Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Before the Taliban
It is the tenth anniversary of Afghan capital. Kabul, falling to the Taliban. It is worth noting that the Taliban did not take power until seven years after the Russian withdrawal. By 1996, half of Kabul had already been destroyed by the mujahideen, who had been armed and supported by the USA. Tens of thousands were killed in fighting over the city.
Today Afghanistan is in the grip of warlordism and terror. Human Rights Watch has described the atrocities:: "committed by gunmen and warlords who were propelled into power by the United States and its coalition partners after the Taliban fell in 2001" and who have "essentially hijacked the country". The report describes army and police troops controlled by the warlords kidnapping villagers with impunity and holding them for ransom in unofficial prisons; the widespread rape of women, girls and boys; routine extortion, robbery and arbitrary murder.
The report by Human Rights Watch spells out a desperate situation for education in Afghanistan. “Schools are being shut down by bombs and threats, denying another generation of Afghan girls an education and the chance for a better life. Human Rights Watch found entire districts in Afghanistan where attacks had closed all schools and driven out the teachers and non-governmental organizations providing education. Insecurity, societal resistance in some quarters to equal access to education for girls, and a lack of resources mean that, despite advances in recent years, the majority of girls in the country remain out of school. Nearly one-third of districts have no girls’ schools. ”
Afghanistan is now the world’s largest producer of heroin, in 2004 it produced 90% of the world’s crop. No alternatives exist for farmers and the promised new roads and irrigations projects that would allow diversification have never materialised. The UN World Food Programme reports that: “over 50 percent of children are malnourished in Afghanistan, while one in three of people living in rural areas are unable to meet daily basic nutritional requirements.”
So imagine a different Afghanistan. Imagine an Afghanistan where the main crop is not Opium but wheat. Where 26% of land is growing wheat producing 3 million tonnes per annum. Imagine an Afghanistan where raisins and cotton are grown for export, Imagine an Afghanistan which exported 30000 tonnes of cotton fibre, and 57000 tonnes of raisins per year (the 4th biggest world producer of raisins). Imagine an Afghanistan with an intact and extensive irrigation system to support this agricultural diversity. Imagine an Afganistan with an extensive road system to allow agricultural produce to be taken to market. Imagine an Afghanistan where the main export was natural gas not narcotics. Imagine an Afghanistam with 120000 tourist visitors per year.
Imagine an Afghanistan with a functioning railway network, financed by Iran and with French technical expertise. Imagine an Afghanistan where women had full legal equality, where a quarter of the government’s budget was spent on education, and secular schools were opening in every village, for girls and boys. An Afghanistan where Kabul had a university, and where there were schools of medicine, science, pharmacy and engineering. (The picture shows a Russian built hydro-electric dam in Afghanistan)
Imagine an Afghanistan under Communist rule. This is not science fiction or an alternative reality, this is Afghanistan as it used to be. And remember that the Russian military intervention was at the request of the legitimate Afghan PDPA government to counter an Islamist insurgency being stoked up by the Americans, who cared not one jot for all this social progress. The Kremlin were very reluctant to intervene, and at first KGB secretary Andropov vetoed any intervention as against the USSR's interests.
This is the Afghanistan that the US destroyed by funding and arming the Islamist militias during the 1970s and 1980s. This is the Afghanistan to which the US recruited, trained and armed Osama Bin laden to commit terror atrocities against.