Fisk: How 'liberation' has brought anarchy to Kabul, and now history is repeated in Baghdad

John M Cox coxj at
Thu Jul 3 14:55:57 MDT 2003

How 'liberation' has brought anarchy to Kabul, and now history is repeated
in Baghdad

By Robert Fisk, Middle East Correspondent

02 July 2003

So security is the problem in Afghanistan, is it? Who would have believed
it? Those freedom-loving Afghans feel no more liberated than their Iraqi
brothers 1,200 miles further west, it seems.

For Fallujah, read Kandahar. For Baghdad, read Kabul. Jack Straw visits
Kandahar and what happens just before this expert on weapons of mass
destruction arrives? Someone tries to blow up a local mosque, wounding 16
people, four of them seriously. Turns out the Imam, Mawlavi Abdullah Fayaz,
had condemned the Taliban's interpretation of Islam. Those pesky Taliban
"remnants" - always "remnants", mark you - strike again. But it's much more
serious than this.

Afghanistan was "liberated" by Mr Straw's government and that of George
Bush. And now it's in a state of anarchy. Then Iraq was "liberated" by Mr
Straw's government and that of George Bush. And now it too is in a state of
anarchy and increasing guerrilla insurrection. What on earth did Mr Straw
learn in Kandahar?

With Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan's loquacious Foreign Minister, he talked
about security, reconstruction and - of course - opium. But according to the
United Nations, Afghanistan is once more the world's top opium exporter. And
narcotics production goes hand-in-hand with lawlessness.

So what does Mr Straw tell his hosts in Afghanistan? "As in any other
country, security must lie in the hands of the people. At the end, we can do
what we can, but it's both your responsibility and your duty."

Mr Fayaz saw the waistcoat in the mosque - the waistcoat covering the bomb -
just before it exploded. He was head of the local council of ulema (Muslim
scholars) who have supported the government of Hamid Karzai. So he became a

Yet the one demand almost all Afghans make - that international troops
should be deployed in other cities, not just in Kabul, and hoover up the
millions of rifles and rocket-propelled grenades - is denied them by the
United States (and, of course, therefore by Britain). Why? The Americans are
keen to confiscate weapons in Iraq. Why not in Afghanistan as well?

Well, most Afghans have a shrewd idea of the answer. The Americans know that
al-Qa'ida is re-forming in Afghanistan, that they are doing so around the
Taliban and that the "Allied success" (aka George Bush) and "victory" (aka
Tony Blair) is beginning to look more and more like a disaster.

So the Americans are buying the local tribes to fight the Taliban, just as
they bought the Northern Alliance with millions of dollars in 2001 to fight
the Taliban. And the tribes don't want to be disarmed and made amenable to

So these tribal warlords have no interest in the kind of "security" about
which Mr Straw was talking. They want personal power; and as long as the
Americans are in Afghanistan they will have it.

And Mr Straw is indeed very worried about "security". Tell this, as they
say, to the Afghans.

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