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IUK: Fisk - Just who are our allies in Afghanistan?
By Robert Fisk
4/10/2001 4:19 am Thu
Robert Fisk: Just who are our allies in Afghanistan?
'The Alliance have not murdered 7,000 innocent civilians in the US.
They have done their massacres on their home turf'
03 October 2001
"America's New War," is what they call it on CNN. And of course,
as usual, they've got it wrong. Because in our desire to "bring to
justice" - let's remember those words in the coming days - the
vicious men who planned the crimes against humanity in New York
and Washington last month, we're hiring some well-known rapists
and murderers to work for us.
Yes, it's an old war, a dreary routine that we've seen employed
around the world for the past three decades. In Vietnam, the
Americans wanted to avoid further casualties; so they re-armed
and re-trained the South Vietnamese army to be their
foot-soldiers. In southern Lebanon, the Israelis used their
Lebanese militia thugs to combat the Palestinians and the
Hizbollah. The Phalange and the so-called "South Lebanon Army"
were supposed to be Israel's foot-soldiers. They failed, but that is
in the nature of wars-by-proxy. In Kosovo, we kept our
well-armed Nato troops safely out of harm's way while the KLA
acted as our foot-soldiers.
And now, without a blush or a swallow of embarrassment, we're
about to sign up the so-called "Northern Alliance" in Afghanistan.
America's newspapers are saying - without a hint of irony - that
they, too, will be our "foot-soldiers" in our war to hunt down/bring
to justice/smoke out/eradicate/liquidate Osama bin Laden and the
Taliban. US officials - who know full well the whole bloody,
rapacious track record of the killers in the "Alliance" - are
suggesting in good faith that these are the men who will help us
bring democracy to Afghanistan and drive the Taliban and the
terrorists out of the country. In fact, we're ready to hire one gang of
terrorists - our terrorists - to rid ourselves of another gang of
terrorists. What, I wonder, would the dead of New York and
Washington think of this?
But first, let's keep the record straight. The atrocities of 11
September were a crime against humanity. The evil men who
planned this mass-murder should (repeat: should) be brought to
justice. And if that means the end of the Taliban - with their
limb-chopping and execution of women and their repressive,
obscurantist Saudi-style "justice" - fair enough. The Northern
Alliance, the confederacy of warlords, patriots, rapists and
torturers who control a northern sliver of Afghanistan, have very
definitely not (repeat: not) massacred more than 7,000 innocent
civilians in the United States. No, the murderers among them have
done their massacres on home turf, in Afghanistan. Just like the
Even as the World Trade Centre collapsed in blood and dust, the
world mourned the assassination of Ahmed Shah Masood, the
courageous and patriotic Lion of Panjshir whose leadership of the
Northern Alliance remained the one obstacle to overall Taliban
power. Perhaps he was murdered in advance of the slaughter in
America, to emasculate America's potential allies in advance of US
retaliation. Either way, his proconsulship allowed us to forget the
gangs he led.
It permitted us, for example, to ignore Abdul Rashid Dustum, one of
the most powerful Alliance gangsters, whose men looted and raped
their way through the suburbs of Kabul in the Nineties. They chose
girls for forced marriages, murdered their families, all under the
eyes of Masood. Dustum had a habit of changing sides, joining the
Taliban for bribes and indulging in massacres alongside the
Wahhabi gangsters who formed the government of Afghanistan,
then returning to the Alliance weeks later.
Then there's Rasoul Sayaf, a Pashtun who originally ran the
"Islamic Union for the Freedom of Afghanistan", but whose gunmen
tortured Shia families and used their women as sex slaves in a
series of human rights abuses between 1992 and 1996. Sure, he's
just one of 15 leaders in the Alliance, but the terrified people of
Kabul are chilled to the bone at the thought that these criminals are
to be among America's new foot-soldiers.
Urged on by the Americans, the Alliance boys have been meeting
with the elderly and sick ex-King Mohamed Zahir Shah, whose
claim to have no interest in the monarchy is almost certainly
honourable - but whose ambitious grandson may have other plans
for Afghanistan. A "loya jerga", we are told, will bring together alll
tribal groups to elect a transitional government after the formation
of a "Supreme Council for the National Unity of Afghanistan". And
the old king will be freighted in as a symbol of national unity, a
reminder of the good old days before democracy collapsed and
communism destroyed the country. And we'll have to forget that
King Zahir Shah - though personally likeable, and a saint
compared to the Taliban - was no great democrat.
What Afghanistan needs is an international force - not a bunch of
ethnic gangs steeped in blood - to re-establish some kind of
order. It doesn't have to be a UN force, but it could have Western
troops and should be supported by surrounding Muslim nations -
though, please God, not the Saudis - and able to restore roads,
food supplies and telecommunications. There are still
well-educated academics and civil servants in Afghanistan who
could help to re-establish the infrastructure of government. In this
context, the old king might just be a temporary symbol of unity
before a genuinely inter-ethnic government could be created.
But that's not what we're planning. More than 7,000 innocents
have been murdered in the USA, and the two million Afghans who
have been killed since 1980 don't amount to a hill of beans beside
that. Whether or not we send in humanitarian aid, we're pouring
more weapons into this starving land, to arm a bunch of gangsters
in the hope they'll destroy the Taliban and let us grab bin Laden
I have a dark premonition about all this. The "Northern Alliance"
will work for us. They'll die for us. And, while they're doing that,
we'll try to split the Taliban and cut a deal with their less
murderous cronies, offering them a seat in a future government
alongside their Alliance enemies. The other Taliban - the guys
who won't take the Queen's shilling or Mr Bush's dollar - will
snipe at our men from the mountainside and shoot at our jets and
threaten more attacks on the West, with or without bin Laden.
And at some point - always supposing we've installed a puppet
government to our liking in Kabul - the Alliance will fall apart and
turn against its ethnic enemies or, if we should still be around,
against us. Because the Alliance knows that we're not giving them
money and guns because we love Afghanistan, or because we
want to bring peace to the land, or because we are particularly
interested in establishing democracy in south-west Asia. The West
is demonstrating its largesse because it wants to destroy America's
Just remember what happened in 1980 when we backed the
brave, ruthless, cruel mujahedin against the Soviet Union. We
gave them money and weapons and promised them political
support once the Russians left. There was much talk, I recall, of
"loya jergas", and even a proposal that the then less elderly king
might be trucked back to Afghanistan. And now this is exactly what
we are offering once again. And, dare I ask, how many bin Ladens are serving now among our
new and willing foot-soldiers?
And, dare I ask, how many bin Ladens are serving now among our new and willing foot-soldiers?
America's "new war", indeed.