Sarah Chayes was a NPR reporer in Quetta, Pakistan, in 2001 trying to write about the fall of the Taliban and then since 2001 she went to live in Kandahar, Afghanistan, working in non-profits aimed at developing Afghanistan. Her book The Punishment of Virtues: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban eloquently describes American failed policy in Afghan's southern region.
First, when she was a NPR reporter 2001 not allowed by the Taliban into Afghanistan she and other reporters would go to the border to interview returning mujahadin who told her of battles between pro-American warlord Shirizai, which she and then NPR reported. She confesses that she later learned that she fell for fictitious tales about battles of Shirizai's militia and the Taliban. In reality Karzai with Afghan/American forces was north of Kandahar and negotiated a peaceful surrender and both Taliban and Al Qaeda immediately fled the city. She learns that after Taliban and Al Qaeda had fled Kandahar, American Special forces told Shirizai to take over the empty city by force which they do. When Chayes tried to report how U.S. Special Forces was empowering warlord Shirizai, the NRP editor in U.S. cut that report out. She confesses her reporting was fictitious.
Most of the book is Chayes reporting of the power stuggle in Kandahar from 2001-2006 between Karzai's police chief Akrem and warlord Shirizai. Chayes reports that warlord Shirzai adoritly manipulated the Americans into helping him to become governor of Kandahar. Chayes befriends Muhammad Akrem, Karzai's police chief in Kandhar whom Chayes thinks is an honest man; she reports on Akrem's battles with corrupt warlord/Governor Shirzai whose militias control more of Kandahar than the government police chief Akrem who is finally assasinated. Warlord Shirizai stays in power by adoit manipulation of naive U.S. soldiers at the same time Shirizai is stealing and setting up incredible corruption. She shows how Shirizai applies for international and U.S. aid which he then uses to build up a personal power base.
Kandahar had been portrayed in global media as the stronghold in Afghanistan for the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but Chayes argues that this idea is another media falsehood: the Kandaharis didn't particularly like the Taliban and thought the Arab Al-Qaeda were foreign occupiers. Kandahar people at first welcomed Americans hopeful for aid to build schools and also bring security, but as Governor Shirizai used his thugs to bleed the people of Kandahar, the people grew disaffected from the warlords, the aid workers, and the U.S. Many other observers describe the same process: U.S. empowering warlords; corruption increase; the once friendly Afghan population grows disaffected. Afghani feminist Malalai Joya describes this process in Farah province in western Afghanistan; Afghani-American Dr. Atash and journalist Anne Jones describe the process in Kabul while Chayes shows the same process happening in the south of th country.
Chayes argues that that the Taliban aren't indigenous to Afghanistan by controlled by Pakistan: "For the past three decades, Pakistan has been manipulating religous extremism to further its agenda in South Asia" (241). She thinks that Pakistan in order to dominate Afghanistan is again backing Taliban who in 2003 started entering from Pakistan and started murdering in the countryside. In 2003 U.S. gave Pakistan $3.5 billion in aid. Chayes argues that Pakistani military gave part of the U.S. taxpayers money to the Taliban who then attacked U.S. soldiers and "the war on terror was a charade" (244).
By 2004 isolated villages were attacked first by the warlords thugs with the "extortions and the arbitrary searches, aimed more at looting than finding weapons or opium, the fingering of tribal enemies as Taliban, the monoplization of foreign subsidy" (311). Then the Taliban groups demand support. Then the U.S. begans bombing villages where the Taliban has been sighted sometimes killing or wounding civilians.
President Bush has a failed policy in Afghanistan for eight years. The policy is based on failed reporting by mass media. Under Bush, US. has been manipulated to entrench warlords, but the Afghan population hates these warlords. U.S. promised aid to rebuild a country destroyed after the 30 years war, but the aid was never received--often the same warlords appropriated the aid money. Chayes argues U.S. policy is being manipulated by Pakistani military. After eight years of policy failures, ignoring such failures is to ask for more disaster. Yet Obama has ignored the policy failures.
U.S. has spent billions and sacrified soldiers lives but accomplished nothing. The Taliban now have a permanent presence in 97% of the country. The U.S. failed to install democracy, failed to improve the horrible conditions of Afghan women, failed to rebuild the country, failed to stop opium becoming Afghanistan's major crop,failed to find Osama bin Laden, and failed to provide security as warlords had soldiers who raped at will. Obama's sending in 30,000 more troops will just increase the disaster in Afghanistan. Obama's policy is to stay the course on a policy that has long since failed and will fail.
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