Dispatches from Afghanistan

Thoughts about education, war, and the future of Afghanistan from a professor of teacher education.

Afghan Conceptions of Leadership

Prior to starting our “Strategic Leadership” course in the MPPA graduate program at Kabul University, I asked the 18 (9m, 9w) MA candidates to list the necessary attributes for a leader – manager – administrator in today`s Afghanistan. Here is a close translation of what they wrote in Dari and / or Pashto, the Country`s official national languages. Needless to say one would be hard-pressed to find many leaders in any walk of life who can come close to meeting the expectations of the Afghan nation.

Zaher Wahab

July / 15/ 2013



Kind and Compassionate

Smart

Competent

Determined

Moral – Ethical

Humanistic

Peace – Loving

Action – Oriented

Courageous

Persuasive Speaker 

Informed about the organization

Physically and Mentally Healthy

Responsible

Having  good Relationship Skills

Focused On Organizational Goals/ Objectives

Ability and Willingness to Take Risks

Ability to Win People’s Loyalties

Perceptive

Persistent

Charismatic

Effective

Having Strategic outlook

Change Agent

Maintaining Good Relationship with Followers, and coworkers

Competent in Assigned duties

Knowledgeable and informed

Trust Worthy

Respectable

Honest

Inspiring

Self – Confident

Creative

Knowledgeable

Receptive to new ideas

Self – Sufficient

Self – Reliant

Empowering

Appreciative

Ambitions

Ethical

Selfless  

Friendly

Expert

A good and Active Listener

Independent thinker

Stable – Consistent

Visionary

Inspires and Motivates Followers, Coworkers

Sociable

Aware

Analytical

Committed

Resourceful

Responsible

Reliable

Decisive    

Cooperative and Helpful

Conscientious

Civil

Involved 

Recognizes self and others

 Creating a trusting working environment

Helps followers and holds them accountable

Good at interpersonal relationships

Committed to justice

Responsible and accountable

Concerned about the human condition

Makes short, medium and long term plans for improving society

Treats every one and all the same

Does not discriminate based on race, class, gender, etc.

Has Dignity

Effective and efficient

Logical

Able

Kind

Nonsectarian

Egalitarian

Democratic

Respectful

Lawful

Implements and enforces the law

Non-corrupt

Patriotic

Listens well

Goal – oriented

Patient

Committed to our political freedom and independence  

Autonomous

Has a clean past

Can differentiate good and bad

Future – oriented

Thinks for himself

Aware of his surroundings

Honest

Self – sacrificing

Non-prejudicial

Realistic

Insightful

Humble

Tolerant and accepting of other

Respecting religious and cultural values

Futuristic

 Hardworking

Fully aware of our monumental problems

Behaves appropriately

Treats others well

Highly intelligent and competent

An excellent model

Critical of the current situation

An educator / guide

Curious

A good planner / programmers

A good manager

Sociable

Socially conscious


Report from Afghanistan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                 July 3, 2013

Dear All,

Greetings from Kabul. I realize I have not written to you or for my blog(the Tumblr) since my return to Kabul in early March. The reason is that a succession of fast-moving deadly events and the general turmoil really take over your life and can simply overwhelm you here. Life in general, is very tumultuous. Also, I have been very busy teaching. I teach a ‘Principles of Teaching and Learning’ course to a cohort of 22(11 m, 11 w) teacher education faculty from the 17 four-year teacher training colleges from throughout the country, in the MEd program at Kabul Education University. I also teach a graduate course on ‘Strategic Leadership’ to a cohort of 18 (9 m, 9 W) in the Public Policy and Administration program at Kabul University to mid-career people  working for the government, civil society and/or non-governmental organizations. The students are very capable, highly motivated, and extremely appreciative; though many lack academic preparation, from writing skills to the subjects they teach, to modern pedagogic skills, or the work they do. Teaching here requires much work. I have to search the reading material in English sources and have it translated into Dari-one of the two official national languages. And all the work is done in Dari and Pashto. So it is quite a challenge. The students, like the vast majority, are very angry at the wretched conditions in the country,  the corrupt, inept, indifferent and illegitimate government and at all the foreigners here. And for good reasons. Consider the following:

The endless war, violence and insecurity concern everybody. By all accounts, the war this year has been the most intense since the US/NATO invasion and occupation started in October 2001. So far 97 Americans, 3100 Afghan civilians (20% of them children), about 3000 Afghan security forces, and about 800 insurgents have been killed, and of course countless injured. The exact number is hard to know, since the press is either not allowed or too afraid to visit the fighting scenes. There have been six spectacular and deadly attacks in Kabul itself since March, one on the high security presidential palace and the CIA headquarter next to it, a week ago. There was a suicide car bombing at The Supreme, a NATO logistics supply center and a foreign guest house at 4 am yesterday killing nine and causing extensive damage. Intense fighting rages all over the country while there are ‘talks about peace talks.’ This could be more theatre than serious discussion. The British Gen. N. Carter, second in command of the NATO/ISAF forces, said the other day that ‘we missed the opportunity for peace 11 years ago, by excluding the Taliban from the Bonn conference in Dec. 2001.’ L. Brahimi, J. Dobbins and others have said the same. I have been saying so since before the US invasion! Having lost the war, it seems the Americans are looking for an honorable out. But what about the trillion dollars, countless Afghan, American and other lives, and a poor country redestroyed? Will there be war crimes tribunals? Will anyone be held accountable?

At this point there are some 70,000 American and 40000 NATO and other foreign troops; there are troops from some 45 different countries here ranging from Jordan to New Zeland, 110,000 contractors like Blackwater , (I think, it is now called academia) and Dyn Corp, 500,000 Afghan security personnel-trained,  equipped, paid for and supported by the US/NATO. all fighting some 20000 insurgents, lumped together as ‘Taleban’. Does this make sense? While Washington says it is fighting al-Qaida and global terrorism, at the very same time, it is supporting that same group in Syria against Assad, just as it did in Libya and in Iraq. The Americans are also supporting so-called Afghan Local Police( thugs for higher) who are preying on poor peasants all over the country. But war is good and BIG business, and for the poor Afghans, the only employment, since there has been little to no real development over the last 12 years. The American-paid mercenary army is the largest and only kind of employment in the country, one-third of which deserts yearly. As you know, the American ‘liberators’ are also essentially a mercenary army. Yes, the US does indeed  have death squads here, killing people indiscriminately and dumping them in mass graves or on the road. The public outcry forced Karzai (our main in Kabul) to demand the withdrawl of these ds from Wardak province, about 40 miles from Kabul.  And to end the night-raids, bombings and drone attacks on innocent peasants. But no one heeds his pleas. You all know about Karzai’s entire ruling clique being on the CIA, British, Pakistani and Iranian and other intelligence agency payroll for more than ten years. Even the national Security Council! Karzai told a press conference in Finland and said he was ‘very thankful for the help’.

Obama says the US will withdraw from Afghanistan , but he also wants nine big bases in Afghanistan, to which Mr. Karzai has agreed. And Mr. Blackman of the State Department said that ‘we are not leaving this area.’ I have always believed so. Washington is building, second to the Pentagon, the largest ministry of defense in Kabul in the world. Who will pay for heating, cooling and lighting?! Pepsi plans to build a processing plant, next to Coca cola co. soon. This, in a country where most people lack clean drinking water; and last week, about 50 school girls got sick from drinking water from the school’s well. Washington still spends about $100 Billion/year in Afghanistan on the war. And it will spend $2 billion on scraping/destroying $7 billion worth of its military hardware here.  Meanwhile, the Afghan government and army complain about lacking the necessary tools to fight ‘the enemy’ with. All this when the Afghans, Congress, the American public, and the whole world wants the US/NATO/others out. There were about 500 drone attacks here last year, and 1 in 4 victims were unidentifiable. Night- raids, bombing, fighting continue, even though officially, Americans are not supposed to be fighting now, with all security matters turned over to ANSF. J. Scahill’s Dirty Wars sounds like a good Summer reading/viewing. It is not just Guantanamo or Bagram;, there are several secret prisons here run by the US/NATO, and some Afghan warlords. People disappear, and innocent people, including children and women get killed all the time.

On the’ development /reconstrucyion’ front: Half the population is hungry; half are un or underemployed; most are desperately poor;  Kabul still lacks a sewer system; per capita income hovers around $450; a school teacher is paid 100-300$ a month, and professors from 300-800 per month. The cost of living in the cities is out of control. Meanwhile, the thousands of expats calling themselves aid/development workers,  splurge $10-12 for a can of beer.  They come from every corner of the world; and you would not higher or live with most of them. Seventy percent of the people are illiterate; there are schools and universities with little to no education in them; the country imports 60% of the professionals; it is still the worst place for women and children; there really is no functioning government or economy, or even traffic lights in Kabul- a city of 5 million people and a million vehicles. 93% of the economy is based on the presence of the foreigners. Same roads I walked on as a child. There is massive capital and human flight out of the country; Afghans constitute the largest refugee population and asylum seekers in the world; the government is ranked the most corrupt, and the country the most unstable and dangerous in the world. At least five million school-age children are not in school, and half the schools have no buildings. Only 10% of the girls who start first grade, graduate from high school. At best, 20% of the teachers maybe qualified. Seven percent of the professors have doctorates, 35% Mas the rest just BA/BS. The country still has the highest child and maternal deaths in the world; It has the largest percentage of widows, orphans, street children and amputees in the world. Only a third of the population has safe drinking water, and 20% electricity. The country’s rivers flow out of the land, and not a single dam has been built during the occupation, while the USAID pays for electricity from Central Asia or generators. Violence, crime and corruption are out of control. There is no peace, safety or security anywhere for anyone, especially if you are a high government official, are part of the army-police-intelligence network, or a Westerner. The entire nation is traumatized. There are one and a half million drug addicts, including women and children, with little to no help. Drugs supplying 90% of the world’s heroin, are a third of the GDP, and  are managed partly by the kleptocracy/mafiocracy/assasins/government  the US/NATO installed and protects. There is massive pain and suffering throughout the country, while the predatory  compradore class is immersed in unbelievable privileges. There is a vast distancebbetween the so-called government and the people.

The buzz now is about 2014, and what the Americans, Pakistanis, Iranians Qataris and the Taliban are up to. Will the puppet Karzai criminal syndicate/mafia really relinquish power by April 2014, as the Constitution says? Will civil/sectarian war start when the Americans/NATO leave/chased out? Will the country be partitionedamongst various groups? What about the common people? Who will provide the 97% government budget after 2014?  How did the country become so dependent on foreigners? Why wasn’t the country prepared for self-reliance, self-defense and self- help? Those who know the answers are marginalized, silenced, or worse. And there are many decent people here.  People are indeed very angry, and there is some kind of demonstration/riot/protest weekly. The faculty and students shut Kabul University for three weeks recently. People have no faith or trust in and respect for the rentier government or its foreign sponsors. And 70% of the people are under 25. If I read things correctly, an ‘Afghan Spring’-summer, or winter is just a matter of time. And I can hear the ruling class in the US then wondering ‘who lost Afghanistan?! Well, I plan to visit Portland( my other home and having its own problems)) July 17 to August 10. I hope( would love to have a chance) to meet some of you, if you are so inclined, you can e-mail me, or call my US phone (971 300 8921), (being certain that we are listened to-for our own good and protection, of course).

This brief report will be posted on Z.W.Tumblr; and feel  free to share it.

I hope all is well with all of you.

Warm regards,

Zaher Wahab

Afghan war failure on all fronts

COMMENTARY: Afghan war failure on all fronts

U.S. troop withdrawal from the political and military disaster cannot come soon enough

Published: December 9, 2012 12:00AM, Midnight, Dec 9

We recently passed the 11th anniversary of the United States- and NATO-led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, making this the longest and one of the costliest misadventures in U.S. history.

The invasion was prompted by the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda­ attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which killed 3,000 Americans. The invasion was rationalized by Washington’s lofty claims: waging a global war on terrorism; bringing peace, democracy and prosperity to Afghanistan; liberating Afghan women, and eliminating the opium industry. America’s military-industrial-political-media complex deluded itself into believing its own narrative, and misled a gullible public into supporting an ill-conceived, costly and counterproductive mission.

The war in Afghanistan — like previous invasions by Britain and the former Soviet Union — has been a spectacular failure, a disaster for both the U.S. and Afghanistan. By all accounts, the war is at a political and military stalemate. Insurgents have managed to inflict serious financial, human and political costs on the invaders.

President Obama has declared that “the war, as we understand it, is over.” Some argue that the West has actually lost this war, and that the war has lost its way: hence the stampede by U.S. forces to exit the country by the end of 2014.

Any practical assessment of this catastrophe supports the argument that the war be brought to an end much sooner. However, the United States and NATO have built four permanent bases in Afghanistan and are lobbying for a continued presence in the country beyond 2014.

The U.S. has spent more than half a trillion dollars on the war, and is currently spending $10 billion per month. About 2,100 American soldiers are dead (57 of them murdered this year by Afghan trainees, dubbed “green on blue” attacks), 18,000 have been injured, and tens of thousands are psychologically damaged.

As for the already devastated country of Afghanistan, the last 11 years have indeed been a calamity. None of the invaders’ professed goals have been achieved. There is no peace, security, stability, development, democracy, prosperity, women’s liberation, drug eradication, or regional tranquility. Far from it.

As I type this column in Kabul, the International Development Committee, a British parliamentary committee, issued a report stating, essentially, that the Afghan government is beyond redemption, that it cannot be built, cleaned or developed and that any assistance should be given directly to the people.

Afghanistan is now both a theater for proxy wars and is possibly on the verge of civil war. The world speaks of Afghanistan only in such negative terms as “failed state,” “narcostate,” “kleptocracy,” “mafiocracy,” “corrupt,” and “heartbreakingly poor.”

Tragically, these characterizations are essentially true. Almost the entire economy is dependent on war and the presence of foreigners. About half of the people live on a dollar a day. Seventy percent are illiterate. About half of school-age children are out of school, and half the schools have no buildings. Less than 2 percent attend college. The average life span is about 48 years.

Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest percentages of orphans, widows and amputees. It has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world. Three percent of the population is drug addicted. Many suffer from some kind of mental illness. It is considered the worst place in the world for women and children. It has among the world’s largest numbers of refugees, internally displaced people and asylum seekers.

Over the last 11 years, about 130,000 Afghans have been killed and too many to count have been wounded. Whatever physical infrastructure there was is in ruins. The social, cultural, environmental and institutional damage is incalculable.

Kabul, the capital, is almost unlivable. Most people are gripped by fear, anxiety, uncertainty and hopelessness. Anyone who can get out is leaving, whatever the cost. A predatory profiteer class has managed to strip essential financial resources from what was already a weak economy.

In short, the Afghan people, who had nothing to do with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have been subjected to a brutal form of collective punishment.

Currently there are 110,000 foreign troops from 50 countries, 100,000 contractors (a shadow army), and 350,000 so-called Afghan National Security Forces presiding over this state of affairs; supposedly they are fighting the Taliban and terrorists.

While the U.S. and NATO spend about $11 billion to $12 billion per month on death and destruction, the U.S. has allocated a mere $1.9 billion for development for all of 2012 — and most development projects have military, political or intelligence orientations. But nothing is working, and most Afghans are sick and tired of war and occupation.

What to do? To end this deplorable state of affairs, we need true statesmanship and a quick paradigm shift. I recommend:

Americans — the power elite and the public alike — must alter their mindset about Afghanistan, which can be done only by really respecting and listening to the full spectrum of Afghan society, especially the insurgents. Americans must differentiate between legitimate Afghan nationalism and extremist fundamentalism and anti-Westernism. They must stop conflating the Afghan Taliban with al-Qaeda and other anti-Western Taliban groups. They must stop viewing Afghanistan as a mere reservoir to be exploited for its natural resources.

The U.S. and Afghan governments must switch from war to a serious and respectful political dialogue with the insurgents and other opposition groups. They should endeavor to foster national reconciliation, build unity among Afghans, and help form a national unity government.

The Western invaders should declare a cease-fire, stop the night raids, end kill-or-capture activities and stop drone attacks. The U.S. and NATO must withdraw all their forces as soon as possible and leave no troops, CIA operatives, special operations forces or so-called trainers behind.

The U.S. and NATO must build genuinely national and professional Afghan army, police and intelligence forces, and commit to their full long-term support. They must dismantle and disarm all other paramilitary forces (private militias and Afghan local police) in the country.

The Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba and Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan must be closed, and all political prisoners freed.

The West must commit to a long-term comprehensive development plan focusing on education, health care, agriculture, communication, power, mining and transportation.

The West must ensure that the 2014 Afghan elections are indeed free, fair and transparent.

The U.S. and its allies must actively support justice, law and order, and trials of all war criminals. They must guarantee full human rights for all, support affirmative action for women, and protect civilians from harm. They must compensate people justly and fairly for loss of life and property.

The West must work to settle all the regional disputes, such as those between Afghanistan and Pakistan, India and Pakistan, Iran and the United States, the Sunni and Shia Muslims, and Arabs and Iranians. The West must put pressure on Pakistan and Iran not to meddle in Afghan affairs.

The United States must abide by treaty obligations to ensure Afghanistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and neutrality. The West must decouple normal international relations from war and military engagement.

Finally, America must realize that war is no longer a solution to human conflict — especially in “the graveyard of empires” called Afghanistan.

Afghan Reflections on Operation enduring freedom

Afghan Reflections on Operation Enduring Freedom

Zaher Wahab

Kabul: October 31, 2012

October marks the 11th anniversary of the US/NATO invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. I asked some senior students at Kabul Education University to write their spontaneous reflections on their country, the war and their future. The ten men and women come from various provinces, ethnic and religious backgrounds; and although  not a scientific sample, they do represent common sentiments, among the majority of Afghans. Part I of these reflections, written by university instructors, can be found in (Zaher Wahab Tumbler), and part III will follow soon.

Ask an Afghan: Part II:

“Although we have been at war for decades, but the invasion and occupation by foreign powers constitutes an historical and shameful crime. Although Americans claim that they have brought peace, stability and national security to Afghanistan, but in my opinion, this is an utter lie. They are trying to win our trust. Foreign troops have been here for a long time, ostensibly to keep peace and stability in Afghanistan. In fact, there has been nothing but violence, destruction„ killing and chaos  here. The US plans its policies throughout the world, including a scheme for Afghanistan. But the US plan here failed and it has been forced to withdraw from our country. Knowing what America is all about, how can we believe that it has acted for our good? We are extremely worried about the future of our country. What will happen in a few years? We witness and experience all this upheaval and killing daily, and in spite of the massive foreign military. What about the time when there are no foreign troops, no patriotic, honest, competent government? What about the time when both external and internal conspiracies, intrigue and treason are magnified many times? Every country that has “assisted” us over the last 11 years ,has done so far a selfish reason; and  in reality they have exploited our resources, trust and vulnerabilities.  If the international community truly wants peace, security and stability, then why don’t they exhibit real concern about our  people- now and in the future!? There are obviously hidden and devious agendas behind their hallow but nice rhetoric. So, they are all liars. To conclude, we want/ need peace here and throughout the world, not the mass murders and turmoil foisted on the third world, keeping the people in a permanent state of anxiety, dependency and insecurity.”

“It is very curious to see that given the massive foreign military presence and a huge Afghan army, there is still no peace, security or stability here. In fact there is increased violence, fighting, death and destruction now and more  than 11 years ago. Is this deliberate? And by design? We the people need to unite and solve our own problems. Can we say that with foreigners gone, peace will prevail? Or will they leave a proxy force to continue killing us?”

“America used the 9/11 attacks to invade and occupy Afghanistan.  Although it said they wanted to destroy Al- Qaida and get Bin ladin. But we all know that the US wanted  bases here to deter its rivals China, Russia, Iran and India; control the oil and gas in Central Asia, and in the greater middle East. The US established four major bases in our country, it put a puppet government in place; and it imposed several agreements on its client state. With all this done, the US/NATO now say that it is leaving:  we shall see.”

“The US/NATO came here saying they wanted to end terrorism, bring peace, security, a people’s government to Afghanistan, stabilize the region, and bring economic development and self – reliance. Unfortunately, 11 years later, other than some small insignificant and temporary accomplishments, nothing substantial has been accomplished. We are in the same situation, perhaps worse off.”

“The Americans say they are here to help us and that they are our friends. But from a religious point of view the kafirs (infidels).can never be our friends. The two governments signed a strategic partnership agreement last May, obligating them to defend each other from attacks by a third party. Now Pakistan has been rocketing Afghanistan for a year, and President Karzai  has repeatedly asked the US for help: but the US has not done anything: so what kind of partnership or friendship is this? [An ISAF spokesman just told the press that they were not here to defend Afghanistan against foreign attacks. October 29, 2012]

 

“These people are the enemies of Islam and their sole objective is to humiliate and discredit Islam. And if we are not stupid foreigners would not and could not occupy us. But there is no patriotism among us. As the Indian films say “the country is your mother “But there are too many people in our country who sell their mothers. The Quran says “do good, and do no harm.” We are in a situation where we don’t do any good, and we don’t let others to do good deeds either. There is much evil amongst us.”

“Afghanistan initially welcomed the Americans 11 years ago, hoping they will bring lawfulness and put war criminal, warlords and human rights violators on trial. Unfortunately and disappointingly this has not happened. In fact the internationals themselves have been committing unspeakable and unforgiveable crimes here. Crimes such as: They have had no systematic plan for infrastructural development. They are protecting criminals whom the Afghans want put on trial. They have fostered economic as well as political corruption. They have established class domination and class oppression. They have not created an open society. The entire region has been afflicted with profound political crisis and our neighbors are waiting to annex us.”

“There are several reasons why foreign forces came here. But I believe that the principal reason is economic. The wealthy class in America and Europe needs resources, markets, and cheap labor. Afghanistan and this region have plenty of all this. So the ruling elite organize armies and send them to places to occupy. The invading and occupying forces are here for their own reasons. They don’t care about or have any respect for our problems, needs, culture or values. They are not going to leave any time soon, and they have legitimated and institutionalized their long – term or permanent presence through all these “pacts” and “agreements.”

 

“In my view all these forces from some 50 countries are here for their selfish and wicked motives. They are never, and not at all interested in unity among Muslims. All the sectarianism and ethno- racial tension we are afflicted with here, was instigated by the foreigners. They have been here for 11 years, but there is still strife, violence and war here; because the infidels do not allow harmony amongst Muslims. Why is it that the entire Muslim world is in turmoil?! I don’t see any fighting or strife in the non-Muslim countries. They are here to divide and rule, and to steal our minerals and resources. The Russians were better than the Americans; they built universities, housing, factories, roads, and our army. The Americans have not done anything of substance.”

 

“Even one- third of what we expected has not been accomplished here by the US/NATO. They have not built any essential infrastructure. For example when they pave a road, it unravels in 6 months due to shoddy material and workmanship. Our environment has collapsed and Kabul’s air is half human excrement. ISAF is the source and protector of corruption. They are destroying our religion and culture systematically. Unemployment and poverty are increasing by the day. A culture of impunity prevails. They insult the Quran and our holy places. They massacre innocent civilians in their sleep. They convert our people to Christianity. They have installed criminal, corrupt and incompetent individuals in power position, leaving no room for good people to serve the country. The Christian and Jews will never allow Muslims to have dignity and decent lives of peace, democracy and prosperity.”

 

   

Afghan Reflections on Operation Enduring Freedom

Afghan Reflections on Operation Enduring Freedom

Zaher Wahab

Kabul: October 10, 2012

As the reader knows, October 7, 2012 marked the eleventh anniversary of the US/NATO invasion and occupation of Afghanistan code – named “Operation Enduring Freedom.” Currently, there are 110,000 troops from fifty countries, 100,000 contractors from the US, Afghanistan, and other nations, nations that just awarded itself the Nobel Peace prize, and about 350,000 Afghan National Security Forces battling the unknown number of insurgents in the war – torn country.

The war has cost the US alone half – a – trillion dollars, more than 2000 dead (54 murdered by their Afghan trainee allies this year), and 18000 wounded. An estimated 130,000 Afghans have been killed since October 7, 2001. There is no peace, security or law and order anywhere in the country. Half of the people live on a dollar- a- day, 3% are drug addicted, 70% are illiterate, and about half are under or unemployed. Most are poor. Crime is out of control. About half the girls are married off before they are18, 13% before they are 13. The country has been so fractured that now there are countries within the country, cities within cities, armies  within the army, and governments within the government. 97% of the economy is based on the presence of foreigners(essentially a war economy). In 2011, the predatory, kleptocratic , comprador, vulture  ruling  class took  $4.5 billion (two-third of the government’s annual budget, and a fourth of the country’s GDP)  out through the Kabul international airport, with the full knowledge of the Afghan and American authorities. Half of the school- age children attend school. The International Committee of the Red Cross just issued a report stating that life in general for civilians is getting worse by the day and the prospects are very gloomy. The International Crisis Group also just issued a lengthy report stating that unless the international community and the Afghan government took some drastic immediate steps, the Afghan government will soon implode after the US/NATO troop withdraw (or  kick out) in 2014,  civil war will resume, and that the insurgents will take over. The head of the UN office in Kabul, J.kubis, and many others have issued similar warnings. The UN Security Council just cancelled its visit

 to Kabul “ for security reasons.” Earlier, a report by the German intelligence agency issued similar dire warnings, saying that western governments were misleading their people about the Afghan situation. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace issued a similar report a few months ago saying that the government could collapse in a few years. Yet, amazingly, on this 11th bloody anniversary and the presidential election in the US, there has been a conspiracy of silence on America’s longest war. It is very painful and beyond comprehension to watch my one homeland bankrupting itself while redestroying and tearing apart my other homeland. This, while we are told by Washington warlords that there are very few al qaida in Afghanistan and that ‘the Taliban are not our enemy’(J. Biden). Note the self-serving cathartic publicity given by the corporate media and the emotional exhibitionism by hypocritical Western politicians regarding Malala Yousefzai-the Pakisitani teenager who was brutally attacked by Pakistani fanatics; but there has been no mention of thy three little Afghan girls bombed by the US/NATO air force in Helmand, while collecting firewood around the same time.

Ask an Afghan: Part I:

On October 7, I asked some forty master’s degree students and twenty undergraduates, an equal number of men and women from all over the country, what they thought about Operation Enduring Freedom and their country. Following is part one of translations of a sample of what they wrote.

“In my opinion, the US has been trying to somehow occupy Afghanistan, for a long time. America is intent on damaging Afghanistan socially and religiously. It was meddling in our affairs directly and indirectly, until it created a crisis, thus justifying its invasion and occupation of our motherland. The invasion / occupation have not only damaged our country, but it has destabilized the entire region, using excuses such as Iran’s nuclear weapons and so on. This is why Afghans want the US to get out, so that we can live in peace and freedom, and so we can chart our own path toward the future. Why is it that the US and the 49 other countries have not brought peace in our country in 11 years?”

“Because of its strategic geographic location, Afghanistan has experienced numerous successive imperial invasions, from Alexander the great to the Americans. The invaders have relied on various treasonous and treacherous groups such as communists, the so – called Jihadis, the Taliban, and now the current puppet regime which they call a democracy, in order to advance their ignoble and colonial designs on our country. The imperialists and their local allies have distorted our religion, culture and history so to maintain a feudal system. We must wake up, use education, logic and reason and live normally.”

 

“The US and its 49 allies have been here for 11 years now. They invaded and occupied our country in the name of fighting terrorism. Their true intent though was to colonize our country, and when we threw out the former USSR, America finally had a chance to invade and occupy our country. The US established the kind of political system, Constitution and a government (president) it wanted; all in the name of the people. Reviewing the last 11 years, it is obvious that not only have the Taliban and al- Qaida have not been eliminated. But there is no peace, security or law and order; in fact violence, insecurity, lawlessness, and corruption have increased exponentially. In fact, the US is deliberately fomenting and assisting the insurgency so it can justify and legitimate its occupation of our country. Our religion, culture, honor and dignity are insulted, violated and undermined daily. The crusaders have distanced the people from the government, they have polarized and fractured our society, they have sewn distrust and hate among the people; and they have produced serious tensions, animosity and clashes among the people using us against each other for their own selfish purposes. I strongly believe that even if the occupiers are here for one hundred years, there will be no peace, security or stability here. You cannot force peace, stability or progress on a people at gun point. It has to be based on respect for a people, their culture and religion; and it has to happen naturally from within.

“The American presence here has had mixed impact on our country. On the positive side, there has been some progress in education, some improvement in some woman’s lives, some economic development, and the constitution on, the press, on the negative side, in eleven years, the Americans have not built the economy, any infrastructure, or factories. The Americans must do the following. They must prosecute, try, convict, imprison, and / or exile all the criminal warlords, Jihadis, and so- called commanders who hold and abuse power. The Americans must stop fooling, bribing or silencing Afghans with their dollars. They must stop spending/ wasting money on war and the military; they must invest in building our economy so we can have a better future. Americans must stop bombing people with their drones. They must stop invading our people. They must bring peace instead of killing at least 30 Afghans per day. When the Americans first came here 11 years ago, I was very pleased hoping they will bring peace, security, stability and economic development. And there has some progress in some aspects of our lives. Looking at the situation now, the negatives far outweigh the positive. We have lost money of our cherished values. We are attacked, killed or maimed. The foreigners add to our difficulties daily. They installed and protect strong men who violate all human rights. It is clear that in spite of the enormous human and financial costs, the foreigners have failed to achieve their goals. In spite of the huge and super modern army, the situation is getting worse daily. I am really worried have nightmares, and cannot sleep well. I worry about who will invade, terrorize and rule us next. I worry about the return of the dark jihadi and Taliban. I hope we are not abandoned again. I hope there will be peace and security. I want to ask America how you could uproot the Taliban 11 years ago, but can’t defeat them now? I am certain that America and its allies can bring peace here. I beg you not to make immoral deals with unsavory people. We are sick and tired of this. As human beings, we need peace, security and stability.”

I am very confused and worried about our country – now and in the future. With all the military and money, little has changed for the better. I believe this is due to: corruption and exploitation from top to bottom; poor management by the foreigners; lack of proper planning and implementation of the development projects; lack of quality control; lack of government transparency, accountability, responsibility or honesty, not arming our military; lack of government reform; ignoring the drugs problem; and lack of US pressure on Pakistan not to meddle in our affairs.”

“I was very optimistic upon the arrival of American – NATO forces 11 years ago. Many of us believed they would and the mujahidin – Taliban darkness once – and – for all. We hoped and thought that with all this help, in ten years, Afghanistan will become a modern developed country. Unfortunately, due to many reasons, our hopes did not materialize. All our resources, wealth and land have been stolen by a few people. Sure some progress has been made, but not on a scale I expected to. I thought we would become a self- sufficient and self – reliant country and there would be progress in education, the economy politics and society. Tragically, all our national wealth has looted by a bunch of criminal gangsters sunk into mansions, taken abroad, or invested in Dubai. Pity the oppressed and wretched masses who are condemned to the horrible conditions of 11 years ago, they still survive / subsist under savage, homeless, unemployed, hungry, illiterate, and bewildered conditions.

I hope that the country will soon rescue itself from this deplorable situation so that we, the young generation can serve our people. I wish and hope for a better, cleaner, developed, lawful and proud Afghanistan which is free of corruption and fratricide.”

 

“October 7 marks the new and modern American imperialism in Afghanistan. This is a significant and historic day for the Afghan people since it introduces neocolonialism (of divide and conquer) and fratricide to our country. The US had long been planning and hoping for this day. Looking closely at the country, we can see some changes. But America and its occupying allies are responsible for our miseries before and after October 7. The US and its partners had a scheme (a scenario) for the occasion.

The US capitalized on the a/11 attacks on the rowers, and it used two little – know groups of Taliban and al – Qaida to achieve its dream of discrediting Islam and to position itself against its rivals china, Russia and Iran. But achieving these twin goals came at the expense of the lives of tens of thousands of poor and innocent Afghans. The US bears sole responsibility for all of our problems over the last decade. Initially, Afghans were optimistic about the situation. But, with the passage of time American hostile policies and deeds are becoming clear and clearer. The US itself is the source of international terrorism. The US is fomenting war, violence, fragmentation and factionalism in Muslim countries, thus paving the way for its intervention. International terrorism benefits directly from and thrives on American policies. The price and cost of one American soldier equals the life of the entire poor and Muslim Afghans. The Afghan government was installed by the US. The US invaded here under the pretext of the war on terrorism, but….”

        

 

 

 

 

Homecoming:

Zaher Wahab, Kabul; September 19, 2011

As our plane from Dubai flew over the barren hills and mountains surrounding Kabul and descended on Kabul International Airport’s only one run way, we could easily see the medieval mud – houses, farmers toiling in their small pieces of land in go degree weather, and little boys and girls herding their sheep and goats in search of something to eat, the twenty- something western- dressed woman next to me started to cry, looking pained and bewildered. We had been talking in Dari for two- hours. She and part of her family were driven away by the way and tumult in her mother land when she was a little child. She now works as a nurse in her other ‘home- land’ Vienna. Trying to console her, I asked why she was eying. She said she was stunned by the underdevelopment before even deplaning. Where did all the billions go? Where are the government and its international backers? This is not human. It is shameful and criminal….

Looking very distraught and anguished, she asked me to stay by her until she meets her relatives in the waiting area. She stayed teary eyes, and also her face got red airport exacerbated her condition. Although I too was grieving silently, I told the driver and body guard who came to take me, to wait until this woman’s family arrives. Her telephone did not work, so my body guard contacted her family who arrived a full hour later. Meanwhile, I kept talking to her preparing her for a situation she could not even imagine. Her relatives arrived, we exchanged greetings, and she told them who I was. They were Hazaras – a different ethnic group and our people gave been slaughtering each other for years. They looked a little incredulous by what had just transpired. We said goodbye. Her name was Mighgan.

No There, There:

So here I am, perhaps on my twentieth trip to the tormented country-my homeland since 2002.There is a consistent pattern in life and developments.  Kabul is overgrown, overpopulated, polluted, toxic and really unlivable. The city was meant for half a million people and 100,000 vehicles. There are about five million people, one million vehicles, and countless animals-sheep, goats, etc. on the same old narrow roads and streets. Hardly a third of the roads are paved. The city has no sewerage system, working traffic lights, piped water, electricity or garbage service for all. Most streets have no sidewalks. There is garbage all over the place. Perhaps 30% of the structures have septic tanks, the rest have out houses or nothing. Seventy percent of the structures are built without permission or any plan. There is no zoning, everything is mixed up. There are open drain ditches in some areas. People use whatever they can find or afford for heating, cooling, cooking and transporting. There are very few parks and open spaces. Along with Iraq, the country is the largest market for used vehicles in the world. There are horrible traffic jams everywhere and all day long. People, sheep and dogs compete for the same heaps of garbage looking for something. You can’t go anywhere without being accosted by beggars. Look under any bridge, and you will see swarms of men who constitute some of the country’s one million drug addicts whose own lives and those of their families’ are destroyed by the pandemic. Crime is out of control, and some the the crime prevention agencies and/or high government officials themselves are part of the criminal gangs.

Although the city looks like under siege, with armed police, the military and intelligence agents, check points, barricades, watch towers, and patrols everywhere, no one is or feels safe. We are not allowed to step out of the compound alone and/ or on foot. We must sign in and out at all times. And we need to check in with our security chief even when going to certain parts of the city. Forget traveling outside the city. My mother lives about less than three hours by car, but I have not seen her for more than a year. She is too frail to visit Kabul and I am not allowed to go there. Even if I were, I will not return alive.We must follow an 11 pm curfew and be home. We are not allowed to go to the roof-top of the two story house we live in. And we have a ‘safe room’ in the basement just in case the house is stormed. Since Kabul is scorpion city, the house has to be sprayed every so often. After the film about insulting the prophet and the recent violent demonstrations here, and the suicide bombing  by a woman today(September18) killing 12 nine of them foreign civilian airmen from Russia and South Africa working  for the occupation,  and the expressed rage against expatriates, we are taken by SUVs between the office and the residence-a four minute walk. There have been two other suicide attacks on the ISAF forces today September 18. Several of my female students missed class  saying they are too afraid to attend..

All the foreigners, the wealthy and the powerful predatory class live in gated areas, behind massive blast walls with concertina wire, armed guards, security cameras, and alarm systems. And they travel in armored cars with armed escorts.  Last Saturday(Sep.15), a suicide bomber exploded himself at the gate of camp Eeggar, the ISAF head quarter, and 150 meters from the presidential palace in the green zone of green zones, killing 10, wounding several others. And there was a gun battle between Hazaras and Panjsheri Tajiks for hours over pictures of two dead leaders(actually both war criminals) of the two groups about a mile from our house. So we were under lock down  for hours. Kabul like Baghdad, is sort of divided into sections based on ethnicity and people cluster around their kind. No onis addressing the serious implications of this self-segregation. Two suicide bombers and road side bombs killed  several prominent government sympathizers  in “pacified” Helmand and uruzgan. And 53 died in a bus accident in Ghazni. Some villagers were  killed in Kunar by rockets launched from Pakistan. Nine women and three girls who were gathering fire-wood were killed and 7 wounded by US/NATO bombs two days ago. Violence,

 death and destruction are routine. In fact, I can not recall a day without violence or killing committed by the NATO/US forces, the Afghan National Security Forces, the insurgents, and/or civilians. The insurgents can hit anyone, any time, any place. It is 5:30 pm, Tuesday Sep 18, and as I update this report, we received orders to stay put because several groups of insurgents have entered Kabul trying to kill the newly appointed chief of national security and any foreigner they can kill. I too am a foreigner! And we try to teach and learn under these conditions.

The Forgotten War:

Remember the war Pres Bush started about eleven years ago, to end terrorism, destroy al-Qaida, liberate Afghan women, bring  democracy, peace, prosperity and stability to Afghanistan, dismantle the drug industry, and stabilize the region? Thus

 far, the US  alone has spent half- a- trillion dollars( currently $10 bill/month and one million $ to keep one American here for a year. Some 2100Americans (and about 1100 NATO) have been killed and 15000 injured since October 2001. There are now about 85,000 US and 40,000 ‘allied’ troops  occupying  and waging war on Afghanistan. There are 550 major and about 900 other small military outposts in the Texas- size country. Some 12000 Afghan troops and 14000 civilians have been killed and countless injured since 2007 when they started counting. 1145 civilians have been killed and more than 2000 injured so far in 20012.Countless insurgents have been killed and thousands maimed.  More than one million Afghans including soldiers have been disabled since 2001. They are paid $30 per month to live on. The war, occupation, and resistance to it rage on. Although the US has spent more than 22 billion dollars on training the Afghan National Security Forces- “Partners”, “Friends” and “allies”, those same allies(in fact just mercenary men trying to make a living) have killed 51 ISAF (mostly American) of their trainers- mentors- allies this year alone(6 in the last two days), in the so- called ‘insider’ ‘green on blue’ attacks, twice the number in 2011. This has created a crisis situation in Washington, and the US/NATO have been forced to suspend all the joint operatins with the Afghan forces, halt the training of the so-called Afghan Local Police(the arbaki) training, assign “ guardian angels” or armed Americans with shoot to kill orders any Afghan who might harm an ISAF member; and American forces have been ordered to carry loaded weapons even when going to the toilet. After initial dismissals by the Pentagon blaming ‘rogue,’ ‘disgruntled’ or ‘Taleban infiltrators’, an ISAF survey identified the real reasons for the so-called ‘Green on Blue’ attacks. These were: burning the Quran, desecrating mosques, urinating on dead Afghans ( even if Taleban ), urinating in public while standing, and  staring at women, asking Afghans for pictures of their wives, blowing their noses, foul language, having no respect for the Afghans, night- raids , killing innocent people, drone attacks, and acting like occupiers. And now, the film ‘the innocence of Muslims’ insulting the prophet, and pastor Terry Jonse again. So the US/NATO forces have now embarked on two – way “cultural sensitivity training” for the officer corps from both sides, to then train about 400,000 Afghan forces to love, obey, respect, cooperate with, and tolerate the occupiers. Here is a golden opportunity for more unemployed American social scientists to join the Pentagon’s so called ‘human terrain teams’ and “female engagement teams” to make a living by using America’s ‘soft power’ and humanize imperialism. The US/NATO forces simply cannot understand that every Afghan knows that his/her country is invaded and occupied;  and though they may be powerless, they feel the humiliation and the rage;  that they react to the sting of subjugation; and that it is a case of blowback. The occupiers ignore the politics of domination and the political context of the so-called cultural ’misunderstanding’. The green on blue is the Afghans telling the occupiers to get out.  I know first hand, that even in the civilian development business, the two sides essentially distrust, disdain and despise each other. 

Yet, with all this staggering  human, financial, physical, political and moral costs in America’s longest war, opposition by the vast majority of Americans, Afghans and others, and the destruction of both my adopted and native countries, neither candidate Romney nor the democrat’s opiate B. Clinton even mentioned Afghanistan in their recent political spectacles. And the peace prize laureate

presidential  candidate Obama lied on TV at the DNC, saying “we have blunted the Taleban momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over.” That is an utter lie, because the US/NATO are here to stay for geopolitical , strategic, energy,  mineral  and other reasons. This permanent occupation is codified in the so- called Afghan – US Strategic Partnership Agreement signed last May. There will be at least 30,000 CIA agents, Special Operation Forces, Trainers, the air force,  logistics personnel, about 500 bases and countless drones for decades to come. The US is also organizing and funding the 400,000 the proxy army of Afghan National Security Forces. IT is also hiring 30,000 thugs and criminal mercenaries called the Afghan local Police. And the US continues to fully support the cleptocracy, mafiocracy, criminal, corrupt, incompetent, illegitimate autocratic and reactionary syndicate called the Afghan government “ the government in a box “ as former commander S.McCrystal used to say. Washington invents slogans like “clear, hold, build, transfer “COIN – counterintelligence, “fight, talk and build,” “the New Silk Road” in order to deceive the people of the world and itself in order to legitimate the war and occupation. The military – industrial- political – media complex is not interested in facts on the ground, morality or public opinion represented by polls,  C. Sekarans’s book ‘little America’, Putin’s advice that Americans should learn from the Russian experience in Afghanistan, or what ambassador R. Crocker, Washington’s most experienced diplomat just told “The Daily Beast” that the army and politicians in Washington do not consult, have no plan or long term strategy, act thoughtlessly just to do something, get involved in countries where we have no business, try unsuccessfully to remake societies in the US’ image; he goes on to say that we should not be getting in and out of countries quickly without much thought about the consequences.

Mission Unaccomplished:

Crocker, Chadrasekaran, D. Filkins, ,M.Ho, Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction and many others are absolutely right. None of the original goals, promises or outright lies by Bush  INC have been accomplished. Though The Project for The New American Century appears to be making progress, thanks to the Obama administration’s commitment to out- performing Bush in serving the troubled empire. This endless unjust war and brutal occupation has been a catastrophe for Afghanistan. Countless Afghans have been killed and/or maimed. The vast majority live in abject poverty. Half the children are malnourished. Seventy percent remain illiterate. Ninety seven percent of the economy is dependent on foreign aid and/or foreign presence. People have been made dependent and have lost initiative and self-reliance.  It is the second most corrupt country in the world. There essentially is no functioning government, but a coalition of criminal predatory syndicates, plutocrats, Mafioso, and cleptocrats taking out about $8 billion a year officially through Kabul airport. Most women still live in the middle ages. The country provides 90% of the world’s heroin, and harbors at least a million addicts. Afghans are pitted against each other fracturing the society at its core. Mutuality, trust, honor, honesty, dignity, service,  citizenship have been dealt serious damage. There is no national army, but sectarian mercenary militias funded and trained by the US and its coalition of forty nations. The country’s  territorial  integrity  has been compromised so its  neighbors openly intervene and meddle in its affairs. It has been turned into a dumping ground for the neighbors’ bad goods, services and people. There is no peace, stability, security, or respect for law. I am writing this piece under a 24-hour lockdown  due to possible trouble in response to the film about the prophet Mohammad. Guns and money are what matter most. The entire region has been deeply destabilized due to imperial intervention. The occupiers  realize they have lost the war and are looking for an honorable exit to avoid catastrophe. The mission, such as it was, has  clearly failed. Afghanistan once again lives up to its image and history of ‘the graveyard of empires’.