Friday, April 3, 2009

'Afghan women had it way better in the '80s'

Top Ten Ways the US 
is Turning Afghanistan into Iraq
Juan Cole, Informed Comment:
2. The US has actually only managed to install a fundamentalist government in Afghanistan... No one seems to have noted that the Shiite regime in Baghdad is more or less doing the same thing... Everyone keeps saying the US improved the status of women in both countries. Actually, in Iraq the US invasion set women back about 30 years. 

In Afghanistan, the socialist government of the 1980s, for all its brutality in other spheres, did implement policies substantially improving women's rights, including aiming at universal education, making a place for them in the professions... There were socialist Afghan women soldiers fighting the Muslim fundamentalist guerrillas that Reagan called 'freedom fighters' and to whom he gave billions to turn the country into a conservative theocracy. I can never get American audiences to concede that Afghan women had it way better in the 1980s, and that it has been downhill ever since, mainly because of US favoritism toward patriarchal and anti-progressive forces.

Juan Cole, in Salon: The president sounds like he's channeling Cheney or McCain -- or a cold war hawk afraid of international communism -- when he talks about the war in Afghanistan. His latter-day domino theory of al-Qaida takeovers in South Asia is just as implausible as its earlier iteration in Southeast Asia... Most of the allegations are not true or are vastly exaggerated. 

There are very few al-Qaida fighters based in Afghanistan proper. What is being called the 'Taliban' is mostly not Taliban at all (in the sense of seminary graduates loyal to Mullah Omar). The groups being branded 'Taliban' only have substantial influence in 8 to 10 percent of Afghanistan, and only 4 percent of Afghans say they support them. Some 58 percent of Afghans say that a return of the Taliban is the biggest threat to their country, but almost no one expects it to happen. Moreover, with regard to Pakistan, there is no danger of militants based in the remote Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) taking over that country or 'killing' it.

Informed Comment: Appearing on the scene as if by miracle in 1992, the Taliban's purported mission of clearing the countryside of warlords and drug dealers was received warmly by Washington's K Street lobbyists. Painted by Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) as an indigenous Afghan tribal force, the Taliban were actually a thinly disguised ISI strike force paid for by a consortium of business interests.

The CIA's former chief of the Near-East South-Asia Division in the Directorate of Operations, Charles Cogan today refers to them as 'a wholly owned subsidiary of the ISI.' But former ISI Director General Hamid Gul claims his ISI also received help from Britain's former High Commissioner to Pakistan, Sir Nicholas Barrington, who 'inducted both former royalists and erstwhile communists into the Taliban movement.' For 8 years, the Clinton administration bought the idea of a 'moderate' Taliban. But the very idea was a chimera, played skillfully by the ISI in a double game that saw Washington unwittingly support ISI's interests while undermining its own.
Image source here.