Civilising Afghanistan To Death


Over in Afghanistan, the locals have once again displayed their backwardness, this time by objecting to the US military’s compilation of a hit list: a register of suspected drug lords for army units to kill on sight. Afghan officials object that foreign troops summarily executing people identified as criminals via secret evidence will — get this! — undermine the local justice system.

"They should respect our law, our constitution and our legal codes," says Mohammad Daud, the Deputy Interior Minister for Counternarcotics. "We have a commitment to arrest these people on our own."

Laws? Constitution? Legal Codes? Where’s this guy been for the last seven years?

Ali Ahmad Jalali, the former Afghan interior minister, seems equally primitive. "There is a constitutional problem here. A person is innocent unless proven guilty," he says. "If you go off to kill or capture them, how do you prove that they are really guilty in terms of legal process?"

The simple natives might be incapable of grasping the legality of battlefield executions but the US military says that, really, there’s no problem. The death list complies with international law and the military’s own rules of engagement because, to add someone to the register, the Pentagon requires "two verifiable human sources and substantial additional evidence".

So there you go. Before they shoot someone dead, they even get some of that fancy evidence stuff. What more could you ask?

Anyway, a few days ago, the New York Times threw some more light on the US’s relationship with the Afghan opium trade. As it transpires, it’s not every drug dealer who gets marked for death, since, as a former CIA agent explained: "Virtually every significant Afghan figure has had brushes with the drug trade. If you are looking for Mother Teresa, she doesn’t live in Afghanistan."

Mother Teresa might not but Ahmed Wali Karzai certainly does — and he was publicly identified by the White House more than a year ago as a major player in the opium business. As Time magazine puts it, "on the streets of Kabul and Kandahar, the name Wali has long been synonymous with someone who can get away with a crime because he has friends in the right places."

The most obvious of those friends is his big brother Hamid, the current Afghan president, and the guy whose regime the West thas been propping up for years.

But the Times now reveals that Ahmed Karzai has other backers. Wouldn’t you know it, he’s on the CIA payroll — and has been for eight years.

More specifically, Karzai helps the CIA run a paramilitary outfit called the Kandahar Strike Force. He rents buildings to the CIA; he organises meetings with the Taliban.

As the Times says, with magisterial understatement, the CIA’s financial support for someone whom the White House calls a drug dealer suggests "that the United States is not doing everything in its power to stamp out the lucrative Afghan drug trade, a major source of revenue for the Taliban".

You think? Some drug chieftains get shot dead without trial. Others go on the payroll. How could this war possibly go wrong?

Well, let’s ask some of the combatants.

Here’s Joe Glenton, a lance corporal in the British Army, who now faces a court martial for refusing to go back to Afghanistan. Instead, he spoke at a Stop the War rally. "I expected to go to war," he explained, "but I also expected that the need to defend this country’s interests would be legal and justifiable. I don’t think this is too much to ask. It’s now apparent that the conflict is neither of these and that’s why I must make this stand".

Perhaps even more significant is the testimony of Mathew Hoh, a former captain in the US Marines who last month resigned from the US Foreign Service in disgust at what’s taking place in the southern Afghan province of Zabul. In his resignation letter, he argued that the occupation — and the US support for Karzai’s corrupt regime — fanned the ongoing violence. As he put it, "the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by the unrepresentative government in Kabul."

Hoh’s remarks accord with what Nur al-Haq Ulumi, an Afghan parliamentarian told the Washington Post in reference to the US Army’s hit list. "We have some people, powerful people, inside and outside government, who can freely smuggle drugs. If we had an honest government, the government could track down and arrest these people — everybody knows this. Already, people feel that foreigners didn’t really come here to reconstruct our country. They think the foreigners just came here to kill us."

Now why would they get that idea?