‘Afghanistan was never an international terrorist hub’
“The ISAF mission in Afghanistan was to prevent Afghanistan being a safe haven for terrorist organizations. And that goal we have achieved,” Jens Stoltenberg said in a speech at the German Marshall Fund on October, 28.
RT:The Secretary General says NATO has succeeded in preventing Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist hub, has it really?
Moeen Raoff: No, Afghanistan was never an international terrorist hub. If we cast our minds back to 9/11, the Taliban government that was in power then asked the US to provide evidence of involvement by the Bin Laden group. Let’s remember that the Al-Qaeda name is made up by the Americans, it was coined by the Americans and not by Arabs in Afghanistan. The Taliban government then asked the US government to provide evidence of the planning taking place in Afghan territory, and the US government failed to do so. We were also told that 15 of 19 hijackers were Arabs, Saudi Arabians. So why didn’t the Americans tackle Saudi Arabia, not Afghanistan? Afghanistan has nothing to do with terrorism at all. So the Secretary-General of NATO is wrong to say that, in fact illegal intervention and occupation of Afghanistan increased terrorism there.
Frank Ledwidge on corruption in Afghanistan: “Mr. Stoltenberg didn’t mention that this country [Afghanistan] is still the single most corrupt nation of the world, this after 13 years and just some trillions of dollars of investment from the West.”
RT:Afghanistan is in a period of increased political instability following the presidential election. Is it a good time for NATO to wrap up its operation?
MR: No because there are two reasons. Let’s look at Iraq. They said the same thing shortly before leaving Iraq, the years leading to their exit from Iraq. They said they trained the Iraqi army to take over security once NATO and its allied partners left the country. The same thing here - the ANA (The Afghan National Army) has been provided with substandard equipment, the only thing new they got was the uniforms and boots, which were Chinese-made and not as expensive as European or American-manufactured kit. Otherwise the armament, the vehicles, weapons and everything is all second-hand equipment that they brought in for the occupation anyway. This is what they are claiming to be efficient for the ANA to provide security for Afghanistan, which is not true. We know in a few months the warlords will claim their territories, the northern part of the country will then starting having problems with the southern part. The southern part of the country, the Pashtun, and the northerners don’t get on traditionally. This is rhetoric for the domestic audience in Europe and the US and not for the Afghans.
RT:The Secretary General spoke about the new program to train and assist the Afghan forces starting next year. Just how deeply involved in Afghanistan's affairs does NATO want to be?
MR: They say they are there to train, support and provide advice but we know there are going to be active troops. Remember, in 2003 they started building bases in Erbil, in northern Kurdistan in Iraq. And the same things happened here: the allies, the Northern Alliance, built bases that are permanent and they have no intention of leaving and never had. They are going to be taking part actively in military operations but they are going to say that there are advisers and say that the Afghans led the operations, and they were there merely as observers, but we know it’s not true. They intend to carry out operations throughout the period they are there.
RT:The NATO chief mentioned the 350,000 Afghan troops and police the alliance has prepared. Will they be able to maintain a good level of security and cope with increased terrorist actions?
MR: The whole reason for increased terrorist actions is because of this occupation. That’s not to say there won’t be any terrorism after NATO leaves but the whole point is that no citizen of any country in the world accepts to be occupied by any nation in the world. The US and NATO presence is the trigger for terrorist acts in Afghanistan. They have to leave and let the Afghans develop their own security mechanisms.
RT:Afghanistan's economy has been holding together mainly due to foreign aid and investment. What will happen once it is limited or even stopped?
Frank Ledwidge on drug problem in Afghanistan: “It’s probably well over 90 percent of the world’s heroin, opium growing in Afghanistan, with 50 percent or so growing in one province where the British and the Americans focus their military effort. Let’s not forget that Afghanistan has only two sorts of income – the foreign aid and opium – both of which have completely dominated the Afghan economy over the last 13 years. This is an extremely unstable structural situation.”
MR: Afghanistan has always been a poor country, but they have survived well with the meager resources they have. Let’s remember that the Americans, the British and the French - all NATO - claimed they were pumping billions of dollars, pounds and euro into Afghanistan. But as a matter of fact the majority of the money went to corporations in the US, the UK, France and other NATO allies. Most of the money, about 80 percent of the funds that they said was pledged for rebuilding of Afghanistan never actually got to Afghanistan. Little money did get to Afghanistan, we know the level of corruption in the government among some ministers and Afghan personnel, but the majority of the corruption was by corporations by American, British, French and other NATO allies’ commercial companies that benefited from the occupation. So it’s not true to say that the corruption was Afghan-led, it actually was mainly American, British and French-led. The economy is going to deteriorate anyway, once the majority of NATO troops leave, and the Afghans will revert to being poor as they were before the invasion.
RT:Afghanistan's massive opium farming has only grown during the years of NATO's presence. Why hasn’t eradication efforts succeeded?
MR: Good question. If we cast our minds back to the Taliban government, I know that for a fact because I saw a batch of papers that was signed by Mullah Omar or a copy of it, where he wrote on a rough piece of paper that he banned the growing of poppies in Afghanistan, and it was eradicated nearly 100 percent. This was in the mid to late 1990s. But as soon as the illegal occupation by NATO nations took place in post-2001, poppy growing started again and this was largely due to agreements with warlords that they can grow poppies if they don’t attack allied NATO forces. This was an agreement between NATO and the warlords, and the poppy grows in Helmand and Western Afghanistan. So it was more to secure the lives of NATO troops rather than eradicating poppies.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.