The Taliban surf on the population’s rejection of a corrupt government sustained by foreign armies that kill civilians. Women make the point that violence against them increases incessantly.
With an abrupt gesture, Gul Khan adjusts his patou, the indispensable wool blanket, a defense against the intense cold that holds sway in Kabul. With his hand, he points out what is now his house, where he lives with his wife and nine children: a rammed earth shack covered as well as possible with plastic tarpaulins, a derisory rampart against the wind. Around it, there’s a pond of mud. The children play jacks with bits of actual bone. His wife, clothed in a blue chador, attempts, one way or another, to rekindle the makeshift stove supposed to heat the sole room where they all sleep. There’s not much in the soup pot. Here, everyone makes do with tea – either black or green, depending on what’s available.
A 40-year-old peasant, Gul Khan came here about three months ago from Helmand Province, in the south, where the Taliban have regained a foothold. Khan and his family fled their village in the Sangin district in all haste, unable to bring anything along with them. They are now, like hundreds of other families, refugees in a camp, Nawabad Charahe, to the east of the capital and subject to bad weather as well as violence. The day before our meeting, after blankets had been distributed to the refugees, men in uniform – “that looked like police uniforms” – arrived and took off with a hundred of the blankets.
Gul Khan’s story is so ordinary, you could weep; it’s so sad and commonplace. “The Taliban came and installed themselves by force in our village, telling us they would kill us if we informed on them,” he relates. “A little while later, they attacked an American convoy. After that, our village was indiscriminately bombed.” He pulls some ratty-looking photocopies out of his pocket. Canadian soldiers took the original pictures. Nonetheless, one makes out the bodies of women and children. NATO troops struck. “After the bombings, the Taliban left, but the army came and accused us of supporting the Taliban and arrested several villagers,” rages Gul Khan. “But, we don’t like the Taliban. They prevent our daughters from going to school.”
Corruption Has Gotten Worse
If an indicator of the failure of American and NATO strategy in Afghanistan were necessary, it would suffice to talk with Afghanis. They, who had rejected the presence of Soviet troops, hardly like the present parade of foreign troops in the streets of their city any better. They feel caught in pincers between the Taliban who would like to resume power on the one side and a government distanced from the people, but supported by Washington, Paris and other Western capitals on the other.
For Dr. Hojabr, one of the organizers of the Unified Afghan National Council, opposed to Hamid Karzai’s government, “the reason the Taliban are regaining strength is, first of all, the government’s inability to really improve people’s lives.” In fact, while active for several years in the south of the country, the Taliban have established new bases in the northern provinces, such as Kunduz and Bagla. “The presence of NATO and the Americans is also not appreciated, since they don’t respect our culture, kill people and promote corruption. De facto, the gap between the population and the government grows,” maintains Dr. Hojabr.
Khalil Roman, former adviser to President Najibullah, who was tortured to death and hanged in Kabul by those who are today in power in Afghanistan, notes that “the situation is worse than before. Karzai is incapable of sorting anything out at all. There’s more corruption and the drug trade is flourishing.” As for Abdullah Abdullah, President Karzai’s great rival, who had participated in the government for a long time, he supports the foreign troop increase, but deems that “if the government loses the people, the insurgency gains. In these circumstances, the Taliban no longer feel compelled to worry about reconciliation. They think they can win.”
When one speaks of corruption, one must read Sanjar Sohail, director of the daily newspaper 8 Subh (8 AM). His paper tracks the corrupt by means of headlines and courageous investigations of the leaders’ ill-gotten gains. “The corruption of the administration in Afghanistan has worsened over the last two years,” a recent Transparency International report established. Examples of corruption range from public jobs put up for sale to legal decisions for a price to the daily bribes paid in exchange for essential services. All of that is coupled with an explosion in opium trafficking which generates millions of dollars. In Kandahar, one of the most corrupt characters is no other than Wali Karzai, the president’s brother. That tells you whether anyone here believes Hamid Karzai’s statements promising to attack corruption!
As for the situation of women, presented in 2001 as one of the major reasons for the intervention, it does nothing but deteriorate. “President Karzai’s dependence on the conservative party, on fundamentalists, has increased. He belongs to them,” decries Deputy Fawzia Koofi. “Violence against women – sexual abuse and the impunity enjoyed by those who commit it – has increased. There’s also the issue of the lack of women’s participation in politics and policy.” The parliamentarian remarks: “The recent strategy outlined by Obama is based solely on military combat. He forgets the promotion of democracy, the rights of man and those of women.”
Translation: Truthout French Language Editor Leslie Thatcher.