While attention is focused on the US-engineered Iraq crisis, the world’s real axis of evil, comprised of the US, Israel and India, is getting more involved in Afghanistan. Although the Americans have in effect occupied Afghanistan, they have failed to subdue the Afghans; the Indians have sneaked in by such ruses as reconstruction projects and consulates in cities such as Qandahar, Jalalabad and Herat. Now the Israelis have also got a foothold in the country.
Several hundred Israeli commandos and Mossad agents are reportedly operating in Afghanistan, having arrived in Kabul at the end of November. The Israelis arrived after Hamid Karzai, the US-installed president of Afghanistan, requested additional security during a visit to the US in September. Nearly a year after Karzai was appointed Afghanistan’s “ruler”, the situation is far from satisfactory for the Americans. Both Usama bin Ladin and Mullah Umar seem to have survived US attacks and, according to recent reports, are beginning to reassert their influence. American and other foreign forces come under attack almost daily from fighters who appear out of nowhere and then disappear just as suddenly and completely. Even the western media, which had largely ignored such incidents, are now forced to concede that the American forces are having serious problems.
There is speculation about the Israelis’ involvement in Afghanistan, whose people do not take kindly to foreigners, let alone the occupiers of Palestine. The Israelis have considerable experience in dealing with Arab mujahideen; they also speak Arabic, a distinct advantage in monitoring radio communications. The Arab mujahideen continue to make frequent attacks on American forces, despite claims by the US that their bases and ability to operate have been destroyed. So the Israelis are positioning themselves for a possible strike on Pakistan’s nuclear installations. Neither India nor Israel has made any secret of its desire to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear facilities. General Pervez Musharraf continues to delude himself that he has secured Pakistan’s nuclear assets by supporting the US’s policies in Afghanistan, but the Americans are notorious for ditching “trusted allies” once those allies have outlived their usefulness.
On December 7, the US advised the Indians to slow their activities in Afghanistan because they were undermining general Musharraf within his own country. Musharraf and his advisors feel cornered since the elections in October, which led to the emergence of a strong Islamic opposition. An Islamic alliance-led government in the NWFP was cited as proof of Musharraf’s predicament. Yet Americans are not likely to lose any sleep over his discomfiture if they can neutralise Pakistan by eliminating its nuclear potential. As a result of the Israelis’ involvement in Afghanistan, Karzai will now also be expected to recognize Israel.
Afghanistan today is in the grip of numerous warlords. The country is divided into various fiefdoms: in the northeast Tajik warlords, linked to defence minister general Fahim, hold sway; in the north Uzbek warlord Abdul-Rashid Dostum continues unchecked in his murderous ways; Ismail Khan dominates Herat. The south and southeast have become battlegrounds where resistance to foreign occupation is strongest. It is also in this region that the Americans have suffered their worst casualties. When Pakistani newspapers report such incidents, their websites are immediately blocked; access to the story is denied within hours of its appearing on the internet. Many civilian and military officials in Pakistan have confirmed that bodies of dead American soldiers, stored in freezers, are kept at military bases in Pakistan before being shipped quietly to the US. The exact number of American casualties is not known, but it is certainly far greater than the figures the Americans have admitted so far.
The much-trumpeted western aid to Afghanistan has not materialized, making life even more difficult for Karzai. This makes his position untenable among a people known for their fierce independence. He misses no opportunity to beg for more aid at international forums, but his pleas have so far fallen on deaf ears. Heavily armed American bodyguards, rather than Afghans, protect him, revealing deep divisions within the ruling coalition. In fact, Tajik soldiers of the Northern Alliance act as de facto rulers, if there is indeed any such thing as an Afghan ruler these days.
Nor is life any better for the Afghans than it was, as Christina Lamb of the Sunday Telegraph (London) wrote on December 8: “a year after the overthrow of the Taliban and imposition of a Western-backed government, there has been little improvement in the lives of most Afghans, few of whom possess televisions or fine clothes or care about the luxury of free speech. These people spend their days struggling to feed their children on an average annual income of [US]$75.” Despite the miserable condition of the dilapidated hospitals, where some have died on the operating table because of a lack of backup generators when the power goes, the $1.8 billion in foreign aid in 2002 “seems to have gone toward gleaming new offices and air-conditioned jeeps for the 1,025 United Nations agencies and international aid groups that have taken over many of the villas in the Wazir Akbar Khan suburb”.
The only jobs available in Kabul are as translators, drivers and so forth, serving the occupiers; people who own property rent it to foreign aid-agencies that pay exorbitant rents. One other occupation is a roaring success: mercenary in a warlord’s army. In addition to being a job with a steady income, it also ensures security from other warlords and their thugs. For the rest, the only way to survive is to head back to Pakistan. Peshawar, capital of the NWFP, has again become a city of refugees, with tens of thousands forced to live by the roadside because their mud-walled villages were bulldozed earlier this year when they headed home under a UN-sponsored programme that promised them money and jobs. Nothing materialized, of course.
Even the maligned burqa is still very much part of customary women’s dress. It is part of Afghan culture; the Taliban merely enforced it with greater vigor, but women wear it willingly to protect themselves from the taunts of men. The women in Kabul who wear skirts, blouses and heavy make-up are not typical Afghan women; in fact, most Afghans regard them almost as prostitutes: this may be a harsh judgement, but it is the common perception in a deeply conservative society. Since the Taliban left, rape of women has become widespread.
If the Afghans thought that, by allowing the Americans in, they would get some respite from two decades of fighting, they have had a rude awakening: for ordinary peoplelife is getting even worse. They did not want to listen to music or to shave their beards; without food and security their misery has been compounded. Indeed, Afghanistan today is not only under American military occupation but also Indian and Israeli occupation. So much for the “liberation” of Afghanistan.