Tag Archives: Bamiyan

Reckoning and Reparations in Afghanistan

The U.S. government owes reparations to the civilians of Afghanistan for the past twenty years of war and brutal impoverishment.

by Kathy Kelly

July 15, 2021

Earlier this week, 100 Afghan families from Bamiyan, a rural province of central Afghanistan mainly populated by the Hazara ethnic minority, fled to Kabul. They feared Taliban militants would attack them in Bamiyan.

Over the past decade, I’ve gotten to know a grandmother who recalls fleeing Talib fighters in the 1990s, just after learning that her husband had been killed. Then, she was a young widow with five children, and for several agonizing months two of her sons were missing. I can only imagine the traumatized memories that spurred her to again flee her village today. She is part of the Hazara ethnic minority and hopes to protect her grandchildren. 

When it comes to inflicting miseries on innocent Afghan people, there’s plenty of blame to be shared.

The Taliban have demonstrated a pattern of anticipating people who might form opposition to their eventual rule and waging “pre-emptive” attacks against journalists, human rights activists, judicial officials, advocates for women’s rights, and minority groups such as the Hazara.

In places where Taliban have successfully taken over districts, they may be ruling over increasingly resentful populaces; people who have lost harvests, homes, and livestock are already coping with a third wave of COVID-19 and severe drought.

In many northern provinces, the re-emergence of the Taliban can be traced to the Afghan government’s incompetence, and also to criminal and abusive behaviors of the local military commanders, including land grabs, extortion, and rape.

President Ashraf Ghani, showing little empathy for people trying to flee Afghanistan, referred to those who leave as people looking to “have fun.”

Responding to his April 18 speech when he made this comment, a young woman whose sister, a journalist, was recently killed, tweeted about her father who had stayed in Afghanistan for seventy-four years, encouraged his children to stay, and now felt that his daughter might be alive had she left. The surviving daughter said the Afghan government couldn’t protect its people, and that’s why they tried to leave.

President Ghani’s government has encouraged the formation of “Uprising” militias to help protect the country. Immediately, people began questioning how the Afghan government could support new militias when it already lacks ammunition and protection for thousands of Afghan National Defense Forces and local police who have fled their posts.

The main backer of the Uprising Forces, it seems, is the formidable National Directorate of Security, whose main sponsor is the CIA.

Some militia groups have raised money through imposing “taxes” or outright extortion. Others turn to other countries in the region, all of which reinforces cycles of violence and despair.

The staggering loss of landmine removal experts working for the nonprofit HALO Trust should add to our sense of grief and mourning. About 2,600 Afghans working with the demining group had helped make more than 80 percent of Afghanistan’s land safe from unexploded ordnance strewn over the country after forty years of war. Tragically, militants attacked the group, killing ten workers. 

Human Rights Watch says the Afghan government has not adequately investigated the attack nor has it investigated the killings of journalists, human rights activists, clerics, and judicial workers that began escalating after the Afghan government began peace talks with the Taliban in April.

Yet, unquestionably, the warring party in Afghanistan with the most sophisticated weapons and seemingly endless access to funds has been the United States. Funds were spent not to lift Afghans to a place of security from which they might have worked to moderate Taliban rule, but to further frustrate them, beating down their hopes of future participatory governance with twenty years of war and brutal impoverishment. The war has been a prelude to the United States’ inevitable retreat and the return of a possibly more enraged and dysfunctional Taliban to rule over a shattered population.

The troop withdrawal negotiated by President Joe Biden and U.S. military officials is not a peace agreement. Rather, it signals the end of an occupation resulting from  an unlawful invasion, and while troops are leaving, the Biden Administration is already laying plans for “over the horizon” drone surveillance, drone strikes, and “manned” aircraft strikes which could exacerbate and prolong the war.

U.S. citizens ought to consider not only financial recompense for destruction caused by twenty years of war but also a commitment to dismantle the warfare systems that brought such havoc, chaos, bereavement, and displacement to Afghanistan.

We should be sorry that, during 2013, when the United States spent an average of $2 million per soldier, per year, stationed in Afghanistan, the number of Afghan children suffering malnutrition rose by 50 percent. At that same time, the cost of adding iodized salt to an Afghan child’s diet to help reduce risks of brain damage caused by hunger would have been 5 cents per child per year.

We should deeply regret that while the United States constructed sprawling military bases in Kabul, populations in refugee camps soared. During harsh winter months, people desperate for warmth in a Kabul refugee camp would burn—and then have to breathe—plastic. Trucks laden with food, fuel, water, and supplies constantly entered the U.S. military base immediately across the road from this camp.

We should acknowledge, with shame, that U.S. contractors signed deals to build hospitals and schools which were later determined to be ghost hospitals and ghost schools, places that never even existed.

On October 3, 2015, when only one hospital served vast numbers of people in the Kunduz province, the U.S. Air Force bombed the hospital at 15 minute intervals for one and a half hours, killing 42 people including 13 staff, three of whom were doctors. This attack helped greenlight the war crime of bombing hospitals all around the world.

More recently, in 2019, migrant workers in Nangarhar were attacked when a drone fired missiles into their overnight camp. The owner of a pine nut forest had hired the laborers, including children, to harvest the pine nuts, and he notified officials ahead of time, hoping to avoid any confusion. 30 of the workers were killed while they were resting after an exhausting day of work. Over 40 people were badly wounded. 

U.S. repentance for a regime of attacks by weaponized drones, conducted in Afghanistan and worldwide, along with sorrow for the countless civilians killed, should lead to deep appreciation for Daniel Hale, a drone whistleblower who exposed the widespread and indiscriminate murder of civilians. 

Between January 2012 and February 2013, according to an article in The Intercept, these air strikes “killed more than 200 people. Of those, only thirty-five were the intended targets. During one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.” 
Under the Espionage Act, Hale faces ten years in prison at his July 27 sentencing.

We should be sorry for night raids that terrified civilians, assassinated innocent people, and were later acknowledged to have been based on faulty information.

We must reckon with how little attention our elected officials ever paid to the quadrennial “Special Inspector General on Afghan Reconstruction” reports which detailed many years’ worth of fraud, corruption, human rights
violations and failure to achieve stated goals related to counter-narcotics or confronting corrupt structures.


We should say we’re sorry, we’re so very sorry, for pretending to stay in Afghanistan for humanitarian reasons, when, honestly, we understood next to nothing about humanitarian concerns of women and children in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s civilian population has repeatedly demanded peace. 

When I think of the generations in Afghanistan who have suffered through war, occupation and the vagaries of warlords, including NATO troops, I wish we could hear the sorrow of the grandmother who now wonders how she might help feed, shelter and protect her family.

Her sorrow should lead to atonement on the part of countries that invaded her land. Every one of those countries could arrange visas and support for each Afghan person who now wants to flee. A reckoning with the massive wreckage this grandmother and her loved ones face should yield equally massive readiness to abolish all wars, forever. 

A version of this article first appeared in The Progressive Magazine

Photo Caption: Girls and mothers, waiting for donations of heavy blankets, Kabul, 2018

Photo Credit: Dr. Hakim

APV GROUP

From Cowley Road to Kabul – The Afghan Peace Volunteers

GROUP pic 1By Susan Clarkson

We, the Voices for Creative Nonviolence UK delegation, have now returned from Afghanistan.  We spent two weeks in Kabul as guests of the Afghan Peace Volunteers.

This is a remarkable and unique community of young men who first came together in Bamiyan under the guidance of a local doctor, Hakim.  Inspired by the nonviolent spirit of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the group first came together in 2008 to create a peace park in their locality.  Bamiyan is a mainly Hazara area of Afghanistan and the local people have suffered at the hands of the Taliban.  In March, 2001 the Taliban destroyed two ancient giant statues of the Buddah in Bamiyan.  For a more detailed background to the APV, visit their website, http://www.ourjourneytosmile.com

APV GROUP END PIC

The community relocated to Kabul and has worked closely with Voices for Creative Nonviolence over the past few years.  The dream of the community is to form a multi ethnic group, committed to nonviolence and work among the poor of their neighbourhood.

To say that the APV has a vision of being a multi ethnic community does not give the full picture of the task they have set themselves.  Ethnic divisions in Afghanistan go deep into a painful and violent history.  The community is mainly Hazara but there is a Pashtun and a Tajik among the group.  It is a privilege to be part of their sincere desire to heal old wounds and build a society for the future of Afghanistan, free from ethnic chains.  Their task is not an easy one and they don’t seem to be under the illusion that it is.  The community and the country has a long struggle ahead to build a peaceful Afghanistan.  Spending time with these young men gives one the feeling that it is possible and that a commitment to nonviolence holds the key.

APV TEA MAKING

On our arrival in Kabul after a long but uneventful journey, we were met by community members and taken to their home.  We shared their living space for two weeks and were given typical Afghan hospitality. The four of us and later two friends from the US, Kathy Kelly and Martha Hennessy, slept on cushions in the main living area where, during the day we had meals, English lessons, discussions and meetings.

Martha, Susan and Beth
Martha, Susan and Beth

Kathy is the founder and co-ordinator of Voices and Martha is part of the New York Catholic Worker community.  She is also the granddaughter of Dorothy Day who co-founded the Catholic Worker movement.

Through its connection with Voices the APV have played host to several delegations of international visitors over the past year or so.

Susan, Beth, Maya and Mary
Susan, Beth, Maya and Mary

Delegates share fully in the life of the community and during our stay we were present at many community meetings during which a wide range of subjects was discussed,

APV in group discussion
APV in group discussion

from practicalities of daily communal living to deep philosophical reflections on the nature of nonviolence and its implications in a country reeling and bowed down by thirty years of war and conflict.

The APV as a community are involved in the life of their neighbourhood.  The house has a constant stream of visitors, young and old and all receive a warm welcome.  Each morning there is an English class, attended by some of the APV and other local young people, both boys and girls.  Hakim conducts the class and often emphasises that the reason for learning a language is to communicate.  During the lessons, which some of us attended, there was often a sharing of ideas and feelings about the future of Afghanistan and the aspirations of the students.  Teaching PicIt was very moving to be present as these thoughtful young people expressed their hopes and fears and also posed searching questions to us about our role in the future of their country. In the afternooons the APV themselves, along with other volunteer teachers, hold classes for local children, teaching Dari and maths. The community is also home to a sewing project for women.

Group Woman Duvet

At present this project focuses on making duvets for poor local families as the bitter cold of winter approaches. Financial help from Voices means that women can earn money by sewing the duvets, either at home or on the APV premises.  The sharing out of the materials to be made up into the completed products is carried out by the young men of the community.

APV Loading Van The duvets are then distributed by the APV.  There is a video clip on the website showing the most recent distribution on 21 December.

    Other duvets were also given to a nearby refugee camp during our stay.

Duvet Van Pic

As we’ll as living community life and working on these projects, some of the community members attend school or university.  The overall atmosphere of the community is of generous hospitality, cheerful enthusiasm, hard work in difficult conditions and, above all, a belief that they are living out a model of the society they wish to see for a future Afghanistan.  This model has at its heart a true desire for people of all ethnicities to live together and to work together for a better life for the poorest and most vulnerable.  These young men really do think globally and act locally.

APV distributing duvets to Kuchi refugee camp
APV distributing duvets to Kuchi refugee camp