Monday, September 13, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Conclusion: 2001-2010

By November 13, 2001, the U.S. government and NATO-backed Northern Alliance coalition of right-wing Mujahideen groups had marched into Kabul and taken control of Kabul from the Taliban’s Afghan government. But apparently the U.S. government-supported Northern Alliance militias also committed a number of war crimes in Afghanistan in late 2001. As Guilles Dorronsoro’s Revolution Unending book recalled:

“Enemy military losses…went unrecorded. However, a number of war crimes were committed by allies of the United States. For example, on 25 November hundreds of Taliban prisoners were killed in the prison at Mazar-i-Sharif, after a revolt in which a CIA agent who had been interrogating prisoners was killed. Apparently many prisoners were summarily executed once they had been recaptured. The most serious incident concerned the deaths of Taliban and foreign prisoners who were suffocated inside containers. According to a meticulous inquiry, around 3,000 Taliban prisoners were massacred by Northern Alliance forces, an atrocity which by some accounts was perpetrated in the presence of American soldiers. Despite the gravity of these reports, and the known locations of communal graves, the UN declined to carry out an inquiry in order not to embarrass the Afghan and U.S. government…”

After the Northern Alliance marched into Kabul, an agreement to eventually begin construction of the proposed Unocal [which became a subsidiary in 2005 of a company-- Chevron Texaco--on whose corporate board former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sat before joining the Bush II Administration) pipeline project in Afghanistan was soon reached. A former Unocal consultant, Zhalamy Khalizad, was named as the Bush II Administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan; and a former Unocal consultant, Hamid Karzai, was soon brought back to Afghanistan by the Bush II Administration to be the new Afghan president in Kabul. As Revolution Unending observed, “his exile in the United States …enabled Karzai to gain the backing of the U.S. government and therefore achieve his present position.” According to the same book, Karzai “is the son of a…Pashtun family from Kandahar ” and is “related to the royal family” of Afghanistan, whose members controlled the government of Afghanistan until the 1970s. But outside of Kabul, “local warlords and militia commanders…were able to take de facto control of their respective areas,” and “Karzai’s tolerance of the warlords has been seen by Afghans in general as a weakness,” according to Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History.

Since 30 to 50 percent of the recruits in the Karzai regime’s new Afghan Army of 6,000 troops deserted in 2003, in 2004 the Pentagon still had to spend $11 billion a year on U.S. military operations in Afghanistan in 2004 in order to prop up the Karzai regime. As Afghanistan: A Modern History observed:

“…The balance of armed forces was weighted heavily on the side of the warlord militias, variously estimated at between 60,000 full time fighters to over 100,000, if one includes `part-timers’ from the swollen ranks of the unemployed…

“As before, warlords have been able to expand their financial base by imposing customs duties and other taxes on their own account. Some have benefited substantially from smuggling and drug trafficking…The opium crop earned Afghan farmers and traffickers some $2.3 billion, or around 50 percent of the gross domestic product…The crop in Afghanistan accounted for over 75 percent of the world’s illicitly grown opium in 2003…The New York-based Human Rights Watch has produced detailed documentation of the abuses committed with impunity by militia leaders and their followers…”

The U.S. soldiers first sent to occupy Afghanistan in late 2001 (who now number between 70,000 and 100,000) were apparently seen by many people in Afghanistan as yet another set of the foreign invaders that have attempted to manipulate Afghanistan’s internal affairs since the 19th-century. As Revolution Unending observed in 2005:

“The U.S. forces are unwelcome, especially in the Pashtun areas, where the civilians have complained of harassment. Regularly and predictably, military operations result in civilian casualties…For instance, 42 Afghans died and 181 were wounded on the night of June 30-July 1 2002 when four villages near Kabraki in the province of Uruzgan were bombed during a marriage ceremony…The treatment of prisoners of war also does not measure up to international standards. In a communique on January 28, 2003 the World Organization Against Torture stated that Taliban detained by the Americans had been subjected to torture in CIA interrogation centers, particularly at Bagram air base in Afghanistan and on the island of Diego Garcia …”

Around 1,025 U.S. soldiers have been killed and around 5,275 have been wounded in Afghanistan since October 2001 (along with around 500 troops killed from other nations whose governments agreed to send troops to fight with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] —which, besides its 70,000 to 100,000 U.S. soldiers, now includes 38,000 troops from other nations). But the number of Afghan civilian casualties produced by the Pentagon’s war in Afghanistan since October 2001 has been far greater. As James Lucas’s “America’s Nation-Destroying Mission in Afghanistan” article, for example, noted, “since the U.S. started its bombing in 2001 an estimated 7,309 Afghan civilians have been killed by U.S.-led forces as of June 20, 2008, according to an estimate made by University of New Hampshire Professor Mark Herold.”

In his “ America ’s Nation-Destroying Mission in Afghanistan ” article, Lucas also summarized what life is apparently like for the people of Afghanistan in 2010:

“Today the ordinary Afghan is caught between three forces: the U.S., the Taliban, and the puppet government composed of former members of the Mujahideen whom many Afghans would like to have tried as war criminals. Also, the Upper House of Parliament is not a democratic institution, its members being appointed by the President…Up to 60% of the deputies in the Lower House are directly or indirectly connected to current and past human rights abuses.

“Under the newly established government in 2001, women were allowed to once again work and go to school. Nevertheless, the abuse of women continues, since the government is too weak to enforce many of the laws, especially in the rural areas.

"According to Human Rights Watch, `The law gives a husband the right to withdraw basic maintenance from his wife, including food, if she refuses to obey his sexual demands. It grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers. It requires women to get permission from their husbands to work. It also effectively allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying `blood money’ to a girl who was injured when he raped her.’…

“…About one in ten Afghans is disabled, mostly due to the wars and landmines. Their life expectancy is about 43 years…

“Although more than 3.7 million Afghan refugees have returned to their homes in the past six years, several million still live in Pakistan and Iran. About 132,000 people are internally displaced as a result of drought, violence and instability. Furthermore, there are reportedly about 400,000 orphans in Afghanistan.

“ Afghanistan suffers from an unemployment rate of 40 percent and most of those who have jobs earn only meager wages. Many youth joined the Mujahideen or Taliban in order to receive some food, shelter and income. The average educational level of Afghans is 1.7 years of schooling, which severely limits their job opportunities. As many as 18 million Afghans still live on less than $2 a day.

“…On their land there are still about 10 million mines which cause loss of life and limbs and reduces the amount of land available for farming….”

But the Turkmenistan government is apparently still “interested in moving forward with a natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan,” according to a Feb. 15, 2010 UPI article. The same article noted that the proposed 1,044-mile Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India [TAPI] pipeline “is seen as a rival to a long-delayed natural gas pipeline from the Iranian South Pars gas field” and “TAPI is favored by Western powers over the South Pars option because of diplomatic concerns with dealing with Iran.” And since much of the $230 billion that the U.S. War Machine has spent on the endless war in Afghanistan between October 2001 and the end of 2009 has gone to private war contractors, the recipients of the Pentagon’s lucrative war contracts have also apparently profited much more from the 21st-century historical situation in Afghanistan than have the people of Afghanistan.

So, not surprisingly, the Pentagon is still using some of the additional 30,000 U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan in 2010 in a military offensive against the Taliban in Kandahar during 2010 that it has nicknamed “Operation Omid.”

The word “omid” means “hope” in the Dari language of Afghanistan. Yet—as this people’s history of Afghanistan indicates—people in Afghanistan are not likely to hopefully accept the endless presence in their country of still more foreign troops. Whether they come from the UK, from India, from Pakistan, from Saudi Arabia, from Russia, from the United States, from Canada, from NATO or from the ISAF. So it’s not necessarily historically inevitable that a Taliban guerrilla force of about 25,000 Afghan fighters will be easily defeated militarily by the Obama Administration’s troops in 2010, if the U.S. troops continue to be seen as foreign invaders by most people in Afghanistan in 2010. As an Afghan farmer in Kandahar named Abdul Salaam recently told the Global Post (April 19, 2010): “You cannot bring peace through war.”

(end of series)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 14: 1998-2001

Ironically, despite Unocal and the Democratic Clinton Administration’s tacit support for a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan’s government prior to 1996, Taliban Leader “Mullah Omar’s government never had any intention of allowing U.S. firms to construct an oil pipeline,” according to Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie’s Forbidden Truth book. So after Unocal’s pipeline deal with the Taliban government in Afghanistan fell through, the Administration of Secretary of State Clinton’s husband used the August 7, 1998 bombings—apparently by armed right-wing Islamic fundamentalist groups--of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (which killed over 200 people) as its pretext to order the U.S. War Machine’s initial bombing of Afghanistan on August 20, 1998.

From Pentagon warships in the Indian Ocean, 67 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched which struck camps in Khost and killed 20 people in Afghanistan. The Clinton Administration then froze all U.S. assets of the Afghan government and banned all commercial and financial dealings with the Afghan government on July 6, 1999. By October 15, 1999, the Clinton Administration had also succeeded in getting the UN Security Council to pass a resolution (1267) which imposed economic sanctions on Afghanistan. And shortly before it was replaced by the Republican Bush II Administration, the Clinton Administration also was able to get the UN Security Council to pass a resolution (1393) on December 19, 2000 which froze all foreign assets of the Afghan government. Yet in 2000, the Taliban regime still controlled 85 percent of Afghanistan and the U.S. government-backed Northern Alliance of Mujahideen groups only controlled 15 percent of Afghanistan’s territory.

So soon after the January 2001 presidential inauguration of George W. Bush, negotiations between the Republican Bush II Administration and representatives of the Taliban regime’s Afghan government about reviving the proposed pipeline project in Afghanistan were apparently held between February and April 2001. And after an aide to Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar met with the CIA in Washington,D.C. in March 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced in April 2001 that the Bush II Administration was going to give $43 million in aid to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, according to the November 19, 2001 issue of the Irish Times.

But when Taliban regime negotiators apparently refused to agree to the Bush II Administration’s proposals related to the pipeline project and the establishing of a new coalition government in Afghanistan at a July 2001 meeting in Berlin, a U.S. government representative at the meeting apparently “evoked the option of a military operation against Afghanistan,” according to Forbidden Truth.

What happened on September 11, 2001 in Downtown Manhattan and at the Pentagon was then used as a pretext by the Bush II Administration (and its Blair Administration military ally in the UK) to launch an October 7, 2001 aerial attack on all cities in Afghanistan--which killed 400 Afghan civilians during the first week of Pentagon bombing alone. As Michael Parenti recalled in a December 2008 article, “in sum, well in advance of the 9/11 attacks the US government had made preparations to move against the Taliban and create a compliant regime in Kabul and a direct US military presence in Central Asia;” and “… 9/11…provided the perfect impetus, stampeding US public opinion and reluctant allies into supporting military intervention.”

Yet as Chris Johnson and Jolyon Leslie’s Afghanistan: The Mirage of Peace observed, “there was no explicit agreement under international law for the USA to go to war,” in a now overt and direct way, against the people of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001.

But after the September 11, 2001 events, the Bush II Administration claimed it was morally justified for the U.S. War Machine to start bombing Afghanistan in October 2001 because Osama Bin Laden was “responsible” for what happened on September 11, 2001 in the United States. Yet as Guilles Dorronsoro’s Revolution Unending book noted, “Bin Laden’s role in Afghan politics was minimal” in 2001.

Ironically, Osama Bin Laden (a multi-millionaire son of an extremely wealthy Saudi Arabian construction contractor) had apparently previously begun working in partnership with the CIA in Afghanistan in 1979—-the same year that the Democratic Carter Administration signed an official order that authorized its CIA to work for regime change in Afghanistan (by providing covert aid to the right-wing Afghan Islamic guerrilla fighters who were being trained by the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence [ISI] agency). After leaving Saudi Arabia and joining the Afghan Mujahideen guerrillas in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1979, Bin Laden, for example, apparently helped the CIA and the ISI organize the Mujahideen guerrillas to wage the CIA’s 1980s proxy war in Afghanistan between 1980 and 1986. And in 1988, Bin Laden apparently created his al-Qaeda group--which recruited foreign fighters and raised money for the anti-feminist Mujahideen guerrilla groups in Afghanistan—before he left Afghanistan in 1989. As Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History observed, “according to Milt Bearden, the CIA station chief in Pakistan in 1986 to 1989, Bin Laden and other fund-raisers for the Afghan jihad were bringing in between 20 and 25 million dollars a month from the Saudis and Gulf Arabs to underwrite the war” against the Soviet military-supported Afghan government.

During the same period when Unocal, the CIA and the Clinton Administration were apparently supporting the Taliban group’s campaign to gain control of the Afghan government in the summer of 1996, Bin Laden also “reportedly contributed 3 million dollars to the Taliban war chest,” according to Forbidden Truth. But although “the CIA gave Osama free rein in Afghanistan, as did Pakistani intelligence generally,” the “CIA seems to have…turned against its former partner Bin Laden in 1995 and 1996,” according to John Cooley’s Unholy Wars book. Coincidentally, between 1982 and 1997, the Bush II Administration’s Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs in 2001, Christine Rocca, had also “worked with the CIA as an agent reporting to the director of Intelligence Operations;” and “in this capacity, for several years she coordinated relations between the CIA and the Islamic guerrillas, and supervised some of the deliveries of Stinger missiles to the Mujahideen fighters,” according to Forbidden Truth.

Prior to the Bush II Administration’s illegal attack on Afghanistan in October 2001, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Taliban’s Afghan government proposed that Bin Laden just be deported from Afghanistan to another Muslim country and just be placed under surveillance, since—as CNN reported on September 21, 2001--“Bin Laden…denied he had anything to do with the attacks, and Taliban officials repeatedly said he could not have been involved in the attacks;” and the Bush II Administration failed to provide any international court with concrete evidence that Bin Laden had actually been “responsible” for what happened on September 11, 2001 in the United States. In addition, even the BBC News reported on October 5, 2001 that there was “no direct evidence in the public domain linking Osama Bin Laden to the 11 September attacks.”

Yet “the American government preferred to give the Taliban an ultimatum rather than negotiate, hence the refusal to provide any kind of proof of Bin Laden’s implication” in the September 11, 2001 events, according to Revolution Unending.

When the Taliban’s Afghan government refused (as anticipated) to accept the Bush II Administration’s illegal ultimatum to “hand over Bin Laden” (or the U.S. War Machine would attack Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban regime), the Pentagon (and its UK military junior partner) then began its “Operation Enduring Freedom” military campaign in Afghanistan (which was subsequently joined by soldiers from the military forces of other members of NATO)--that people in Afghanistan are still having to endure over 8 years later. And according to the Afganistan: The Mirage of Peace book:

“By the end of October 2001…there was a switch in strategy to carpet bombing of frontlines…Sub-atomic bombs were dropped on Taliban frontlines in the Shamal plains north of Kabul…In addition, a quarter of a million deadly bomblets were scattered from the cluster bombs that the USA dropped throughout the country…”

The Bush II Administration then sent large numbers of U.S. ground troops to invade Afghanistan in late November 2001; and by the end of December 2001, the Pentagon had dropped over 12,000 bombs on Afghanistan. Although the U.S. army refused “in principle to estimate” the number of Afghan civilian casualties created by the direct U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan by the end of 2001, it “probably amounted to several thousand,” according to Revolution Unending.

(end of part 14. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Conclusion: 2001-2010")

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 13: 1992-1998

Since October 2001, the Pentagon has been waging an endless war in Afghanistan against the Taliban regime. Yet after the Taliban guerrillas first marched into Kabul in September 1996, an editorial in the October 8, 1996 issue of the New York Times stated that the Taliban regime “has brought a measure of stability to the country for the first time in years.”

In Afghanistan: The Mirage of Peace, Chris Johnson and Jolyon Leslie indicated why the coalition of CIA and ISI-organized Mujahideen guerrilla groups that initially replaced the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA] regime in Afghanistan in April 1992 failed to bring “stability to the country,” when they described what happened after the Mujahideen militia groups marched into Kabul:

“…Tens of thousands of civilians fled their homes…The public services that the Najibullah regime had maintained were soon a thing of the past…

“About 20,000 people died in the fighting between April 1992 and December 1994 that followed the `liberation’ of Kabul. Almost three-quarters of those who survived were forced to leave their homes and move across the city, or flee to squalid camps for the displaced in Jalalabad…Kabul continued to be the focus for rocket attacks from the outside until 1995…”

In August 1992, for example the Mujahideen leader whose armed group had received the most military aid from the CIA in the early 1980s, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, “launched a barrage of rockets against Kabul from his bases north and east of the city that killed over a thousand civilians,” according to Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History. The same book also noted that in January 1994, Hekmatyar’s Mujahideen group also “unleashed the most ferocious artillery and rocket attacks that Kabul had ever experienced” and “these attacks destroyed half the city, took some 25,000 civilian lives, and caused tens of thousands of Kabalis to seek safety in Pakistan or in the north” of Afghanistan.

The situation of women in Kabul also worsened dramatically after the CIA and ISI-organized armed Islamic groups entered Afghan’s capital city. As Guilles Dorronsoro’s Revolution Unending noted:

“The arrival of the Mujahideen in 1992 inaugurated a range of restrictions from the wearing of the veil to the ban on women appearing on television…In Kabul all the armed groups…were guilty of rapes and kidnappings, leading sometimes to the suicide of young girls who had been dishonored. The very few women who dared to dress in the western style in the modern part of Kabul were harassed by the Mujahideen. All this was a new departure, and a contrast, since Afghan women had seldom before been threatened with deliberate acts of violence and certainly not with rape…”

But, according to John Lucas’s “America’s Nation-Destroying Mission in Afghanistan” article, although the Mujahideen now set up a “Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” to “control women’s dress codes and the length of men’s beards,” under the Mujahadeen government “women were still allowed to work” and were still able to be employed in professional jobs in Kabul.

Outside of Kabul, the Afghan countryside was pretty much ruled by Afghan warlords and Afghan drug lords. And by 1994, the country in the world that produced the most heroin was now Afghanistan.

But in November 1994 a new anti-feminist, Islamic guerrilla group of Afghan Pashtun tribes that was apparently backed by Saudi government money and Pakistani government weapons--the Taliban--initiated its military campaign to gain control of Afghanistan’s government. As Afghanistan: A Modern History observed, “the heavy Pakistani involvement in arming, training and even providing logistical support in Taliban field operations was no secret to informal observers as early as 1995” and “the generous Saudi funding was also well known.” The Democratic Administration of Secretary of State Clinton’s husband also apparently wished, during the mid-1990s, to see the Taliban obtain control of the Afghan government, after one of its diplomats, Ms. Robin Raphael, held a meeting with Taliban representatives. According to the same book:

“The United States …was not an uninterested party. An eventual take-over by the Taliban…served both the U.S. political strategy of `containing’…Iran…, as well as its economic interests in fostering…an alternative land route through Afghanistan and Pakistan for the exploitation by U.S.-led companies of the seemingly inexhaustible oil and gas reserves of Central Asia.”

Dator Zayar’s “Afghanistan: An Historical View” article also asserted that “the Taliban were the creation of the Pakistan military and intelligence establishment with the active support of the CIA” and “U.S. imperialism is directly responsible for the Taliban reaction in Afghanistan.”

Less than three weeks after Taliban guerrilla fighters from Pakistan captured in two days the Afghan city of Kandahar on November 3, 1994, the number of Taliban guerrilla fighters in Afghanistan had rapidly increased to 2,500. And, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History, many of these Taliban insurgents were “armed with brand-new weapons that could only have come from Inter-Service Intelligence [ISI] warehouses in Pakistan.” So, by February 1995, the Taliban forces were able to capture the base near Kabul of Hekmatyar’s Mujahadeen forces.

Although the Taliban apparently began to act more independently of the Pakistani government in March 1995, during the summer of 1995 the Pakistan government’s ISI agency trained more Taliban guerrillas; and, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History, there is “no doubt that Pakistan through its ISI had played a key role in reinforcing the Taliban capacity to wage war.” The Afghan city of Jalalabad was then captured by the Taliban on September 12, 1996; and by September 26, 1996, the ISI-trained Taliban troops now controlled Kabul. By 1998, over 90 percent of Afghanistan’s territory was now controlled by the Taliban’s new Afghan government.

Coincidentally, after an October 21, 1995 agreement was signed between Turkmenistan President Saparmurad Nizazov, Unocal and Unocal’s business partner—the Saudi-owned Delta oil company—to build a gas pipeline through Afghanistan, Unocal (which became a subsidiary of Chevron Texaco in 2005) began to handle “public relations for the Taliban and sponsored visits to Washington and Houston during the mid-1990s," according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. As the same book explained:

“Behind… U.S. acquiescence in an eventual Taliban takeover, engineered by its Pakistan and Saudi allies, lay the Unocal game plan. Unocal was a consortium of U.S. oil companies formed to exploit the hydrocarbon reserves of Central Asia. Unocal and its Saudi partner, Delta, had hired every available American involved in Afghan operations during the jihad years, including Robert Oakley, a former ambassador to Pakistan, and worked hand-in-glove with U.S. officials. Unocal staff acted for a time as an unofficial lobby for the Taliban and were regularly briefed by the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI. In U.S. eyes, the most important function of the Taliban would have been to provide security for the roads, and potentially for the gas and oil pipelines that would link the Central Asian states to the international markets through Afghanistan rather than Iran…The U.S. assistant secretary of state for South Asian Affairs, Robin Raphael, went so far as to state that the Taliban capture of Kabul was `a positive step.’”

Following the September 1996 takeover of Kabul by the Taliban regime, Unocal Vice President Chris Taggart also said on October 2, 1996 that “if this leads to peace, stability, and international recognition, then this is a positive development.”

Support for the Taliban by the Clinton Administration apparently became “an economic priority,” after Unocal executives signed its October 21, 1995 agreement with the Turkmenistan president, based on potential gas exports evaluated at $8 billion, according to Forbidden Truth: U.S.-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for Bin Laden by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie. Chris Johnson and Jolyon Leslie also observed in their Afghanistan: The Mirage of Peace book:

“… Afghanistan potentially offered advantages over all the alternative pipeline routes…The Clinton administration weighed in heavily on behalf of Unocal…In February 1997, and again in November of that year, Taliban representatives were in Washington meeting both Unocal and State Department officials. Unocal estimated it had spent some $15-20 million on the pipeline project…It hired…Zalmay Khalizad…a member of the National Security Council…Hamid Karzai…in 1997 represented Unocal in negotiations with the Taliban leadership…”

Yet for Afghan women in Kabul, the victory of the Unocal, Clinton Administration, Pakistani government and Saudi government-backed Taliban in September 1996 apparently “represented the triumph of the most fundamentalist tendency,” according to Revolution Unending. The same book also observed that the “earliest victims” of the new Taliban regime in Afghanistan “were educated women, who were mainly in Kabul and numbered around 165,000.” As a March 1998 article by N.O.W. vice president Karen Johnson noted:

“…On Sept. 27, 1996, the Taliban issued an edict that forbade women and girls from working or going to school. The edict took effect immediately, and women who tried to go to work the next day were beaten and forced to return home….On Sept. 26, 1996, women were 70% of the school teachers, 40% of the doctors, 50% of government workers and 50% of the university students…A woman must be accompanied by a male relative in order to leave the confines of her home…In the city of Kabul alone there are 40,000 widows who can no longer work to support themselves and their families…The Taliban asserts that the prohibitions for women and girls are religious and protective in nature…”

But, according to Revolution Unending, for “country women” in Afghanistan “the principal effect of the arrival of the Taliban was an end to insecurity,” since rural Afghan women already lacked the educational and work opportunities that urban Afghan women lost after the Taliban militias entered Kabul in September 1996.

At least one writer has questioned the assertion that all actions of the Taliban regime’s Afghan government between September 1996 and November 2001 deserved condemnation. For example, in his book, The World Is Turning, Don Paul wrote that “the Taliban…rebuilt schools and hospitals,” “eliminated (according to a year 2000 United Nations drug Control Program study) opium cultivation in their territory,” and “barred the selling of women as chattels.” In addition, the Taliban (according to a speech by their roving Ambassador, Sayyid Rahmatullah Hashemi, at the University of Southern California on March 10, 2001) claimed that it allowed women to “work in the Taliban’s Ministries of Health, of Education, of the Interior, of Social Affairs” and allowed” more women than men” to “attend the schools of Medical Science that the Taliban had re-opened in all of Afghanistan’s major cities.”

Another early victim of the Taliban occupation of Kabul on September 26, 1996 was the Afghan government leader whose regime had collapsed in April 1992, Najibullah. Between April 1992 and September 1996, Najibullah had enjoyed sanctuary at the United Nations diplomatic premises in Kabul. But “one of the Taliban’s first acts after entering Kabul was to violate the United Nations diplomatic premises” to “torture and execute” Najibullah “and two companions in a particularly gruesome manner and expose their mutilated bodies in a Kabul square,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. Datar Zayar’s “ Afghanistan: An Historical View” article also observed that, additionally, the Taliban regime “unleashed a reign of terror with ethnic cleansing in Bamiyan and Mazar-e-Sharif and severe repression against oppressed religious minorities and nationalities” in Afghanistan.

(end of part 13. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 14: 1998-2001"

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 12: 1987-1992

In 2010 more than 600 individuals were still imprisoned by the Democratic Obama Administration at its Bagram detention facility in Afghanistan; and many of these Bagram prisoners have apparently been held without access to lawyers or an opportunity to legally challenge the basis of their imprisonment for as long as six years. Yet none of the U.S. government officials responsible for escalating the covert and overt U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan since the 1970s have ever been held legally accountable for the morally disastrous humanitarian effects their policies have had on the history of people in Afghanistan.

Yet in April 1986, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan[PDPA]-Parcham faction leader who had been installed in late December 1979 by Soviet troops as the head of the PDPA regime in Afghanistan--Babrak Karmal—was replaced by the former head of the PDPA regime’s secret police, Dr. Mohammad Najibullah, after Najibullah was elected by the PDPA’s Central Committee to be its new general secretary. Subsequently, on January 1, 1987, the new PDPA regime head of state attempted to bring peace to the people of Afghanistan and negotiate an end to the 1980s Afghan war by announcing a “program of `national reconciliation’ comprising three key elements: a six-month unilateral cease-fire, the formation of a government of `national unity’ and the return of over 5 million refugees from Pakistan and Iran,” according to Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History. The same book also recalled:

“An `Extraordinary Supreme Commission for National Reconciliation’ was set up and branches were opened all over the country. Their job was to make contact with refugees…in exile or fighting with resistance groups, pass on the message of peace, and distribute essential relief items for the use of returning refugees. Other inducements offered were tax concessions, the return of confiscated property and the deferment of military service. Radio Kabul started calling the Mujahideen fighters `angry brothers’ rather than `bandits.’ Some 4000…prisoners were released. Six months later, just before the expiring of the 6-month ceasefire, Najibullah was able to claim that 59,000 refugees had returned; tens of thousands of men were negotiating with the government; 4,000 representatives of the opposition had been included in the reconciliation committees; and coalition governments had already been formed in several villages, sub-districts, districts and provinces.”

But the alliance of seven U.S., Pakistani and Saudi government-sponsored anti-feminist Afghan political parties apparently “turned down with disbelief and contempt” the January 1987 peace proposals of the PDPA regime in Afghanistan. As the same book explained:

“The Islamic parties…claiming to represent the Mujahideen resistance had developed into vested interests that were not receptive to power-sharing arrangements. They and their Pakistani sponsors, replete with funds and weapons generously contributed by `the international community’, developed their own agendas for a post-Soviet Afghanistan…The parties owed their `influence’ to the fact that they served as somewhat porous conduits for the U.S. and Saudi funds and weapons channeled to the resistance fighters inside Afghanistan by Pakistan’s ISI [Inter-Service Intelligence]…”

Ironically, “a survey among Afghan refugees conducted in 1987 by one of Afghanistan’s outstanding academics and intellectuals, Professor S.B. Majrooh, found that less than half a percent of those polled would choose one of the seven” Afghan Islamic political party “leaders to rule a free Afghanistan,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. Coincidentally, the Union of Mujahideen (a coalition of these seven unpopular Islamic parties) apparently then arranged for Professor Majrooh to be assassinated in his office in Peshawar on February 11, 1988, shortly after his survey results were made public.

Yet despite the rejection of its January 1987 peace proposals by the U.S., Pakistani and Saudi government-sponsored Islamic parties, the PDPA regime extended its unilateral January 1987 ceasefire in Afghanistan for another six months in June 1987; and it invited its right-wing Afghan political opponents to suggest changes in the draft of a proposed new Afghan constitution which it published in July 1987. The proposed new Afghan constitution--that set up a democratic, multi-party parliamentary political system in Afghanistan in which Islam was the state religion—was then formally approved by the PDPA regime’s parliament [jirga] in November 1987.

On February 8, 1988, the Gorbachev regime in the Soviet Union next announced that on May 15, 1988 it would start to withdraw the 85,000 Soviet troops still in Afghanistan; and it would have all Soviet troops pulled out of Afghanistan by March 15, 1989. Parliamentary elections were then held in Afghanistan in April 1988 in which the National Fatherland Front [NFF] and other newly formed Afghan parties won more seats in the new, democratically-elected Afghan parliament than did the PDPA—which just won 22 percent of the parliamentary seats. In addition, 25 percent of the seats in the lower house of the new Afghan parliament were left vacant for representatives of the Islamic opposition parties in Afghanistan--that were still unwilling to negotiate an agreement in 1988 that would finally bring peace to Afghanistan.

A peace agreement between the Pakistani government and the Afghan government-- guaranteed by both the Reagan Administration and the Gorbachev regime in the Soviet Union --was, however, signed on April 14, 1988. But after the withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Afghanistan was completed in February 1989, Pakistan’s “ISI drew up the battle plans and arranged the logistics, the intelligence and the communications,” for a March 7, 1989 attack from Pakistan by its Afghan Mujahideen units, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. Although the Mujahideen quickly “captured the government base of Samarkhel, 12 miles south-east of Jalalabad,” their march to the local airport “ran into heavy resistance.” As Afghanistan: A Modern History observed, “despite human wave assaults and a heavy bombardment of the city that cost over 2,000, mostly civilian lives, the Muhajideen could not advance any further. And in July 1989, the Afghan government military forces were able to easily retake its Samarkhel base, where they found that 70 captured Afghan army officers had been murdered by the ISI-organized Mujahideen.”

Without the support of any Soviet troops, the army of the Najibullah regime’s Afghan government in 1989 was also able to defend Jalalabad “against the most massive attack ever undertaken by the Mujahideen during the whole war,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. And, despite a failed coup attempt by the Minister of Defense of the Afghan government regime in March 1990, Najibullah’s regime did not collapse until there was a successful 1992 Afghan military coup which, according to Dator Zayar’s October 2001 “Afghanistan: An Historical View” article, was “planned by the CIA and ISI” and “prepared the way for the capture of Kabul by the Islamic fundamentalists.” Afghan President Najibullah then announced in early April 1992 that he would resign as part of a UN-brokered transition of power and “ Kabul now became the scene for a power struggle between four main armed” Mujahadeen “groups,” according to Afghanistan: The Mirage of Peace by Chris Johnson and Jolyon Leslie.

By April 1992, the commanders of the various Mujahideen guerrilla groups were also deriving a major source of their personal income from Afghanistan’s lucrative drug trade. As Trinity College Professor and International Studies Program Director Vijay Prashad wrote in his “War Against The Planet” article that was posted on the CounterPunch website:

“The opium harvest at the Pakistan-Afghan border doubled between 1982 and 1983 (575 tons), but by the end of the decade it would grow to 800 tons. On June 18, 1986, the New York Times reported that the Mujahideen `have been involved in narcotics activities as a matter of policy to finance their operations.’.”

In his Killing Hope book, William Blum also wrote:

“…Mujahideen commanders inside Afghanistan personally controlled huge fields of opium poppies, the raw material from which heroin is refined. CIA-supplied trucks and mules, which had carried arms into Afghanistan, were used to transport some of the opium to the numerous laboratories along the Afghan-Pakistan border, whence many tons of heroin were processed with the cooperation of the Pakistani military. The output provided an estimated one-third to one-half of the heroin used annually in the United States and three-quarters of that used in Western Europe ….”

(end of part 12. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 13: 1992-1998)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 11: 1981-1987

On March 29, 2010, the Associated Press reported that “a senior military official” in Washington “who was not authorized to speak publicly on the operation” said that “NATO forces...will make a long-planned assault on the Taliban’s spiritual home in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar;” and that “military officials say they expect `several thousand’" of the 30,000 extra troops that Barack Obama recently ordered to Afghanistan “to be sent to Kandahar.” But long before the Republican Bush II Administration ordered Pentagon ground troops to begin the endless war in Afghanistan in late 2001, the Republican Reagan Administration was involving the U.S. government even more deeply in the internal political affairs of Afghanistan.

The CIA’s SOVMAT program of arming anti-feminist Afghan guerrillas, for example, continued to operate after the Democratic Carter Administration was replaced by the Reagan Administration and William Casey (a former Capital Cities Communications media conglomerate board member who also then owned over $3 million worth of stock in companies like Exxon, DuPont, Standard Oil of Indiana and Mobil-Superior Oil) became the new CIA director in 1981. As Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History observed:

“Bill Casey’s CIA procurers scoured the globe in search of Soviet-style weapons. Egypt, which had large stockpiles of automatic weapons, land mines, grenade launchers and anti-aircraft missiles delivered by the Soviets was the first source…Other sources were Israel, which had a supply of Soviet-made weapons—captured during the Six-Day War and from Syrian troops and Palestinians in London—and China. Using Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence [ISI] as a go-between, the CIA contracted with the Chinese government to manufacture rocket launchers, AK47s and heavy machine guns in return for hard currency and new equipment. China became a major source of supply. As the requirements grew, the CIA arranged for copies of Soviet weapons to be manufactured in factories in Cairo and in the US , where one leading firm was given a classified contract to upgrade SAM-7-anti-aircraft missiles…”

The CIA’s covert military intervention in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and early 1980s represented “the biggest single CIA covert operation anywhere in the world,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. The money the U.S. government’s CIA secretly spent on giving weapons and military aid-- via its Pakistani ISI middle-men--to the Afghan Mujahideen guerrillas grew from $30 million to $280 million-per-year between 1981 and 1985. In addition, Reagan Administration CIA Director Casey also persuaded “Arab governments to contribute to a reserve fund that could be kept secret from Congress and the State Department” during the early 1980s, according to the same book. As a result, in late 1981 the repressive Saudi Arabian monarchical regime “began to match the CIA dollar for dollar in the financing of purchases of weapons for the Afghan resistance,” “funneled more than half a billion dollars to CIA accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands,” and made “substantial direct contributions of cash and weapons to its own favorites among the Mujahideen parties” in Afghanistan.

The Bank of Credit and Commerce International [BCCI] in Geneva was the financial institution secretly used by the CIA and the Saudi government in the 1980s to manage the special “Afghan War” accounts--from which the CIA and Saudi government payments were made to the various arms dealers who supplied the weapons needed for the CIA’s covert military intervention in Afghanistan. By 1989, around $13 billion had been spent by the U.S. and Saudi governments on subsidizing the CIA and ISI’s Mujahideen militias in Afghanistan; and around 50 percent of U.S. government-supplied weapons had been distributed to Hekmatyar’s extremely anti-feminist Hizb-I Islami guerrilla group.

Ironically, one of the strongest proponents for the escalation of the Republican Reagan Administration’s escalation of Casey’s covert war in Afghanistan in the early 1980s was a Democrat: a now-deceased Democratic Congressional representative from Texas named Charles Wilson. As John Cooley’s Unholy Wars recalled:

“The single U.S. Congressman who emerged as CIA Director William Casey’s champion Congressional ally, especially for appropriating money was Democratic Representative Charles Wilson of Texas, one of the most colorful figures of the Afghan jihad…Always ready to promote the interests of the Texas defense contractors who supported him, he got seats on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee…

“Wilson made 14 separate trips to South Asia…In 1982, he began intensive work in secret hearings of the Senate Appropriations Committee to inject more and more money into the Afghan enterprise. On one trip in 1983 he crossed into Afghanistan with a group of Mujahideen

“Wilson ’s best ally for money decisions below Casey’s level in the CIA was John N. McMahon, the agency’s deputy director since June 1982…

“McMahon did support Wilson’s efforts for more money for the jihad, after setting up, during Stanfield Turner’s watch as CIA Director [during the Democratic Carter Administration], many of the original financing and supply arrangements for the Mujahideen…”

In late 1984, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History, the U.S. Congress, “in a rare show of bi-partisanship, and prompted by friends of the Afghan resistance such as Charles Wilson, Gordon Humphrey, Orin Hatch and Bill Bradley, also took the lead in voting more money for the Mujahideen than the Reagan administration requested, sometimes by diverting funds from the defense budget to the CIA.” And CIA Director Casey personally visited three secret training camps in October 1984 to watch some of the Mujahideen guerrillas being trained in Pakistan to wage war in Afghanistan.

The CIA station chief in Pakistan from 1986-1989 who was apparently responsible for arming the Mujahideen was Milton Bearden, according to James Lucas’ “ America’s Nation-Destroying Mission In Afghanistan” article. In Bearden’s view, “the U.S. was fighting the Soviets to the last Afghan,” during the 1980s. And around 1.5 million to 2 million Afghans would be killed during the CIA-sponsored Afghan war, before all Soviet troops were eventually withdrawn by the Gorbachev regime in the late 1980s. Thousands of Afghan civilians were apparently killed, for example, as a result of the Soviet military’s bombing of apparently 12,000 rural villages in Afghanistan (as part of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA] government’s “counter-insurgency” campaign) during the 1980s.

As Afghanistan: A Modern History observed, “all pretenses that the United States was not directly involved in the Afghan war were dissipated at a stroke late 1984,” when Republican President Reagan then publicly authorized “the delivery of Stinger surface-to-air missiles to the Mujahideen.” The delivery of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the Mujahideen by the CIA “would begin to turn the tide of the” Afghan “war in 1985” against the Soviet military forces and Afghan armed forces that supported the PDPA regime in Afghanistan, according to Unholy Wars. As James Lucas noted in his “America ’s Nation-Destroying Mission In Afghanistan” article:

“Between 1986 and 1989, the U.S. provided the Mujahideen with more than 1,000 of these state-of-the-art, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile launchers which by some accounts prevented a Soviet victory. Stinger missiles were able to destroy low-flying Soviet planes which forced them to fly at higher altitudes, thereby curtailing the damage they could cause."

By 1987, the U.S. government was giving the anti-feminist Afghan guerrillas nearly $700 million in military assistance per year; and were it not for the involvement of the CIA and the Pakistani government’s ISI in the 1980s war in Afghanistan, the Mujahideen might not have eventually succeeded in violently overthrowing the PDPA regime by the early 1990s. As Afghanistan: A Modern History noted, “the greatest advantage that the Mujahideen as a guerrilla force had were the safe havens in Pakistan to which they could withdraw from time to time to rest and refit, gather the supplies that they needed, receive training in the use of the increasingly sophisticated weapons that the United States was delivering, and be briefed on the superior intelligence…that the CIA was providing through the ISI.”

The same book revealed some details of how the CIA and ISI organized their military units of Afghan refugees to attack Afghanistan—in violation of international law—during the late 1970s and 1980s:

“Within the ISI, the Afghan Bureau was the command post for the war in Afghanistan and operated in the greatest secrecy, with its military staff wearing civilian clothes. Its head reported to [then-ISI Director General] Akhtar [Abdur Rahman], who also devoted some 50 percent of his time to the affairs of the Bureau and reported directly to [Pakistani President] Zia. The respective roles of the CIA and the ISI’s Afghan Bureau are best summed up by the army officer personally selected by Akhtar in October 1983 to head the Bureau, Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf:

“`To sum up: The CIA’s tasks in Afghanistan were to purchase arms and equipment and their transportation to Pakistan; provide funds for the purpose of vehicles and transportation inside Pakistan and Afghanistan; train Pakistani instructors on new weapons or equipment; provide photographs and maps for our operational planning; provide radio equipment and training, and advise on technical matters when requested. The entire planning of the war, all types of training for the Mujahideen, and the allocation and distribution of arms and supplies were the…responsibility of the ISI, and my office in particular.’”

Around 80,000 Mujahideen Afghan guerrillas were trained, for example in camps in Pakistan between 1984 and 1987. At the ISI Afghan Bureau’s 70 to 80 acre Ojhri Camp in Rawalpindi—not too far from Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad—were barracks, training areas, mess halls and a warehouse from which 70 percent of the weapons used by the Afghan Mujahadeen were distributed, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. The anti-feminist Afghan combatants were mostly recruited by the ISI and CIA from the over 3.2 million Afghan refugees who settled in Pakistan and the over 2.9 million Afghan refugees who settled in Iran between 1980 and 1990.

Yet despite the opposition of the anti-feminist Mujahideen, the PDPA government refused to scrap its program for female equality and female emancipation in Afghanistan during the 1980s. As Gilles Dorronsoro wrote in his 2005 book Revolution Unending: Afghanistan: 1979 to the Present:

“…The regime maintained the proportion of women members of the party at around 15 percent…In addition, there were women members of the party militias, especially in Kabul and in some of the northern towns. The most marked changes were in public education…In Kabul half of the holders of the public teaching posts were women, as were the majority of the staff of the Ministries of Education and Health. Similarly, 55 percent of the students were girls…Dress codes showed the beginnings of a break with traditional practices, although these innovations were mostly restricted to the modern areas of the capital and to a lesser extent of Jalalabad and Mazar-I Sharif…”

In the Afghan countryside, however, “the Mujahideen imposed an order that was much more conservative or even fundamentalist,” the “prohibition of women’s participation in public activities became stricter,” and “opposition from fundamentalists…restricted the educational opportunities for girls,” according to the same book.

(end of part 11. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 12: 1987-1992)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 10: 1979-1981

In 2010 the Democratic Obama Administration is spending over $95 billion on the Pentagon’s endless war in Afghanistan. Yet many viewers of PBS-affiliated television stations or readers of Rolling Stone magazine in the USA still probably know more about the history of rock music since the 1950s than about the hidden history of Afghanistan since 1979.

In September 1979, for example, supporters of People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA]-Khalq Premier Noor Mohammad Taraki discovered that PDPA-Khalq Deputy Premier Hafizullah Amin was plotting to kill Taraki—after political disagreements between the two PDPA-Khalq government leaders developed between March 1979 and July 1979; and Amin apparently began appointing just members of his own family to fill important Afghan government posts. But Amin was still able to force Taraki to resign as Afghan prime minister on September 15, 1979, following Taraki’s return from abroad after attending a conference of leaders of Non-Aligned nations. And Amin apparently then arranged for former PDPA-Khalq leader Taraki to be killed on October 8 or 9, 1979.

When Taraki had visited Moscow in March 1979 to first request that Soviet ground troops be sent into Afghanistan to help his government’s Afghan army defeat the anti-feminist Mujahdeen guerrillas, the Brezhnev regime had refused to send large numbers of Soviet troops across the border into Afghanistan at that time. But Taraki—who, along with Amin, had personally signed in Moscow the December 5, 1978 Treaty of Friendship between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan—had apparently been considered friendlier to the Soviet Union than the Columbia University Teachers College and University of Wisconsin-trained Amin. So after Taraki was killed, the Brezhnev regime in the Soviet Union apparently decided that the PDPA-Parcham faction leader that Amin had demoted in late June 1978—Babrak Karmal—should replace Amin as Afghan head of state (if large-scale Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan was required to prevent the U.S. and Pakistani-backed Afghan Mujahideen militias--which by then controlled 23 of Afghanistan’s 28 provinces--from quickly overthrowing the increasingly unpopular government that had been established by the April 1978 Saur Revolution).

On December 12, 1979, the Brezhnev regime did decide to order large numbers of Soviet ground troops to cross the Soviet-Afghan border and march into Afghanistan on December 23, 1979. One result of this internationally unpopular December 1979 decision was that 13,369 members of the Soviet military would subsequently be killed (and 35,578 troops would be wounded), according to official Soviet government casualty figures.

On December 27, 1979, 300 Soviet commandos then surrounded and attacked Amin’s residence at 7 p.m.--at the same time that other Soviet troops seized Kabul ’s radio station. An apparently recorded message from PDPA-Parcham faction leader Karmal, announcing that he was the new head of the Afghan government, was then broadcast over the radio--while Amin and Amin loyalists unsuccessfully fought until 1 a.m. against the 300 Soviet commandos who were attempting to arrest Amin. After being taken to Soviet military headquarters in Kabul, Amin was apparently then executed.

The Democratic Carter Administration next used the Brezhnev regime’s internationally unpopular military response to the Pakistani and U.S. governments’ covert support for regime change and the right-wing Mujahadeen insurgency in Afghanistan as a pretext for once again requiring U.S. men between 18 and 26 years of age to register for a future U.S. military draft. As Democratic President Carter explained in his January 23, 1980 State of the Union speech:

“…The region which is now threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan is of great strategic importance: It contains more than two-thirds of the world's exportable oil. The Soviet effort to dominate Afghanistan has brought Soviet military forces to within 300 miles of the Indian Ocean and close to the Straits of Hormuz, a waterway through which most of the world's oil must flow. The Soviet Union is now attempting to consolidate a strategic position, therefore, that poses a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.

“This situation demands careful thought, steady nerves, and resolute action, not only for this year but for many years to come….It demands the participation of all those who rely on oil from the Middle East…

“…I believe that our volunteer forces are adequate for current defense needs, and I hope that it will not become necessary to impose a draft. However, we must be prepared for that possibility. For this reason, I have determined that the Selective Service System must now be revitalized. I will send legislation and budget proposals to the Congress next month so that we can begin registration and then meet future mobilization needs rapidly if they arise…”

Former Columbia University Professor and then-National Security Affairs Advisor Brzezinski then visited Pakistan in February 1980 and “met with General Akhtar, the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence ] chief, as well as with [then-Pakistan] president Zia-al-Haq and with CIA station chief in Islamabad John J. Reagan,” according to John Cooley’s Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism.

But because covert CIA aid to the Afghan resistance fighters violated international law, “both Washington and Islamabad went to extraordinary lengths to cover up their” increased military “assistance to the Afghan Mujahideen,” according to Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History. The same book also noted that “for this reason it was decided that only Warsaw Pact weaponry would be delivered, as such weapons could not be traced back to the US …”

So “the Cold Warriors in Langley, Virginia ” then “developed…a top-secret program, codenamed SOVMAT,” which “was probably unknown even to President Zia al-Haq and the holy-war commanders in Pakistan’s ISI,” according to Unholy Wars. The same book also described how the CIA’s secret SOVMAT program of the early 1980s operated:

“…Working with a vast army of phony corporations and fronts, the CIA under the SOVMAT program would buy weapons from East European governments and governmental organizations…Their acquisition and testing by the U.S. military and the CIA facilitated development of counter-measures, such as improved anti-tank weapons used by the Mujahideen

“…Officials running the CIA’s SOVMAT program provided wish lists for CIA and ISI officers operating from Pakistan, who sent their Afghan mercenaries to ransack Soviet supply depots…Some Afghan fighters were taught in their CIA-managed training by the ISI in Pakistan to strip Soviet SPETZNAZ or special forces soldiers of their weapons…”

(end of part 10. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 11: 1981-1987)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 9: 1978-1979

As the New York Times (4/26/10) observed, “small bands of elite American Special Operations forces have been operating with increased Kandahar, southern Afghanistan ’s largest city, picking up or picking off insurgent leaders…in advance of major operations, senior administration and military officials say.” So if you’re a U.S. anti-war activist, perhaps now might also be a good time for you to revisit the post-1978 history of people in Afghanistan?

Following the April 27, 1978 “Saur [‘April’] Revolution” in Afghanistan, for example, a Revolutionary Council of the People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan [PDRA]was established on May 1, 1978 with People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA]-Khalq faction leader Noor Mohammad Taraki as its President and Premier, PDPA-Parcham faction leader Babrak Karmal as Vice President, 30 PDPA civilians as members and 5 pro-PDPA military officers as members; and on May 6, 1978, Taraki announced that Afghanistan was now a non-aligned and independent country. Soon afterwards, however, control of the post-April 1978 revolutionary government of Afghanistan was shifted to the PDPA’s Politburo.

According to an article by John Ryan, titled “Afghanistan: A Forgotten Chapter,” which appeared in the Nov./Dec. 2001 issue of Canadian Dimensions, labor unions “were legalized, a minimum wage was established, a progressive income tax was introduced, men and women were given equal rights, and girls were encouraged to go to school,” by the post-April 1978 revolutionary government in Afghanistan. All debts owed by Afghan’s peasants and small farmers were also abolished; and 200,000 rural families were scheduled to receive redistributed land in accordance with the PDPA government’s land reform program. In addition, the PDPA government elevated the Uzbek, Tucoman, Baluchi and Niristani minority languages to the status of national language in Afghanistan, deprived members of the Afghan royal family of their citizenship and began building hundreds of schools and medical clinics in the Afghan countryside. A female member of the PDPA/PDRA’s Revolutionary Council, Dr. Anahita Ratebzad, also wrote, in a May 28, 1978 Kabul Times editorial, that “privileges which women, by right, must have are equal education, job security, health services, and free time to rear a healthy generation for building the future of the country;” and “educating and enlightening women is now the subject of close government attention.”

Once the PDPA had gained control over the Afghan government, however, internal party conflict between the leaders of its Parcham faction and its Khalq faction developed again; and at a June 27, 1978 PDPA Central Committee meeting, “Karmal and other leading Parchamis were shunted off to lives in glorified exile as ambassador” and “virtually ousted…from the government” by the Khalq faction, according to Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History. A number of Parcham activists were then also imprisoned by the PDPA-Khalq faction’s regime. Besides Taraki, the PDPA-Khalq faction in late June 1978 was also now being led by Hafizullah Amin--the Columbia University Teachers College graduate (who some Afghan leftists subsequently claimed may have been previously recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency when he studied in the United States--during the Cold War period when the Afghan monarchical government was considered by the CIA to be too friendly with the Soviet Union).

Karmal, who had been appointed Afghanistan’s ambassador to Czechoslovakia, apparently then met with “Parchamis who were still in place, notably Defense Minister Qadir and the Army Chief of Staff, General Shahpur Ahmedzai;” and a PDPA-Parcham faction internal coup against the PDPA-Khalq faction’s Taraki-Amin regime was planned for September 4, 1978, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. But in August 1978, Amin learned of the planned coup, arrested Qadir and Ahmedzai, and “went on a witch-hunt for Parchamis, eliminating them and their sympathizers from key government and party posts and filling the jails with them,” according to the same book.

Right-wing Islamic opponents of the Taraki-Amin regime in rural Afghanistan, meanwhile, also began to soon organize against the mixing of sexes in the classrooms of the post-Saur Revolution’s literacy campaign and against its democratic reform of Afghan’s marriage laws--which would now abolish forced marriages, now insure freedom of choice of marriage partner and now make 16 years the minimum age for marriage. But the anti-feminist rural Afghan religious leaders, rural village heads, and rural elders who opposed the literacy campaign and marriage law reforms--along with their followers--were also either repressed in large numbers by the PDPA-Khalq regime in 1978 or fled to Pakistan during the last 6 months of 1978. As James Lucas’s recent “ America ’s Nation-Destroying Mission in Afghanistan ” article recalled:

“…Efforts to introduce changes involved a degree of coercion and violence directed mainly toward those living in areas outside of Kabul where the vast majority of the population lived in mountainous, rural and tribal areas where there was an exceptionally high rate of illiteracy. Steps to redistribute land were initiated but were met by objections from those who had monopoly ownership of land.

“It was the revolutionary government’s granting of new rights to women that pushed orthodox Muslim men in the Pashtun villages of eastern Afghanistan to pick up their guns. Even though some of those changes had been made only on paper, some said that they were being made too quickly.

“According to these opponents, the government said their women had to attend meetings and that their children had to go to school. Since they believed that these changes threatened their religion, they were convinced that they had to fight. So an opposition movement started at that point which became known as the Mujahideen, an alliance of conservative Islamic groups.”

The anti-feminist Afghan alliance of Sunni Islamic party groups, also known as the “Peshawar Seven,” soon called for a jihad, or holy war, against the post-April 1978 revolutionary government in Afghanistan. And by the end of 1978, some 80,000 Afghans from the eastern half of Afghanistan had reached Pakistan;” and “eight training camps were established in the North West Frontier Province” by Pakistan’s right-wing military dictatorship “to turn simple Afghan refugees into guerrilla fighters,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History.

A report in the February 1979 issue of the Swiss newspaper Neue Zurcher Zeitung indicated that the CIA apparently initially provided Pakistan’s military dictatorship with the money needed to purchase weapons for the anti-feminist Afghan refugees that it began training in late 1978. According to John Cooley’s 2001 book Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, American and International Terrorism, “Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] officers and a few key Afghan guerrilla leaders were first secretly schooled in the service training centers of the CIA and the US Army and Navy Special Forces in the United States” and “main training took place under the watchful eyes of the Pakistanis and sometimes a very few CIA officers in Pakistan…”

In response, the Taraki-Amin regime signed a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the government of the neighboring Soviet Union on December 5, 1978, which then agreed to provide more Soviet military advisors and Soviet military aid for the PDPA-Khalq government in Afghanistan. Yet “in January 1979 a first contingent of some 500” anti-feminist Afghan guerrillas, “under the banner of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizbi-i-Islami” group," still “entered Kunar province, attacked Asadabad, its principal town, and captured a strategically located government fort,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. Hekmatyar’s followers had initially “gained attention” in Afghanistan “by throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil” according to journalist Tim Weiner.

In the western half of Afghanistan, Afghan Shiite Islamic party groups also had prepared for armed resistance to the post-April 1978 revolutionary government; and in February 1979 the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Adolph Dubs, was taken hostage by an anti-government Shiite Islamic group that demanded the release by the PDPA-Khalq government of a political prisoner. The U.S. Ambassador was then killed during a shootout between Afghan police and his anti-government captors. The following month, hundreds of Afghan government officials (who were in charge of introducing the women’s literacy program in the western city of Herat ) and their Soviet advisors--along with members of their families—were apparently killed by rebellious local Afghans and a garrison of mutinous Afghan government soldiers in Herat on March 24, 1979. Major attacks were then made in Jalalabad, in Pattia province, and in Gardez during April 1979, “by Mujahideen organized from Pakistan by Syyed Ahmd Gailani and Mujaddidi,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History.

Even before Democratic President Carter secretly signed a July 3, 1979 directive to officially provide covert military aid to the anti-feminist Islamic guerrillas in Afghanistan (that Pakistan’s ISI agency had covertly trained to seek a regime change in Afghanistan), both the Tarkai-Amin regime and the government of the Soviet Union had accused Pakistan’s military dictatorship of illegally intervening in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, in violation of international law. As Afghanistan: A Modern History observed, “both Kabul and Moscow were convinced, not without reason, that the spreading insurrections in Afghanistan were encouraged, armed and directed by Pakistan.”

Yet Pakistan ’s military dictatorship apparently lied about its role in illegally intervening in the internal affairs of Afghanistan following the April 1978 Saur Revolution in Afghanistan. As Afghanistan: A Modern History recalled:

“Whenever such charges were publicly leveled at Pakistan, they were flatly denied. Pakistan was able to maintain the fiction…The whole support program was a very covert operation from beginning to end, conducted in…secrecy by the ISI whose chief, General Akhtar, reported directly to [then-Pakistani Dictator] Zia…The fiction was maintained even when the level of support reached massive proportions after the United States became involved…”

Prior to the introduction of large numbers of Soviet troops into Afghanistan by the Brezhnev regime in December 1979, the Carter Administration apparently also was not completely honest about the degree to which it was working for a regime change in Afghanistan by illegally intervening in Afghanistan’s internal affairs in early 1979. For example, as Steve Galster observed in his “ Afghanistan : The Making of U.S. Policy 1973-1990” article:

“According to a former Pakistani military official who was interviewed in 1988, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad had asked Pakistani military officials in April 1979 to recommend a rebel organization that would make the best use of U.S. aid. The following month, the Pakistani source claimed, he personally introduced a CIA official to Hekmatyar who… headed what the Pakistani government considered the most militant and organized rebel group, the Hizbi-i Islami…”

And according to John Cooley’s 2001 book, Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism, during “the summer of 1979…National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski got Carter to sign a secret directive for covert aid to the Mujahideen resistance fighters.” As Brzezinski--a former Columbia University Professor of Government and former policy advisor to Barack Obama--confessed in a January 15, 1998 interview with the Paris newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur:

“…According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahideen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec. 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul . And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention…We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.”

The Unholy Wars book also observed that “Charles Cogan, until 1984 one of the senior CIA officials running the aid program…agrees with Brzezinski…that the first covert CIA aid to the Afghan resistance fighters was actually authorized fully 6 months before the Soviet invasion—in July 1979…” As a then-classified U.S. State Department Report of August 1979 stated, "the United States larger interests…would be served by the demise of the Taraki-Amin regime, despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan," according to James Lucas’ recent “America’s Nation-Destroying Mission In Afghanistan” article.

(end of part 9. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 10: 1979-1981)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 8: 1977-1978

Right-wing anti-feminist Islamic parties and Mujahideen or Taliban militias have exercised a special influence in Afghan politics since the 1980s. But the history of people in Afghanistan between 1977 and 1978 indicates that the radical secular left People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA] also played an historically significant role in Afghan politics.

In July 1977, for example, Noor Mohammad Taraki’s PDPA-Khalq faction/party and Babrak Karmal’s PDPA-Parcham faction/party agreed to form one, united PDPA party, with a 30-member Central Committee in which each faction would be represented equally. After Mohammad Daoud seized control of Afghanistan’s government in 1973, the Khalq faction of the now-united PDPA had apparently been successful in persuading more members of the Afghan military to join the PDPA. A key role in the PDPA-Khalq faction’s recruitment of members of the Afghan military into the PDPA was apparently played by a graduate of Kabul University, the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University Teachers College named Hafizullah Amin, who had lived and studied in the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

But between July 1977 and April 1978, Afghan ruler Daoud was apparently “moving towards a one-party dictatorship by banning all political parties and opposition newspapers and by setting up his own National Revolutionary Party,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History by Angelo Rasanayagam. Yet 85 percent of Afghanistan’s 15 million people in March 1978 were still “either peasants who made a precarious living off the land, or nomads.” The same book also indicated how the standard of living for most people in Afghanistan under the Daoud regime compared to the standard of living existing in other countries of the world in March of 1978:

“…The economic and social indicators relative to Afghanistan were the worst in the world. Per capita income was $157…It was the most backward country in the world with respect to energy consumption, with almost the entire rural population having no access to electricity. The country also ranked among the lowest in the world in terms of public health facilities, with one doctor for every 16,000 Afghans, 80 percent of the doctors being concentrated in Kabul …76 percent of Afghan children had not received any education, with no more than 4 percent of rural girls having ever attended a primary school. Afghanistan occupied the 127th place in the world in terms of literacy…”

While 45 percent of Afghanistan’s cultivated land in March 1978 was owned by just 5 percent of all Afghan landowners (who owned between 25 to 50,000 acres each), 60 percent of all landowners were still impoverished peasants who each only owned between 5 to 10 acres of cultivated land, from which they earned little money.

But after the autocratic Daoud regime apparently imprisoned or executed numerous PDPA-Parcham leaders and activists--and following the assassination of a leading PDPA-Parcham faction activist and Afghan Marxist intellectual, Mir Akbar Khyber (by the two gunmen who had led him out of his house), on April 17, 1978--Afghan government ruler Daoud was killed on April 28, 1978 during Afghanistan’s “Saur [April] Revolution” of April 1978. Yet according to Afghanistan: A Modern History, the April 27, 1978 Afghan Revolution “was in fact a military coup carried out by leftist officers of the” Afghan “armed forces under the direction of the PDPA without any popular participation.”

Following the murder of PDPA activist Mir Akbar Khyber (who was the editor of the Parcham faction’s Parcham newspaper), the PDPA had organized a funeral procession and demonstration by 15,000 supporters at which PDPA leaders Babrak Karmal and Noor Mohammad Taraki each gave anti-imperialist speeches. But the Daoud regime had responded to the demonstration by arresting Karmal, Taraki and a few other PDPA leaders during the night on April 25, 1978 and early hours of April 26, 1978. According to Afghanistan: A Modern History, however, “the arrests of the PDPA leaders implied that their sympathizers in the armed forces had to take urgent action to forestall their own arrests and certain execution by Daoud.”

So, after first taking over the armories, command centers and radio station in Kabul on April 27, 1978--and announcing on Radio Kabul that a military council led by a pro-PDPA-Parcham faction Afghan Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Abdul Qadir Dagarwal, now controlled Afghan’s government—supporters of the PDPA-Khalq faction within the Afghan military (led by Lt. Col. Mohammad Raf of the Fourth Armored Corps and his troops) overcame the resistance of Daoud’s 2,000-man presidential guard (most of whom were apparently killed in the fighting); and seized Afghanistan’s presidential palace in the early hours of April 28, 1978. After Daoud apparently resisted arrest by wounding one of the pro-PDPA military officers who attempted to arrest him, Daoud and his family were then “killed in a burst of gunfire” by other pro-PDPA military officer-led troops, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. The same book also notes that “except for a strong note…protesting against the arrests of the PDPA leaders…there was no Soviet involvement in what was purely an Afghan affair, not-withstanding Cold War-biased Western reports to the contrary.”

(end of part 8. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 9: 1978-1979)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 7: 1968-1976

Since Barack Obama’s inauguration in January 2009, between 500 and 800 people have been killed by Pentagon drone attacks in Pakistan, as a by-product of the U.S. War Machine’s endless military intervention in Afghanistan. Yet much of the history of people in Afghanistan since 1968 may not still be widely-known, even by many readers of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States.

In 1968, for example, when student revolts broke out in the United States at Columbia University, in France, in Mexico and in other countries of the world, student revolts also broke out in Afghanistan and “student strikes that began in Kabul spread to provincial centers, where students who had returned to teach and work had become carriers of a new politically radicalized militancy,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History by Angelo Rasanayagam. The following year, Afghan workers also struck for better pay and better working conditions in the few places in Afghanistan where some factories existed. Between 1965 and 1973, two thousand meetings and demonstrations—mostly led by activists of the secular leftist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA] factions/parties—were held in Afghanistan which demanded more democratic reforms and modernization efforts in Afghanistan.

But right-wing Islamic opponents of democratic reforms and modernization efforts in Afghanistan also mobilized between 1965 and 1973 in Afghanistan. In 1971, for example, the University of Kabul “was closed for six months as a result of the bitter confrontation between Islamic and leftist radicals,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. The same book also recalled that in the early 1970s in Afghanistan:

“The Islamic backlash also took the form of attacks instigated by the mullahs on women wearing Western dress. They were incensed by the campaigns for female literacy and women’s rights led by the All-Afghanistan’s Women’s Council. According to a senior leader of the Council interviewed by George Arney, the mullahs declared in 1971 that women should stay in the house. Reactionaries sprayed acid on women’s faces when they came out in public without a veil. And when women wore stockings they shot at their legs with guns with silencers…”

By the early 1970s, dozens of Afghan political groups existed on campus at the University of Kabul. In addition, around 2,500 people in Afghanistan were also members of the PDPA faction/party [Khalq] led by Noor Mohammad Taraki and 1,500 to 2,000 Afghans were members of the PDPA faction/party [Parcham] led by Babrak Karmal. The number of people in Afghanistan who were members of the secular Maoist party was also between 1,500 and 2,000 in the early 1970s. But the Islamic party in Afghanistan still only had between 1,500 and 2,000 members. Yet, as James Lucas noted in an article, titled “America’s Nation-Destroying Mission in Afghanistan”, that was posted on March 5, 2010 on the site, “according to Roger Morris, National Security Council staff member, the CIA started to offer covert backing to Islamic radicals as early as 1973-1974.”

Nearly all the members of the PDPA faction/parties, the Maoist party and the Islamic party in Afghanistan in the early 1970s, however, were still just members of the educated urban middle-class; and all of these political groups still did not have much of an organizational presence or mass base outside of Kabul, in the rural areas of Afghanistan.

Yet many people in the countryside were suffering from the effects of a drought in Afghanistan between 1964 and 1972, which developed into a famine in 1971 and 1972. One result of this famine in Afghanistan in 1971 and 1972 was that between 50,000 to 500,000 people starved to death because of the famine. And 75 percent of Afghanistan ’s land was still owned by only 3 percent of Afghan’s rural population in 1973.

Backed by Afghan military officers, Mohammad Daoud (the brother-in-law of Afghan King Zahir Shah who had previously been the Afghan monarchical regime’s autocratic prime minister between 1953 and 1963) then seized control of the Afghan government from the Afghan king (who had been sitting on the throne since 1933) in a July 17, 1973 coup—while Zahir Shah was on a holiday in Europe. After his 1973 palace coup abolished the monarchy, Daoud next “set up an authoritarian regime which made the government isolated” and “moved rapidly to undermine all the representative institutions” in Afghanistan “and, in particular, Parliament,” according to Revolution Unending: Afghanistan: 1979 to the Present by Gilles Dorronsoro. The same book also recalled that “to avoid any challenge Daud systematically suppressed the opposition, both legal and illegal” in Afghanistan and “following the coup the former Prime Minister and leader of the social democratic Hezb-I Demokrat-I Mottarki party, Dr. Mohammad Hashim Maiwandwal ,who had been in power in 1965-67, was arrested in September 1973 and executed.”

Yet long before the U.S. government began to covertly arm the anti-feminist Mujahideen guerrillas during the Democratic Carter Administration—following the 1978 Afghan Saur (‘April’) Revolution and prior to the December 1979 Soviet government’s military intervention in Afghanistan—even the non-communist, autocratic Daoud monarchical regime and the post-1973 non-communist Daoud authoritarian regime felt that it was in Afghanistan’s national economic interest to align itself with the Soviet Union during the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. As Afghanistan: A Modern History recalled:

“…Economic hardships caused the Afghans to turn to the Soviets for help…A four-year barter agreement was signed in July 1950, with the Soviets providing petroleum products, cement, cotton cloth and other essentials in return for wool, raw cotton and other Afghan products. The Soviets also agreed to the free transit of Afghan exports through their territory, and offered to invest in oil exploration…”

After lending the Afghan government money to construct a grain silo, a flour mill and a bakery in Kabul in 1954, for example, the Soviet government followed-up with loans for constructing an oil pipeline and three oil storage facilities, for road-building equipment, and for an asphalt factory and equipment to pave Kabul’s streets. Nearly $1.3 billion in Soviet economic assistance, mostly in the form of loans, was given to the non-communist Afghan government between 1956 and 1978; and an additional $110 million was received by the Afghan government from other Eastern bloc governments during the same period.

The U.S. government, in contrast, only began to provide some economic assistance to the non-communist, autocratic Afghan monarchical regime in 1956; and, after 1956, also began awarding some Afghan students grants to study at certain U.S. universities. But, according to James Lucas’s recent “ America ’s Nation-Destroying Mission In Afghanistan” article:

“The CIA…recruited Afghan students in the U.S. to act as agents for them when they returned home. During this period at least one president of the Afghanistan Students Association (ASA), Zia H. Noorzay, was working with the CIA in the U.S. and later became president of the Afghanistan state treasury. One of the Afghan students whom Noorzay and the CIA tried in vain to recruit, Abdul Latif Hotaki, declared in 1967 that a good number of the key officials in the Afghanistan government who studied in the U.S. `are either CIA-trained or indoctrinated.’”

Coincidentally, the Afghanistan Student Association [ASA] also apparently received part of its funding from the CIA’s Asia Foundation conduit [on whose board sat then-Columbia University President Grayson Kirk] during the Cold War Era.

In addition, between the mid-1950s and 1978, the Teachers College of Columbia University—under a U.S. Agency for International Development [AID] government contract—was involved in training teachers, developing educational curriculum and producing textbooks for the autocratic Daoud monarchical regime’s Ministry of Education in both Afghanistan, at the Ibn Sinn Teacher Training Institute in Kabul, and at Columbia University Teachers College in New York City.

Military assistance was also given by the Soviet Union to the non-communist, autocratic monarchical Afghan regime during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Between 1956 and 1978, for example, the Afghan government “received the equivalent of $1.24 million in military aid from the USSR , mostly in the form of credits” and “by 1978 some 3,725 Afghan military personnel had been trained in the Soviet Union,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History.

But after the Shah of Iran’s regime agreed to provide the Afghan government with $2 billion in economic aid in 1975 and U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Kabul, Afghanistan in August 1976, the non-communist, authoritarian Daoud regime apparently began to reverse Afghanistan ’s post-1950 policy of aligning with the Soviet Union.

(end of part 7. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 8: 1977-1978")

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 6: 1953-1967

In 2010, hundreds of thousands of Afghans are still displaced from their homes as a result of the U.S.-led or U.S.-supported military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan that have taken place since the Pentagon began its endless war in Afghanistan in October 2001. Yet most graduate students in history at U.S. universities were apparently never even required to take a course in the history of Afghanistan when they were undergraduates.

But in a 1953 palace revolution in Afghanistan, for example, Afghan Prince Mohammad Daoud--a cousin and brother-in-law of King Zahir Shah--became the Afghan monarchical regime’s Prime Minister, with the backing of the Afghan royal family; and Daoud then governed Afghanistan in an autocratic way between 1953 and 1963. As a result, “avowed Marxists like Dr. Mahmodi…spent the entire Daoud decade in jail” and other Afghan leftist dissidents, like Mir Akbar Khyber and Afghan leftist student dissident Babrak Karmal, “were released in 1956 on condition that they did not persist in their political activities,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History by Angelo Rasanayagam.

But after being released from prison in 1956, serving two years in the Afghan military and then becoming a student again, Babrak Karmal—the politically radicalized son of an Afghan general and provincial governor—began to recruit dissident left-wing Afghan intellectuals and activists to begin meeting in secret “study circles” inside Afghan private homes during the early 1960s. Four secret Afghan study circles of radical left Afghan dissidents were formed, one of which was led by Karmal. Another one of the four secret Afghan study circles during the early 1960s was led by an Afghan writer named Noor Mohammad Taraki, who had become politically radicalized while working in India between 1934 and 1937, when India was still a UK colony.

After Daoud involved the Afghan government in a dispute with Pakistan’s government that provoked a closing of the Afghan-Pakistan border (which led to a decline in Afghan government revenues), Daoud was forced to resign as prime minister on March 9, 1963. A new, more democratic constitution was then drafted and promulgated in 1964 by the Afghan monarchical government.

Meanwhile, in January 1965, 30 members of the four secret study circles of dissident radical left Afghan intellectuals and activists met at Noor Mohammad Taraki’s house to secretly form the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA] a/k/a Khalq (“Masses”) and to elect a 7-member Central Committee and four alternate Central Committee members. In 1965 an election was also held in Afghanistan to choose members of a two-house Afghan parliament and Mohammad Yusuf was chosen to succeed Daoud as the new Afghan government’s prime minister.

Running as individuals, 4 members of the PDPA were then elected to parliament in the early 1965 Afghan elections. In Kabul, for example, two PDPA members were elected to the lower house of Afghan’s parliament: Babrak Karmal and Dr. Anahita Ratebzad. An Afghan woman physician, Dr. Ratebzad won through election one of the only four Afghan parliamentary seats in the lower house that were reserved for Afghan women in 1965. Both Karmal and Ratebzad also led the Afghan student demonstrators outside the opening session of parliament which demanded further democratization of Afghan political life and that the open formation of political parties in Afghanistan now be legalized.

But in October 1965, Afghan government troops opened fire on protesting students who were shouting slogans outside the home of Afghan Prime Minister Yusuf; and three of the students were killed. Dr. Mohammad Hashim Maiwandwal, the leader of the Hezb-I Demokrat-I Mottarki social democratic party (which was less politically radical than the underground PDPA), was then named to replace Yusef as the new Afghan prime minister in November 1965.

In 1965—the same year that the PDPA was formed—a group of professors and teachers who were led by the head of Theology of Kabul University, Gholam Mohammad Niazi, started the Society of Islam (“Jamiat-i-Islam”). These leaders of the Society of Islam in the late 1960s were on the Afghan monarchical government’s payroll; and the Society of Islam’s student group, the Organization of Muslim Youth, “operated openly, organizing demonstrations and fighting” leftist Afghan students in the late 1960s, before winning student elections at Kabul University in 1970, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History.

Within the radical leftist PDPA between 1965 and 1967, meanwhile, two factions developed: one faction led by Karmal and one faction led by Taraki.; and in May 1967, the original PDPA split apart into two parties calling themselves the PDPA, with each party having its own central committee and general secretary (Karmal and Taraki). Karmal’s PDPA faction/party was called Parcham (named after its newspaper, Parcham/”Banner”), while Taraki’s PDPA faction/party was called Khalq (named after its newspaper, Khalq/”Masses”). Following the release from prison and death in 1966 of the “doyen of Afghan Marxism,” Dr. Abdul Rahman Mahmoodi, some followers of Mahmoodi also formed a smaller pro-Beijing Maoist party in Afghanistan, which gained some support for awhile from Afghan industrial workers that enabled it to lead some strikes of workers in Afghanistan .

(end of part 6. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 7: 1968-1976)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 5: 1933-1953

The U.S. War Machine has been bombing Afghanistan for over 8 years in its endless war against the Taliban regime’s Afghan government. Yet over 80 percent of Afghanistan’s territory in early 2010 was apparently still controlled by the Taliban regime and other armed Islamic guerrilla groups in Afghanistan that are apparently now allied with the Taliban. One reason neither the Republican Bush II Administration nor the Democratic Obama Administration has been able to quickly achieve a military victory in its endless war in Afghanistan might be because most members of the Militaristic U.S. Establishment’s foreign policy-making elite apparently still don’t know very much about the history of the people of Afghanistan.

Nadir Shah’s successor as Afghan King, Muhammad Zahir Shah, sat on the Afghan throne, for example, from 1933 to 1973—although he apparently never received as much U.S. mass media coverage in the USA during his 40 year reign in Afghanistan as did either Queen Elizabeth II or Princess Di of England. But in the 1930s, “fascist intelligence agents…succeeded in penetrating the government apparatus and particular branches of the Afghan economy as `consultants,’ `advisers’ and `experts,” according to The Truth About Afghanistan by S. Gevortom. The same book also noted that:

“The German colony in Afghanistan…greatly increased on the eve of the Second World War…Hitler’s agents Schenk, Fischer, Wenger and Knerlein…infiltrated the war ministry and the ministry of public works of Afghanistan…Nazi Germany managed to spread its influence among tribes in the south of Afghanistan and in the north-western border areas.”

And apparently Nazi agents in Afghanistan encouraged increased anti-Semitism in Afghanistan during World War II; so that the economic situation of the remaining Afghans of Jewish background deteriorated when Zahir Shah’s monarchical government restricted their economic activity to local trading only and removed them from the foreign trade positions some had previously held.

But Zahir Shah’s government did not align Afghanistan with Nazi Germany during World War II. Instead, Zahir Shah's government announced in November 1941 that--like the Irish government of Eamon DeValera--it would remain neutral during World War II.

Yet during Zahir Shah’s forty-year reign, demands for more democratization and modernization in Afghanistan began to also be made by some people in Afghanistan.

A secret society of supporters of constitutional reform and democratization, the People of the Afghan Youth (“ Halqa-yi-Jawani-I Afghanistan ”) was formed and then broken up by the monarchical regime. But after Zahir Shah appointed his uncle, Shah Mahmud Khan, to be the Afghan monarchy’s prime minister in 1945, Shah Mahmud ordered the release of all Afghan political prisoners.

The first student union in Afghanistan , the Union of Students, was then founded in 1946 and its political orientation was liberal reformist and anti-imperialist. The following year, the anti-monarchist, Awakened Youth [“Weekh--Zalmayan’] group of Afghan nationalists was started, which openly discussed the ideal of setting up a democratic republic in Afghanistan.

Then, in 1949, a parliamentary election was held and 40 percent of the elected members of the new Afghan parliament favored democratization and modernization reforms. So, not surprisingly, the Afghan parliament next passed a 1949 law which finally legalized freedom of the press in Afghan society.

Predictably, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History by Angelo Rasanayagam, “the enactment of laws permitting freedom of the press led to the appearance of newspapers and other publications whose favorite targets became the” Afghan “ruling family oligarchy and” Afghan “conservative religious leaders.”

At the same time, between 3,500 and 5,000 Afghans of Jewish background still lived in Afghanistan in 1949--with more than 2,000 of them residing in the city of Herat and deriving their family incomes from the Persian carpet trade or from employment as tailors and shoemakers. But aside from a few wealthy families of Jewish background, most of the Afghans of Jewish background were forbidden to leave the country between 1933 and 1950. After 1951, however, they were allowed to emigrate from Afghanistan.

So by 1966, many Afghans of Jewish background had moved to either India or Israel/Palestine and only about 800 people of Jewish background now lived in Afghanistan; and by 1967 nearly 4,000 people of Afghan background now lived in Israel/Palestine.

By December 1969, only a few dozen Afghans of Jewish background still lived in either Herat or in Kabul; and, in all of Afghanistan, there were now only about 300 Afghans of Jewish background. And by 2005, according to the New York Times, only one Afghan of Jewish religious background apparently still lived in Afghanistan.

At Kabul University, meanwhile, during the early 1950s, the Union of Students “became a forum for free-wheeling debate and attacks on the status quo” in Afghanistan, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. A Movement of the Enlightened Youth, the TNB (“Tehrik-i-Naujawanan Baidar”), was also started by young students in Afghanistan which, in its manifesto, called for: 1. granting legal rights to Afghan women; 2. a democratic Afghan government which was accountable to an elected Afghan parliament; 3. eradication of official corruption in Afghanistan; 4. the formation of political parties in Afghanistan; and 5. the economic development of Afghanistan’s economy.

After a 1952 demonstration was held by these groups which demanded that people in Afghanistan be allowed to form political parties, however, the monarchical Afghan government prevented any further protest by these dissident political groups. According to Afghanistan: A Modern History, for example, just before a 1953 palace revolution in Afghanistan, the Movement of the Enlightened Youth/TNB group of young political dissidents “was suppressed” by the Afghan monarchical regime and “some of its more vocal leftists were jailed.” The same book also recalled that among the Afghan leftist dissidents imprisoned in 1953 were included Dr. Abdul Rahman Mahmoodi (who was “the doyen of Afghan Marxism”), an Afghan historian named Mir Ghulam Mohammad Ghubar and an Afghan Marxist intellectual named Mir Akbar Khyber.

(end of part 5. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 6: 1953-1967)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.