Obama and Romney’s conspiracy of silence over lost Afghanistan war 17 August 2012 Dexter Filkins Afghanistan and Pakistan After eleven years, more than four-hundred billion dollars spent and two thousand Americans dead, this is what the US has built: a deeply dysfunctional, predatory Afghan state.

Obama and Romney’s conspiracy of silence over lost Afghanistan war

After eleven years, more than four-hundred billion dollars spent and two thousand Americans dead, this is what the US has built: a deeply dysfunctional, predatory Afghan state.

2012 likely to be the worst year for US casualties in Afghanistan.

HOW’S THIS for a conspiracy of silence? With less than three months to go until Election Day, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have successfully avoided saying almost anything about America’s war in Afghanistan. Remember that war? You will at some point, however little the two candidates talk about it.

You can make your own guesses about why the candidates have said so little about Afghanistan—their positions are virtually identical, the economy is more important, etc. My own guess: neither of them knows what to do about the place. In a mere twenty-eight months, the United States is scheduled to stop fighting, and every day brings new evidence that the Afghan state that is supposed to take over is a failing, decrepit enterprise.

The latest bit of evidence: in the past several days, three of the most powerful people around President Hamid Karzai have come under fire, and now either are gone from their jobs, have promised to leave, or are hunkered down while clinging to what’s left of their legitimacy.

Earlier this month, the Afghan parliament voted to impeach the two Afghan officials responsible for overseeing the war: Abdul Rahim Wardak, the minister of defense, and Bismullah Khan Mohammadi, the minister of the interior, on allegations of corruption, favoritism, and incompetence. (The charges are as yet unproven, and both men have denied them.) In the case of B.K., as Mohammadi is known, there were also concerns that he was stacking the Afghan police forces with men more loyal to the largely ethnic Tajik militia that he used to help lead, Jamiat-e Islami, than to the Afghan state—heightening fears that an American withdrawal could precipitate a civil war. (I wrote about those dangers in a piece for The New Yorker last month.)

But the most interesting case concerns Omar Zakhilwal, the Afghan finance minister. Reporters for Tolo, the country’s largest private media network, obtained bank statements for at least two of Zakhilwal’s accounts, dating back several years. Those accounts show deposits totaling nearly a million dollarsmost of which were made while Zakhilwal was a public servant. Many of the deposits—like the hundred thousand dollars he deposited on July 16, 2009—were made in cash. At the time of that deposit, Zakhilwal was Karzai’s minister of finance as well as the finance chairman for his reëlection campaign.

In some cases, Zakhilwal’s bank statements show the source of the money. In August of 2009, for instance, a two-hundred-thousand-dollar deposit was made by the Safi Landmark Hotel, which is owned by an Afghan family that also owns an airline and other businesses that deal with the government. One of the bank statements obtained by Tolo shows that between 2007 and 2009, Zakhilwal transferred nearly four hundred thousand dollars from his accounts in Afghanistan to another one of his accounts in Canada.

Where did all the money for Zakhilwal come from? And what was it for?

Najeeb Manali, an aide to Zakhilwal, told me that his boss would not talk about the case until the Afghan attorney general completed an investigation, which he—Zakhilwal—had asked for. In a recent letter to the Times, Zakhilwal acknowledged that the bank statements published by Tolo were his. He claimed that the Tolo reports were “inaccurate and misleading” and part of a “larger smear campaign against me,” but didn’t elaborate. “I have been a minister only for the last three and a half years, but I have held various professional positions for more than 15 years, including well-compensated senior advisory and consulting positions,” he wrote to the paper. “My assets are mostly from those jobs.”

But Zakhilwal’s letter raises more questions than it answers. According to his official biography, Zakhilwal has been employed by the government since at least 2005. He served as economics advisor to Karzai, acting minister for transport and aviation, and president of the Afghan Investment Support Agency, which licenses foreign firms that want to do business in the country. In March, 2009, he became minister of finance. Even before 2005, Zakhilwal worked for the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and was a board member of the Afghan Central Bank.

In other words, over at least the past seven years, Zakhilwal held a number of government jobs that would have given him broad influence over Afghan business and economic activity. And over that same period, hundreds of thousands of dollars were deposited into his account.

Zakhilwal does appear to have done consulting gigs during that same period—which in itself is curious. Did he really earn a million dollars working for the United Nations or other such agencies while also working for the Afghan government? And did they pay him in cash?

The pressure appears to be getting to him. According to the Guardian, Zakhilwal wept during a recent meeting with Western ambassadors and said he had been “naïve” in his handling of some two million dollars in contributions to Karzai’s 2009 reëlection campaign while finance chairman. At the meeting, Zakhilwal maintained that he had done nothing wrong, the Guardian said.

This isn’t the first time that Zakhilwal’s financial dealings have raised questions. In January, 2011, Zakhilwal told me that he received a briefcase containing two hundred thousand dollars from representatives of Kabul Bank, to be used for Karzai’s reëlection. (Kabul Bank is the ill-starred financial institution that flourished on the strength of its political connections until it collapsed after running up hundreds of millions dollars in losses.) He told me then that he kept no record of the briefcase-with-cash and didn’t know what happened to it. This sort of shoddiness was endemic to Karzai’s reëlection campaign: election monitors invalidated nearly a million ballots cast on his behalf.

Why does all this matter to American voters? Look at this way: after eleven years, more than four-hundred billion dollars spent and two thousand Americans dead, this is what we’ve built: a deeply dysfunctional, predatory Afghan state that seems incapable of standing on its own—even when we’re there. What happens when we’re not? You can bet that, whoever the President is, he’ll be talking about it then.



About ottwf

The capitalistic and imperialistic system and its systematic aims: profit and power over others, still dominates our world and not the aims of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as 1948 agreed! After the world-economic-crisis after 1929 and the following World-War the world hat decided with agreeing the Universal Declaration of Human rights, to create a new world order; conflicts should be solved with peaceful means, not nations and their power, but the dignity of human beings around the world should be the aim of the policies and the economy, of every state and the community of states. But soon after the end of the war, when the victims and destruction were forgotten, all continued as before, with all risks, we had seen before. The split in rich an poor is getting bigger and bigger. We also overuse our global environment already, even if the big majority of mankind still lives in poverty! We are not victims, this world is men-made and be changed from men and women! It will be possible, if those, who do not want or serve (because of system-pressure) profits first, but want for themselves and everybody a life in human dignity unite and develop in a global base-democratic movement a common vision for our world, and learn, how to make this vision real. We need for it a big empowerment of many, many common men and women and their activities. Our chances are because of new communication technologies, of common languages, of the level of education and the mixture of people from different backgrounds better then ever. The occupy-movement is a good start for such a global movement. We support it and try to contribute to its success! We choose news and make comments and so try to unite people for an Occupy-Think-Tank: Its tasks: creating a news-network, self-education, working on global-reform programs and learning to organize projects for those, who are suffering. Join us, so that we can build teams for these aims for all subjects and countries as a base for the unification. We have Wan(n)Fried(en) in our name, because it means When peace and it is a modification of the name of the town our base is, in Wanfried, a small town in the middle of Germany, where we can use a former factory for our activities. Our telefon: 0049-5655-924981, mobil: 0171-9132149, email: occupy-think-tank@gmx.de
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