Sunday, October 12, 2008

Who Rules Afghanistan?

The Surge That Failed
Afghanistan under the Bombs
Anand Gopal,, October 9, 2008

A bit past midnight on a balmy night in late August, Hedayatullah awoke to a deafening blast. He stumbled out of bed and heard angry voices drawing closer. Suddenly, his bedroom doors banged open and dozens of silhouetted figures burst in, some shouting in a strange language.

The intruders blindfolded Hedayatullah and, screaming with fury, forced him to the ground. An Afghan voice told him not to move or speak, or he would be killed. He listened for sounds from the next room, where his brother Noorullah slept with his family. He could hear his nephew, eight months old, crying hysterically. Then came the sound of an automatic rifle, after which his nephew fell silent.

The rest of the family — 18 people in all, including aunts, uncles, and cousins — was herded outside into the darkness. The Afghan voice explained to Hedayatullah’s terrified mother, “We are the Afghan National Army, here to accompany the American military. The Americans have killed one of your sons and his two children. They also shot his wife and they’re taking her to the hospital.”

“Why?” Hedayatullah’s mother stammered.

“There is no why,” the soldier replied. When she heard this, she started screaming, slamming her fists into her chest in anguish. The Afghan soldiers left her and loaded Hedayatullah and his cousin into the back of a military van, after which they drove off with an American convoy into the black of night.

The next day, the Afghan forces released Hedayatullah and his cousin, calling the whole raid a mistake. However, Noorullah’s wife, months pregnant, never came home: She died on the way to the hospital.

Surging in Afghanistan

When, decades from now, historians compile the record of this Afghan war, they will date the Afghan version of the surge — the now trendy injection of large numbers of troops to resuscitate a flagging war effort — to sometime in early 2007. Then, a growing insurgency was causing visible problems for U.S. and NATO forces in certain pockets in the southern parts of the country, long a Taliban stronghold. In response, military planners dramatically beefed up the international presence, raising the number of troops over the following 18 months by 20,000, a 45% jump.

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