TRIBAL LEADERS SEEING MATURITY AND CHANGE IN KARZAI
US DRUG POLICY, SPENDING AND CORRUPTION STILL MAJOR FAILURES
“Gordon, Karzai finally quit smoking.” This was the call from Kabul last night, a town filled with journalists, intelligence analysts and the “best and brightest” of our government, military and civilian. “Gordon, the man has changed, it may be too late, but he is reaching out to the Pashtuns, and sounding like someone worthy of trust, not like the Karzai we have known for so many years.”
I don’t invent it. I just know the source, who it is speaking for and our relationship, a warm friendship sealed by time we spent together in the region. The Karzai yelling about joining the Taliban, the Karzai confronting the United States was, as I am being told now, a person tired of being a puppet and ready to really do something, someone who finally “gets it.” The simple message, working to restore Pashtuns, the population that represents the majority of Afghanistan, a nation totally splintered today, will work except for one major problem.
The United States doesn’t get it. Some here do, I heard of USAID personnel who have earned trust and respect but I have also been told that their projects have been shelved and some of the best people we have sent to Afghanistan have been pushed aside in order to shove billions of dollars into crooked companies meant to buy off the warlords American policy has come to depend on. America is spending Afghanistan into a “stone age,” no “Nixon bombing surge” needed. We are murdering the country with “checkbook stupidity.”
There are projects that must be financed. One is obvious, TBN. TBN is the Tribal Broadcast Network, something submitted to USAID some time ago designed to build a communications system of small mobile radio stations that could reach every portion of Afghanistan in order to reunite the country behind a central government. The key leaders the US needs onboard support this. The cost is low but there are risks. With free speech, the United States will have to see free debate, criticism and shared ideas. Our failure in opposing this is that, in stifling debate, we are also killing the tribal traditions necessary to rebuild Afghanistan.
TBN is being ignored, though supported by leaders from all over Afghanistan, maybe because it is too cheap, maybe just an oversite, I don’t know. I do know it is the best way for America to “get the word out” on what we are doing and for us to get real feedback and build trust. Behind this, the real Afghani’s have dozens of other projects from green energy to food storage and processing that will do more to fight extremism and build a nation than billions spent doing things so absurd, so costly and so corrupt that most journalists find reporting them either physically dangerous or that the truth is so outlandish nobody would believe it.
The current mess is the fallout of the government overthrown by the Mujahideen with American and Pakistani help, back during the Russian occupation. The tribes that ruled Afghanistan in a confederation that actually worked were destroyed. No huge national police force was needed, no massive army. We had a country that was poor, backward but moving. It was destroyed to build the idiots dream of socialism.
When America had a chance to return to Afghanistan, rebuild what was lost and save the region, we hid, doing nothing and let Taliban extremists come in. The terrorist organizations we love talking about never existed but plenty that was wrong did. The rights of many were abused, women in particular, and a regime meant to push Afghanistan backward in time took over. America is to blame for the Taliban but inventing Al Qaeda and invading with the drug lords and criminal elements, chasing the Bush administrations imaginary terrorists was the last thing the world needed.
It created chaos, a total breakdown that allowed criminals, not “terrorists” or “Islamic extremists” to take over areas within not only Afghanistan but Paksitan as well. Nobody wants these people, this chaos, nobody but those profiting from the drugs, $65 billion dollars a year filling the pockets of bankers, drug traffickers from a dozen countries, Belgium, Germany, Israel, India, Pakistan but mostly America. The “stan” countries have all fallen into the trap, governments now controlled by drug cash and Russia is drowning under cheap heroin.
Russia is under real attack by the narcotics the US “war on terror” has flooded the world with. Underestimating how angry Russia is, how much damage has been done and what they are willing to do is a risk only the very stupid should take. America is taking that risk now.
Inside Afghanistan, poppy growers aren’t getting rich, nor are they “drug dealers.” Much of the farming is under the direct control of war lords working directly for the United States governments and the small growers are either forced or receiving incentives and protection, from the Americans and from the British. Yes, the British are involved up to their necks, it is their region where much of the growth in drug production has happened.
THE CHANGES, POLICY OR MORE?
Afghan leaders have made it clear. Stop the drugs by paying the farmers and killing the poppies. Stop the National Police and the new army and replace it with the old institutions. Rebuild the tribal network by supporting the TBN and other development projects that touch the lives of regular people, lights, education, medical care, human rights and stop building billionaire druglords out of the thieves who hover around the American paymasters in Kabul.
Time America listened to Colonel Khrushchev and his analysis of the failures of Richard Holbrooke. We need a new broom. There is a fight in Afghanistan, no pullout today. We can fight with the country, as we are chosing now, or with it as they are offering us if we choose to listen. We do so much listening but only seem to hear the voices of a few. There are dozens of Americans on the ground, Special Forces, Marines, USAID and even CIA saying exactly what I am saying but being drowned out.
Time to listen to them, the people who work directly on the ground there, time to rebuild the country, one that will be primitive but modernize, respect its women, defend itself and work with all its neighbors, especially Pakistan, in building a sustainable economy.
None of this is happening, not as it should. What we are doing is scaled to build a nation of rich, powerful and greedy. What part does drug money play in this? Guess.
Gordon Duff is a Marine Vietnam veteran. A 100% disabled vet. He has been a featured commentator on TV and radio including Al Jazeera and his articles have been carried by news services around the world. He has been a UN Diplomat, defense contractor and is a widely published expert on military and defense issues. This article first appeared in Veterans and Foreign Affairs Journal.