Afghans “Sandwiched” between Taliban and US-NATO backed Warlords

Malalai Joya’s book: Raising My Voice

Published on Global, by Julien Mercille, Aug 22, 2009.

Malalai Joya’s central message in Raising My Voice is that “today the Afghan people are tragically sandwiched between two enemies-the Taliban on one side and the US/NATO forces and their warlord friends on the other” (pp. 5, 246).

The book contains some autobiographical chapters, but is mostly an analysis of the problems faced by Afghanistan and possible solutions, including Joya’s thoughts on this week’s elections and whether or not there should be negotiations with “moderate” Taliban …

… The book proposes the following steps to improve the situation in Afghanistan.  

Send real humanitarian aid: The US alone spends $100 million on the military every day in Afghanistan, whereas total international aid for reconstruction comes to a meager $7 million a day, much of which never reaches those who need it, being lost in corruption mazes or returned to donor countries in corporate profits and consultant salaries.

In particular, Joya notes that “the position of women is the same now as it was under the Taliban” (226) and that many women in Parliament are allied with warlords, as corroborated by a recent United Nations report.

Put an end to the rule of the warlords: Warlords and commanders must be disarmed. There have been some steps taken to this effect through the DRR and DIAG processes (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration; Disarmament of Illegal Armed Groups) but the results have been limited and private militias are still powerful [1]. Warlords and Taliban must be prosecuted for their crimes, as they are a “photocopy” of each other.

Withdraw all foreign troops: True, there is a risk that when foreign troops leave, civil war will break out again. This is why withdrawal must be combined to the disarmament of warlords and fundamentalist groups like the Taliban, and progressive groups must be supported to prevent criminals from taking power.

The book also offers Joya’s thoughts on negotiations with the Taliban. She states that “It is incredible to me that these criminals and misogynistic killers could be considered part of a ‘settlement’” (242). Washington does not mind fundamentalists, as long as they are allies: what the US is looking for are Taliban who are ready to compromise with the government, who will then be called “moderate”.

What about the presidential candidates in this week’s elections? Joya criticizes Hamid Karzai for having made so many compromises with warlords over the last few years and selecting two running mates, Khalili and Fahim, who are both infamous warlords. She denounces Abdullah Abdullah, seen by some as a serious challenger to Karzai who could force a run-off in the election, as being one of the most powerful men in the Northern Alliance, whereas Ashraf Ghani, a former Minister for Planning and also current candidate for the presidency, has “compromised” himself by working alongside warlords.

Writing as an activist, Joya’s writing style is blunt and direct, but some readers may prefer more nuanced accounts. For instance, it would have been interesting to hear her views about the possible presence of United Nations peacekeepers to replace the NATO/US troops and act as a buffer between the warlords and Taliban. This is a alternative that many members of RAWA, for example, could support (if done right), but the book doesn’t address this important question.

Some might also charge that Joya only sees the US occupation in negative terms. But she points to one positive development of the war for Afghans: “Over the last thirty years, we have lost almost everything, and I think in many ways that the only positive thing we have gained is our people’s political consciousness” (253).

Let’s hope this consciousness translates into real change for Afghanistan. (full text).

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