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November 23, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2637

Afghan Writer on Hamid Karzai's Legacy: "The Power of the Government is Still in the Hands of Corrupt and Warlord-backed Government Officials; This [Presidential] Election Marked the Return of the Warlords Who had Dominated the Afghan Government in the Early Post-2001 Years"

November 23, 2009
Afghanistan | Special Dispatch No. 2637

In a recent article, titled "Afghan officials and the Taliban are two faces of the same coin," Afghan writer Maiwand Habibi examined the legacy of President Hamid Karzai’s rule in Afghanistan during the past eight years.

Habibi noted that due to widespread corruption and President Karzai’s inability to deliver on his promises, tribal elders in the militancy-affected provinces are aligning with the Taliban.

Following are some excerpts from the article: [1]

"The Warlords, Who were Largely Responsible for Assisting the U.S.’s Ouster of the Taliban in 2001 are Now Deeply Entrenched in Afghan Society; They Have Positions in Government, in the Police, in the Army and in Business"

"Afghanistan held the presidential elections on August 20 with the hope and expectation to end Afghan warlordism. The warlords, who were largely responsible for assisting the U.S.’s ouster of the Taliban in 2001 are now deeply entrenched in Afghan society. They have positions in government, in the police, in the army and in business. Though they have largely relinquished their tanks and heavy artillery, most have been able to maintain their core militias in the form of private security companies, political parties or loose business networks.

"Allegations of land grabs, rape, murder and kidnapping are rife [against the warlords]. However, it turned to be a dramatic and full of fraud election that has totally damaged Karzai’s credibility, [also] because of the fact that the power of government is still in the hands of corrupt and warlord-backed government officials. This election marks the return of the warlords who had dominated the Afghan government in the early post-2001 years.

"Karzai again cut deals with many warlords to ensure his re-election. For example, he recruited the notorious… warlord Muhammad Fahim as one of his running mates in an attempt to split [his challenger] Dr. Abdullah Abdullah’s support base. Fahim has been accused of countless human rights violations. In addition, Karzai obtained support of the famous human rights violator General Abdul Rasheed Dostum in his re-election bid…"

"[Karzai’s Reliance on Warlords] has Led to the Empowerment of the Taliban…"

"[Karzai’s reliance on warlords] has led to the empowerment of the Taliban who are composed of several layers: first, a hard-core group of former Taliban commanders (including Mullah Omar) who operate out of sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan and who maintain ties with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence; second, bands linked to Al-Qaeda whose ranks have recently swelled with Arab, Chechen and Uzbek fighters operating in the craggy, northeastern ranges of Afghanistan; and, a third group, probably the largest, made up of local tribesmen who have allied themselves loosely with the Taliban as a result of President Hamid Karzai’s often corrupt provincial officials pitting one tribe against another.

"For Example, Mullah Salam, a tribal elder from Helmand province, the scene of heavy fighting between Taliban and NATO forces, told Online Times why he switched to [supporting] the Taliban: 'Karzai’s people made promises to me, and I in turn made them to my tribe, but these were never honored.' This [has] in fact brought the idea in the Pashtun strongholds of Afghanistan, that it might be a good idea for a tribe to start siding with the Taliban, even though members of the tribe may not agree with their harsh medievalism."

"Elders who Belonged to Once Neutral Tribes in the Kandahar Province are Now Telling their Youth to Take up Arms against the Foreign Invaders, as Their Fathers did Back in the 1980s against the Red Army"

"A critical mass is gathering, experts say. Elders who belonged to once neutral tribes in the Kandahar province are now telling their youth to take up arms against the foreign invaders, as their fathers did back in the 1980s against the Red Army [of erstwhile USSR]."

"[A Cleric] Recently Refused to Preside over the Funeral of a Dead Afghan Government Soldier, a Local Boy; Meanwhile, a Taliban, who Died Fighting Against the Americans or the British, was Honored as a Brave Martyr"

"In Tahkt-e-Pul, on the edges of the Kandahar city, an influential mullah [cleric] recently refused to preside over the funeral of a dead Afghan government soldier, a local boy. Meanwhile, a Taliban, who died fighting against the Americans or the British, was honored as a brave martyr. It is a disturbing change among Afghans who in 2001, after the dark years of the Taliban, welcomed foreigners bringing aid and offering progress.

"The Taliban is surging into the vacuum created by Karzai’s government, which is based on patronage rather than competence, coupled with the international community’s often bungled and chaotic distribution of aid. Afghan citizens are now experiencing intolerable incidents of human rights violations such as killing, bombing, kidnapping, and rape because both the warlord government and Taliban are in fact faces of the same coin."

Endnote:

[1] www.kabulpress.org, Afghanistan, October 27, 2009. The article has been slightly edited for clarity.

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