Afghan-US relations—sleeping with enemy –again and again

Afghan-US relations—sleeping with enemy –again and again

By Agha Iqrar Haroon 

“Now that the end of the international occupation approaches, the story of its success is undergoing a peculiar revision. The stunning advances Washington claimed in Afghanistan seem somehow much smaller and so much less impressive.  Education, health care, and human rights, just like the fabled MRAP, have not lived up to their publicity”, observes Ann Jones who is the author of Kabul in Winter: Life without Peace in Afghanistan and “War Is Not Over When It’s Over”. She is right to comment in such a way because she is covering Afghan war since year 2002.

“Afghanistan remains as deadly as it was on October 6, 2001 for entire world when it was invaded by more than 26 countries. Afghanistan will remain same even 52 countries also come to fight here. Why? —Because of its topography, mind set of Afghanis, corruption and lawlessness in structure of Afghan culture. Afghans plundered former Soviet Union and kept demanding cash for helping their cause. They plundered Pushtun society of Pakistan on the name of Pushtun brotherhood and Islam and took away all important sources of business when they came in Pakistan as refugees. Their history of using different societies is centuries old and this history is simple, straightforward and clear. No ambiguity no defection from norms. When they need you—they are your brothers—when you stop helping them—you are their enemy. Once you start helping them then please keep helping them otherwise they will become your enemies”, says one of my colleagues who had been covering Afghan war since 1995. He believes that Afghans and Arabs have same personality traits. He is covering Syrian war nowadays.

I do trust his judgment or not,  is not an important point but being a student of history and philosophy I know that pious people, saints, philosophers, historians  and warriors preferred to just crossed over (pass this land) Afghanistan and reached Sub-continent (today’s India and Pakistan)  and settled here and spread their knowledge, prosperity and intellect. Despite of injecting billions of USD $ for the last 35 years through non-government organizations (NGOs), government organizations and directly in the fields of agriculture, health, education etc, results are not seen in this land. It’s still barren, people are still highly illiterate, they do not allow to open schools for girls and they do not allow health care departments to work effectively (polio immunization is not allowed). “You hardly find greener areas in Pushtun belts because of strong timber mafia and no love for beauty, nature or esthetic because for Afghans believe anything given by God (nature) is for sale to earn money—even humans (abduction for ransom is a norm of their society)”, accused one of my friend who is a reporter in Peshawar.

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I was reading one report of Politburo Bureau of former USSR written in 1979 that indicates “Afghans are using us”. Then another report of 1986 clearly indicates “Afghans are milking us”.

US-Afghan “sleeping with enemy” has a long history and since the 1950s, the US has been trying to mold that remote land to its own desires, first through an aid “war” in the midst of the Cold War with the Soviet Union; then, starting as the 1970s ended, an increasingly bitter and brutally hot proxy war with the Soviets meant to pay them back for supporting America’s enemies during the war in Vietnam.  “One bad war leads to another. From then until the early 1990s, Washington put weapons in the hands of Islamic fundamentalist extremists of all sorts – thought to be natural, devoutly religious allies in the war against “godless communism” – gloated over the Red Army’s defeat and the surprising implosion of the Soviet empire, and then experienced its own catastrophic blowback from Afghanistan on September 11, 2001. After 50 years of scheming behind the scenes, the US put boots on the ground in 2001 and now, 12 years later, is still fighting there – against some Afghans on behalf of other Afghans while training Afghan troops to take over and fight their countrymen, and others, on their own”, writes Ann Jones in “The Forgotten War: 12 Years in Afghanistan Down the Memory Hole”. She reads history as a documentary film and she writes exactly that happened in Afghanistan.

I covered Afghan War in 1996-1997 and then in 2002 while working with former World Wide Television (WTN) and then Eastern Television News (ETN) and I believe that modernisation, democracy, education, rights of women and tolerant behaviour is far from possibility in Afghan land. Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif  are different from Kandhar or Jalalabad. North is moderate and majority of population of Kabul is non-Pushtun so one can see moderate society in Kabul in past also but Pushtun belt is very strict—very tough and socially rugged.

United States after spending around 700 billion dollars or more is leaving this land but I doubt it harbors even 700 friends in corridor of power of Afghanistan.  Mr. Karzai is outspoken and problematic for US whenever heat reaches his cloths and history testifies he is different man altogether when his interests are in danger. He keeps all possibilities within his hands—Taliban—Pushtuns—non-pushtuns and Pakistani Taliban. He remembers dead body of Najeebullah hanging in Kabul Bazzar so he is cunning and careful—cunning beyond the imagination of Americans. In August 2013, Afghan news services reported that Karzai had chaired a meeting with a few of the country’s most powerful warlords to call for the candidacy of Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, who is known for his friendly relations Osama bin Laden and Taliban.

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Following candidates are going for elections:

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah

Dawoud Sultanzoi

Abdul Rahim Wardak

Quayum Karzai

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai

Sardar Mohammad Nadir Naeem

Zalmai Rassoul

Qutbuddin Hilal

Gul Agha Sherzai

Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf

Hidayat Amin Arsala

Nothing is clear in Afgahnistan except the fact that ISAF, NATO and United States is leaving Afgahnistan by the end of year 2014. Burke Chair has developed a report called The US Cost of the Afghan War: FY2002-FY2013: Cost in Military Operating Expenditures and Aid, and Prospects for “Transition.” And Anthony H. Cordesman wrote in May 2012 as:

“It is surprisingly difficult to get a meaningful estimate of the total cost of the Afghan conflict, total spending on Afghan forces and total spending on various forms of aid. More data are available on US efforts – which have dominated military and aid spending, but even these data present serious problems in reliability, consistency, and definition. Moreover, it is only since FY2012 that the US provided an integrated request for funding for the war as part of its annual budget request.  The data for the period before FY2009 are accurate pictures of the Department of Defense request, but there is only a CRS estimate of total spending the previous years.

Several points are clear:

The vast majority of aid went to the Afghan security forces and not development.

Most aid was very erratic in annual levels of effort, making it extremely difficult to plan the most effective use of the money and ensuring that program continuity was not possible.

The bulk of the total spending and aid has been allocated since FY2009, and came after the insurgency had reached high levels. It is a clear case of too much, too late.

The surge in aid spending creates the irony that the maximum actual cash flow – “disbursements” – is only occurring now that transition is in place and major cuts are coming between 2012 and 2014.

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The data only tell the amount of money made available on a total category basis. They do not tell how much money actually reached Afghanistan, they do not tie spending to any clear objectives, they do not reflect any effective contracting and auditing system, and there are no measures of effectiveness or success.

This latter set of points is critical. No one who has served in government, or observed it, will ever claim that the ability to allocate and spend money is a measure of effectiveness. After more than a decade of war, this is in practice the total limit of Department of Defense, State Department and USAID reporting. The only exceptions are limited audit coverage by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR), reports by the GAO, and some audits by the inspector generals of given Departments.

Not only did the money come far too late to prevent the rise of a major insurgency, when it did come, it came in areas where there were no effective overall planning, management, and contacting systems. No adequate fiscal controls, and no real measures of effectiveness. The system virtually invited waste, fraud, and abuse.

It is important to note that reforms have taken place in many areas of contracting, and there is now better auditing. The Afghan government has also promised important reforms in its control of spending and efforts to reduce corruption.

The fact remains, however, that if the CRS and OMB figures for FY2001-FY2013 that follow are totaled for all direct spending on the war, they reach $641.7 billion, of which $198.2 billion – or over 30% – will be spent in FY2012 and FY2013. This is an incredible amount of money to have spent with so few controls, so few plans, so little auditing, and almost no credible measures of effectiveness.

It is also clear that the end effect has been to sharply raise the threshold of corruption in Afghanistan, to make transition planning far more difficult, and raise the risk that sudden funding cuts will undermine the Afghan government’s ability to maintain a viable economy and effective security forces.

Whatever US achieved from this 12 year long war is known only to them who planned this war but realism for a common man like me is clear that Nothing has gained—too much has been lost—economically, socially and historically because after defeating ISAF, Afghans have 100% right to say “They have defeated all super powers on earth”.

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