Saturday, May 23, 2009

'She hates the foreign soldiers'

We have all heard the hype about the blogosphere - that, with all these bloggers sniffing about nothing of any importance can slip by the the wonks. Yet the two article below appear not to have been blogged or reposted any news gathering site (i.e. they have only one hit on the google machine ).

Reporting from Wardak province, Sayed Karim, who has substantial experience in various parts of the country, writes the kind of dispatch that should have war advocates rethinking their position. My prediction is nobody will pay any attention:

Some in Afghanistan look back on Taliban era as the good old days
Sayed Karim - The National (Abu Dhabi)

MAIDAN WARDAK, Afghanistan, May 21 - Nostalgia for the Taliban regime comes in many forms. Some Afghans associate that time with security; others simply remember it as an era when their husband or son had regular work. Then there are those who preferred the old life because their nation was not being occupied.

In Maidan Wardak province, all these feelings have built up to create a deadly, hostile environment. Few people are happy with what the US-led war has brought them and they want the troops out.

“The only way the situation can get better is if this government is finished and a new one takes its place. The foreigners should leave this country because they can’t control anything. The Americans want to send 20,000 more soldiers but, god willing, even if they send two million more the security will get worse,” said Mohammed Nayen...

“We liked the Taliban regime because there was security. It was good for rich and poor people, everyone was happy. The Americans just go to areas where the roads are good. If the roads are bad, they don’t go there,” Mr Nayen said.

Like other locals, he described a situation in which the government has completely lost the trust of the general public. The police are violent, commit robberies and are always looking for bribes, he said, adding that they falsely arrest university and madrasa students on trumped-up charges of being insurgents...

Law and order, more than education or democracy, is what Afghans here crave most...

[A shopkeeper:] “In all the districts of Maidan Wardak the government just keeps control in its offices. They can’t go out from them because everything else is under the control of the Taliban.”...

[The shopkeeper] said every effort must be made to hold talks with the insurgents if more bloodshed is to be avoided.

“If the government wants to negotiate with the Taliban we will be happy. I don’t know if the Taliban will accept the idea of talking or not, but they are also from Afghanistan and they have their own rights,” he said...

Dressed in a burqa, Jamila, who is 30, tells people she is off to visit her mother-in-law whenever she goes to her job as a tailor. She is scared of the Taliban, but also hates the foreign soldiers. “My sons must travel far to go to school and my husband is unemployed. If you looked at my home you would think that not even animals could live there,” she said.

I don’t like the foreigners or what they have done for this country and for its women. During the Taliban time my husband had a job, now he doesn’t. The foreigners should leave the country because it’s not just me – no one likes them. They have killed lots of people.” (link)
It is of course hardly worth noting that opinions like that of the woman (and men) quoted above are easy enough to find, yet the mass media and such Afghanistan "advocates" as the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee are uninterested in these Afghans and their opinions. CASC has, it seems, not addressed the evident hostility toward the foreign occupation which many journalists and even opinion polls have reported (see links below).

They are not alone, of course. Apart from the two main political parties, even the NDP has been tepid in their opposition to the war and seem uninterested in denouncing the illegality of the operation. None of these actors seem capable of asking the question: is the occupation wrong when most people in the province we are operating in want us to leave? If the answer is no, then at what point does it become wrong? When a majority of the whole country's population opposes us? After that?

Also writing in The National is Chris Sands, whom we've seen much of on this blog:
Afghan anger grows at slaughter of the innocents
Chris Sands, Foreign Correspondent

KABUL, May 19 - In the afternoon heat of the Kabul spring, Ghrana sat alone in the shadows of a rehabilitation centre. Surrounded by men hooked up to catheters or walking on crutches, she recounted how she had come to be in their company – a 13-year-old girl torn apart by a war fought in the name of freedom and democracy.

She sounded neither angry nor particularly sad describing what happened during a journey to her sister’s house in the south-western province of Helmand, one morning. “I didn’t hear any shooting or anything. Then I saw red coloured bombs falling from the aeroplane,” she said.

Nine of her relatives were killed, including her mother. Ghrana lost her right leg and much of her left arm...

Each day that goes by they are joined by other men, women and children caught in a struggle that many Afghans say is more brutal than anything in their country’s history...

Exactly why Ghrana and her family were bombed in Musa Qala district three-and-a-half months ago may never become clear. She insists there were no Taliban in the area at the time and there is no obvious reason why her family was confused for insurgents.

... she must now try to find decent medical treatment and piece her life back together. Meanwhile, her remaining relatives pray for the day when the foreign troops finally withdraw from their country.

“It will be like Eid for us,” said her uncle, Ahmed Abed, a polite 32-year-old who brought his niece to Kabul.

“The Americans know who is a Talib and who is innocent, but they don’t care. If it is a Talib or a girl, they don’t care. They are crazy. It’s like they are blinded by love. If anyone comes in front of their face, they shoot them. They never care who it is. I can accept that airplanes make mistakes, but I have seen with my own eyes them fire from a vehicle at a woman in the street.

Mr Abed’s anger is common among Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group. Predominant in the south and east, many of them were naturally suspicious of the occupation. Now, with their homes in ruins and their futures more uncertain than ever, they are downright hostile.

“We can’t even talk because if we do the Americans will say ‘he is al Qa’eda, he is a Talib’. They have arrested our tribal leaders. We can’t control whether we can walk in the road – all the control is with the Americans. We feel as though we are not from this country. We are like illegal immigrants,” Mr Abed said.

“I know one man who lost all his family members, just he is alive. Now these are the kind of people who are joining the fight. There are no Talibs and no al Qa’eda, they are all people who had their relatives killed by the Americans. We are Afghan, apologies are not enough for us.”...

In April, coalition planes dropped 438 bombs on Afghanistan – a record monthly total, and the fourth consecutive month the number has risen. This compared to 26 dropped in Iraq, and did not include strafing runs, helicopter gunship missions or the launching of small missiles...

“The Americans come to fight with the Taliban, then they retreat a little bit and hide. The Taliban shoot at them and escape. Then the Americans ask for the air force and they start bombing us. Even if there are no Talibs in the village, they destroy the village. If there are children in the houses, they bomb them,” [Raz Mohammed from Sangin] said.

“The people are not united. One family likes the Taliban, one family doesn’t. No one can say anything about it. Some people are friends with the Taliban and if you say something they will inform the Taliban and you will be executed.

“Half of the district likes the Taliban, half doesn’t. If we are one nation that works together there will be no Taliban and no Americans. We can then build the country ourselves.”

This kind of fear and anger is prevalent across the south...

Afghans frequently use two catchall terms when talking about international troops: “Foreigners” or “Americans”. The cautious optimism they had after 2001 is fading fast. Instead, the various countries that have soldiers here – including Britain, Canada, Holland, Italy and France – are seen as a homogenous mass that has brought them widespread insecurity...

[At a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul:] From those three provinces in the south, more than 700 families have set up base in this squalid part of Kabul to avoid the unrest that they insist is “all the foreigners fault”... (link)

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