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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
Z Magazine op-ed on underlying aims of US policy shift in Afghanistan
> >Z Magazine >December 2003 >Volume 16 Number 12 > >Buying Hearts & Minds in Afghanistan: >U.S. efforts to maintain imperial credibility > >By James Ingalls > >The Christian Science Monitor (September 8, 2003) calls it "Nation >Building, Redoubled." A desperate new push by the Bush administration >to bring positive attention to its campaign in Afghanistan features >approximately $12.2 billion in additional spending for fiscal year >2004. The new spending package was approved by the U.S. Congress on >October 17, a few days after the UN Security Council ratified a NATO >agreement to expand the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) >outside of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. The ISAF decision had >been held up for almost two years because of U.S. objections, which >have now been dropped. The Far East Economic Review (July 30, 2003) >considers these moves part of a "major policy shift" in Washington >that "could not be more timely." Are the hopes and dreams of Afghan >civilians, the United Nations, and aid agencies all of a sudden on the >brink of fulfilment, thanks to the generosity of the United States? > >Afghan Elections > >While some of the aid will undoubtedly improve the lives of some >Afghans, it is clear that the new U.S. program, dubbed "Accelerate >Success," is geared more towards reshaping the Afghan public >perception of both the Afghan central government and the United >States, its major supporter. The most obvious goal is to ensure that >interim President Hamid Karzai is elected next June in the first >public elections in the history of the country, regardless of the >interests of Afghans. State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher >told the press on July 28, "We'll place special emphasis on >reconstruction projects that demonstrate to the Afghan people the >concrete, visible programs that are improving their lives." To the >Administration, improving lives is not as important as demonstrating >that lives are improving. The aid will be deployed over "the next ten >months," according to Boucher, meaning between then and June 2004, >when the elections are scheduled. > >Slowly and subtly, the U.S. is attempting to engineer a situation in >which the only real choice for the Afghan electorate is Karzai. This >means bolstering his standing with the people through increasing >reconstruction projects. It also means eliminating any serious >challengers to Karzai's candidacy. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy >(now appointed ambassador) to Afghanistan, was reported as saying, >"Afghan warlords, whom Washington previously tolerated as allies >against the Taliban, would be `marginalized' if they continued using >guns to impose their will" (WP, October 11, 2003). > >The same day, President Karzai passed the "political parties law" that >"bans political parties from having their own militias or affiliations >with armed forces." The law also bans "judges, prosecutors, officers, >and other military personnel, police, and national security staff" >from joining a party while still in office. This narrows the spectrum >of possible challengers to Karzai's candidacy (the law says nothing >about puppet presidents affiliated with foreign armies). > >Many Afghans might agree that the decree is long overdue. For example, >the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) for >years has called for "debarment of higher-echelon individuals of >Jihadi and Taliban parties from holding high public office," as well >as "prosecution of all individuals who, during the past 23 years have >committed high treason, war crimes, blatant violations of human >rights, and plunder of national assets." But the law is not calculated >to bring justice to the Afghan people. > >According to some, Karzai's move will prevent "Afghan warlords from >using their private militias to intimidate voters" (RFE/RL, October >16, 2003), which is probably true. But it will also eliminate most of >his potential opposition. The law was formally approved a few days >after members of the Northern Alliance militia, including officials in >the defense ministry, declared that they would not support Karzai's >campaign, but would run their own candidate. Karzai "reacted angrily" >to the announcement, saying he was "fed up with coalition government." >His bosses in Washington are also worried. The Washington Post >reported, "The threatened internal defection from Karzai comes at a >critical time for Afghanistan's troubled transition to democracy, >already a source of concern to the Bush administration, which strongly >backs Karzai." An increase in the number of candidates is seen as a >threat to the "troubled transition to democracy" rather than an >example of democracy. > >This perspective is not surprising, given the U.S. record in imposing >"democracy" on Afghanistan. The way in which Karzai became president >of the transitional government is a perfect example. In December 2001 >at the Bonn meetings, the Afghan delegates originally chose an >affiliate of the former King Zahir Shah as interim head of state, but, >according to one Western diplomat, "all the delegates understood that >the Americans wanted Mr. Karzai.... So on December 5, they finally >chose him." Then, at the second stage of the Bonn Process, the Loya >Jirga (grand council) meetings of June 2002, U.S. Envoy Khalilzad >ensured that the immensely popular former King did not stand for >office, but was relegated to the figurehead post of "father of the >country." The Northern Alliance, used by the U.S. to oust the Taliban, >also agreed not to field a candidate in the Loya Jirga and was awarded >positions in Karzai's cabinet. Karzai, the only remaining viable >choice, was picked as president a second time. > >Hearts and Minds > >The primary goal of the new U.S. monetary aid to Afghanistan is to >enhance Karzai's military leverage over the warlords and improve his >chances of election in June. The aid package comprises a small portion >of the $87 billion Iraq/Afghanistan spending package approved on >October 17 by Congress. Of the $12.2 billion earmarked for >Afghanistan, 90 percent will be spent directly on U.S. military >operations. Even the $1.2 billion "reconstruction" portion of the >Afghan aid has $400 million (or 30 percent) going to supporting the >Afghan National Army and the national police. > >A tiny fraction of the money, $300 million, will be spent on critical >infrastructure, "to accelerate the construction of roads, schools, >health clinics, and local, small-scale projects." The infrastructure >reconstruction needs of Afghans are immense. The UN and the World Bank >have estimated that Afghanistan needs between $11 and $19 billion over >5-10 years. The Afghan government estimates the price to be $30 >billion. Paul Barker, Afghanistan country director for CARE >International considers the new U.S. aid, "rather less than we were >hoping for.... Afghanistan is not a one-year contract, there is a need >for multi-year help for Afghanistan, probably of around 20 billion >dollars" (AFP, September 9, 2003). But there are no indications that >the $1.2 billion grant is anything but a one-time additional funding >request from the White House, intended to accelerate visible >reconstruction in key areas and help solve Hamid Karzai's image problems. > >The politicization of aid in Afghanistan was discussed in a June 2003 >study commissioned by the UN Office for the Coordination of >Humanitarian Affairs, "A Retrospective Analysis of Humanitarian >Principles and Practice in Afghanistan." The study found that "there >seems to be a negative correlation between...direct superpower >involvement and the ability of the international system to engage with >crises in a relatively principled manner. In Afghanistan, the `highs' >in politics (Cold War proxy interventions; post 9/11 peace-building) >correspond to `lows' in principles." This conclusion is exemplified in >the current U.S. aid package, where helping Afghans is a public >relations tool to improve the standing of the incumbent president >prior to elections. According to the Christian Science Monitor, "lack >of aid to remote areas...could undermine U.S. efforts to win hearts >and minds, both in regard to U.S. forces and the Afghan central >government" (September 8, 2003). The armed opposition to the Afghan >central government certainly agrees with this assessment. Since >September 2002, the number of armed attacks on aid workers has risen >from approximately one a month to one or two a day. "The Taliban see >the building of roads and schools as a weapon against themselves. This >indicates the kind of people they are," commented Zalmay Khalilzad >(AP, October 7, 2003). Khalilzad fails to wonder what "kind of people" >use aid to "win hearts and minds" and guarantee election results. > >An Extension of The U.S. Government > >Ambassador William B. Taylor Jr., the coordinator of Afghan policy at >the U.S. State Department, informed Radio Free Europe of the "critical >difference" between Afghanistan and Iraq: "There's an Afghan >government duly elected, [a] perfectly legitimate, sovereign >government that we fully support. That is not the case in Iraq." Since >Karzai was chosen by 1,500 delegates when they had no other choice and >he appointed his own cabinet, it is difficult to understand how the >Afghan government can be called "duly elected" or "perfectly legitimate." > >A brief examination of the mechanisms by which the U.S. government >"fully supports" the government of Afghanistan shows the limited >sovereignty the Afghans actually have over their own affairs. Rarely >mentioned is the fact that Hamid Karzai's unelected cabinet contains >five U.S. citizens. Like interior minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, who left >a job with Voice of America (a news organization funded by the State >Department to serve the "long range interests of the United States"), >these U.S. citizens guarantee that the proper perspective makes its >way into Afghan public policy. In addition, the Bush administration is >now "considering placing up to 100 U.S. experts in key positions in >Afghan government ministries" (Reuters, August 14, 2003). The plan, >devised by Zalmay Khalilzad, was leaked in August by disgruntled State >Department officials who were upset when the not-yet ambassador made >decisions on department matters. One official complained, "He wants to >build an empire. He wants to `Bremerize' the operation," referring to >L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator who essentially runs Iraq. >Another senior State Department official said, "He wants to set up not >just an embassy but a parallel structure that works directly with the >Afghan ministries" (AFP, August 26, 2003). Khalilzad, who was also >Bush's envoy to Iraq before being appointed ambassador to Afghanistan, >denied the charges. "We are not going to be running things here." >Rather than being "shadow ministers," the new U.S. advisers would >serve as "experts to help carry out Afghan government policies and >ensure the new U.S. aid is properly spent" (WP, October 11, 2003). It >is not clear how different that is from "running things." > >Outside the capital the Afghan government has little authority. In >some cities, however, the emissaries of the central government are not >Afghans, but foreign troops and advisors. Provincial Reconstruction >Teams (PRTs) consisting of 100 or more U.S. troops and political >advisors (and now those from other Western countries) have been >operating since late 2002 in 4 relatively stable Afghan cities. >Initiated by the U.S. government, PRTs were supposedly a response to >the call for expanded international peacekeepers outside of Kabul, >which the United States rejected. Under the guise of providing >infrastructure support, the PRTs carry out a number of useful tasks >for Washington. Building schools and roads is seen as a way to "win >hearts and minds" for the central government, as well as for the U.S. >occupation. At the same time, the PRTs gather intelligence about >possible threats to both. One U.S. Defense Department spokesperson >said the objectives of PRTs are "security, reconstruction, >strengthening the influence of the central government and monitor[ing] >and assessing the local regional situations." Another official said, >"This has put a human face on the American presence." But, "despite >our name, we're not really here to do reconstruction. We are here to >reinforce Afghan authority" (WP, October 1, 2003). Given that a >significant portion of the Afghan central government is beholden to >U.S. concerns, this really means U.S. authority. > >The PRT concept has met with nearly unanimous denunciation by aid >organizations for militarizing the delivery of aid, for doing little >to improve the security situation, and for its inefficiency. A >position paper by InterAction, a consortium of over 100 NGOs operating >in Afghanistan, asserted that the PRT system "blurs the lines between >humanitarian workers and a combat military force and related >intelligence gathering apparatus, creating increased security risks >for NGOs and other expatriate assistance personnel." A report by >Refugees International (RI) said, "The comparative advantage the PRTs >have is their capability as armed soldiers to enhance security for >Afghans, the Afghan government, and international aid organizations, >plus their potential ability to operate in insecure regions in which >unarmed civilian aid agencies cannot. Ironically, most of the present >PRTs are located in the wrong places-relatively safe cities such as >Kunduz and Bamian." Instead of providing security so that aid agencies >can operate in difficult areas, PRTs have tended to duplicate the work >of NGOs in stable zones, "but with overheads off the charts." Relying >on PRTs for reconstruction is extremely inefficient. RI has estimated >the cost of operating a PRT to be "at least $10 million per year in >personnel and support costs alone." In a year, a PRT is expected to be >able to build only "a handful of schools worth about $10,000 each." >Thus, if a PRT succeeded in building 10 schools in a year, the >overhead rate would be 99 percent. > >The U.S./NATO Occupation > >The Bush planners figure that to get Karzai elected the Afghan people >have to be convinced that the only path to security and stability lies >with him and his powerful friends. In addition to increasing the >funding for "reconstruction," the U.S. has finally withdrawn its >objections to ISAF expansion. This comes only after the 4,500 soldier >force has had its military control devolved from the UN to NATO in >August, making it less internationally accountable and more >accountable to the architects of "Operation Enduring Freedom." U.S. >Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte told Reuters (October 13, 2003), >"While Washington was initially cool to the idea, it changed its mind >after NATO took the ISAF command." The ISAF expansion has long been a >stated wish of many Afghans, so the change is certainly meant to >enhance the perception of security. It is not clear, however, that it >is intended to bolster real security, since initial plans call for >having ISAF troops join PRTs. According to Reuters (October 14, 2003), >"The first ISAF troops in the Afghan provinces are expected to come >from Germany, which has said it wants to send up to 450 to the >northern town of Kunduz to form a civilian-military Provincial >Reconstruction Team." The deployment to Kunduz, a "relatively benign" >town, indicates the chiefly public relations purpose of the ISAF >expansion. The ISAF operation is seen by U.S. and European planners as >a way to enhance the public image of NATO and give it a reason to >exist. NATO officials say the expansion of the ISAF will bring more >"relevance" to the organization. From the point of view of the U.S. >leadership, NATO being more relevant means it works more in >conjunction with U.S. goals. From the point of view of some European >leaders, there may be the wistful desire to regain lost imperial glory. > >Significantly, NATO now has an excuse to operate outside its "treaty >area." According to Xinhuanet (October 13, 2003), "NATO is taking >concrete steps to consolidate its first base in [Central Asia]...[T]he >ISAF expansion clearly betrays its efforts to direct increasing >strategic attention to the region." When ISAF was a UN operation, >Russia and China, NATO's major competitors, as well as other non-NATO >countries, had influence over military operations in Afghanistan. Now >a non-Russian and Chinese force, controlled by the U.S. and Europe, is >taking over a country in the backyard of Russia and China. The >expansion of NATO to Asia is momentous, but was uncontested at the >Security Council, even by permanent members, Russia and China. >Apparently both countries have tentatively aligned themselves with >NATO to justify their own battles against "terrorism," namely Russia's >terrorist war against Chechnya and China's crackdown on independence >movements in western China. > >The U.S. for its own part has downgraded the expected danger to its >interests posed by China. In May the Pentagon identified instead an >"arc of instability," comprised of mostly poor countries "cut off from >economic globalization," that is expected to be more dangerous than >China in the near future. The arc "runs through the Caribbean Rim, >Africa, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East, South Asia and >North Korea." In what the Wall Street Journal calls "one of the >biggest shifts in U.S. military thinking in the past 50 years," a new >strategy is being developed that will involve U.S. troops in "lots of >small, dirty fights in remote and dangerous places." Defense Secretary >Donald Rumsfeld "envisions a force that will rotate through a large >number of bases scattered throughout the world" (WSJ, May 27, 2003). >The U.S. invasion of Iraq in March put 150,000 troops there for an >indefinite length of time, representing an enhanced long term U.S. >presence in the Middle East. Similarly, the largest concentration of >U.S. troops in the Central Asian portion of the arc-about 10,000-is in >Afghanistan. The occupation there is not expected to end soon either. >Maintenance and upgrade plans for a soldier's barracks at Bagram Air >Base anticipate another eight years of operation. The base operations >commander in Kandahar, Lt. Col. Steve Mahoney, told Stars and Stripes >(a newspaper for overseas troops), "We're going to be here a long time." > >A Committed U.S. Imperialism > >The most strident criticisms in the major news media of U.S. imperial >behavior in Afghanistan are that it is not effective enough. Many >liberal commentators are calling on the U.S. to take its imperial role >more seriously. Michael Ignatieff, director of the Harvard Carr Center >for Human Rights Policy, uses the derisive term "Nation Building Lite" >to describe Bush administration policy towards Afghanistan. He has >argued instead "for a committed American imperialism," believing that >for the Afghans "their best hope of freedom lies in a temporary >experience of imperial rule." This "difficult truth" may not be >popular, but "imperialism doesn't stop being necessary just because it >becomes politically incorrect." By "committed imperialism," Ignatieff >means imperialism that does enough good things for its subjects that >it diffuses resistance, not spawns more. He rightly censures the >Pentagon for the well-known incident where an Afghan wedding party was >bombed, but on grounds that call into question his credentials to >teach human rights policy. Ignatieff explains that one of the key >ingredients of imperial power is "awe," a fact "the British >imperialists understood," and which the U.S. maintains "by the >timeliness and destructiveness of American air power." But "awe can be >sustained only if the force is just." The bombing of the wedding was >unjust, making it a "major political error" (not a war crime or human >rights violation). Errors weaken the imperial stranglehold, since "the >more errors there are the less awe and the more resistance American >power will awaken," making the Afghans less likely to submit to >imperial rule, "their best hope of freedom" (NYT Magazine, July 28, >2002). > >While empires consolidate their power over their subjects via "awe," >they are allowed by other countries to get away with it by building >"credibility." One reason behind the Bush administration's "policy >shift" on Afghanistan was made clear in a June 2003 report cosponsored >by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society, >"Afghanistan: Are We Losing the Peace?" According to the report, >"Losing the peace through inadequate support for the Karzai government >would gravely erode U.S. credibility around the globe and make it far >more difficult to obtain international support in dealing with similar >crises in the future." > >The new push to keep Hamid Karzai in power reveals an unusually >desperate side of the Bush administration's foreign policy at a time >when the campaign in Iraq is going badly and opinion polls show that >"Americans are for the first time more critical than not of Mr. Bush's >ability to handle both foreign and domestic problems" (NYT, October 2, >2003). The heightened domestic attention that accompanies >Congressional war spending, plus the publicity surrounding the >upcoming Afghan Constitutional Loya Jirga in December and the Afghan >presidential elections in June, will make it easier to keep U.S. >behavior towards Afghanistan "on-camera." It is up to the anti-war >movement to take advantage of renewed visibility, expose the reality, >and weaken the credibility of the U.S. empire in the midst of the >official propaganda barrage. It is also important to listen to and >publicize Afghan voices who want true democracy in their country and >an end to perpetual imperial domination. > >James Ingalls is a founding director of the Afghan Women's Mission, a >U.S.-based nonprofit organization. He is a staff scientist at the >Space Infrared Telescope Facility Science Center, California Institute >of Technology. >
(link)  Posted By: mariam   December 16th 2003, 2003 7:21 PM
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.