The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Afghanistan:
Between the terror of American bombs and the war lords

Jul 22, 2002

Two recent brutal events show that nothing is settled in Afghanistan.

The first of these events was the July 1st massacre, when an American plane bombed four villages of the province of Uruzgan in the center of the country, killing 48 people and wounding 117. The U.S. generals first spoke about the presence of anti-aircraft batteries in these villages, then of Al Qaeda forces, but eventually had to backtrack, and finally spoke of “deficiencies” in the their intelligence. They announced that an “investigation” was going to be diligently carried out. But this didn’t resuscitate the dead, who joined thousands of other victims of the state terrorism that Bush has directed against the Afghan population.

In any case, this massacre showed one thing: the war against Afghanistan is still going on and it continues to kill – even if the U.S. media barely reports on it any more.

The second event occurred on July 6th in the midst of the capital Kabul, when Hadji Qadir, one the of the five vice presidents of the provisional government, was assassinated. He was the second dignitary of the regime established by the United States to be assassinated. The Air Minister, Abdul Rahman, was killed in the Bagram airport last February.

Just like the assassination of Abdul Rahman, no group took responsibility for killing Hadji Qadir. But there is no doubt what these two assassinations signify: There are rival opposing factions struggling for power, even if they pretend to co-exist peacefully inside a regime imposed and maintained by the crushing military superiority of the U.S.

Abdul Rahman was an old member of the fundamentalist party Jamiat-e-Islami who rallied to the clan of the ex-king Zahir Shah. After his assassination, the head of the secret service and other high dignitaries of Jamiat (which dominates the current regime) were accused of being involved in the affair. But an inquiry into the matter went no further, doubtlessly to preserve the fragile equilibrium between rival factions which share power.

Hadji Qadir undoubtedly had overshadowed most of these people.

He was the right arm of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the Hezb-e-Islami party, whose rivalry with Jamiat led to the civil war which bloodied the country from 1992 to 1996. Hezb-e-Islami was eventually dropped by its old American protectors, but it nevertheless had remained a force, in particular among the Pashtun ethnic group, the most important of the Afghan minorities.

Hadji Qadir was also the sole Pashtun representative controlling a district (the province of Nagarhar around Jelalabad); and he had many troops in a government where the Pashtun are represented only by men like President Hamid Karzai, who owe their place much more to the links they developed in exile with the American leaders than to their real influence in the population.

It doesn’t much matter who assassinated Hadji Qadir – any number of factions could have done it. Men in the Jamiat hierarchy certainly didn’t want their enemy of yesterday to be in the corridors of power, especially since he was able to maintain a certain independence despite the near monopoly of Jamiat over military affairs. At the same time, many Pashtun war lords looked askance at the hardly disguised pretension of Hadji Qadir to speak in the name of all Pashtuns. Some commentators even suggested that Hamid Karzai tried to get Hadji Qadir to join his government in June as a way to isolate him from his territory in order to better eliminate him.

What was interesting is that reports of the assassination also revealed Hadji Qadir had been one of the biggest drug traffickers in the country – supplementary proof, if it was necessary, that Bush could care less about the kind of allies he chose to lead the country to what he called “democracy.”

“Democracy”! The fact is the Afghan population continues to live in terror, facing both American bombs and rivalries between fundamentalist war lords.