May 18, 2013
Afghanistan’s Sham Army
Posted on Nov 9, 2009
By Chris Hedges
The wells that are dug, the schools that are built, the roads that are paved and the food distributed in Afghan villages by the occupation forces are used to obscure the huge profits made by contractors. Only an estimated 10 percent of the money poured into Afghanistan is used to ameliorate the suffering of Afghan civilians. The remainder is swallowed by contractors who siphon the money out of Afghanistan and into foreign bank accounts. This misguided allocation of funds is compounded in Afghanistan because the highest-paying jobs for Afghans go to those who can act as interpreters for the American military and foreign contractors. The best-educated Afghans are enticed away from Afghan institutions that desperately need their skills and education.
“It is this system that has broken the logistics of Afghanistan,” the officer said. “It is this system of waste and private profit from public funds that keeps Kabul in ruins. It is this system that manages to feed Westerners all across the country steak and lobster once a week while an estimated 8.4 million Afghans—the entire population of New York City, the five boroughs—suffer from chronic food insecurity and starvation every day. When you go to Bagram Air Base, or Camp Phoenix, or Camp Eggers, it’s clear to see that the problem does not lie in getting supplies into the country. The question becomes who gets them. And we wonder why there’s an insurgency.”
The problem in Afghanistan is not ultimately a military problem. It is a political and social problem. The real threat to stability in Afghanistan is not the Taliban, but widespread hunger and food shortages, crippling poverty, rape, corruption and a staggering rate of unemployment that mounts as foreign companies take jobs away from the local workers and businesses. The corruption and abuse by the Karzai government and the ANA, along with the presence of foreign contractors, are the central impediments to peace. The more we empower these forces, the worse the war will become. The plan to escalate the number of American soldiers and Marines, and to swell the ranks of the Afghan National Army, will not or defeat or pacify the Taliban.
“What good are a quarter-million well-trained Afghan troops to a nation slipping into famine?” the officer asked. “What purpose does a strong military serve with a corrupt and inept government in place? What hope do we have for peace if the best jobs for the Afghans involve working for the military? What is the point of getting rid of the Taliban if it means killing civilians with airstrikes and supporting a government of misogynist warlords and criminals?
Chris Hedges, whose column is published on Truthdig every Monday, spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He has written nine books, including “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009) and “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003).
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