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

Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
Jeiddy Martínez Armas
Firearm Democracy
Jill Richardson
Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students
Ralph Nader
The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law
Justin O'Hagan
Capitalism Equals Peace?
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: From the Red Sea to Nairobi
Geoff Dutton
The Company We Sadly Keep
Evan Jones
The Censorship of Jacques Sapir, French Dissident
Linn Washington Jr.
Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform
Gerry Brown
TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?
Robert Fisk
The Exile of Saad Hariri
Romana Rubeo - Ramzy Baroud
Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy
Robert J. Burrowes
Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
Chuck Collins
Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ From Corporate Tax Cuts
Ron Jacobs
Private Property Does Not Equal Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Mass Shootings, Male Toxicity and their Roots in Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
The Fordist Academic
Frank Scott
Weapons of Mass Distraction Get More Destructive
Missy Comley Beattie
Big Dick Diplomacy
Michael Doliner
Democracy, Real Life Acting and the Movies
Dan Bacher
Jerry Brown tells indigenous protesters in Bonn, ‘Let’s put you in the ground’
Winslow Myers
The Madness of Deterrence
Cesar Chelala
A Kiss is Not a Kiss: Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children
Jimmy Centeno
Garcia Meets Guayasamin: A De-Colonial Experience
Stephen Martin
When Boot Becomes Bot: Surplus Population and The Human Face.
Martin Billheimer
Homer’s Iliad, la primera nota roja
Louis Proyect
Once There Were Strong Men
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones
David Yearsley
Academics Take Flight
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail