Liberation Front killed local government officials appointed by the U.S.-backed military regime in Saigon, they were described as terrorists. But when B-52 bombers flew in the night and carpet bombed areas under the control of the NLF, this was called “pacification.”
The present U.S. law on international terrorism includes activities which are designed to “(1) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (2) influence the policy of government by intimidation or coercion; or (3) affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.” Elsewhere it is defined as “the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious or ideological in nature through intimidation, coercion or instilling fear.” The post-9/11 Canadian law is similar.
The United Nations has not been able to agree on a definition of terrorism. In 1999 one UN resolution proposed that terrorism consisted of “criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public.” Many questions were raised in the debate. Is it legitimate for individuals and groups to attack military forces which occupy their own country? Is it not legitimate to use whatever force is available to resist colonial domination? Cannot individuals and groups use violence to try to remove a criminal dictatorship? The closest the debate came to consensus was the general agreement that the targets of terrorism are usually civilians.
Michael Stohl and George A. Lopez point out that there was no agreement at the United Nations because of ideological and regional differences of opinion. There were three basic positions on terrorism:
(1) Terrorism is defined by criminal acts by individuals and groups against existing governments. This was the general position taken by the advanced industrialized governments and some Latin American dictatorships.
(2) Terrorism should be defined by acts, so that actions by governments could be included. This was the position taken by the African governments.
(3) Terrorism should be identified by the motivation of the actor and the context in which it takes place. Under the narrow definition proposed by the advanced industrialized countries, actions by national liberation movements against imperialism and colonialism would be labeled terrorism. This was the position taken by many governments from less developed countries.
Edward Peck has recalled his experience on the White House Task Force on Terrorism in 1985, under President Ronald Reagan. Asked to come up with a definition of terrorism “we produced about six, and in each and every case they were rejected because careful reading would indicate that our own country had been involved in some of those activities.” The Congress defined international terrorism as “activities that appear to be intended to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.” Peck concluded that “you can think of a number of countries that have been involved in such activities. Ours in one of them. Israel is another. And so, the terrorist, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.”
State terrorism certainly did not start with the Reign of Terror in France. A few years ago I did some research on Irish history. In their attempt to pacify the Irish rebel movements, the English Tudors regularly carried out a systematic “war of terror,” and they called it that. This included the routine burning of crops, homes and villages, killing of all the cattle, destroying food resources, and killing all men, women and children in certain cases. There was a bounty paid for Irish heads. Under orders from Queen Elizabeth, Francis Drake massacred the entire population of Rathlin Island to teach the Scots not to support their Celtic allies. Sir Humphrey Gilbert, head of the English forces, had the heads of the Irish killed during the day piled up near his camp for the Irish to see. He argued that this “policy of terror” would convince the Irish to give up their rebellion and shorten the war.
Stohl and Lopez try to distinguish between the different kinds of violence used by a state. They define oppression, where “social and economic privileges are denied to whole classes of people regardless of whether they oppose the authorities.” Repression is used by the state, “coercion or threat of coercion against opponents or potential opponents in order to prevent or weaken their capability to oppose the authorities and their policies.” Many examples are used from Latin America to illustrate these positions. They argue that in this differentiation of state power terrorism is “the purposeful act or threat of violence to create fear and/or compliant behaviour in a victim and/or audience of the act or threat.” The goal of an act of state terror is the creation of fear in an audience, to change behaviour or potential behaviour. They cite a Chinese proverb to illustrate their point: “Kill one, frighten ten thousand.”
See Michael Stohl and George A. Lopez, eds. The State as Terrorist: The Dynamics of Governmental Violence and Repression. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, Congressional Information Service, 1984.