SOME 3,000 people took to the streets of the Afghan capital, Kabul, last week in the first demonstration against the US military occupation of their country. The protest took place just weeks after the world’s media began broadcasting scenes of similar protests in Iraq. US forces have remained in Afghanistan since the end of the one-sided war there 18 months ago.
Most of last week’s protesters came from the educated middle class layers, and some had previously looked to the US. Sediq Afghan, the protest organiser, was a leading critic of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. He said of the US last week, ‘They have lied to us. At the beginning we thought that the US was one of the good countries and it would help us. Then we saw they came here to capture Afghanistan. I think the US intends to keep us hungry.’
There was a mixture of slogans on the march, with a few raising Islamist slogans. But the overwhelming feeling was anger at the US and its puppet government in Kabul for failing to help ordinary people. Many of the protesters were government employees who have not been paid for months.
Abdul Mohammad, a former soldier who lost part of his arm in a mine explosion, explained the government compensation for wounded veterans is just $2 and even that is often not paid. He said, ‘The US are breaking their promises. They promised to build our country and make factories but they have not kept their promises. They put one leg in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, and they keep both peoples hungry. The only things we got from America is bombs – nothing else.’
Days before the protest Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, visited Afghanistan and announced the US had moved from ‘major combat activity’ to ‘stabilisation and reconstruction activities’. In fact, hostile fire has forced the US to abandon five of its outposts in Afghanistan. On 25 April two US soldiers were killed and four others wounded. US general John Vines admits that while pockets of the country are stable ‘in other parts, it’s terribly dangerous. That has not changed and that probably won’t change in the foreseeable future.’
The government of Hamid Karzai has no control of the country outside metropolitan Kabul. It has received just 16 percent of the $1.8 billion in aid promised last year. The total budget for the US military teams who are to be engaged in reconstruction work is just $12 million.
In a recent interview Pierre Salignon of the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres said, ‘Kabul is 70 percent destroyed, and people throughout the city live in an extremely precarious situation. ‘The public assumes that peace in Afghanistan has returned, but the reality is different. There is insecurity for civilians amidst an armed peace with ethnic tensions.’
Most of the country is in the hands of feuding warlords and local militia leaders who establish their own laws, seize money through local ‘taxes’ and work with the US. US officials at last month’s session of the UN Commission on Human Rights blocked discussion of human rights abuses in Afghanistan.
They fear that any investigation would reveal what their allies are doing now. All this a year and a half after the ‘liberation’ of Afghanistan. All this the ‘liberated’ people of Iraq have to look forward to.
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