The Guardian 9 March, 2005

America's democracy
and Afghanistan's reality

A recent United Nations report on social conditions in Afghanistan provides a glimpse at the reality of life in that war-torn country following the invasion of US and other NATO forces. The excuse given for the invasion was that Al Qaida, and specifically Osama bin Laden, was behind the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York. However, not a single one of those identified as having taken part in the destruction of the WTC came from Afghanistan.

The intervention of the United States in Afghanistan goes back for a quarter of a century. In July 1979, US President Jimmy Carter signed a secret directive providing clandestine assistance to the Islamic fundamentalist forces. This was six months before the USSR came to the assistance of the then Afghanistan government.

Carter's National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said in a 1998 interview: "We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we consciously increased the probability that they would". Asked whether he regretted that Brzezinski replied: "Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap. You want me to regret that?"

Asked if he regretted providing sustenance for future Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, Brzezinski replied: "What is more important to the history of the world ... the Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?"

Built up fundamentalists

Today's terrorist attacks can be traced to the strategy first employed by Carter and Brzezinski and actively pursued by the Reagan administration during the 1980s. They manipulated and built up the Islamic fundamentalists to undermine the Soviet Union.

Three years after the American military invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime, the war-torn nation ranks 173rd out of 178 countries in the United Nations 2004 Human Development Index.

The survey, Afghanistan, National Human Development Report 2004: Security with a Human Face, gives graphic figures of the reality which is Afghanistan today:

  • Life expectancy today is approximately 44.5 years, with healthy life expectancy at birth estimated at 33.4 years.

  • One out of five children dies before the age of five, and one woman dies approximately every 30 minutes from pregnancy-related causes.

  • Infant and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world.

  • Eighty per cent of the deaths of children under five are due to preventable diseases.

  • About half of this same age group are physically stunted due to chronic malnutrition, and some 10 per cent suffer acute malnutrition.

  • Only 25 per cent of the population has access to clean drinking water.

  • Of the estimated 1.5 million people killed during this period, some 300,000 were children.

  • Abduction and trafficking in children is now a rapidly growing threat, with the most common forms of trafficking being child prostitution, forced labour, slavery, servitude and the removal of body organs.

  • Only 14 per cent of women are literate, and the rate of pregnancy-related deaths is 60 times higher than for women in industrial countries. Seventy per cent of those affected by tuberculosis are women.

  • One in every three people is either a refugee or an internally displaced person.

  • A survey of women in Kabul found that 98 per cent met the diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    The report quotes a man from Jalalabad who provides a description of the dysfunctional, US-supported government of President Hamid Karzai: "It has no education policy, it has no health policy, it has no economic policy, it has no environmental policy, and it has no security policy. It just takes everything by the day and many of the days are bad".

    The UN report says that progress has been made in certain areas since the US invasion in 2001. School enrolment has increased, particularly among girls. However, more than 61 per cent of children are not going to school in at least nine provinces. In ten provinces, more than 80 per cent of girls are not enrolled in school.

    Afghan gross domestic product (GDP) has increased, but it was climbing out of a very deep hole. The nation's GDP was estimated to be about $3.7 billion in 1977. It has now risen to approximately $4 billion, an increase of only $3 million in 30 years.

    Opium traffic

    The survey also contends that besides opium, trafficking in archaeological artefacts has been a source of booty, estimating that since 1992 approximately 75 per cent of the ancient artefacts belonging to the National Museum in Kabul have been smuggled out of the country.

    The claim that Afghanistan has been liberated to become a progressive democratic state is not born out by the facts.

    The report says that the years following the US invasion witnessed "a deeply embedded war economy, which leaves the majority of Afghans living in a heightened state of both fear and want". It has seen an expansion of narco-warlordism and the opium trade. It is estimated that in 2003, Afghanistan produced three-quarters of the world's illicit opium and officials warn that the country could become "a narco-terror state in the future".

    Back to index page