Living in poverty and fear of abandonment, the barely functioning state that trusted its saviours
February 24, 2003 7:17 AM   Subscribe

"If the Americans think this is success, then outright failure must be pretty horrible to behold." something for US, British and world citizens to think about as we bang the drums for war on Iraq.
posted by specialk420 (30 comments total)
This is so beyond the pale it pains me to even contemplate... moving on.
posted by PigAlien at 7:31 AM on February 24, 2003

A somewhat less hysterical appraisal from the Economist. (This article seems to be free.) The Economist points out that things are bad now, but not as bad as they were a year ago, and reminds readers that:

Afghanistan was among the poorest and most tribal countries in the world in 1978. Twenty-three years of war and three of drought have left it in an even worse position.

So let's not expect magic, shall we? But then again, the FP was to the axe-grinding Independent.
posted by ednopantz at 8:15 AM on February 24, 2003

From the story:
Samson was, the chaplain declared, the "original tough guy, long before Rambo", whose "super-strength" was a gift from God. "God has given us also gifts. You see, the reason that Samson is such a good story for folks like you and me in the military is that Samson is you – Samson is me."

On the front line, fundamentalism is used to fight fundamentalism.

If telling a story about a religous figure at a religous ceremony is 'fundamentalism', this guy has got some pretty weak constraints.

But I just need to add something else here. Things in Kabul are no doubt tough and they will continue to be tough for years. It will take a helluva long time to bring things back to any semblance of normality you or I would expect. People expecting to turn into a bustling metorpolitan city, free of poverty and suffering overnight are deluding themselves.

Living in South Africa, it's been 9 years since the fall of Apartheid and still the crime and poverty levels are extraordinarily high. Hell they've even increased as the police force is stretched to serve the entire population and not just a minority. Even in a country with a modern infrastructure like SA, it will take many years for visible changes to start occuring. But they will occur. The University I attend is no longer white dominated, and people of all races and creeds are moving into my street. But none of this happened overnight.

While the author seems to be criticising the US in this article, the EU, a major source of potential aid and infrastructure support, seems to be getting off scott free. This is a perfect time for them to step up to the plate. I am unsure if the US is disallowing the EU to help out in Afghanistan (unclear from the article), but if the EU is concerned with peace in the Middle East they might want to help Afghanistan before it slips back into conflict.
posted by PenDevil at 8:22 AM on February 24, 2003

I'm not expecting miracles in Afghanistan, but I would like to see the US put an honest effort into helping them get started. Right now it looks like a half assed effort.
posted by jbou at 8:51 AM on February 24, 2003

i think the point is - if the US is going to be the self appointed leader of the world and make unilateral decisions on who to invade - we need to follow it up with real nation building - an investment in afganistan is an investment in the security of the USA and of the region. it appears we are not making that investment and perhaps the same will happen in iraq as iran and north korea become the focus... was'nt there an old adage that said something about "those who do not learn from their mistakes....???"
posted by specialk420 at 9:36 AM on February 24, 2003

"we need to follow it up with real nation building"

The problem is that Bush campaigned very loudly against nation building. His focus is purely on nation destroying. In addition he knows that the voting public in the US doesn't give a rat's ass about conditions in Afghanistan. Quite the contray in fact - if he sends billions in aid to Afghanistan while cutting domestic spending and increasing the deficit he's be dead politically.

In short - Bush has nothing to gain from sending aid to Afghanistan. Thus, they get no aid.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:59 AM on February 24, 2003

Since my snarky comment about the general 'hysterical' (as ednopantz rightly put it) nature of the link seems to have been deleted by matt, I'll point to some more useful info which explains how the U.S. Gov't has provided $588 million in aid to Afghanistan (maybe more by now, this was posted in October of 2002). The U.N. seems to have invested $110 million in 2002. The EU planned on giving $815 million in 2002 and as of October of that year, had disbursed $505 million of that. So, no, the world has not forgotten about Afghanistan, and yes, that country is better off than it was before the U.S.-led, U.N.-backed coallition removed the Taliban from power.
posted by gwint at 12:23 PM on February 24, 2003

and the america/the world gets another generation of mullah omars and OBLs. what a deal.
posted by specialk420 at 12:28 PM on February 24, 2003

$588 million in aid to Afghanistan

Compare this to the $30,000 million or so we are offering to Turkey to help us out in the next war. $588 million is an insult.
posted by anewc2 at 12:39 PM on February 24, 2003

I believe the Turkey offer is $6 billion, which does seem like an obscene amount of money to spend for access to a Northern front, but I don't think the Afghani people were 'insulted' by the world-collective billions of dollars in aid given to them in the last 18 months.
posted by gwint at 12:52 PM on February 24, 2003

Part of the reason the security forces haven't been extended is to avoid fighting lunatics like Hekmetyar. The strategy seems to be wait until Afghanistan has um, roads and an army before dealing with his ilk. But critics would no doubt prefer an ugly occupation with all the collateral damage that could bring. Afghans hated the 82nd Airborne when it was doing weapons sweeps, I am sure they would be thrilled at the prospect of thousands of US soldiers around.

Afghanistan was poor and backward before the war, it will be poor and backward for the foreseeable future. An uneducated, scattered, well-armed, superstitious population in a country devoid of natural resources and devastated by war is unlikely to manage better than incremental change. It might aspire one day to be as well off as Yemen.

And since the Independent article is basically an Iraq troll, let's compare. Iraq on the other hand, has marketable natural resources, an educated population, built up urban centers, national institutions such as schools, a government, and the army, factories, roads, schools, hospitals, etc. All of which, while crippled by war and sanctions, are functioning.

oh, and anewc2
1) Your facts are wrong. Turkey is getting $6B in grants and $20B in loan guarantees, not $30B in grants. 1.4% of Turkey's GDP. Afghanistan's aid, by contrast is about 3.2% of its GDP.
2) A gift of $588 M is not an insult. It is a gift.
posted by ednopantz at 12:53 PM on February 24, 2003

lunatics like Hekmetyar

yet another case of blowback.

lets add him to list - how many mullah omars, bin ladens and hekmetyars are our policies creating?
posted by specialk420 at 1:21 PM on February 24, 2003

So take a country devestated by lunatic fundamentalist violent thugs, give the ordinary folks disappointing, but slow progress, deny the fundies the war they really want against the Great Satan and the result will be: more lunatic fundamentalist violent thugs? How do you figure?

There are two problems with this:
1) It assumes Muslims are mindless automotons.

Any idiot can see that political Islam has been a complete disaster, whether in Iran or in Afghanistan. Remember those folks um, dancing in the streets when the illiterate Taliban yokels left town? Especially in Afghanistan they understand that it only brought misery and poverty.

Add to that the broader achievements of political Islam: A massive terrorist attack in America intended to check American power instead increases it. In Palestine it destroyed the PA and brought tanks to the streets. In Pakistan it is getting people killed over how to hold your hands during prayer. Wow! Where do I sign up?

2) It treats the events of 1980-2000 period as representing immutable laws of history, ignoring the specificities.

All your examples are old men. We might note that all of the Afghan fundies come out of an alliance made in the 1980s between the US, the fundies, the Saudis and Zia ul-Haq. This alliance was formed because there was a period where it was in the interests of all four to forment low level warfare in Afghanistan. Can you imagine, in an era where the focus is on avoiding failed states, instead of crippling all too successful Soviet allies, something like that happening again?

Add to that the dynamics of US foreign policy in the 1990s: avoid US casualties/don't let Clinton do anything with the military. Had the preemption doctrine been in place, the US would have hunted down and killed UBL in 1998. This also mitigates against the resurgence of organized Islamist opposition: Anyone hosting them will get the "Taliban Treatment." Syria, for example isn't cooperating with the US in hunting al-Q because it likes us, it is cooperating because Bashar understands the consequences of not cooperating.
posted by ednopantz at 2:00 PM on February 24, 2003

yo edno...

the point of the article is that the US is not following up on its promises - and like the eighties - when we were done with the mujihadeen they were left (armed to the teeth) to fester into what became the taliban. afganistan (and fundamentalist elements therein) most likely wont be a threat again in the near future - on the other hand - if this same policy of half hearted nation building and propping up of crooked warlord leaders is continued in iraq as Perle and Wolfowitz's golbal crusade continues on the to next enemy - americans are going to have a real mess on their hands and most of the rest of the world will rightly say "you deal with it on your own this time big boy"
posted by specialk420 at 2:37 PM on February 24, 2003

specialK: In the article you linked to, exactly what promises were broken by the US? Other than a few oblique references to the fact that "the job isn't done yet", most of the Afghans interviewed admit that things are better than they have been.

And as endopantz already pointed out, comparing the situation of Afghanistan in the 80s and Iraq now makes little sense:

Iraq on the other hand, has marketable natural resources, an educated population, built up urban centers, national institutions such as schools, a government, and the army, factories, roads, schools, hospitals, etc. All of which, while crippled by war and sanctions, are functioning.

The point being that unlike Afghanistan, which is basically rebuilding from scratch, Iraq is much much more likely to reenter the First World quickly after a war.

If there is any logical comparison between the recent war in Afghanistan and the coming one in Iraq, perhaps it is that both reigning governments were/are despised by their own people.
posted by gwint at 3:03 PM on February 24, 2003

If there is any logical comparison between the recent war in Afghanistan and the coming one in Iraq, perhaps it is that both reigning governments were/are despised by their own people.

hahaha...i think there are many in this country and around the world that could add another "reigning government" to the list.

"and show the will to leave something lasting in their place."

i like karzai.... i think many are afraid the man we left in charge of kabul has little chance of surving - especially as the focus moves elsewhere, and i have yet to hear any sort of coherent plan on what the plan is for iraq other than putting tommy franks in charge. the people who voted for bush and his team should be asking these questions? wtf is the plan?
posted by specialk420 at 3:28 PM on February 24, 2003

The Economist points out that things are bad now, but not as bad as they were a year ago,...

A year ago they had just had the shit bombed out of them. There isn't much room to sink further than that, so I'd hardly call what I read 'better'.
posted by holycola at 3:44 PM on February 24, 2003

Only someone predisposed to hating the United States could concluded that we have (already) failed in Afghanistan. What, did you expect: from Fourth World to First in a year?

Afghanistan is certainly better off now than it was pre-9/11 (even if that's merely a side-effect of the US having gone in).

Without the proper government and infrastructure in place, all the money in the world will not help Afghanistan. And that gov and infrastructure can only develop slowly.

So hang on. Give it a few more years before concluding that those evil, indifferent Americans failed to help the place.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:45 PM on February 24, 2003

Paris, I don't think spending billions of dollars attacking Iraq before we even see the Afghans with any semblance of stability is the wrong thing to do. If Wolfowitz's big plans are going to work the US needs to move slowly, and make sure they finish what they start. It comes down to trust, and I don't trust Bush to do the right thing, hell I doubt his competence when it comes to even knowing what the right thing is.
posted by jbou at 4:06 PM on February 24, 2003

US Institute of Peace Afghanistan Web Links

Afghanistan Reconstruction Portal

"One possible role for NATO in Afghanistan would be to fight the drug trade."
posted by sheauga at 4:07 PM on February 24, 2003

Plan To Divide Afghanistan Into Seven States - Jihad Unspun
posted by sheauga at 4:10 PM on February 24, 2003

Mental illness among Afghan Women -
70 percent may be suffering clinical depression.

"These women have not become addicted for pleasure.
The main cause of their addiction [to opium] is 23 years of war."
Extra: When repression may be better for trauma than talk therapy
posted by sheauga at 4:21 PM on February 24, 2003

Since this seems to be today's vaguely Iraqish post, I thought I'd mention that Saddam Hussein has done his first interview with a western journalist in a decade. Dan Rather has apparently done a live three hour interview with Saddam, which is being broadcast (excerpts, at least)tomorrow on CBS News and on Wednesday on 60 minutes 2. The most newsworthy thing Saddam said was that his infamous missiles don't violate UN guidelines, and he strongly indicated that he's not going to destroy them, despite the demands of the inspectors.

He also challenged Bush to a satellite debate.

Personally, I'm wondering whether Rather talked to the real Saddam or a double. If I were Saddam, I'd be making plans to get out of Iraq. He seems to be getting desperate. I think he's going to try to go Mullah Omar on us.
posted by gsteff at 7:50 PM on February 24, 2003

good question. it'll be just great if mr. saddam gets away like osama, zawahiri, omar (and the the guys our president has'nt mentioned for quite sometime)..., with a nice stash of his goodies (the ones the US and britain gave him back in the 80s), think he'll have any qualms about handing them off to some nut then?
posted by specialk420 at 8:03 PM on February 24, 2003

Unlike Osama, Saddam's power and danger is largely linked to a geography. So hopefully he will leave for...France. And hopefully, the CIA or Mosad will hunt him down there.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:34 PM on February 24, 2003

and bring him back for trial in the US... or perhaps the hague... think we'd find out any interesting facts if he decided to roll on all his pals from the past?
posted by specialk420 at 11:42 PM on February 24, 2003

with a nice stash of his goodies (the ones the US and britain gave him back in the 80s) Which would be what exactly, the agricultural credits that the US advanced?
posted by ednopantz at 6:04 AM on February 25, 2003

I've posted this before but:
The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) who were fighting the good fight against the Taliban from day one, have this to say about Afghanistan today:
...Thus, there is no place for any surprise that during the past year we haven't witnessed any significant signs of stability, end of war, security or the reconstruction of life and economy in the country. Quite the contrary, now the world community also has realized that due to the dominance of professional criminals in government, the gruesome examples of human rights violations, assaults on women, the ghastly shadow of religious tyranny, the fanning of religious and ethnic differences, and the rule of the puppet warlords still prevail in Afghanistan...
It isn't unexpected then that they are less than enthusiastic about the coming Iraq war:
Again the world has been plunged into a newly terrifying nightmare. The US and its allies are willing to destroy Saddam Hussain's regime- the regime with which till yesterday they were allied and which they supported in the war against Iran- and impose their own puppet government on the Iraqi people and by doing so repeat the ghastly tragedy of the Gulf War in which Saddam survived but the war caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi people.

While a war against terrorism in the name of democracy is the excuse for the attack, the people of Afghanistan, at least, know well the hidden nature of these claims and excuses.

First the terrorist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was the favorite son - the recent American pronouncements against this hangman are meaningless. Then Osama and Mullah Omar occupied his place and now finally they polished the grim appearance of the "Northern Alliance", beautifying them with pantaloons and neckties, and imposed them on our people.

Case rested.
But, as an aside, had anyone noticed this story about Laili Helms (Richard Helms' niece and Ambassador of the Taliban to the US). She was mentioned in a CBS report and distanced herself from the Taliban after 9/11. Unlike Lindh, I presume, she had the connections to avoid Guantanamo.
posted by talos at 7:10 AM on February 25, 2003

Isn't the fact that RAWA is no longer a banned organization in their own country a hint that things are better than before? How about the fact that the members of RAWA and their daughters can now legally go to school? Or have a voice in their government?

That doesn't change the fact that Afghanistan is a very, let's say "conservative" society and some members of that society do despicable things like bomb girl's schools in an effort to keep a certain status quo. BUT, it seems to me that there is a big difference between the government telling women they must remain an underclass versus a bunch of criminals who attempt to scare a population into backwards beliefs by throwing grenades at schools.
posted by gwint at 10:10 AM on February 25, 2003

The Washington Post seems to think that things are coming along in Afghanistan. Amazing how things can be seen so differently.
posted by Plunge at 7:43 AM on February 27, 2003

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