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Afghanistan: Crime against humanity

John Dolva

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The war on Afghanistan: a crime against humanity

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Banner at Sydney’s Stop the War protest, October 9. The Socialist Alliance has maintained its opposition to Australia’s commitment to the US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan since 2001. Photo: Peter Boyle The following statement was released by the Socialist Alliance on October 8.

* * *

On October 17, 2001, the Liberal/National Coalition government of John Howard deployed Australian troops to Afghanistan, just nine days after the US had begun bombing one of the most poverty-stricken and war-weary nations on Earth.

The then newly-formed Socialist Alliance responded to this attack and its reputed catalyst, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, by noting the US' hypocrisy and pledging to campaign against then president George W. Bush's “war without end”.

“We are ready to play a part in mobilising the broadest possible opposition to any attempt by US policies and their global allies to use the tragedy as a pretext for military aggression”, we said.

Since then, the Socialist Alliance has maintained its opposition to Australia's commitment to the US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan. We have continued to seek ways to build community opposition to this war and the Iraq war — an opening that could become greater when federal parliament starts its debate.

This October marks the 10th year since the US and its allies, including Australia, invaded Afghanistan. The bombing of the poorest country in the world by some of the richest is a crime against humanity. The real purpose of this crime is to further US power in the region.

Its initial legal justification has been called into question since the US and Britain’s use of United Nations Article 51 prevents any self-defence that continues after an attack.

Furthermore, the right of self-defence relates to attacks by other nation states, not criminal activity, such as terrorism.

Despite what Western leaders have claimed, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan did not sponsor the 9/11 attacks. The Al-Qaeda leadership was based in Afghanistan, but the terrorists who carried out the attacks (none of whom were Afghan) were residents of Germany and the US.

Recent reports even suggest the Taliban may have tried to warn of the 9/11 attacks and curtail the activities of Al-Qaeda.

Ironically, the US has engaged in state-sponsored terrorism against Afghanistan since the 1970s. Al-Qaeda is a US-created terrorist outfit that went rogue.

Afghanistan has been called "the graveyard of empires". In the past, insurgent groups in Afghanistan have defeated all invaders. The same will happen with the current war — the longest for Australia since Vietnam.

The Taliban is part of the blowback from the Russian war in Afghanistan. Even Hillary Clinton admits it was one of the jihadist groups, which, as ally, was “emboldened, trained and equipped” and not deemed a security risk to the US or its allies.

Taliban expansion will continue, often with complicity of the Afghan people as a result of their increasing disgust with the brutal and corrupt Kabul government, the rising civilian deaths from the US-led forces, particularly though air strikes, and their own dispossession and hopelessness.

Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan does not pose as great a threat to the Afghan people as does the suffering caused by the occupiers, or the constant bombings by unmanned predator drones launched from bases in the US.

Al Qaeda has greatly reduced its numbers in Afghanistan. In a June interview on US ABC TV, CIA chief Leon Panetta said the number of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was “at most … 50-100”.

Insurgent groups continue to form to fight the occupying armies’ support for the corrupt Hamid Karzai government, lawless warlords and their connection to the venal Pakistani Intelligence Agency. (See the Wikileaks Afghanistan War Diaries for more evidence of this.)

The brave Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan (RAWA) links the current rise in fundamentalism, lawlessness, poverty and rape directly to the occupation.

Besieged by extreme weather, in a country whose infrastructure has been smashed by conflict, many Afghan people have little chance of surviving past the age of 43.

Apologists for Australian troops remaining in Afghanistan claim they are there to “finish the job”. This, apparently, means training the Afghan army and police so they can maintain the corrupt and drug-lord linked Karzai government, which was installed undemocratically by the US and allied invaders. This dubious "job" may never be finished.

The Karzai regime is protected by foreign troops and private mercenaries rather than by the ragged Afghan army or police. These forces are either the private warlord militias (in new uniforms) or people looking for some pay to feed their families. Many desert. Others shoot their “mentors”.

Rosy views of Australia’s involvement as helping the Afghan people are now being challenged by the September decision to court-martial members of an Australian Special Operations Task Group for the murder of two adults and four children near the village of Sarmorghab in Oruzgan province in 2009.

Labor and the Coalition insist Australia's national security would be at stake if the troops were withdrawn. But Afghanistan has never threatened Australia.

However, protracted Western wars of aggression, occupation and terror against poor Muslim nations like Afghanistan will continue to provoke the level of resentment that can lead to terrorism by groups and individuals in many countries.

These wars are acts of sustained state terror, which are provoking individual acts terror of in response. This is why defence commentators admit the troop surge and endless war of occupation not only helps to destabilise Afghanistan and Pakistan, but are a threat to global security.

Life for Afghan women, whom supporters of the war claim to want to protect, continues to deteriorate in Taliban and non-Taliban areas. Karzai has made it legal for husbands to rape their wives, and recent reports indicate a rising number of attempts at self-immolation.

A September report by the World Health Organisation and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Trends in Maternal Mortality said that after nearly a decade of donor-funded health projects, there has been only a small reduction in maternal and child mortality.

Last year, UNICEF ranked Afghanistan the worst of 202 countries in terms of maternal, infant and child mortality.

We must force the Australian government to withdraw the troops. Sixty-one percent of Australians want them brought home. The views of most Australians should not be ignored for the sake of the US-Australia Alliance.

But Australia should not walk away from this war-ravaged country. The Gillard government must provide funding and aid to the people of Afghanistan (not the corrupt bureaucrats — Afghan or Western). War reparations would allow the Afghan people to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

Australia must also open its doors to those Afghan refugees who want to come here. This is the least this country can do after having helped create mass dislocation and displacement.

Finally, politicians must stop politically manipulating this ongoing tragedy. The debate — which the ALP has been forced to have — must extend well beyond parliament. It will not be a debate if, as PM Julia Gillard wants, it is framed within a call for “support for the troops”.

The purpose of framing the “debate” this way is to use blind and misplaced nationalist sentiment to silence any argument that exposes the Australian and other foreign military intervention in Afghanistan as the criminal and anti-people war that it really is.

It’s time for the silent majority to make their views known, and force an end to this bipartisan madness in which tens of thousands, if not more, have been killed for no good reason.

From GLW issue 857

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Greens MP Adam Bandt in parliament debate on Afghanistan: Bring troops home now!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Sydney Stop The War Coalition activist Marlene Obeid outside Parliament House. Photo by Pip Hinman. On October 19, Sydney Stop The War Coalition activist Marlene Obeid was dragged out of the parliamentary public gallery as Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that Australian troops would be "engaged in Afghanistan at least for the rest of this decade". "They are war criminals", said Obeid as she was dragged off by Parliament House security guards. She was right but, until the new Greens MP Adam Bandt spoke (see full speech below) , her stifled protest was the sole voice for peace and justice in the House of Representatives chamber.

PM Gillard's speech can be read here.

The reasons Gillard gave for keeping the troops there were 1) to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a "safe haven" for terrorists and 2) to support the US, Australia's chief military ally.

Liberal-National opposition leader Tony Abbott rushed to support the government line, while objecting to Australian Spercial Forces being tried in a military court for killing Afghan civilians, including women and children, and then attempting to cover it up.

Tony Abbott's speech can be read here.

While the bi-partisan pro-war line of the major parties was shaefully re-affirmed, on October 20 the sole Green MP in the House of Representatives gave the following strong speech in favour of withdrawing the troops from Afghanistan.

* * *

Towards the end of last year, the Karzai government passed a law which applies to the country’s minority Shi’ite population, and in particular its women. The law allows police to enforce language that sets out a wife's sexual duties and restricts a woman’s right leave her own home. According to US reports, child custody rights still go to fathers and grandfathers, women have to ask before they get married for permission to work and a husband is still able to deny his wife food and shelter if she does not meet his sexual needs. And the government that passed this law last year, Mr Speaker, is a government we are told that our soldiers should kill and die for.

It is now clear that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won, however you measure victory.

It is now clear that the reasons successive governments have given to be in Afghanistan no longer stand up to scrutiny.

It is also now clear that the main reason we are there is not to defend democracy or human rights but simply because the United States asked us to go and want us to remain.

And it is now clear that although our alliance with the United States is important, a simple request is not a good enough reason for our troops to fight and die in an un-winnable and unjustifiable war.

This is a decision we must make for ourselves as a country.

Mr Speaker, it is time to bring the troops home.

It is time to bring the troops home safely and for Australia to shoulder the burden of Afghanistan’s problems in a new way.

And it is time to bring the troops home so they can be honoured for their service and no longer be asked to carry out this unjustified task.

The Greens do not oppose the deployment in Afghanistan based on any absolute opposition to the use of military force or from any lack of commitment to our troops.

We led the call for military intervention in Timor Leste and are proud of the role our men and women played in the struggle for freedom and independence in that country.

Unlike in many other countries, our Defence forces thankfully follow the lead of our political leaders and have little choice in the tasks they are set.

So they are doing the job they have been asked to do in Afghanistan.

Already 21 young Australians soldiers have lost their lives, ten since June this year.

That is all the more reason why we should be having this debate and all the more reason why the government should bring the troops home.

Going to war

Mr Speaker, the decision to go to war is probably the most important decision we can make.

It is a decision fraught with danger and uncertainty and great consequence, for both the country and soldiers going to war and the people and country with which a war is being fought or invaded. And it is a decision that can easily lead to unintended outcomes, peril and blowback for the people of the country whose leaders choose to go to war. And it is for those reasons that such a momentous decision should not be left in the hands of the executive alone.

This is why the Greens asked for and secured this debate on Australia’s Afghanistan commitment as part of our agreement to support the Gillard government.

And this is why my colleague Senator Ludlum has put before the Senate a bill to require a decision of Parliament as well as the Government to underpin any deployment of troops overseas.

Mr Speaker, I can announce today that I will soon introduce the Defence Amendment (Parliamentary Approval of Overseas Service) Bill into this house.

The United States understood the importance of a check on democracy and ensures that Congress needs

to back a President’s decision to go to war. Many other countries do something similar, including Germany, Spain, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Slovakia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. We should join them.

The Greens’ Bill will require a resolution agreed to by both the Senate and the House of Representatives before members of the Defence Force may serve beyond the territorial limits of Australia, except where emergencies require immediate deployment.

The Greens hope that this debate can be a step towards the passage of our Bill which will mean once and for all that in the future the Australian people through their representatives will have a say in going to war.

The war in Afghanistan

Mr Speaker, no one knows exactly how many people have died and been injured in the war in Afghanistan, because in those infamous words of the US military “we don’t do body counts”. But we do know it is in the tens of thousands.

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, in the first 6 months of this year casualties increased by 31% compared to 2009.

And nearly every other week there is another story of a massacre or “accidental” killing of civilians. More “collateral damage” in a war in which, like Vietnam, our troops find it hard to tell the difference between insurgents and non-insurgents.

Mr Speaker, the Afghan war has now been going for over 9 years, almost longer than World Wars I and II combined.

We must remember that in the eyes of many of the people now fighting the Coalition forces in Afghanistan, this is a continuation of their fight to remove foreign forces from the country, a fight begun with the Soviet invasion in 1979.

The Russians learnt, to their great cost, that more than 100,000 troops backed by an Afghan government could not win against “Mujahideen”.

The Leader of the Opposition is right that despite the history, we must deal with this world as it is. But we can’t close our eyes to the lessons of the past and be doomed to repeat them. Wilful blindness is no better than wishful thinking.

Mr Speaker, I know many Australians ask the legitimate question: what will happen to the population if we pull out? But there’s an alternative question: is us being there making the problem worse?

Major-General Alan Stretton, who served as Australian Chief of Staff in Vietnam and fought in World War II, Korea and Malaya, thinks so.

He says the Afghan “population now sees the war as a foreign invasion of its country.”

“In fact,” the Major-General says “the occupation is providing a reason for terrorist attacks and instead of reducing the risk to Australians is actually increasing it.”

The Prime Minister said this war may be the work of a generation. Well, if coalition troops are there for another decade, a whole generation of boys and girls will have grown up under occupation and we must expect all the consequences that may flow from that.

On this I think we should listen to Malalai Joya. In 2005, she was the youngest woman elected to the Afghani parliament. She condemned the warlords that overwhelmingly comprised the assembly. Now she says

“We are in between two evils: the warlords and Taliban on one side, and the occupation on the other. … The first step is to fight against the occupation – those who can liberate themselves will be free, even if it costs our lives.”

Mr Speaker, respected defence analysts have said the process of training the army and police in Afghanistan is far less successful than the government has made out and may never be achievable.

The desertion of personnel, infiltration by Taliban supporters and quality of the troops and police all mean that very few are able to operate without Coalition forces in support.

And according to some reports the attrition rate far exceeds the number of new recruits.

None of these problems were explicitly acknowledged in the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday, apart from a confident declaration noting the “Afghan Government’s determination that the Afghan National Security Forces should lead and conduct military operations in all provinces by the end of 2014.”

Mr Speaker it is important to note the careful language that is being used here. Afghan troops will “lead” but not takeover the full security task and they hope to “operate” in all provinces, but will not to be able to take on a full role in all provinces.

In short, even by 2014 there will be no self-sufficient Afghan military or police, suggesting we may be there for much much longer.

The leader of the Coalition forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, summed up his thinking on the length of deployment in this way:

“You have to recognise also that I don’t think you win this war. I think you keep fighting … You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”

But while we talk here of decades and generations, President Obama is reported to have responded to Pentagon requests for more troops by saying “I’m not doing ten years. I’m not doing long-term nation building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.”

If the US is increasingly asking how much it will cost in lives and money to be successful, and indicating it will not make that kind of commitment, why aren’t we doing the same?

Protecting Australians from Terrorism

And what would count as success anyway?

Many have said - and it was repeated yesterday - that we need to be in Afghanistan because of Al Qadea. But most experts agree that Al Qadea is now operating from other countries and not Afghanistan.

General Peter Gration commanded the ADF from 1987 to 1993. He has reportedly described as "overblown" the Prime Minister’s claims that there are direct links between the security of Afghanistan and terrorist threats to Australians.

We now know that Al Qadea is operating in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan, but we don’t invade there.

But very few if any such terrorists are in Afghanistan.

In General Gration’s words, "To say that what we are doing in Afghanistan is defending Australians is drawing a very long bow."


Mr Speaker, another key justification and strategy of the United States and in turn the strategy of the Australian government has been to hold up the Karzai government and make it democratic.

Yet this same government is accused of widespread corruption and criminality. In fact US General David Petraeus reportedly describes the Karzai Government as a "criminal syndicate", and Vice President Joe Biden has asked, "If the Government's a criminal syndicate a year from now, how will the troops make a difference?"

Successive elections in Afghanistan have been marked by fraud and recently came an announcement that the latest election results have been delayed because of widespread fraud with estimates that up to 25% of the ballots are likely to be thrown out.

Mr Speaker, when on Monday I asked a question of the Minister for Defence about the alleged criminality of the Karzai government he dodged the point and again yesterday and today the government has failed to respond directly to General Petraeus’ assessment.

It is a crucial point the Government must squarely address.

Fighting the Taliban

The ostensible reason that is most often given for why we are in Afghanistan is to fight the Taliban.

Some have said that we should stay the course to ensure the Taliban does not become the government.

But now we know there are extensive talks between the Karzai government and Taliban leader Mullah Omar and others, aimed at reconciliation and dealing them squarely into government.

While pursuing peace and reconciliation is to be commended and one hopes the process may ease or end the conflict, it somewhat undermines the claim that Taliban is the enemy that must be opposed at all costs, including the cost of taking and sacrificing lives.

And what now of the rights of the Hazaras, many of whom have sought refugee in Australia, and whose persecution under the Taliban has continued and may now become entrenched if the power sharing arrangements holds?

Following the United States

Mr Speaker, according to Australian defence analyst Hugh White, the real reason the Australian government has troops in Afghanistan is because the US has asked us.

This is why The Greens believe we need a relationship with the United States based on autonomy and independence.

In the words of Major-General Stretton, “Although it is important to remain an ally of the United States, this does not mean that we have to be involved in all American military excursions.”

The experience of the British, in standing up to American pressure to take part in the Vietnam War did not undermine the British-American relationship. Australia could still retain the support of the United States even if we pursue a more independent foreign policy.

Mr Speaker, like most people, I shudder when I hear that the Taliban and now the Karzai government are prepared to legislate for the sexual subjugation of women.

But if we are looking for a tool to spread human rights and democracy, it is folly to think that invading and occupying a country is the answer.

Withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan does not mean we must disengage from the country or stop trying to help the Afghan people. We do not advocate leaving without helping those left behind.

In fact, there are good reasons to be separating our aid efforts from military activities.

The Australian Council for International Development have called for military and development activities to be decoupled. They say increased funds linked to political and military objectives makes it less likely we’ll see lasting and comprehensive community based development outcomes that will meet real needs.

At the moment, the government has its priorities wrong.

The Greens believe a withdrawal of Australian military forces from Afghanistan could enable additional aid to be directed to the country, targeted in particular to civil society institutions that foster democracy, sustainable development and human rights.

It is time to look at countries like Oman. Unlike its neighbouring conflict-racked terrorist base of Yemen, it has transformed itself. It was a society where only a few decades ago not one girl in Oman was attending school. Now all children are expected to finish high school and the place of women has been transformed, with 3 of the country’s Cabinet Ministers being women.

The Prime Minister yesterday noted the rise in Afghani girls getting an education. Well in Oman, girls attend school, read books and surf the internet, without the need for an expensive, unsustainable foreign occupying military force and without the life-shattering effects war can have on children, their education and upbringing.

In the words of New York Times journalist Thomas Kristof:

“one of the lessons of Oman is that one of the best and most cost effective ways to tame extremism is to promote education for all.”

Malalia Joya, the former Afghan MP, knows this. She called for all of our assistance in strengthening civil society in Afghanistan, not the occupation or the corrupt government, saying said that “Education gives us hope and courage. … open the eyes and minds of the justice loving.”

While others in the world are discussing exit strategies, Australia is writing blank cheques.

More and more countries are removing their troops and we should join them.

Earlier in the year the Netherlands withdrew their troops from the province in which Australia operates and Canada will leave next year. No one has doubted their integrity or their commitment to democracy.

And even the US and NATO have talked about a time for withdrawal, yet it seems that our Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are unwilling to set a date. Instead the Prime Minister has just committed us for another decade or more of war.

The Greens have a different view.

The Greens believe it is now time to bring our troops safely home.

The Greens believe the Australian people and our defence forces should not be asked to continue this war for another decade.

And The Greens believe many people in Australia agree with us, with recent polls showing most Australians want our defence forces personnel brought safely home.

If we really want to ensure Afghanistan never again becomes a haven for terrorists, we must encourage education and help strengthen the institutions of civil society.

We must foster democracy from below, not imagine we can impose it from above down the barrel of a gun.

No matter how much the contemporary trend might be to dress it up in the garb of human rights, an invasion is an invasion, a war is a war.

It is a mistake we have made before but not yet learned from.

We owe it to our troops, the Australian people and the people of Afghanistan to adopt a different path.

Source: http://adam-bandt.greensmps.org.au/content/speech/afghanistan-debate-october-20-2010

From GLW issue 857

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Warlord militia trains in Australia

Saturday, October 30, 2010 By Pip Hinman, Sydney


War lord Mutiallah Khan

Six fighters from the private army of Afghan warlord, drug trafficker and highway robber Matiullah Khan were recently in Australia for training with the Australian Defence Forces, the October 29 Sydney Morning Herald said.

Khan’s power base is in Oruzgan province, where most Australian forces in Afghanistan are stationed.

Such is Khan’s reputation for criminality and violence that Dutch forces, who before their withdrawal in August were the largest foreign contingent in Oruzgan, refused to work with him.

His fighters were training in Australia at the same time as the debate on the merits of the Afghanistan war in federal parliament.

These revelations confirmed the picture painted of Australia’s role in Afghanistan by Stop the War Coalition activist Helen Patterson and Afghan refugee and activist Hadi Zaher at a Socialist Alliance forum on October 28.

"The occupiers of Afghanistan have created a system that is one of the most corrupt on this planet", Zaher said.

He said that far from bringing democracy to Afghanistan, the US-NATO-led war and occupation had helped entrench corruption and fundamentalism in his country.

Zaher’s speech painted an ugly picture of President Hamid Karzai, his allied Northern Alliance warlords and their rivals, the Taliban, disputing that any of them represented anyone's interests but their own.

“There is a third force in Afghanistan: the democracy movement, which includes the student movement, the Solidarity Party and Malalai Joya, but they are not given much of a profile.”

[sydney Stop the War Coalition is organising a "Shoe away the war criminals" protest at the US consulate in Martin Place on November 8 when Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates will be visiting Australia. Malalai Joya is speaking in Sydney at the University of Technology on November 16. See www.stopwarcoalition.org .]

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Matiullah Khan: 'Our man' in Oruzgan, Afghanistan

Sunday, November 7, 2010 By Tony Iltis

Afghan warlord Matiullah Khan. Members of his private army, which has been accused of human rights abuses, recently underwent military training in Australia. Matiullah Khan is reportedly illiterate, but he is a very wealthy man. A warlord accused of mass murder, rape and abduction, the June 5 New York Times reported that Matiullah earned US$2.5 million a month through highway robbery, drug trafficking and extortion.

The news that members of his private army were training in Australia — revealed by the Sydney Morning Herald on October 29 — exposes the reality Australia's "nation building" project in Afghanistan by putting a spotlight on a key local partner.

The extent of Matiullah's brutality was shown in a massacre reported on by the July 18 Dutch daily De Pers. The paper said the previous month, Matiullah's army made a surprise attack on a meeting of 80 people in Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar province.

Five people were killed in the ensuing shootout. The remaining 75 were knifed to death.

Mohammed Daoud, the district chief of Chora, told De Pers: "As torture, they were first stabbed in the shoulders and legs. The corpses were treated with chemicals to make them unrecognizable."

In 2001, when the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan, they sought alliances from warlords opposed to, or willing to defect from, the ruling Taliban.

These warlords shared the Taliban's brutality, misogyny and religious conservatism. However, they differed in having less unity and being more involved in criminality.

The Taliban were never as free from corruption and crime as their puritanical laws imposed on others might imply, but since their overthrow crime rates hve exploded. Illegal opiate production has increased by 4500%.

In Oruzgan, where Australia's military contingent is concentrated, President Hamid Karzai installed his kinsman, warlord Jan Mohammed Khan, as governor in January 2002.

However he "was removed from Oruzgan Province at the insistence of the Dutch in 2006 because of concerns that he was close to the drug trade", the NYT said. "He is now an adviser to President Karzai."

Dutch forces, who were the foreign military force occupying Oruzgan before being withdrawn from Afghanistan in August, also accused Khan of gross human rights abuses.

Matiullah owes his rise to being Jan Mohammed Khan's son-in-law, under whom "he supposedly … led hit squads that killed stubborn farmers who wouldn't hand over land, livestock, and in some cases, their daughters", the SMH said.

Later, Matiullah became head of the provincial highway police, which offered lucrative opportunities to make money through extortion and drug trafficking.

In 2006, the force was disbanded because of its involvement in drug trafficking. "The highway police was one huge drug smuggling operation," the NYT quoted "a former Western diplomat" as saying.

However, Matiullah continued the operation — converting the highway police into a private security company.

Extorting users of the highway between Kandahar tand Tirin Kot remains his most profitable business. In what is essentially a protection racket, highway users pay him not to be attacked.

This is said to be to provide security from other attackers, but his private army attacks those who don't pay. The occupation forces are his most profitable customer.

"His company charges each NATO cargo truck $1200 for safe passage, or $800 for smaller ones", the NYT said.

The October 29 British Daily Telegraph reported that, to promote this business, Matiullah "is also suspected of sponsoring Taliban activity in Oruzgan".

The payments made by NATO, don't always guarantee security. One of the documents on Afghanistan released by Wikileaks in July was a November 22, 2009, report of a convoy held up by 100 apparent insurgents demanding bribes of $2000-$3000 per truck.

It turned out the "insurgents" were from Matiullah's private army.

Matiullah featured prominently in a June US House of Representatives report into private security companies in Afghanistan.


The CEO of an Afghanistan-based private security company told the congressional investigators: "Matiullah has the road from Kandahar to Tarin Kowt completely under his control. No one can travel without Matiullah without facing consequences.

"There is no other way to get there. You have to either pay him or fight him."

The House of Representatives report revealed concern from US legislators that not only was the military not getting value for money for the billions it was spending in the "corruptive environment" of private security outfits in Afghanistan, but that some of the money injected into private armies and drug gangs made its way to the Taliban.

However, the US military are far more than just clients for warlord-dominated security companies. On October 8, the BBC reported: "Some 26,000 private security personnel, mostly Afghans, operate in Afghanistan. Nine out of 10 of them work for the US government."

Al Jazeera said on August 18: "In July, a report by a UN Human Rights Council working group on private security cited an Afghan interior ministry estimate that 'no fewer than 2,500 unauthorized armed groups' were operating in government-controlled provinces."

Foreign mercenaries working for US multinational private security outfits, such as Xe (formerly Blackwater) and DynCorp International, are accountable to no-one — a cause of local resentment.

Al Jazeera reported on an incident from July, in which "an SUV driven by a DynCorp International team working under a state department contract collided with a car carrying Afghan civilians in Kabul, killing one and injuring three and prompting a crowd of hundreds to protest, throwing rocks and chanting 'Death to America'".

However, 93% of the up to 19,000 security contractors employed directly by the US military were Afghan, Al Jazeera said. They also operate with impunity.

Furthermore, they are typically used in operations with special forces troops from the US-led occupying forces.

Special forces operations are veiled in secrecy and fall outside the normal command structures of the occupying armies. Special forces, not being bound by the same rules of engagement as regular soldiers, have been responsible for many human rights abuses and killings of civilians by the occupiers.

The result is parallel hierarchies in both the occupation forces and their Afghan puppets. In Oruzgan, the Dutch blocked Matiullah's appointment as chief of police and officially refused to work with him on account of his links to the drug trade.

However, his 2000-strong army has dominated the province from a base adjacent to the US special forces compound in Tarin Kot.

The NYT said: "But Mr. Matiullah's role has grown beyond just business. His militia has been adopted by American Special Forces officers to gather intelligence and fight insurgents …

"With his NATO millions, and the American backing, Mr. Matiullah has grown into the strongest political and economic force in the region."

He formed a similarly close relationship with the Australian Defence Force contingent in Oruzgan. The August 8 Age reported: "Australian troops train and fight alongside his men, who wear Australian flags on their shoulder badges … The ADF describes [them] as the 'Afghan partner force' of Australian special forces."

Mutiullah holds no formal position in the provincial or national government, but he has as a patron Ahmed Wali Karzai, the most powerful political figure in the south of Afghanistan and one of the world's major illicit opiate suppliers.

He also happens to be the brother of the US-installed president.

ADF head Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston defended bringing members of their ultra-violent "Afghan Partner Force" to Australia. He told journalists on October 29 that "Matiullah is very generous in circumstances. For example, a family lost a father and Matiullah provided support to that family in the absence of the father, and I'm familiar with other similar acts that he has been behind before."

Matiullah is not the first gangster to have been praised in such a way.

The nature of such "allies" of the occupying forces makes a mockery of claims foreign soldiers are in Afghanistan to support democracy or to better the lives of Afghanis. The occupation is an imperialist adventure, seeking to strengthen the power of the US and its allies in the region.

To this end, many thousands of lives have been, and continue to be, sacrificed.

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From GLW issue 860

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