Dec 6, 2004
In early November, Hamid Karzai was declared the winner of Afghanistan's October 9 presidential election. Karzai had already been Afghanistan's president for nearly three years, after being installed at this post by the Bush administration.
In his acceptance speech, Karzai claimed that being "elected with the direct vote of every Afghan, with the votes of millions of Afghans who came out in snow, rain and duststorms to vote" makes him the legitimate leader of Afghanistan.
Those words, however, don't check with the realities of the country. Yes, there was a popular vote in Afghanistan. But what kind of choice did Afghan voters have? The contest was between Karzai and two warlords, also allies of the U.S. for the past three years. So, even if one ignores the complaints about widespread voting fraud, this election was nothing but a rubber-stamping of the existing balance of forces in Afghanistan.
Karzai is the official head of a state that in reality does not exist. His authority does not reach beyond Kabul, the capital. And even there, Karzai has to rely on U.S. troops and private mercenaries for his own personal security. The nearly 20,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan are either stationed in Kabul or along the border with Pakistan, where a resurgent Taliban is waging a guerrilla war.
The rest of the country is divided into separate fiefdoms, controlled by different warlords, who also were (and will continue to be) Karzai's cabinet ministers. This arrangement is a direct result of the U.S. strategy in the war against the Taliban three years ago. The fighting on the ground was done mostly by forces loyal to these warlords, while the U.S. involvement was limited to aerial bombardment and special forces operations. The U.S. gave the warlords money and weapons, and, after the fall of the Taliban, allowed them to run their own affairs in the regions they controlled.
This meant that many regions of Afghanistan fell back into a state of war again, as different warlords started to fight each other over control of territory. And even if these wars end, there is no relief for the population – for when a warlord secures control of an area, his thugs literally rob, rape and plunder the population as they please.
The U.S.-led war on Afghanistan has also reversed the ban on opium cultivation which was imposed by the Taliban regime. With most of the warlords themselves involved in drug-trafficking, it hasn't taken long for Afghanistan to climb to the top of the list of major heroin suppliers of the world. According to the United Nations, at least 2.3 million Afghans, or about 10% of the population, are now working in opium cultivation and trade.
Contrary to George Bush's proclamations that Afghanistan is headed "in the right direction," this is what Afghanistan looks like today. It's basically the same situation as in the early 1990s, following the departure of Russian troops. In the absence of a central power capable of controlling the whole country, Afghanistan was divided into fiefdoms of warlords who fought each other. In 1996, with the direct support of Pakistan and the approval of the U.S., the Taliban took much of the country under their control. Ironically, it was the U.S. that pushed the Taliban out of Kabul in 2001 and handed Afghanistan back to the warlords – in many cases the same ones that destroyed the country and terrorized the population in the 1990s.
Needless to say, the population is once again faced with disaster: on-again, off-again wars, dire poverty and unemployment, rampant crime and terror at the hands of the warlords. Under these circumstances, it should come as no surprise that the Taliban not only haven't been wiped out but are able to increase their support in the population.
As the old saying goes, history plays itself out twice: the first time as a tragedy, the second time as a farce. Except that, in Afghanistan today, the only farce is the so-called "democracy" headed by Karzai. As for the Afghan people, this U.S.-sponsored "democracy" is nothing but tragedy all over again.