The other side of International presence in Afghanistan to learn lessons

Divided AfghanistanAfghanistan people had no clue as to what would happen to the “run off” election (They of course did not know they wanted one), after the Taliban attack on a UN Guest House in Kabul. Not because Taliban vowed to stop the run off elections, but because the UN declared a “white” city for all their international staff and was locked in discussions as to what the next step should be with more possible attacks on UN staff.

Dollar Note SackThe UN staff of the project “Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow” (ELECT) who runs the elections in Afghanistan could not narrow the margin enough between Karzai and Abdulla Abdulla to go for a direct decision to have a run off. Nevertheless the international community through many of its faces claimed there was too much corruption to accept the results. Yet, even before the recount was over, the next lot of ballot papers for a run off election had reached Kabul, according to inside Kabul information. It was obvious the international community led by the Obama administration was determined to have a change in the Afghan rule in favour of Abdulla and was making every effort to push through another election on the Afghan people.

While the international actors were trying to work out their options for the Afghan people, Taliban this time was targeting the UN staff. There is over 6,500 UN staff deployed all over Afghanistan, with over 1,200 of them being foreign nationals, including those with UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA). The Talibans were clear in their mission. Even if the international players decide to have a run off, stopping the UN ELECT staff from conducting it, decides the outcome. They in fact did it this time. Around 600 UN staff was immediately sent out of Afghanistan. The main contender Abdullah Abdullah withdrew from running. The Obama administration is still debating whether to send 40,000 extra troops to Afghanistan or not. They now have 68,000 US troops already there.

UN SG Moon wants another US $ 75 million to enhance security for his staff in Afghanistan. Every threat by Taliban guerrillas increases the amount of money that flows into Afghanistan. Its not only military spending that goes up. It is also other non military agencies that supplement military activity that increases spending with Taliban attacks. It is estimated that over US $ 300 million was spent on the elections alone, by UNAMA and that does not include any of the allocations for ELECT and other UN agencies like WHO that handle food security issues. It is not only the UN that spends money on Afghanistan. The US-AID too had spent huge sums there, to indirectly sustain the US presence.

All this money has created hugely corrupt organisational structures in Afghanistan including UN agencies and their projects. That corruption is not something that goes unnoticed or unknown. Any UN official, foreign or local, for instance knows that 100 donkeys are paid US $ 50 per head, when only 20 donkeys are deployed to carry food stuff and other civilian material to non motorable regions in the vast rural Afghanistan. Perhaps the actual per donkey fee could even be less than US $ 50 some times.

A fair section of the Afghan society lives out of such “ignored” corruption in UN systems both within the system and in collaboration with the system, according to information rolling out of Afghanistan itself. Numerous programmes carried out by UN and other NGO supported projects, allow sums to be fizzled out continuously much in excess of the actuals. There is an unquestioned, silent acceptance that such monetary “gifts” need to be allowed to enter the Afghan society through different contacts, who demand compensation for providing access to especially closed, remote rural life.

It’s a bizarre world of greasing the communities with money, where armed Taliban fighters also control these community lives. In a society, where very little productive economic life could take place, this money from different donor agencies have come to stay as a regular income generation. It stays and grows, where systems are not accountable to any social representation. Where governing is not one that people could think about or the ever escalating war against Taliban insurgency allows to be established.

Thus war with big money in Afghan life, is a war that corrupts this society inside out and would not have any space for any real elections either, though UN agencies corrupt as they are, and international super powers, would want the world to believe.

(From a collage of Afghan related info)

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