|Kabul: 18:35 PM      |
Welcome to Kabul:Reconstructions. You can follow the information below, which has been gathered from a
number of sources by a number of participants (click on the names at left for bios), to reconstruct your
own picture of events in Kabul since this site was launched on March 8th, 2003 and, in a sense, since the
reconstruction of Afghanistan began somewhere in the winter of 2001-02.
Some of this information has been provided in response to specific questions submitted by visitors like you. Please note that this section of the project is now maintained as an archive and has not been updated since 2005. Click here to ASK A QUESTION.
Arian Mouj Sharifi
Meanwhile in northern Afghanistan "the US backs all sides in a continuing civil war" (Guardian)
The Guardian (London) October 30, 2003 Our friends, the warlords: In northern Afghanistan the US backs all sides in a continuing civil war By Jonathan Steele in Mazar-i-Sharif Karim Khan stands disconsolately outside the local government headquarters in the remote village of Tuksar. He used to run the neighbouring village, but was bundled out by a rival militia one night recently, leaving his wife and family behind as virtual prisoners. The incident is not isolated. It is being replicated throughout northern Afghanistan in what amounts to low-level civil war as militias use the autumn, the country's traditional fighting season, to change the map of power. Casualties are fortunately few and front lines in this largely unreported struggle are invisible. All that is different when places change hands, usually by night and with one side running away, is the loyalty of the men who sit in the fort which commands the highest point in every Afghan village. To which warlord do the new local rulers owe their allegiance, and who will enjoy the "taxes" that the militias exact from ordinary people? While fighting is growing in intensity in southern Afghanistan, as US forces engage resurgent Taliban forces in the Pashtun heartlands two years after they were supposed to have been defeated, the jockeying for power in the north is between three main groups, all of which are financed and supported by the Americans. How is it possible that the Bush administration could launch its war on international terror while being so unwilling to clip the wings of warlords who inflict terror mainly on other Afghans? The cynics may say the question answers itself. But even a less negative view has to accept that, just as in Iraq, no planning was done for providing immediate security in Afghanistan once the Taliban lost power. Most of Afghanistan was too poor to have had electricity or piped water before the war, so Afghan complaints are different from those of Iraqis. For Afghans, the lack of security is the big issue. It was not just that a vacuum developed. The Americans encouraged the leaders of the Northern Alliance to resume their old positions. Their forces played little role in defeating the Taliban and only managed to advance on the ground thanks to US carpet-bombing of Taliban positions. But in victory, the Americans behaved as though they were in the warlords' debt, rather than the other way round. They ignored the persistent demands of virtually every Afghan, including President Hamid Karzai, to deploy an international peace- keeping force outside Kabul to disarm the warlords. A few weeks ago the US line changed and the UN security council was finally asked to mandate such a force. Implementation? Germany is sending 450 troops to Kunduz, one of the least problematic areas of the north, and no other foreign government has offered to put troops into the Mazar region or the western city of Herat, which is home to another US- supported warlord. Earlier this year, before the decision to expand the peace-keepers, the Americans and British set up units of their own soldiers, special forces, and civilians who work as "provincial reconstruction teams". In Mazar, the 85-strong team is British. Its men try to prevent new land-grabs. They monitor local ceasefires and persuade militias to turn in their guns to the warlords' depots. Good as it is, there is still no plan to "decommission" or destroy weapons and the team was too small to prevent fighting earlier this month on the main road only 20 miles out of Mazar, between heavily armed men loyal to the Uzbek warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum and his Tajik rival, Ustad Atta Mohammed. The British and Americans regained the initiative later by sending Kabul's new interior ministry up to Mazar to get the warlords' permission for 300 Kabul police to come into the city. This week the central government appointed new governors for Mazar and the surrounding province, promising the incumbents good jobs elsewhere. The British and the Americans argue that this softly, softly approach to extending the Karzai government's influence is more productive in a heavily armed and naturally belligerent country than confronting the warlords directly. It is too early to know whether they are right. The ceasefire they brokered is tenuous, and what should have been done two years ago to rebuild the Afghan state after the Taliban is only starting now. Like its American variants in the central highlands and the south, the British "provincial reconstruction team" in Mazar creates new problems while it tries to solve old ones. Scores of attacks on aid workers in southern Afghanistan, where a full-scale war appears to be resuming, are causing the big international organisations anxiety. Long before the bombing of the International Committee of the Red Cross building in Baghdad this week put the focus on the dangers aid workers face, an ICRC man was killed near Kandahar. Another dozen aid staff, mainly Afghans, have died since March this year. Foreign forces in northern Afghanistan, unlike in the south, are popular for the moment, but the mood could change. To try to forestall the danger, the professional non-governmental organisations are warning that aid must not be allowed to be seen as an arm of a British or American "hearts and minds" campaign. In any case, they believe they have greater expertise. It may seem innocuous and a positive benefit to have doctors and dentists in combat fatigues drop in to a village for a one- day "clinic". The army doctors no doubt feel good. But they are blurring a crucial line of principle which damages the image of impartiality of NGOs working in the same field. The bigger NGOs worked under the mujahedin and Taliban regimes and have earned long- term respect from Afghans. They do not want to be seen as part of the political plans of governments which may lose interest in a year's time or two. Nor do they welcome the risk of being seen by Afghans, however mistakenly, as agents of the military. Why should civilians from the Department for International Development be attached to these provincial reconstruction teams and work with them to identify "quick impact projects" which Britain can fund? The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have already distorted many western governments' spending priorities, making "reconstruction" a political exercise designed to satisfy Washington rather than an impartially assessed response to need. Choosing aid projects in collaboration with the military takes the distortion a dangerous stage further. The choice should be left to national aid-receiving governments, the UN's specialised agencies, and the NGOs. Under pressure, UN officials in Afghanistan have accepted Washington's and London's demands for coalition forces to have an aid role, while urging them to stick to infrastructure issues such as road- and bridge- building or repairing local government offices. The compromise is confusing and a mistake. Hilary Benn, DfID's new boss, should have his people work with the Karzai government in Kabul and the UN, rather than with the British and American military. Security belongs to the armed people in uniform. Aid is the task of civilians - who will still be in Afghanistan when the "war on terror" caravan moves on.
Posted By: mariam   November 3rd 2003, 2003 11:06 AM
Kabul: Partial Reconstructions is an installation
and public dialogue project that explores the multiple meanings and resonances of
the idea of reconstruction -- as both process and metaphor -- in the context of present-day Kabul.
www.kabul-reconstructions.net is an online discussion forum, information resource, and medium for the communication of questions and answers about the reconstruction between people inside and outside the city of Kabul itself.