FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Afghanistan in Winter

by CHRIS SANDS

in Kabul.

A crazy woman stalks the streets near Afghanistan’s parliament. When a warlord’s rocket killed her family during the early 1990s she lost her mind. Now she moves between the cars and people looking for it, another of the living dead trapped in her own private hell.

She’s always around there somewhere: in front of the homes still wrecked after they were destroyed more than a decade ago, next to the police station that was torched by a mob last year, in the gutter as an MP cruises by in his SUV.

That’s how life is here. Every corner has its own pitiful story and the old sorrow mixes with the new until it all becomes part of the same incessant sadness.

In December a man was shot in the centre of Kabul, not far from the presidential palace. His attackers stole the $25,000 they knew he would be carrying and left his corpse to freeze in the evening air. A week earlier an infant spilt boiling water over himself at home. He was buried in a simple ceremony soon afterwards.

Peace is only relative in a country where if the bombs and bullets don’t get you, something else will. The winter brings death from poverty and desperation, spring adds intense violence to the mix.

Last week George W. Bush stood before an audience of neocons at the luxurious Mayflower Hotel, Washington D.C., and said Afghans can now “begin to realise [their] dreams”.

He praised the NATO-led forces, local soldiers and police for capturing and killing terrorists. “Times have changed,” he added. “Our work is bringing freedom”.

Speaking in London the day before, Tony Blair claimed “the most remarkable progress” had been made. By his side was Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who used the opportunity to thank the British prime minister for giving him a cuddly toy to take to his newborn son in Kabul.

Back here, the public clings to hope like a drowning person might hold onto some driftwood during a hurricane. Almost everyone realises the odds are stacked against a happy ending.

Talk of gangs dressed in police uniforms smashing into houses and killing the residents is surfacing in Kabul.

Threats against the occupation are spouted in the open now, not whispered behind closed doors. Devout young men complain about alcohol and prostitution being easily available, calling them a direct attack on Islam and a reason to join the insurgency.

Across the country people say the government is powerless and corrupt, the parliament ruled by warlords. They wonder when the development they were promised will actually start.

Last autumn an official at a large Western NGO told me he would not be surprised if the situation gets so bad all foreigners have to leave within a year or two. His colleague, who was tasked with helping plan the group’s potential evacuation, feared the airport in Kabul would be inaccessible when the time came to flee.

Even press statements sent out by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) during recent weeks occasionally hint at reality.

One said troops mistakenly shot an Afghan who worked at their base in Paktika, on the country’s eastern border.

Another acknowledged a local policeman had been killed in Kabul as a result of action involving an ISAF patrol. It promised a thorough investigation.

A third described a vehicle approaching a roadblock at high speed in the southern province of Helmand. Warning shots were fired at the ground only for them to ricochet and fatally hit a passer-by.

Just last Saturday a suspected suicide bomber was gunned down in Kandahar. When he was then checked for explosives it became clear he was unarmed. He later died of his wounds.

At the time of writing, three more innocent people have been killed in two separate incidents so far this week.

But these are still only a few examples of the civilian casualties caused by ISAF since the year started. Each tragedy will be bitterly remembered by a population still waiting for the peace, prosperity and freedom it is meant to have.

To growing numbers of Afghans, the NATO-led forces are an enemy similar to the Russians who tore this country apart in the 1980s. People even blame suicide attacks directly or indirectly on the soldiers.

Death comes cheap here. To go with the sadness, there is now fear and anger. Spring lies around the corner and time is almost up.

CHRIS SANDS is a British freelance journalist who has been working independently in Afghanistan since August 2005.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail