‘In the villages around Kandahar there is a name that provokes horror and fear. It is not [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar, nor is it Osama Bin Laden. It is Gul Agha, the former Mujahadeen governor of Kandahar, whose tribal militia is backed and advised by the US.’
That was how Observer journalist Paul Harris, writing last week from Chaman, near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, described the reality of what the US, Britain and their media backers call ‘liberation’. Harris described what local people feel about such talk.
‘Ghlume Walli fled from Agha’s men near his hometown of Khalat to a makeshift tent at the border. ‘Gul Agha’s men would have robbed me even of these water bottles,’ he said, holding up two dirty plastic cartons filled with brown water. His friend Mohamed Sami agreed. He had been herding his cattle when Agha’s militia stopped him at gunpoint and slaughtered his herd. He draws his finger across his throat. ‘They are looters. Everyone is afraid. They killed every last one of the cattle,’ he said. Agha and several thousand fighters crossed into Afghanistan a day after Kabul fell. Police sources in Pakistan believe he is heavily involved in the opium trade. When he governed in Kandahar the city was ruled by warlords who stripped it of everything of value. Rape and robbery were commonplace. It is the prospect of such men returning that has many in the refugee camps longing for the Taliban to rule as long as possible. ‘In the time of the Taliban I could walk down the street with 30,000 rupees and no one would touch me. But the men of Gul Agha will kill you even if you have nothing,’ said Walli. Such feelings have seen the Taliban win back some ground. Khalat fell for three days to local tribal forces. The bazaar was looted while residents cowered in their houses. Then the Taliban returned and the residents cheered.’
Harris’s report came days after journalists like Robert Fisk exposed the role of US and British forces in the murder of prisoners by the Northern Alliance (see page 8). Fisk’s report in the Independent was reprinted in the Mirror. The Observer’s Paul Harris also uncovered more evidence of war crimes by the forces backed by the US and Britain:
‘Takhteh Pol, a vital town on the road from Kandahar to Pakistan, was also recaptured by the Taliban last week, according to reliable Afghan and Pakistani sources. The town had endured several days of rule by Agha’s men, when one of his commanders boasted of executing 160 Taliban prisoners. ‘They were made to stand in a long line and five or six of our fighters used light machine guns to kill them,’ the commander told a French news agency, adding that US special forces attached to Agha had tried and failed to stop the shootings. The US has denied the massacre happened, but after the slaughter of hundreds of Taliban in Mazar-e-Sharif, the Takhteh Pol killings sounded all too plausible. Just over 60 miles away from the refugee camps at Chaman the US flag flies over the marines’ captured airstrip. The ravages going on around them are ignored. Among the refugees fleeing the anarchy the US has few friends. ‘If the Americans had brought peace that would have been a good thing. But instead they have just brought us war and looting and the men of Gul Agha,’ said Aslan.’
The truth behind the US ‘victory’ in Kabul was also uncovered last week. Eyewitnesses reported that US planes dropped a 500 pound bomb on the Bibi Mahru area of Kabul. Gul Ahmad was just one of the victims. The carpet weaver, his wife, Sima, his son and five daughters were all blasted to death.
‘We buried them together in the graveyard. We divided it with separate headstones but their bodies were all in pieces,’ said Ahmad’s first wife, Arafa. Thirty year old Ayesha was another victim of the US bombing of Kabul. She was killed by shrapnel while drawing water from a barrel in her front yard in the area of Wazir Akbar Khan.
In the Microrayon housing district in Kabul US planes dropped four 50 pound bombs. One hit the corner of an apartment block where children were playing. Six year old Nazila was crushed to death by a concrete block. ‘She couldn’t run away in time,’ said her father, Abdul Basir. ‘We believed because this was a residential block they wouldn’t hit it.’ Another US bomb landed directly on two houses, killing five people.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan journalist Robert Fisk reports, ‘From all over the countryside there come stories of villages crushed by American bombs; an entire hamlet destroyed by B-52s at Kili Sarnad, 50 dead near Tora Bora, eight civlians killed in cars bombed by US jets on the road to Kandahar, another 46 in Lashkargah, 12 more in Bibi Mahru.’
Richard Lloyd Parry reported in the Independent from the village of Kama Ado where the US says nothing happened: ‘Until nothing happened here, early on the morning of Saturday and again the following day, it was a village with a small graveyard, but now that has been reversed. The cemetery on the hill contains 40 freshly dug graves, unmarked and identical. And the village of Kama Ado has ceased to exist. At the moment when nothing happened, the villagers of Kama Ado were taking their early morning meal, before sunrise and the beginning of the Ramadan fast. And there in the rubble, dented and ripped, are tokens of the simple daily lives they lead. A contorted tin kettle, turned almost inside out by the blast; a collection of charred cooking pots; and the fragments of an old-fashioned pedal-operated sewing machine. A split metal chest contains scraps of children’s clothes. And all this is very strange because, on Saturday morning-when American B-52s unloaded dozens of bombs that killed 115 men, women and children-nothing happened. We know this because the US Department of Defence told us so. ‘It just didn’t happen.’ So god knows what kind of a magic looking-glass I stepped through yesterday, as I travelled along the desert road to Kama Ado. From the moment I woke up, I was confronted with the wreckage and innocent victims of high-altitude, high-tech, thousand pound nothings.’
STOP THE WAR COALITION
Teach-in Sunday 9 December 2-6pm, Centenary Building, City University, Spencer Street, London (Angel tube) Topics include * The new imperialism * Iraq: the next target? * Women and the ‘war on terrorism’ * Racism, Islam and the war land many more Speakers include Tariq Ali, Louise Christian, Suresh Grover, Jane Shallice, John Rees and Jeremy Corbyn Entrance £2/£1
Reballots have opened the way to bigger struggle