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The withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in 1989, following ten very frustrating years fighting the CIA-backed mujahideen, led directly, according to many, to the breakup of the USSR.
The results in Afghanistan were no less destabilizing. While the Afghans may have been liberated from Soviet occupation, instead they suffered fourteen years of civil war. There is not much to celebrate today, with half the capital, Kabul, in ruins, protected by US and European occupying forces, and warlords with private armies controlling most of the rest of the country. Twenty four years of war have taken a heavy toll on Afghanistan, a country with no telephone system, few paved roads, an illiterate population, an estimated 5-7 million unaccounted-for land mines, and various other problems that rival those of any other place on Earth.
Every day I walk through the streets, going wherever I am going, passing by dozens of beggars, some of whom will follow me for blocks, grabbing onto my arm they'll follow me all across the city until I give them a one Afghan note -- worth two cents -- that's all they want. They seem happy with it and run away as if afraid I'm going to change my mind and take it back.
I also pass children looking for treasure in the piles of garbage and open sewers where trash is thrown. There are no trash collection or sewage services anywhere in the city.
Such is the price of freedom, from communist oppression, from islamic fundamentalism. The country has been repeatedly destroyed, its development prevented, and still no one helps the poor Afghan people.
Today I learned that the law professors at the University of Kabul, who are helping me with my research project, earn between $25 to $30 per month. They are not happy about it and realize it's a low salary.But they are among the few Afghan government employees who are actually being paid.
The police and military, who earn about $40 per month, have not been paid in at least five months, the law professors say. This doesn't bode well for a nation dominated by opium-financed private armies, with an ineffective and distrusted central government. By comparison, many of the UN and World Bank funded NGO's -- who comprise the de facto government of Afghanistan -- pay their workers between $3000 and $5000 monthly, easily one hundred times the salary of a law professor, government bureaucrat, or police or military officer. I say they are the de facto government because the combined NGO budget is about ten times that of the Afghan government, and foreign NGO's have, under the authority of the Bonn Agreement which established the current government here, set up commissions for human rights, judicial, civil service, and constitutional reform. These high priced consultants, who have no interaction with the common people of Afghanistan, are deeply resented by the common people here, who think they are stealing the international aid money meant for the desperately poor Afghan people. One professor told me today that the world does not consider Afghan people to be human beings.
None of this will be written into the history of Afghanistan. The man with the turban pulling a cart ten times his own size doesn't count for much; neither does the widow sitting in the street with her malnourished babies on display. These people just live here. Their children and grandchildren will doubtless give their lives, as have so many before, to fight foreign wars in Afghanistan. One Afghan legal scholar asked me what the American people thought about Afghanistan. I said the first thing that came to mind -- Osama bin Laden. He got a good laugh out of it.
Copyright P Wolf 2003. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .