A look at violence numbers in Afghanistan in 2008

Associated Press December 31, 2008
The following are estimates of violent deaths in Afghanistan in 2008 compiled by The Associated Press based on figures from Western and Afghan officials. The count is not definitive and relies heavily on official statements.

Afghan officials are known to exaggerate Taliban deaths, for instance, and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force does not release figures of militants it kills. The numbers were compiled by AP reporter Rahim Faiez.

A record 151 died in 2008, in part because more forces are in the country and have moved into new regions, but also because roadside bombs have become deadlier and militant attacks more sophisticated. In 2007, 111 U.S. forces died.

AFGHAN POLICE: At least 850 were killed this year. Some 925 died in 2007. Police have less training and weapons than Afghan soldiers and bear the brunt of militant attacks.

CIVIILIANS: Overall at least 1,160 civilians were killed in insurgency related violence. U.S. or NATO troops killed about 370 civilians, while Taliban or other militants killed 770. In 2007, the AP count showed 875 civilians died, including 360 by U.S. or NATO action and 485 from Taliban or other militant action.

MILITANTS: At least 3,800 militants died on the battlefield in 2008, an estimate that is likely quite low because NATO does not release battle death estimates. Last year AP recorded 4,500 militant deaths, but a NATO official later said the alliance estimated close to 7,000 had been killed.

OVERALL: In 2008, AP recorded the deaths of 6,340 people in Afghanistan from insurgency-related violence, slightly less than the 6,533 AP recorded in 2007. Insurgency-related violence includes battlefield deaths, military operations such as airstrikes, and Taliban attacks such as suicide or roadside bombings.

CSIS, Winning in Afghanistan: creating effective Afghan Security Forces


The situation in Afghanistan has reached the brink of chaos. The Taliban, Haqqani, and HIG forces have become far more lethal, and casualties for US, NATO, Afghan Army and Afghan Police forces are on the rise. US commanders have called for 20,000-35,000 more troops, but this is the number needed to buy time, not the number of US, NATO/ISAF, and Afghan forces needed to win, secure the country, and allow it to build.

The US will approach the limit of the number of forces it can deploy and sustain if it carries out its current reinforcement plans. NATO/ISAF forces may increase slightly, but will remain a diverse mix of forces from some 41 countries divided by national caveats and restrictions on their use. Any effective counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan must rely building up strong Afghan security forces, and the use them to both defeat the enemy and create the level of security that is a critical prerequisite for governance and development.

Finding the right path to such force development will be one of the most critical single decisions the new Obama Administration will make in trying to reverse the course of a war that is now being lost. Accordingly, the Burke Chair has developed a revised analysis detailing the continued development of the Afghan National Security Forces, the historic challenges they have faced, their strengths and weaknesses, and the problems and prospects of future force development.
The updated study, entitled

The Afghan reconstruction boondoggle

By Ann Jones

The first of 20,000 to 30,000 additional United States troops are scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan next month to re-win the war US President George W Bush neglected to finish in his eagerness to start another one. However, “winning” the military campaign against the Taliban is the lesser half of the story.

Going into Afghanistan, the Bush administration called for a political campaign to reconstruct the country and thereby establish the authority of a stable, democratic Afghan central government. It was understood that the two campaigns – military and political/economic – had to go forward together; the success of each depended on the other. But the vision of a reconstructed, peaceful, stable, democratically governed Afghanistan faded fast. Most Afghans now believe that it was nothing but a cover story for the Bush administration’s real goal – to set up permanent bases in Afghanistan and occupy the country forever.

Whatever the truth of the matter, in the long run, it’s not soldiers but services that count – electricity, water, food, health care, justice, and jobs. Had the US delivered the promised services on time, while employing Afghans to rebuild their own country according to their own priorities and under the supervision of their own government – a mini-Marshall Plan – they would now be in charge of their own defense. The forces on the other side, which we loosely call the Taliban, would also have lost much of their grounds for complaint.

Instead, the Bush administration perpetrated a scam. It used the system it set up to dispense reconstruction aid to both the countries it “liberated”, Afghanistan and Iraq, to transfer American taxpayer dollars from the national treasury directly into the pockets of private war profiteers. Think of Halliburton, Bechtel and Blackwater in Iraq; Louis Berger Group, Bearing Point and DynCorp International in Afghanistan. They’re all in it together. So far, the Bush administration has bamboozled Americans about its shady aid program. Nobody talks about it. Yet the aid scam, which would be a scandal if it weren’t so profitable for so many, explains far more than does troop strength about why, today, we are on the verge of watching the whole Afghan enterprise go belly up.

What’s worse, there’s no reason to expect that things will change significantly on president-elect Barack Obama’s watch. During the election campaign, he called repeatedly for more troops for “the right war” in Afghanistan (while pledging to draw-down US forces in Iraq), but he has yet to say a significant word about the reconstruction mission. While many aid workers in that country remain full of good intentions, the delivery systems for and uses of US aid have been so thoroughly corrupted that we can only expect more of the same – unless Obama cleans house fast. But given the monumental problems on his plate, how likely is that?

The jolly privateers
It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the failure of American reconstruction in Afghanistan. While the US has occupied the country – for seven years and counting – and efficiently set up a network of bases and prisons, it has yet to restore to Kabul, the capital, a mud brick city slightly more populous than Houston, a single one of the public services its citizens used to enjoy. When the Soviets occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s, they modernized the education system and built power plants, dams, factories, and apartment blocs, still the most coveted in the country. If, in the last seven years, Bush did not get the lights back on in the capital, or the water flowing, or dispose of the sewage or trash, how can we assume Obama will do any better with the corrupt system he’s about to inherit?

Between 2002 and 2008, the US pledged $10.4 billion in “development” (reconstruction) aid to Afghanistan, but actually delivered only $5 billion of that amount. Considering that the US is spending $36 billion a year on the war in Afghanistan and about $8 billion a month on the war in Iraq, that $5 billion in development aid looks paltry indeed. But keep in mind that, in a country as poor as Afghanistan, a little well spent money can make a big difference.

The problem is not simply that the Bush administration skimped on aid, but that it handed it over to for-profit contractors. Privatization, as is now abundantly clear, enriches only the privateers and serves only their private interests.

Take one pertinent example. When the inspectors general of the Pentagon and State Department investigated the US program to train the Afghan police in 2006, they found the number of men trained (about 30,000) to be less than half the number reported by the administration (70,000). The training had lasted eight weeks at most, with no in-the-field experience whatsoever. Only about half the equipment assigned to the police – including thousands of trucks – could be accounted for, and the men trained were then deemed “incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work”.

The American privateer training the police – DynCorp – went on to win no-bid contracts to train police in Iraq with similar results. The total bill for American taxpayers from 2004 to 2006: $1.6 billion. It’s unclear whether that money came from the military or the development budget, but in either case it was wasted. The inspectors general reported that police incompetence contributed directly to increased opium production, the reinvigoration of the Taliban, and government corruption in general, thoroughly subverting much ballyhooed US goals, both military and political.

In the does-no-one-ever-learn category: the latest American victory plan, announced in December, calls for recruiting and rearming local militias to combat the Taliban. Keep in mind that hundreds of millions of dollars, mostly donated by Japan, have already been spent to disarm local militias. A proposal to rearm them was soundly defeated last fall in the Afghan Parliament. Now, it’s again the plan du jour, rubber-stamped by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Afghans protest that such a plan amounts to sponsoring civil war, which, if true, would mean that American involvement in Afghanistan might be coming full circle – civil war being the state in which the US left Afghanistan at the end of our proxy war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. American commanders, however, insist that they must use militias because Afghan Army and police forces are “simply not available”.

Major General Michael S Tucker, deputy commander of American forces, told the New York Times, “We don’t have enough police, [and] we don’t have time to get the police ready.” This, despite the State Department’s award to DynCorp last August of another $317.4 million contract “to continue training civilian police forces in Afghanistan”, a contract DynCorp CEO William Ballhaus greeted as “an opportunity to contribute to peace, stability and democracy in the world [and] support our government’s efforts to improve people’s lives”.

America first
In other areas less obviously connected to security, American aid policy is no less self-serving or self-defeating. Although the Bush administration handpicked the Afghan president and claims to want to extend his authority throughout the country, it refuses to channel aid money through his government’s ministries. (It argues that the Afghan government is corrupt, which it is, in a pathetic, minor league sort of way.)

Instead of giving aid money for Afghan schools to the Ministry of Education, for example, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) funds private American contractors to start literacy programs for adults. As a result, Afghan teachers abandon the public schools and education administrators leave the Ministry for higher paying jobs with those contractors, further undermining public education and governance. The Bush administration may have no particular reason to sabotage its handpicked government, but it has had every reason to befriend private contractors who have, in turn, kicked back generously to election campaigns and Republican coffers.

There are other peculiar features of American development aid. Nearly half of it (47%) goes to support “technical assistance”. Translated, that means overpaid American “experts,” often totally unqualified – somebody’s good old college buddies – are paid handsomely to advise the locals on matters ranging from office procedures to pesticide use, even when the Afghans neither request nor welcome such advice. By contrast, the universally admired aid programs of Sweden and Ireland allocate only 4% and 2% respectively to such technical assistance, and when asked, they send real experts. American technical advisors, like American privateers, are paid by checks – big ones – that pass directly from the federal treasury to private accounts in American banks, thus helping to insure that about 86 cents of every dollar designated for US “foreign” aid anywhere in the world never leaves the US.

American aid that actually makes it abroad arrives with strings attached. At least 70% of it is “tied” to the purchase of American products. A food aid program, for example, might require Afghanistan to purchase American agricultural products in preference to their own, thus putting Afghan farmers out of business or driving even more of them into the poppy trade. (The percentage of aid from Sweden, Ireland, and the United Kingdom that is similarly tied: zero.)

Testifying before a congressional subcommittee on May 8, 2001, Andrew Natsios, then head of USAID, described American aid as “a key foreign policy instrument [that] helps nations prepare for participation in the global trading system and become better markets for US exports.” Such so-called aid cuts American business in right from the start. USAID has even developed a system for “preselecting” certain private contractors, then inviting only those preselected companies to apply for contracts the agency wants to issue.

Often, in fact, only one of the preselected contractors puts in for the job and then – if you need a hint as to what’s really going on – just happens to award subcontracts to some of the others. It’s remarkable, too, how many former USAID officials have passed through the famed revolving door in Washington to become highly paid consultants to private contractors – and vice versa. By January 2006, the Bush administration had co-opted USAID altogether. The once independent aid agency launched by President Kennedy in 1961 became a subsidiary of the State Department and a partner of the Pentagon.

Oh, and keep in mind one more thing: While the private contractors may be in it for the duration, most employees and technical experts in Afghanistan stay on the job only six months to a year because it’s considered such a “hardship post”. As a result, projects tend not to last long and to be remarkably unrelated to those that came before or will come after. Contractors collect the big bucks whether or not the aid they contracted to deliver benefits Afghans, or even reaches them.

These arrangements help explain why Afghanistan remains such a shambles.

The Afghan scam
It’s not that American aid has done nothing. Check out the USAID website and you’ll find a summary of what is claimed for it (under the glorious heading of “Afghanistan Reborn”). It will inform you that USAID has completed literally thousands of projects in that country. The USAID loves numbers, but don’t be deceived by them. A thousand short-term USAID projects can’t hold a candle to one long, careful, patient program run, year after year, by a bunch of Afghans led by a single Swede.

If there has been any progress in Afghanistan, especially in and around Kabul, it’s largely been because two-thirds of the reconstruction aid to Afghanistan comes from other (mostly European) countries that do a better job, and partly because the country’s druglords spend big on palatial homes and services in the capital. But the one-third of international aid that is supposed to come from the US, and that might make a critical difference when added to the work of others, eternally falls into the wrong pockets.

What would Afghans have done differently, if they’d been in charge? They’d have built much smaller schools, and a lot more of them, in places more convenient to children than to foreign construction crews. Afghans would have hired Afghans to do the building. Louis Berger Group had the contract to build more than 1,000 schools at a cost of $274,000 per school. Already way behind schedule in 2005, they had finished only a small fraction of them when roofs began to collapse under the snows of winter.

Believe me, given that same $274,000, Afghans would have built 15 or 20 schools with good roofs. The same math can be applied to medical clinics. Afghans would also have chosen to repair irrigation systems and wells, to restore ruined orchards, vineyards, and fields. Amazingly enough, USAID initially had no agricultural programs in a country where rural subsistence farmers are 85% of the population. Now, after seven years, the agency finally claims to have “improved” irrigation on “nearly 15%” of arable land. And you can be sure that Afghans wouldn’t have chosen – again – the Louis Berger Group to rebuild the 389-mile long Kabul/Kandahar highway with foreign labor at a cost of $1 million per mile.

As things now stand, Afghans, as well as Afghan-Americans who go back to help their homeland, have to play by American rules. Recently an Afghan-American contractor who competed for reconstruction contracts told me that the American military is getting in on the aid scam. To apply for a contract, Afghan applicants now have to fill out a form (in English!) that may run to 50 pages. My informant, who asked to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, commented that it’s next to impossible to figure out “what they look for”. He won a contract only when he took a hint and hired an American “expert” – a retired military officer – to fill out the form. The expert claimed the “standard fee” for his service: 25% of the value of the contract.

Another Afghan-American informed me that he was proud to have worked with an American construction company building schools with USAID funds. Taken on as a translator, he persuaded the company not only to hire Afghan laborers, but also to raise their pay gradually from $1.00 per day to $10.00 per day. “They could feed their families,” he said, “and it was all cost over-run, so cost didn’t matter. The boss was already billing the government $10.00 to $15.00 an hour for labor, so he could afford to pay $10.00 a day and still make a profit.” My informant didn’t question the corruption in such over-billing. After all, Afghans often tack on something extra for themselves, and they don’t call it corruption either. But on this scale it adds up to millions going into the assumedly deep pockets of one American privateer.

Yet a third Afghan-American, a businessman who has worked on American projects in his homeland, insisted that when Bush pledged $10.4 billion in aid, Karzai should have offered him a deal: “Give me $2 billion in cash, I’ll kick back the rest to you, and you can take your army and go home.”

“If Karzai had put the cash in an Afghan bank,” the businessman added, “and spent it himself on what people really need, both Afghanistan and Karzai would be in much better shape today”. Yes, he was half-joking, but he wasn’t wrong.

Don’t think of such stories, and thousands of others like them, as merely tales of the everyday theft or waste of a few hundred million dollars – a form of well-organized, routine graft that leaves the corruption of Karzai’s government in the shade and will undoubtedly continue unremarked upon in the Obama years. Those multi-millions that will continue to be poured down the Afghan drain really represent promises made to a people whose country and culture we have devastated more than once. They are promises made by our government, paid for by our taxpayers, and repeatedly broken.

These stories, which you’ll seldom hear about, are every bit as important as the debates about military strength and tactics and strategy in Afghanistan that dominate public discourse today. Those promises, made in our name, were once said to be why we fight; now – broken – they remind us that we’ve already lost.

Ann Jones wrote at length about the failure of American aid in Kabul in Winter (Metropolitan Books), a book about American meddling in Afghanistan as well as her experience as a humanitarian aid worker there from 2002 to 2006. For more information, visit her website. For a concise report on many of the defects in international aid mentioned here, check out Real Aid (pdf file), a report issued in 2005 by the South African NGO Action Aid.

(Copyright 2009 Ann Jones.)

Karzai: Russia in defense deal with Afghanistan

By FISNIK ABRASHI, Associated Press Writer

KABUL, Afghanistan

“As a friendly government to Afghanistan, Russia is ready to offer its cooperation to an independent and a democratic Afghanistan,” the statement quoted Medvedev as saying.

The statement did not say how the two countries would cooperate.

A spokesman at the Kremlin in Russia said he did not immediately have any details about the exchange between Medvedev and Karzai.

Moscow would have little to gain if the U.S. and NATO mission to defeat the Taliban and install a strong central Afghan government failed. The relationship between NATO and Russia has been delicate for years, but Russia in November allowed Spain and Germany to use Russian rail lines to ship supplies for their forces in Afghanistan.

The correspondence from Karzai

Afghanistan held back by weak leadership: NATO

Sunday, January 18, 2009; 2:27 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – NATO’s top official took issue on Sunday with Afghanistan’s sluggish forward progress, placing blame more on the country’s weak leadership than on the Taliban-led insurgency.

“Afghan leadership is not some distant aspiration — it’s something that we need as soon as possible and on which we must insist,” NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer wrote in an opinion piece published in Sunday’s Washington Post.

Seven years ago the United States sent troops to Afghanistan in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks by al Qaeda, toppling the leading Taliban group that had been sheltering al Qaeda’s leaders.

President-elect Barack Obama has committed to sending more U.S. forces to Afghanistan to tackle insurgent violence that has risen in recent years.

De Hoop Scheffer said the basic problem in Afghanistan is not too much Taliban but the country has too little central control. The longer it takes to see progress, he said, the longer the military operation remains in place at a “real cost in lives.”


“But we have paid enough, in blood and treasure, to demand that the Afghan government take more concrete and vigorous action to root out corruption and increase efficiency, even where that means difficult political choices,” Scheffer said.

The United States currently has about 33,000 troops in Afghanistan and plans to add at least another 13,000 forces by summer, according to Pentagon officials.

De Hoop Scheffer wrote that while NATO is obliged to keep ramping up the military operation, force alone cannot solve Afghanistan’s problems.

However, NATO also needs to have a more cohesive approach, De Hoop Scheffer said, adding that the operations are still too much of a patchwork.

“We should have more common approaches to our efforts, including fewer geographic restrictions on where forces can go in support of each other,” De Hoop Scheffer wrote.

De Hoop Scheffer said leaders from the NATO member country’s will meet in France and Germany to mark the 60th anniversary of its founding, saying the meeting presents “an opportunity for alliance leaders to discuss the way forward.”

(Reporting by Nancy Waitz; editing by David Wiessler)

Afghanistan: Kabul Siege Underscores Warlord Threat To Rule Of Law

February 03, 2008


Abdul Rashid Dostum spent years running swaths of northern Afghanistan like a personal fiefdom (file photo) (AFP)

Afghan police have lifted a brief siege on the Kabul home of a longtime warlord and current presidential adviser, Abdul Rashid Dostum, after he and dozens of armed men allegedly beat up and kidnapped a former campaign aide, RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan reported. Dostum is a former union boss in the gas and oil sector who rose to command ethnic-Uzbek fighters backing communist forces after the Soviet occupation in 1979. But his three kaleidoscopic decades as a militia leader have been marked by many short-lived — and frequently contradictory — alliances.

The episode could bring further embarrassment over the government’s association with the ethnic-Uzbek strongman, who spent decades as a powerful northern warlord but was co-opted by President Hamid Karzai in 2005 to take a vaguely defined role as “Afghan Army chief command.”

Moreover, comments by Dostum allies during and after the siege highlight a smoldering debate over the influence of current and former warlords whose actions undermine the rule of law and public confidence in central authorities.

The acting head of Dostum’s political party expressed surprise that police would respond by surrounding Dostum’s home, since he “holds a higher position” in the government than the interior minister, Zarar Ahmad Moqbel.

Settling A Score

Reports suggested that Dostum and around 50 armed men attacked and abducted one of his former campaign managers, Akbar Bay, and one of Bay’s bodyguards late on February 2.

More than 100 police or security officers, armed with assault rifles and machine guns, later surrounded Dostum’s home in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood of Kabul for several hours, while other officers took up positions on the roofs of nearby houses.

Police later lifted the siege, with Interior Ministry spokesman Zmarai Bashari saying security forces were referring the incident to prosecutors “as soon as possible” for possible legal action.

Both Bay and his bodyguard were reportedly freed and hospitalized.

The fiery Dostum’s northern-based supporters have been at the heart of several violent clashes in the past year, although Dostum himself has generally maintained a low public profile.

Dostum has been accused by international groups of involvement in numerous human rights abuses dating back to Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s.

Bashari suggested to Radio Free Afghanistan that Dostum was under the influence of alcohol during his armed raid on Bay’s house.

“General Dostum is still an Afghan government official, and you know that,” Bashari said. “This was a criminal case and the Afghan Attorney-General’s Office will follow the case with details to identify the guilty or the innocent and hand it over to the law.”

Threat To Police

Speaking at a press conference in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, Sayyed Nourallah, the acting leader of Dostum’s political faction, the National Movement (Junbesh-e Milli), expressed surprise over the standoff at Dostum’s house.

Around 150 police officers surrounded Dostum's home in a swank district of Kabul

Around 150 police officers surrounded Dostum’s home in a swank district of Kabul

“Certainly we were not expecting that from security forces — particularly from the Interior Ministry — to surround the house of General Dostum in Kabul,” Nourallah said. “[Dostum] holds a higher position than the interior minister in the government.”

A spokesman for Dostum, Mohammad Alem Sayeh, insisted there was no truth to the accusations against Dostum and warned of unrest if police tried to arrest him.

“If General Dostum is surrounded and anyone touches even one hair on Dostum’s head, they must know that seven or eight northern provinces will turn against the government,” Radio Free Afghanistan quoted Sayeh as saying.

In May, protests staged by his supporters against a controversial governor of the northern province of Jowzjan turned violent, leaving at least 10 people dead. Around the same time, armed Dostum supporters clashed with authorities in Faryab Province, forcing Kabul to send in troops to quell the violence. Provincial authorities in Jowzjan have accused his National Movement of rearming its supporters in the north.

In the context of Dostum’s most recent scrape with authorities, the attack on Bay and his entourage, Afghan National Assembly member Shukaria Barkzay warned Radio Free Afghanistan that impunity represents one of the country’s greatest challenges.

“The nonimplementation of the law is one of [Afghanistan’s] key problems, and this culture of immunity for any politically powerful people — whether they have legal authority or not — leads to their impunity,” Barkzay said. She stressed that the problem extends to more than “one specific group” and cited public complaints regarding “several groups.”

“Government officials are taking all these decisions about public trust, while the Afghan people want justice,” Barkzay said.

Political Chameleon

In 1997, after unsuccessfully challenging Taliban forces in the capital, Dostum was forced to flee his stronghold around Mazar-e Sharif to live abroad. He reemerged to back the U.S.-led attacks to oust the Taliban regime in 2001, returning to the area to reclaim control of large swaths of northern Afghanistan.

Dostum placed fourth among the 18 names on the presidential ballot in October 2004 with 10 percent of the vote.

The next year, Dostum was named by the Karzai administration as its “Afghan Army chief command” in a move generally regarded as an effort to avoid friction ahead of key parliamentary and provincial elections in September 2005.

A security adviser to Karzai under the former Transitional Administration, Dostum has long wielded major influence in some northern provinces and consistently chafed at central authority out of Kabul.


Source: http://www.rferl.org

Afghanistan: Warlordism ‘Is Winning’ Versus Democracy

April 13, 2008


A former government minister accused by some of war crimes, Abdul Rashid Dostum remains a leading power broker (AFP)

Ordinary Afghans are becoming increasingly concerned about their future as the power of warlords appears to be growing in Afghanistan. RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan broadcaster Jan Alekozai spent the past month in Kabul and eastern Afghanistan, where he was often approached by students, local officials, and Afghan tribesmen who expressed their concerns about corruption, security, and distrust in the government. He spoke to RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz about those concerns.

RFE/RL: During the past month when you were in Afghanistan, outside of your own efforts to speak with people from different segments of Afghan society, how were ordinary Afghans able to approach you and what were some of their concerns?

Jan Alekozai: I participated, for example, in a meeting [in Jalalabad]. It was the celebration of orange blossoms — a huge traditional gathering with 10,000 to 12,000 people. Someone announced my name — Jan Alekozai from Radio Free Afghanistan. When the meeting was over, hundreds of people approached me — students from high schools and from universities. They were asking, “Do the Westerners and the Americans know our problems — that aid money is coming from the Westerners but it goes into the pockets of [corrupt] people in the government offices.”

That was their concern when they talked to me because they know I am running a call-in program on the airwaves of Radio Free Afghanistan. There were lots of concerns. They were desperately approaching me and asking those things — if we could bring their concerns to government officials. And they were expressing their concerns about their future and their lives, security, and education.

RFE/RL: What did Afghans tell you bothered them most about the security situation in Afghanistan?

Alekozai: People think now that [troops from] 37 countries or more are there in Afghanistan the security should be much, much better. They should terminate the warlordism and the private militias. [Instead], those people have connections with the governmental officials and they still have protection from the government. And that brings insecurity. In Kabul, especially, but also elsewhere in other parts of the country.

People want the international community to stop the private militias — the groups that are so powerful. That’s the main concern of the people, for security. And also, they should promote democracy. Real democracy. And work for that.

People are scared. They cannot say anything because of [the warlords]. We are an international radio [station]. We do something. But our correspondents, even, cannot say something against those warlords because they are very powerful. They could be killed easily or harmed easily. That’s the situation. Everybody is asking why the international community doesn’t hear.

Warlord Parliament

RFE/RL: Who do Afghans think is responsible for the strengthening of warlords in Afghanistan today?

Alekozai: No. 1, the international community — or especially the Americans. They say: “Why have the Americans brought those people into power — the warlords? They knew they were warlords.” And [Afghans] can name them for you — from the vice president to the deputy ministers and ministers. Quite a few were brought from outside.

In parliament, well-known warlords are there. In that situation, how do you expect [the] implementation of democracy and the rule of law — unless those people are removed from their positions and weakened, at least, and educated people are given a chance — [those] who think positively about the betterment of their country. Not for themselves. Those [warlords] are collecting money and putting the money in their pockets. They do little or nothing for the society and for the people.

RFE/RL: How do Afghans think the warlords have been able to consolidate this power?

Alekozai: In parliament, 65 percent [of the lawmakers] are warlords. There is no question. A few of them are ordinary Afghans or politicians. But most of them are warlords. They are much stronger than they were six years ago or five years ago, because now they get more money, more security from the international community, more bodyguards. They get stronger and stronger.

RFE/RL: Are there any specific examples of complaints from people about the increased power of warlords?

Alekozai: If you started from parliament or from the high governmental officials, you can see that warlordism is stronger than in years past. Television and other media cannot operate independently, if they do something and the next day they are in trouble in the parliament or with the high governmental officials.

Foreigners Must Deal With Warlords

So if there is a conflict in Afghanistan now between warlordism versus democracy, which is winning?

Alekozai: At present, the warlordism is winning. If the international community does not pay attention — strongly — not by words. By action. They should eliminate the warlords. [The international community] thinks some of them are very strong. But they don’t have public support.

I’m stressing this point. They are not that strong. They don’t have public support because always they were thinking about themselves, their own pockets. They invest money outside of the country. People say that the Westerners, or in some ways they say the Americans, support these warlords. Otherwise they are nothing. They [say the warlords] were not powerful but [the Americans] made them powerful. And that was a main concern [of the Afghans].

It’s very easy to remove them and bring in some people who have no connection with the warlords. And that would be real democracy that the people would enjoy.

Does this disdain for warlords contribute to feelings of anti-Americanism or to negative views about the international community?

Alekozai: I never heard people saying that they don’t want Americans or international forces in their land. That was interesting for me. Even mullahs — the clerics I talked with and tribesmen. There were just a few who — like Taliban or pro-Taliban people — who said, “Oh, they are infidels.”

But the majority of people, they never talked about that issue — why [foreign troops] are here. [Ordinary Afghans] think there is some propaganda from other neighboring countries saying, “They are occupying your country.” But to be honest, I haven’t heard that from [ordinary Afghans]. They say, “Those people are here to help us.” The only problem is that they don’t trust the [Afghan] government. They also think that money is coming [to Afghanistan] from the international community and from the Americans. But it goes into the wrong hands and into the wrong pockets.

New Schools, Old Thinking

What about the reconstruction work being done by international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) or by foreign troops on the provincial reconstruction teams, the so-called PRTs?

People say their general feeling is that they think the PRTs are doing well. They trust them because they say they are foreigners and they are not corrupt — so far. But they don’t like NGOs and there is no question that they don’t trust the Afghan government at all. Still, people hope the PRTs will be doing well and probably will do something about road construction, about schools and other things. People count on PRTs.

RFE/RL: U.S. officials often talk about the schools that have been built by PRTs as a positive step in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Is this enough?

Alekozai: I’ve seen many schools that have been built and that are being built right now in different parts of eastern Afghanistan. There’s no doubt about it. Nice schools. But there is no teacher. No chairs — students are sitting on the floor. No electricity. No running water. No books. No [teaching materials]. No lab. What will be the quality of education in that situation?

RFE/RL: International media also report about greater rights and freedom for Afghan women since the collapse of the Taliban regime. How did that situation appear to you in the provincial regions as opposed to Kabul?

About the civil society or civic society, the participation of women is zero in the provinces. Girls are going to school. There is no doubt about it. But they cannot walk, for example, in a park — or even with their families.

Still the work is not done for the promotion of democracy and freedom. I think the culture is the same, with little changes in the mentality of the society. It is very bad. And it will continue like that now six years after the Taliban. The mentality is still very strong. The Talibanization or fundamentalist ideas are still very, very strong.

Presidential Challenger

All of these insights from ordinary Afghans suggests that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s popularity has declined dramatically since he was elected in 2004. Does Karzai have a chance to win reelection in the ballot that is scheduled for 2009?

Alekozai: As a journalist, one should talk with various people or people [with different political perspectives.] I learned [from doing this that something like] 25 percent or 20 percent will vote for Karzai. And I have doubts about [whether Karzai will even win that much of the vote.] It will be very difficult for him to get 20 percent. They need an alternative or another government.

RFE/RL: Are ordinary Afghans talking about any potential candidate who they think would help reign in the power of warlords?

In the eastern part of Afghanistan — even in Kabul — people were talking [about this] when I was sitting with them. They said [former Interior Minister] Ali Ahmad Jalali. His name was being mentioned by people now. [They were saying] he is coming and he is a stronger man and he can do something. He can eliminate warlordism. They were talking about him, saying that if he is [a candidate] that people will vote for him and he will be the winner. That was the expectation of some when I talked to them.


Source: http://www.rferl.org


War Crime Evidence Destroyed In Afghanistan, Commission Finds

Ethnic-Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum is a top suspect.

December 29, 2008


Evidence of war crimes on the site of a 2001 massacre believed to contain the remains of up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners has been destroyed, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has announced.

Provisional justice director for northern Afghanistan Farid Mutaqqi confirmed the evidence’s destruction at the controversial Dasht-i Lalli grave in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan.

Mutaqqi blamed the cover-up on those responsible for the massacre. Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, who helped U.S. forces topple the Taliban in 2001, is the chief suspect in the massacre.

The Afghan government asked for NATO protection for the grave after armed men reportedly tried to remove bodies from the remote northern Jawzjan desert site.

Source: http://www.rferl.org