Afghanistan's Failure

Around 3,000 civilians died in the initial US air strike on Afghanistan.

Afghanistan's Failure

The dust had not yet settled over the smouldering remains of the Twin Towers when George W. Bush declared victory in the first battle of the "war on terror."

"We last met in an hour of shock and suffering. In four short months, our nation has comforted the victims, begun to rebuild New York and the Pentagon, rallied a great coalition, captured, arrested, and rid the world of thousands of terrorists, destroyed Afghanistan's terrorist training camps, saved a people from starvation and freed a country from brutal oppression," he said in his 2002 State of the Union address.

"The American flag flies again over our embassy in Kabul. Terrorists who once occupied Afghanistan now occupy cells at Guantanamo Bay. And terrorist leaders who urged followers to sacrifice their lives are running for their own.

"America and Afghanistan are now allies against terror. We'll be partners in rebuilding that country. And this evening we welcome the distinguished interim leader of a liberated Afghanistan: Chairman Hamid Karzai."

Afghans had spent years experiencing the horrors of war when the US-led invasion began on October 7, 2001. Many of them still carried mental and physical scars from the Soviet occupation that killed an estimated one million of their fellow citizens. Others were living in the ruins of homes destroyed during fighting between different Mujahideen factions after the Russians left.

Then there were those suffering under the Taliban's brutal government —the women beaten in the streets, the Shiites ethnically cleansed, the criminals punished with death.

Around 3,000 civilians died in the initial US air strike on Afghanistan.
For a lot of people this new conflict appeared quick and relatively painless in comparison. There was genuine joy among a large number of Afghans who believed their hurt was finally coming to an end. Soon after the Taliban were driven from Kabul, women were seen in public without their burqas and children started flying kites again.

Less cosmetic changes also began to take shape over the following months and years. A police force and national army were formed, a president and a parliament were elected, warlords who once sent their followers out to rape and pillage publicly declared they had laid down their arms.

But even as the early foundations of a democratic state were being established, cracks began appearing.

The invasion was never the clean-cut success boasted of by Washington. Around 3,000 civilians are believed to have died in the initial US air strikes against Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, militias led by men with a history every bit as brutal as the Taliban were used as a proxy American army on the ground. They included Abdul Rashid Dostum, whose troops have since been accused of massacring prisoners of war in late 2001.

Dostum is now in President Karzai's government. Other commanders are members of parliament. They include Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, who is heavily implicated in widespread abductions and executions that took place during the early 1990s. He is one of many former associates of Osama bin Laden who hold important official positions today.

A report published by Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in 2005 revealed that 75.9 percent of Afghans surveyed over an eight-month period believed justice for past crimes to be "very important." Another 18.5 percent considered it "important." But there is still no sign of men like Sayyaf ever being held to account for their actions.

Officials say corruption is rife among the government, police, judiciary, and foreign aid organizations.
Those in power are also tarred with accusations of corruption. People on the street and even officials say it is rife among the government, police, judiciary, and foreign aid organizations. The country's infrastructure has barely improved as a result.

In his 2002 speech, Bush claimed, "The last time we met in this chamber, the mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes, forbidden from working or going to school. Today women are free, and are part of Afghanistan's new government."

Legally, women can now get jobs and an education, and pursue a career in politics. But they remain prisoners of tradition. Domestic abuse, forced marriages, and even the burqa are all still common, while an increasing numbers of girls' schools are being attacked by extremists.

Operation Enduring Freedom was never an unqualified success and it is fast becoming a catastrophic failure. The social, political, and economic problems outlined above have all contributed to the growing insurgency.

According to a recent study by the United Kingdom's Royal Statistical Society, the fatality rate among NATO forces in Afghanistan is now only slightly lower than that suffered by the Russians during their occupation.

Bush has used his version of events as a means to justify other wars against Islamic nations.

Bush never foresaw the potential for this chaos. Instead, he has used his version of events as a means to justify other wars against Islamic nations.

"Iran aggressively pursues these weapons [of mass destruction] and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom," he said in the 2002 speech.

"Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade," he added.

Now the dust has settled, it should be remembered how the United States and its allies justified the invasion of Afghanistan on the basis that the Taliban sheltered Bin Laden, the man known to be behind the tragic attacks of 9/11.

But a few weeks before Bush's speech about Iraq, Iran, and a liberated Kabul, Al-Qaeda's leader escaped from American forces during a fierce battle in the mountainous region of Tora Bora.

Five years have passed since the Twin Towers collapsed. Bin Laden remains at large and Afghanistan is falling apart all over again.


Chris Sands is a British freelance journalist and photographer who has lived in Kabul since August 2005. Before making Afghanistan his home, he spent four years reporting from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Iraq, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. His work is published by a number of international newspapers, magazines, and websites.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16