Leav­ing the

For­eign pres­ence in Afghanistan has dealt a se­vere blow to de­vel­op­ment, sta­bil­ity and peace in the coun­try. Where has U.S. fund­ing re­ally been uti­lized?

Southasia - - International United States - By Huza­ima Bukhari & Dr. Ikra­mul Haq

US. Sec­re­tary of De­fense, Leon Panetta and Joint Chief of Staff, Gen­eral Martin E. Dempsey, while tes­ti­fy­ing be­fore the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee on 7 Fe­bru­ary 2013, de­manded that “the State Depart­ment and In­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity must be pro­vided with the re­sources they need to ex­e­cute the mis­sion we ex­pect of them.” On 30 April 2013, many lead­ing news­pa­pers ex­posed how funds pro­vided over the last decade, in the name of fight­ing the ‘war on ter­ror’, were abused. The Guardian, in a re­port pub­lished on 30 April 2013, made the star­tling rev­e­la­tion that “the CIA and MI6 have reg­u­larly given large cash pay­ments to Hamid Karzai’s of­fice with the aim of main­tain­ing ac­cess to the Afghan leader and his top al­lies and of­fi­cials, but the at­tempt to buy in­flu­ence has largely failed and may have back­fired.”

On var­i­ous lev­els, the war in Afghanistan (2001-present) is prov­ing to be a fail­ure. The pay­ments by Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence on a smaller scale com­pared to CIA’s hand­outs, re­ported in the New York Times to the tune of tens of mil­lions, have failed to fi­nance peace ini­tia­tives, which have so far proved abortive. “The U.S. is quit­ting Afghanistan, and the morn­ing af­ter it does, the Tal­iban will be­gin the re­con­quest of that tragic land,” says Ms. Fawzia Koofi, noted law­maker and hu­man-rights ac­tivist of Afghanistan.

Tal­iban­i­sa­tion in tan­dem with ter­ror­ism is a real threat to the global com­mu­nity. The U.S. and NATO forces ini­tially ar­rived in Afghanistan to elim­i­nate Al-Qaeda and strengthen democ­racy as an al­ter­na­tive to Tal­iban­i­sa­tion. Af­ter 11 years of war, spend­ing $600 bil­lion, a toll of over 2,000 Amer­i­cans dead and 18,000 wounded, the prime dan­ger still lurks, even if weak­ened.

Ac­cord­ing to Reuters, the Afghan Tal­iban vowed to start a new cam­paign of mass sui­cide at­tacks on for­eign mil­i­tary bases and diplo­matic ar­eas, as well as dam­ag­ing “in­sider at­tacks,” as part of a new spring of­fen­sive this year. The an­nounce­ment comes at a time when the NATO-led mil­i­tary coali­tion is in the fi­nal stages of its fight against the Tal­iban-led in­sur­gency that be­gan in late 2001. Af­ter an­nounc­ing their spring of­fen­sive last year, the Tal­iban launched a big at­tack in Kabul in­volv­ing sui­cide bombers and an 18-hour fire­fight, tar- get­ing Western em­bassies, ISAF head­quar­ters and the Afghan par­lia­ment. Th­ese events prove the fail­ure of the U.S. and its al­lies both on mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal fronts. Trag­i­cally, as the long U.S. war in Afghanistan winds down, it poses more un­cer­tain­ties and greater ram­i­fi­ca­tions to world peace and sta­bil­ity.

The fail­ure, diplo­matic cir­cles claim, has raised ques­tions among “some Bri­tish of­fi­cials over whether ea­ger­ness to pro­mote a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment may have been ex­ploited by Afghan of­fi­cials and self-styled in­ter­me­di­aries for the Tal­iban.” The U.S. is, how­ever, not ready to ad­mit it was back­ing cor­rupt cir­cles in Afghanistan and else­where rather than adopt­ing pro-peo­ple poli­cies. It is thus not sur­pris­ing that anti-Amer­i­can sen­ti­ment is so high in Afghanistan and Pak­istan. Po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Pak­istan that sup­port U.S. poli­cies con­tinue to suf­fer heav­ily dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign with their ral­lies and con­gre­ga­tions reg­u­larly tar­geted by ex­trem­ist groups. In a post-elec­tion sce­nario, Pak­istan is likely to live un­der a con­stant shadow of on­slaught of Tal­iban­i­sa­tion -- a fact that has se­ri­ous reper­cus­sions for all South Asian states as well. The U.S.

and its al­lies have cre­ated a legacy that is bound to haunt this re­gion for many years to come.

War-rav­aged Afghanistan has not been re­con­structed in the last 11 years to counter the Tal­iban threat. In­stead, the pay­ments, re­ferred to in a New York Times re­port as “ghost money”, helped prop up war­lords and cor­rupt of­fi­cials, deep­en­ing Afghan pop­u­lar mis­trust of the Kabul govern­ment and its for­eign backers, thereby help­ing drive the in­sur­gency. This truth can­not be de­nied by the U.S., its al­lies and those who were sup­port­ing their poli­cies in Pak­istan and else­where. One Amer­i­can of­fi­cial even told the New York Times: “The big­gest source of cor­rup­tion in Afghanistan was the United States.”

Tal­iban in­ter­me­di­aries were the main ben­e­fi­ciary of the funds se­cretly pro­vided by the MI6 and the CIA. With the Afghan peo­ple suf­fer­ing in­nu­mer­able in­jus­tices, many ques­tioned why they should sup­port the U.S. The naivety of the so-called cham­pi­ons of peace was ex­posed in 2010 when the MI6 dis­cov­ered that a would-be Tal­iban leader, in talks with Karzai, was ac­tu­ally an im­pos­tor from the Pak­istani city of Quetta. In­stead of win­ning the hearts and minds of the com­mon

peo­ple, pol­icy mak­ers in the U.S. were pre­oc­cu­pied with pro­mot­ing the Tal­iban’s cause and wast­ing bil­lions of dollars in se­cret fund­ing. More than of­ten, money au­dits are usu­ally weak thus fa­cil­i­tat­ing in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers to make per­sonal for­tunes by not trans­fer­ring the en­tire funds to the ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

Vali Nasr, a for­mer U.S. govern­ment ad­viser on Afghanistan, aptly noted, “Karzai has been lash­ing out against Amer­i­can of­fi­cials and gen­er­als, so if in­deed there has been fund­ing by the CIA, you have to ask to what ef­fect has that money been paid. It hasn’t clearly brought the sort of in­flu­ence it was meant to.” In The Dis­pens­able Na­tion, crit­i­ciz­ing U.S. pol­icy in Afghanistan, Nasr fur­ther adds, “If the terms of such pay­ments are not clear, the ques­tion is how well do they tag with U.S. pol­icy … The CIA has a nar­row, counter-ter­ror­ism purview that in­volved work­ing with war­lords, but that is quite a dif­fer­ent agenda, on how we con­duct the war or how we build a govern­ment.”

Kate Clark, an an­a­lyst at the Afghanistan An­a­lysts Net­work, a think-tank in Kabul, re­cently com­mented, “It is one thing to con­duct covert op­er­a­tions in a hos­tile coun­try. I’m flab­ber­gasted that the CIA is run­ning th­ese kinds of covert op­er­a­tions in a friendly coun­try. It runs counter to ac­count­abil­ity, democ­racy and the rule of law, and is dam­ag­ing what the U.S. is try­ing to do.” Fouad Ajami, a se­nior fel­low at Stan­ford Univer­sity’s Hoover In­sti­tu­tion, ob­served that in Novem­ber 2011, Karzai gave the quin­tes­sen­tial Afghan state­ment about the place of the Amer­i­cans and their coali­tion part­ners in his home­land say­ing, “The lion doesn’t like it if a for­eigner in­trudes into his house. The lion doesn’t like it if a stranger en­ters his house. The lion doesn’t want his chil­dren to be taken away by some­one else in the night, the lion won’t let it hap­pen. All the lion would tol­er­ate is for the out­siders to “just guard the four sides of the for­est.”

If Afghanistan is left to the Tal­iban and war­lords, the sit­u­a­tion within the coun­try will un­doubt­edly have dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects on Pak­istan and other South Asian states. It is im­per­a­tive for all re­gional states to work out a so­lu­tion and ask Western pow­ers to com­pletely dis­en­gage from con­flict in Afghanistan. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent state­ment is­sued by Pres­i­dent Karzai, “The coali­tion forces were preda­tors in­flict­ing pain and ruin on the Afghans. At times, the for­eign pro­tec­tors ranked lower in es­teem than the Tal­iban.” It seems then that for­eign pres­ence and en­gage­ment is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to any peace ini­tia­tive in Afghanistan.

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