STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT-Economic warfare is the name of America’s new revenge mission against the people of Afghanistan and it could prove to be far more deadly than its 20-year military occupation which ended in a humiliating defeat and retreat as the last US soldiers scrambled to get out of Kabul last year. US sanctions mean that around one million Afghan children under the age of five are at serious risk of dying from malnutrition. The elderly and infirm are also at serious risk because of these unprecedented sanctions imposed by Washington on Afghanistan and its people.
Not only are the sanctions potentially lethal to so many Afghans, but they are also as equally unjustified as America’s invasion of their country in 2001, in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks in New York and Washington as few weeks earlier. The American people and politicians remain psychologically damaged by events on 9/11, and are still lashing out in retaliation. As is often the case, innocent people are suffering as a result.
Wreaking revenge on the Afghan people is not the answer. There were no Taliban or other Afghans among the 9/11 hijackers, the majority of whom came from Saudi Arabia. Much of the planning was carried out in Hamburg, Germany where the “chief pilot”, Mohammad Atta, lived for more than five years. Indeed, three of the four suicide pilots had previously lived and studied in Hamburg for years and regarded Atta as the leader of their terror cell. Some might argue that it would be just as logical — or illogical — for the US to sue the northern German city where the plans for 9/11 were developed.
According to a US government report, America’s own security services, airport security, intelligence, border controls and visa departments may all have played a role in a catastrophic intelligence failure. They need to take a long, hard look in the American mirror before seeking scapegoats elsewhere.
The ultimate mastermind was Al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden, and his family are not short of a few dollars. In the cock-eyed world of US politics and law it’s a wonder that no one has started legal proceedings to sue his mother for giving birth to him, or the doctor who delivered him. One often under-looked aspect of 9/11 is that the only aircraft flying in US airspace in the days after 9/11 were busy getting members of the Bin Laden family out of America. It was all very murky.
What is clear, though, is that the heinous terrorism of that day in 2001 was certainly not carried out in the name of the Afghan people or the Taliban regime in place then as now. Yet, tragically, millions of Afghans have paid the price for the terror attacks in which 2,996 people were killed.
The subsequent war and twenty-year occupation of Afghanistan have had a devastating impact on the people, who never really recovered from the ten-year Soviet Occupation of 1979-1989 or the civil war which followed. Five decades of famine, war and occupation have broken the country, but just when the Afghan people thought that matters couldn’t get worse, they did.
In February, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order which froze $7 billion in assets held by the Afghan Central Bank in US financial institutions. On top of that, he seized $3.5bn which he said would be used for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and, bizarrely, for the families of the 9/11 victims. “This executive order is designed to provide a path for the funds to reach the people of Afghanistan while keeping them out of the hands of the Taliban and malicious actors,” said the White House. Really?
I am in Afghanistan as I write, and I can tell you that Biden’s executive order is proving more deadly than the trillions of dollars spent by three previous US presidents in their war against the Taliban. I have seen with my own eyes the poverty and deprivation in Logar and Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan, two of the most bombed provinces in the country.
Later this week I will be travelling to other remote, rural areas where the hardship being endured at the hands of US sanctions borders on the criminal. The US has plenty to say about Russian atrocities being committed in the war in Ukraine — and I’m not disputing that — but Biden’s sanctions on Afghanistan are also having a deadly impact on millions of innocents.
US bombs and missiles are no longer dropping on Afghanistan, but what Biden has done with his executive order is consigning a huge number of innocent Afghans to a cruel, slow death by starvation. If that isn’t a war crime, I don’t know what is.
If I sound emotional, it is because I am. I defy anyone not to be left feeling angry and helpless after witnessing this death sentence unfold before a watching world. There is no room for journalistic impartiality when it comes to injustice on this scale, and this second wave of US revenge overwhelming the Afghan people right now is repugnant. As is often said, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. In this case, the Western media must take up the responsibility and shine a light on the unfolding humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan.
Reporting accurately on what is happening on the ground does not mean offering support for the Taliban. It is the duty of every journalist to report that the economic sanctions led by America are threatening the lives of one million children. That’s the reality, not an opinion.
I’ve often said that the pen is mightier than the sword, but the black rollerball pen in Joe Biden’s hand is proving to be more deadly than the thermobaric bomb, a 21,600-pound behemoth, known as the “mother of all bombs”, that the US Air Force has used in Afghanistan. Next week marks the fifth anniversary of one such bomb being dropped in the Achin district of Nangarhar province. With no apparent awareness of the irony of his words, Biden accused the Russians of war crimes when they used the same type of bomb in Ukraine last month.
Like them or loathe them, the ruling Taliban are not to blame for the financial hardship, suffering, and life-threatening circumstances in Afghanistan: the blame lies squarely in the Oval Office, where Biden signed the order for these crippling sanctions. As I’ve pointed out previously, the regime in Kabul could not have swept into power with the ease it did last August, unless it had a groundswell of support from ordinary Afghans across the country. So it matters not what we think about the Taliban; we need to accept that the movement was the preferred choice of the majority of Afghans who were fed up with a US occupation and US-installed puppet government that was, without doubt, one of the most corrupt in the world.
News has just reached me in Kabul that the UN General Assembly has called for Russia to be suspended from the Human Rights Council. The resolution received a two-thirds majority of those voting in the 193-member Assembly: 93 nations voted in favour, and 24 against.
Those which abstained included Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia. Instead of sitting on the fence, why don’t these Muslim countries come to the aid of their brothers and sisters in Afghanistan during this blessed month of Ramadan and threaten the US with a similar UN resolution unless Washington stops its murderous economic warfare against one million Afghan children? That’s the least that the Saudis, in particular, could do, given that the Afghans have been the fall guys for the terrorism committed by Saudi citizens.S