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Afghanistan: Militarisation instead of democratisation

Sharp criticism for Obama's Afghanistan policy

Bolzano/Bozen, Göttingen, January 19, 2009

Street scenes in Afghanistan. Photo: Michael Pohly. Street scenes in Afghanistan. Photo: Michael Pohly.

The Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) described on Monday the Afghanistan policy of the designated US President, Barack Obama, as "short-sighted and dangerous". "It is clear that Obama sets store more on the militarisation than on the democratisation of Afghanistan", criticised the GfbV Asia consultant, Ulrich Delius, in Göttingen. Sending some 30,000 new soldiers to Afghanistan without a clear strategy will cause more problems than bring peace and stability. Likewise the plan of arming tribal militia is irresponsible since this will mean stirring up new infringements of human rights. Instead of at last showing the war-lords their limits new war-lords will be created. Giving arms in Afghanistan to non-government actors shows that no lessons have been learned from the painful recent history of the country. It is then just a question of time before the militia turn their arms against their own people.

While in many trouble-spots of the world the hope of peace is growing with Obama's entry to office many Afghans are watching the new US policies with concern. "For Afghanistan needs more seed, roads, hospitals, factories and of course rule of law, but not more foreign soldiers", said Delius. In view of the rising number of civilian dead international troops are often felt to be an occupying force. The reinforcements of US troops will increase this dramatic loss of trust, since the number of civilian dead will not then drop. Afghanistan will only be safer in the long run when the structure of government and an effective police-force and army have been improved.

"The planned arming of tribal militia contradicts all the experience of two decades of civil war in Afghanistan." The war-lord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who was armed in the 80s by the USA, has been responsible for the deaths of more than half of the 560 US soldiers killed in Afghanistan since October 2001. Likewise the war on drugs decreed by the USA will remain without effect if the power of the war-lords is not forcefully cut back. But hitherto the USA and the Afghan government have been supporting the war-lords in various parts of the country to further short-term interests.

It is regrettable that Obama has not so far announced any concrete initiatives for increasing measures for reconstruction. It is true that the USA spends 36 thousand million US dollars for the war on the Hindukush. However only a total of 10.4 thousand million US dollars has been promised for reconstruction since the year 2002 and indeed only five thousand million actually paid out. A large percentage of the funds flows back automatically to the USA because the aid is tied to the purchase of US products or for the payment of US experts. So 47 percent of the US development aid is "technical aid", which is accounted for by sending US experts. 70 percent of the remaining funds for development aid is tied to the purchase of US products.