Monday, July 25, 2011

Principles Sold-out | A Farewell to Afghanistan

A sharp critique of the United Nations and the broader International community’s role in bringing the warlords back to power in Afghanistan. Jan Malekzade worked as a UN Political Officer in Afghanistan from 2001-2003 and from 2009-2011. He has just left the country and offered this post.

“Afghanistan's heritage of literature is one on of the oldest and most sophisticated of the world and most Afghans can easily recite by heart the ancient verses of Jalaluddin Rumi, Jami, Rudaki, Nasir Khosrou Balkhi, the poetess Rabia Balkhi and the Pashtun warrior/poet Khushal Khan Khattak. Instead of the usual farewell message I would like to share with you a parabel I was told by an Afghan friend. It describes my experience of the last two years in Afghanistan better then lengthy words:

A Malik (land owner) called his servant and told him that he would release him after 30 years of servitude, if he fulfilled a last task. The old man had been serving the Malik for his whole life, cultivating his lands and keeping his gardens lush and green. He was tired and looking forward to be released into retirement. The Malik asked him to build a house as large, as comfortable and as luxurious as possible and not shy away from any costs.

The servant started with the construction, but was angered that in his old age he had been given such a difficult job. The fundaments of the house were done hastily, the walls not strong enough and the whole building came out as quiet unstable. The servant went to the Malik and told him that the house had been completed and insisted that he would now be granted his well deserved retirement.

The Malik agreed to release his servant and told him that he had a special gift for him: 'The house you have built is yours!

“I was in 2001 in Afghanistan when the Afghans were left with no choice but to accept that the old class of war criminals and civil war leaders were brought back from exile and dealt with as 'heroes of resistance against the Taleban'. In fact it was a simple - but wrong - tactical calculation of the Coalition: instead of expensive troops on the ground they armed and financed these ragtag criminals with a record of some of the worst human rights crimes and re-installed them in a country that had forced them into exile. In June 2001, when I was posted with the Northern Alliance in the tiny mountain area that the Taleban had not yet under their control, these 'heroes of resistance' were busy with feuding each other over income of smuggling alcohol into Afghanistan from Tajikistan.

The silent consent of the UN to re-instate these war criminals into positions of power was hard to stomach in 2002, and many of us argued with our seniors that they had sold the principles of the UN for a cheap political compromise. But at least there was a civil society left with whom we worked. There were more legitimate representatives of Afghan society, like those we had helped to elect into the Emergency Loya Jirga in June 2002.

Coming back in 2009 was a sobering experience: not only that war criminals had consolidated their power, now controlling large parts of an economy that was once described by Ashraf Ghani as a 'drug economy' (before he became a government official).

To many of my Afghan friends it seemed that the international community had spared no effort to push Afghanistan back into civil war and conflict. After the resurrection of the warlords, their old foes, the Taleban, who had forced one of the most obscurantist and violent regimes in human history upon the Afghan population, are now dealt with as a legitimate political power to negotiate with.”

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Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
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