Sunday, July 22, 2007

On the ground in Afghanistan (Part 3)

Mike Skinner's account of his experiences in Afghanistan (intro here).

Saturday, June 16 (excerpts):

… As we drink our morning tea in our room we notice the distinctive
mushroom cloud of an explosion rapidly building about two kilometres along the highway towards Ghazni and Kandahar.
... as we proceed to our morning meeting other riders on the bus talk
about what they have heard. An ISAF convoy was hit by a remotely activated bomb killing an American soldier (every ISAF soldier is considered American regardless of nationality). The ISAF troops immediately fired indiscriminately into the crowd of morning commuters killing eight civilians. The news report we hear later in the day on the ISAF sponsored television channel confirms that ISAF troops did kill eight civilians and wound one. ...

...[In the office of one of Kabul's leading newspapers:] While we waited for the editor to arrive, we chatted with the assistant editor. We were just getting into an interesting discussion regarding how the privatisation of state services under the orders of the occupation has thrown thousands of Afghanis into unemployment when the editor arrived.

...[Meeting a former warlord ('qomandan' in Farsi):] His Hazara militia was one of the last remaining forces of resistance against the Taliban as Kabul fell in 1996....
When the Taliban completely surrounded his community, the people
recognised that they must negotiate with the Taliban, or suffer either the slow death of starvation under siege, or a fast massacre in a military confrontation. The qomandan was able to negotiate favourable conditions to save the community and maintain his militia.
When the Americans occupied the region in 2001, the community believed they had a reliable ally against the Taliban. Believing the promises made to him that by surrendering his arms the Americans would provide developmental aid for his community the qomandan gave up his arms worth, in his estimation, several million dollars. Unlike many military commanders who profited handsomely from cash payments made for their guns, he gave up his arms in exchange for a promise that his community would benefit from development aid. No aid has materialised and he has been reduced to working as a security guard.
He showed us his only reward – a letter of recommendation signed by an American military officer.

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