by John Hawkins | November 19, 2002 11:59 pm
So What Do The People Of Afghanistan Think About Our Removal Of The Taliban?: The Guardian sent a reporter to Afghanistan to see what the word in the street was about the war. Are the people of Afghanistan happy we liberated them or are they nostalgic for the Taliban? Here’s what they had to say…
“So was it worth it after all?…Of course it was, said everyone I asked. They all had their grotesque Taliban tales. “Right there, bodies hanging, rotting, stinking!” said a trader in Chicken Street, the tourist trinket centre. Taliban horror stories poured out of everyone, unstoppable like water from a broken tap: “I was walking with my cousin and her husband outside here,” said another man. “The vice and virtue police beat them both with big sticks, beat them to pieces, blood everywhere, because her ankles showed too much under her burka. I stood there, ashamed, but there was nothing I could do. I didn’t go out after that.” He was a young Pashtun and no friend of this new mainly Tajik government, but he had no doubt that the Americans did the right thing.
An old carpet-maker in a village out west was standing in his backyard beside the loom where his daughter was click-clacking at the warp and woof. Was it worth it, I asked? He pointed up at the sky: “We shouted with joy when the American planes came over this way. They hit a Taliban police barracks down the road. Boom! It was a big ammunition dump, we knew that. But we were amazed at how precise it was. Yes, we cheered!”
Not surprising, perhaps, as this is Hazara territory, the downtrodden, spat-upon tribe that makes up 20% of the population. But what of the bombs that missed, the innocent dead, among them Hazaras too? Hussain Dad spread his arms wide: “How many more do you think the Taliban would have killed in this last year? Thousands! And they would still be killing now. I hardly went out then. If you saw a Talib coming down the street, you hid your face, you looked away. If you looked at them, they said, ‘Who are you looking at?’ and they beat you for nothing.
…There must be people who think the American-led conquest was wrong, but no one will say so. Even Pashtuns you meet from the Taliban’s own tribe – the big losers under the new regime – say the outside world had a duty to rescue them from the Taliban horror. But perhaps some lie. Perhaps you are looking right into the eye of a shaved Talib, one of the multitude who just melted away into the shadows, waiting and watching for their time to come again. Which it might, if the world again loses interest here.
However, the Afghans aren’t happy with everyone…
“Seething resentment of the UN and the NGOs bursts out everywhere, with the usual unavoidable ugly spectacle of highly paid western aid experts rubbing up against Karzai cabinet ministers who earn only $35 a month. “They expect Pringles wherever they go,” said one Afghan aid worker acidly of the itinerant aid community.
When I spoke to the Afghan minister for public works, he flailed his long arms in the air, expostulating with frustration, claiming that the UN and NGOs spend all the country’s donated money, and spend it badly. “Stand outside my window and you’ll see 200 white Land Cruisers pass by in an hour, I swear it! Our money, they spend! How can I build my roads?”
Do keep in mind that there is still a lot of work to be done in Afghanistan and as I’ve said before, we need to put more money, manpower, and influence into helping Afghanistan get back on its feet. Not only is that a strategically wise decision, it’s the right thing to do.
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