FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Seeking Security in Afghanistan

by MARTHA HENNESSY AND KATHY KELLY

This week, in Washington, D.C., Presidents Obama and Karzai will discuss a proposed Bilateral Security Agreement between Afghanistan and the United States. Presumably, they’ll note some of the main security problems Afghanistan faces.

The people of Afghanistan have only seen cosmetic improvement in their living conditions. UNICEF reports that 36% of the people live in poverty and that over one million children suffer from acute malnourishment. According to available World Bank figures, about 73 percent of people in Afghanistan lack access to clean drinking water and 95 percent do not have access to sufficient sanitation. Limited access to medical facilities and the absence of knowledge, skills and the ability to effectively manage these diarrhoeal diseases usually leads to the death of 48,545 children each year, – approximately133 children per day.

In and around Kabul alone, there are an estimated 35,000 internally displaced refugees, living in 50 camps. We’ve seen the wretched conditions there and walked away feeling ashamed of our warm clothes and easy access to food and potable water.

Kabul appears secure, but it is merely a fragile “bubble” where people feel relatively removed from fighting, compared to areas of the country afflicted by regular Taliban and NATO/ISAF attacks. A young Pashto friend of ours spoke to us with frustration, yesterday, about how little understanding people in Kabul have for people in his province, called Wardak, where people live in constant fear of drone attacks and night raids.

We are living here in Kabul, as guests of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. A former Voices delegation, from the UK, had asked our friend Raz Mohammed to answer, in a video interview, several questions about the conditions in his province.

Raz’s message to the governments of the US and the UK is that he wishes they would regain their sense of humanity.

We share Raz’s frustration over the lack of attention to crucial aspects of security in Afghanistan, including health care delivery, education, food security and shelter.

The U.S. Congress doesn’t seem to believe in non-military solutions. The occupying powers here, and the Western media, are projecting an image benefitting few but the military-industrial complex of each participating nation. Over the past ten years of occupation, the United States could have assumed a responsibility to help establish a sustainable economy and infrastructure. Instead, although billions were spent, (in October, 2012 the office of the SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) released its 17th and latest report on reconstruction reported that after a decade of spending the U.S. government spending approaches the $100 billion mark) the U.S. forces will leave behind many millions of war-weary, exhausted and economically desperate people.

Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani commentator who supported U.S. military intervention in 2001, recently issued a stark criticism of U.S. intervention. “The United States only knows one form of intervention and that is the military one,” said Rashid. “Everything depends on drawn weapons.”

Afghan Peace Volunteers deliver duvets to women at the
Darlaman refugee camp in Kabul.

Rashid suggests the alternative he would have endorsed, recalling recommendations he and other researchers made to the USAID agency in 2001.

“We told them that in the next 10 years the United States should make $5 billion available for Afghanistan every year — enough to revitalize the economy, invest in infrastructure and rebuild education and health. A third-world country like Afghanistan could not possibly absorb more than these five billion. Five billion was peanuts back then. Much money came in but it went to the wrong things, such as making payoffs to the warlords. There was insufficient investment in infrastructure until much later, and the same went for building a self-sustaining economy and agriculture. We suggested major investments in agriculture, as Afghanistan happens to be a land of farmers. Until 2010 nothing was allocated.”

Yet the U.S. continues to invest in military projects which have potential to exacerbate and perpetuate warfare in Afghanistan. Consider, for example, the construction of a new privately owned and privately run 10-acre “camp” on the outskirts of Kabul, “Camp Integrity”;

Construction is supervised by a company called “Academi,” formerly known as Blackwater, a company which became infamous for previous convictions of employees who stole weapons from the U.S. military and killed Afghan civilians. Academi has been awarded a no-bid contract from the Pentagon to build a fortified armory, a fueling station, a vehicle maintenance facility, officers’ housing facilities, office space and a training center that will accommodate 7,000 elite troops, including Special Operations Forces. Scheduled to be maintained until at least 2015, “Camp Integrity” indicates that Special Operations and Counterterrorism operations will continue in Afghanistan, for the foreseeable future.

Upon the release of his memoir and shortly before Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai began a visit to the U.S., General Stanley McChrystal, former coalition troop commander and policy architect, said he felt that the U.S. has an “emotional responsibility” to maintain ongoing troops in Afghanistan. He compared U.S. forces to a parental presence. “Like a teenager, you really don’t want your parents hanging around you, but … you like to know if things go bad, they’re going to help,” he said. McChrystal added that the Afghans are not children, but they need to know they can trust America.” It’s helpful to juxtapose McChrystal’s view of U.S. interactions between the United States and Afghan civilians with first-hand accounts of the night-raids that McChrystal pioneered during his tenure. Neil Shea, an embedded journalist, writes about American soldiers he had traveled with during a night raid:

“They were men who enjoyed demolishing Afghan houses, men who shot dogs in the face,” said Shea.

“They shattered windows and china, broke furniture, hurled civilians to the ground. Earlier that day, they had blown up a building. They tornadoed through Afghan houses and left such destruction that their ANA (Afghanistan National Army) allies at first tried to stop them, then grew angry, sullen…”

A veteran of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Graham Clumpfner, feels remorse over the night raids he participated in. “We could also see that when we entered a home, even if there wasn’t a terrorist there before, there was when we left,” he commented. “And we were radicalizing the entire population just by our presence.”

Clumpfner now rejects any affiliation with war.

We can’t help but wonder if former platoon members whom Neil Shea writes about could now be seeking job security with the Academi company.

The Camp is promoted as a means to counter terrorism and build democracy.

We’re not sure how to articulate emotional responsibilities for the U.S. general public toward Afghanistan. “We’re sorry, we’re so very sorry,” seems like a plausible start. But as regards building democracy, we believe democracy is based on education that leads to aware, compassionate and engaged global citizens.

When regular media reports pay attention to the misery, hunger, desperation, anger and fear felt by millions of Afghans, or when U.S. people insist that they must have more comprehensive reports and analysis, and greater accountability for their tax contributions, then we’ll sense that democracy is being rebuilt in the U.S.

Afghans and Americans need a different practice of security that addresses basic needs and root problems. We need to clamor for a better world.

Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) and Martha Hennessy (marthahennessy@gmail.com) have been living in Kabul since December 20, 2012. They are representing Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org) and are guests of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (ourjourneytosmile.com)

Photo Credit:  Martha Hennessy

February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Kristin Kolb
The Greatest Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail