by Rameen Javid
I am shocked by The Guardian editorial [Friday July 10, 2009] "Afghanistan: Led by donkeys"! While the saying itself is Afghan, nonetheless the Editorials does not specify where they have gotten the quote from. It is not clear whether the article points to the Afghans as donkeys or to the foreigners or both. In either case, I think they have taken the freedom of expression too far and perhaps, in the process, have forgotten to look at the big picture.
The Editorial opens with lamenting for the British soldiers losing their lives in Afghanistan. While it is truly tragic that young men and women, with so much hope and promise, come to Afghanistan to fulfill a duty for the people of Afghanistan, the writer and The Guardian must not forget the sacrifice Afghanistan has been giving for three decades for the cause of democracy and freedom worldwide. While we all site the three decades of destructive war that destroyed at least two generation of Afghans, we rarely stop to think what that actually means. Afghan deaths have become such a common place that they are no longer noteworthy. In the Helmand Province the British had the largest force but still we see Helmand being the opium capital of Afghanistan. What is the British doing there? With such sophisticated equipment, they can't compete with Soviet made weapons? ISAF forces usually talk about the complications involved with the civilians in engaging the Taliban in battle but they bomb villages almost regularly. If the Editorial is saying criticizing foreigners then perhaps they are in the right track. Few people would argue that the most unimaginative, corrupt and uninformed foreigners are in Afghanistan or working on Afghanistan. Deaf and blind, they make decisions for Afghanistan from the other side of the globe or from behind high, thick, cement walls and barriers. They are closed off to the people and only associate with some selected people with vested interest.
If the article is criticizing Afghan leaders then perhaps The Guardian wants to explain which ones. Firstly, while many would not argue with the statement, it nonetheless reflects upon a nation that is older than most of the history of many coalition countries put together. Secondly, who do they think put these Afghans in charge? Perhaps it is the biggest joke to state that Afghanistan is a free and sovereign country where decisions are made by a democratically elected government. No member of this sovereign and elected government can pass through the street between the USAID compound and the US embassy, which is first protected by Afghan police, then the Pilipino mercenaries and then the US troops. Similarly, most of the roads in Kabul are blocked off by various embassies for their own security.
Afghans were under the impression that life is made easier with the foreigners inside the cities, and that ISAF forces are there for Afghans' protection. But it seems the foreigners fear the people by blocking themselves off from the people and shoot any vehicle passing within their hundred yard. If they are so concerned about their own security as opposed to the people of Afghanistan, then why don't they take over the mountains of Kabul to have a better view of the enemy and leave the expandable Afghan population to be victims of our own bad elements, thus saving irreplaceable Western lives.
Let's not forget that foreigners are the employer and they control the market in Afghanistan. It is them who made/passed the constitution and the current government. They are the ones spending millions of the aid money in wasteful projects. They are the ones hiring/appointing corrupt officials and businessmen who in turn bring in their own circle in, regardless of talent. They are the ones deciding what should Afghanistan do next or what is good for Afghanistan. They are the ones who think they know what is good for Afghanistan.
The Guardian is quoting Colonel David Height as saying "Four more years of this crap?" Both The Guardian and Colonel Haight should know that the presidential term in Afghanistan, unless the constitution has been recently changed unannounced, is five years. Shouldn't a respected paper and a high ranking US military officer know at least this much? Yet it is the foreigners who constantly complaint that they can't find capable Afghans to do the jobs and or that the capacity is low in Afghanistan. A country with over five thousand years of history, that has given birth to the likes of Rumi, Al-Biruni, Ibn Sina, Behzad, etc, cannot now be empty of talent. This land, regardless of its name, was ran by locals for that long and they can still ran this country, if the constant meddling of the foreigners with their infinite wisdom is not present. Afghanistan still has a great deal of talent and capable people but they are not in charge.
In my previous article "Is No One Concerned Anymore?" I had criticized larger aid agencies for causing major problems for Afghanistan. While many agreed with my disposition, some suggested that criticizing the foreigners this way would not change their behavior and I should be more diplomatic in my approach. I thought it was a fascinating concept and reminded me of my work with a large US based aid agency in Central Asia, where my boss, who was of Scottish descent, upon knowing I was Afghan, complained that members of his family who were with the British Army were killed by Afghans in Afghanistan during the Anglo-Afghan Wars. Perhaps he expected that I should at least apologize for those Afghans who had the nerve to defend their country to be free of foreign rule. Perhaps it is very much unbecoming of a country to refuse to accept foreign domination. Should Afghans be able to go back in time, we should suggest that not only the British be allowed to make Afghanistan a colony, where all Afghans would then serve them, but we would make it very comfortable for the invading army so that the trouble they have taken to come here would be fully appreciated and understood.
It maybe undiplomatic and uncivilized to anger our Western masters whose sole presence in Afghanistan evidently is its prosperity, equality and human rights; but some of us with a shred of consciousness would not be apologetic about pointing out the insignificant flaws that exist in this otherwise flawless system created by really qualified and symptomatic UN and Western officials and advisers that is working so well thus far.