U.S. Policy Backfires from Colombia to Afghanistan

In the wake of the attacks on U.S. soil, Afghanistan and its ruling Taliban are at the center of media attention.

The Taliban, whose name means "holy student," was created by the the Pakistani Intelligence Agency (ISI), and developed during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The Taliban army consists of Muslim fundamentalist mercenaries from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, armed and financed primarily by the United States and Saudi Arabia. Over the last six years the Taliban have gained control over 90% of the country. (Until recently, the Taliban have been referred to as 'freedom fighters' in the western press.)

The Taliban, thus, began as a U.S.-backed paramilitary organization, using the same strategy as was used in Colombia with the formation of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). As in South America, the explosive mixture of paramilitary groups and the massive profits to be made in narco-trafficking under drug prohibition has grown into a force beyond control of its makers. Even as the U.S. government today opposes the Taliban in Afghanistan, it is creating another one in Colombia.

And as with the Colombian people and the paramilitaries unleashed upon them by U.S. policy, the Afghan people are not supporters of the Taliban. In fact, there is a very strong opposition movement in Afghanistan to the Taliban. Yet, as with Plan Colombia, a U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan could end up harming the innocent Afghani people who oppose the Taliban.

Just last week, the opposition movement to the Taliban lost its heroic leader.

AFGHAN COMMUNITY MOURNS

The Afghan community is now mourning the death of their most highly regarded leader, Ahmad Shah Mas'ood, commander of the Northern Alliance (NA), opposition forces to the Taliban in Afghanistan. (The NA is referred to a as a 'rebel group' in the western press.)

Commander Ahmad Shah Mas'ood has held this fragile opposition group together since the 1979-89 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He is famous for leading battles on the frontlines.

Kamran, an Afghan-American states, "It is with great pain that I inform you that Ahmad Shah Masood, commander of the Northern Alliance forces against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden passed away on Sunday, September 9, 2001."

Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Mas'ood was the victim of an assassination attempt by bin Laden this last Sunday -- two Arab men posing as journalists exploded a bomb at a meeting being held in his office in the Takhar Province of Northern Afghanistan.

Saudi dissident Ossama bin Laden is blamed for the attack. Osama bin Laden is not a member of the Taliban, but apparently assists the Taliban in it's objectives by violent means.

Mas'ood's death is viewed with such deep concern that countries wary of Afghanistan's Taliban held an emergency meeting on Thursday, representatives from Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, India and Uzbekistan attended. His loss will be a major blow to the NA as Mas'ood has been an important Afghani leader for 22 years, fighting the Soviet Red Army and, for the past six years, as leader of the NA.

Kamran explains, "While the whole world has been preoccupied with the events in NY and DC, this has been an extremely painful week for millions of Afghans who will never forget their fallen heroes and the sacrifices they have made for their country."

Alia, another Afghan-American, went on to say that, "Ahmad Shah Mas'ood was one of the bravest heroes in the history of Afghanistan. He spent his entire lifetime fighting to free his nation. The only dream and hope he had was for a free and peaceful Afghanistan. "

On Tuesday September 11th, two hours after the bombings of the World Trade Center, the Northern Alliance retaliated for the assassination of their leader by shelling Kabul, the Taliban controlled capitol of Afghanistan. At which point CNN reported that the US government could be responsible for the bombings -- and later apologized for the erroneous report.

HISTORY

Afghanistan, once a stable nation, has been literally destroyed as it has been forced to fight a civil war the past 20 years. Six million of its population are refugees, with more than 75 percent of the country laid to waste.

"The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. It was the last hot war it would fight, and one whose failure played a leading role in its loss in the Cold War and disintegration. Afghanistan is infamous today for being in the grip of the most benighted, fanatical and misogynist government in the world." [Cosma Shalizi's review of "The Soviet Invasion and the Afghan Response, 1979-1982" (University of California Press, 1995), by M. Hassan Kakar, (http://www.santafe.edu/~shalizi/reviews/kakar-soviet-invasion/)]

Over the last few years the US has known that the Taliban has been a threat to the stability in the region - the Gulf, Central Asia, and South Asia - because of the growth of terrorism and the drug trade (Afghanistan is the second-largest producer of heroin in the world). And, especially because the Taliban can no longer be controlled by Pakistan and therefore cannot be controlled by the United States.

The US government has been examining its options for protecting its interests in the region for some time, and just this year chose to give the Taliban in Afghanistan $10 million dollars 'to institute a ban on drugs,' part of an overall US aid package of $43 million dollars, hailed by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

CURRENT SITUATION

According to a September 14 report by the BBC, "A quarter of Afghanistan's 26 million people face starvation this autumn following three years of drought and the pull-out [of all foreign aid workers from the country]." The plea for help given by the Afghan people has been for the most part been ignored.

Pakistan's own civil stability is now at extreme risk because of economic pressures from decades of mounting debt combined with political and economic corruption that has made the country virtually ungovernable.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has reluctantly promised full co-operation with US demands Saturday September 15th, placing Pakistan in an extremely precarious situation. There are millions of Taliban-aligned extremists in Pakistan along with Islamic militant training camps. The Pakistani corps commanders and intelligence chiefs are deeply divided as its own secret service is backed by Islamic militants.

With current events unfolding as they are right now, Alia remembers, "Mas'ood's famous prediction that the war would end in Pakistan. Even if Pakistan sides with the US, the Taliban-aligned fundamentalists of Pakistan will declare a holy war against it's own government and destroy it."

An attack on Afghanistan, could come as early as this week.

This story originally appeared in Narco News. Kim Alphandary, freelance journalist and international news contributor to Radio for Peace International, has traveled and studied extensively in Pakistan, Turkey, Colombia, Bolivia and Peru.

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