Gulbuddin, brutally beaten, sodomised by Afghan officer

#1
Patrick Cockburn: The general is right. Liam Fox is wrong

The Taliban are able to present themselves as battling for Afghan independence

Friday, 13 November 2009


Just when President Barack Obama looked as if he might be railroaded into sending tens of thousands more US troops to Afghanistan, the American envoy to Kabul has warned him not to do so.

In a leaked cable to Washington sent last week, the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl W Eikenberry, argued that it would be a mistake to send reinforcements until the government of Hamid Karzai demonstrates that it will act against corruption and mismanagement. Mr Eikenberry knows what he is talking about because he has long experience of Afghanistan. A recently retired three-star general, he was responsible for training the Afghan security forces from 2002 to 2003 and was top US commander in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007.

There is a dangerous misunderstanding outside Afghanistan about what "corruption and mismanagement" mean in an Afghan context and a potentially lethal underestimation of how these impact on American and British forces.

The shadow Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, argued in The Independent on Sunday a few days ago that though "corruption and establishing good governance" are not unimportant, "we need to recognise that Afghan governance is likely to look very different from governance as we know it in the West". Leaving aside the patronising tone of the statement, this shows that Mr Fox fundamentally misunderstands what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan. Corruption and mismanagement do not just mean that the police are on the take or that no contract is awarded without a bribe. It is much worse than that. For instance, one reason Afghan villagers prefer to deal with the Taliban rather than the government security forces is that the latter have a habit of seizing their sons at checkpoints and sodomising them.

None of our business is what Mr Fox, who may be British Defence Secretary by this time next year, would presumably say. We are not in Afghanistan for the good government of Afghans: "Our troops are not fighting and dying in Afghanistan for Karzai's Government, nor should they ever be." But the fact that male rape is common practice in the Afghan armed forces has, unfortunately, a great deal to do with the fate of British soldiers.

There was a horrified reaction across Britain last week when a 25-year-old policeman called Gulbuddin working in a police station in the Nad Ali district of Helmand killed five British soldiers when he opened fire with a machine gun on them. But the reason he did so, according to Christina Lamb in The Sunday Times, citing two Afghans who knew Gulbuddin, was that he had been brutally beaten, sodomised and sexually molested by a senior Afghan officer whom he regarded as being protected by the British.

The slaughter at Nad Ali is a microcosm of what is happening across Afghanistan. It is why Mr Fox is wrong and Mr Eikenberry is right about the dangers of committing more American or British troops regardless of the way Afghanistan is ruled. Nor are the events which led to the deaths of the young British soldiers out of the ordinary. Western military officials eager to show success in training the Afghan army and police have reportedly suppressed for years accounts from Canadian troops that the newly trained security forces are raping young boys.

Mr Fox's approach only makes sense if we assume that it does not matter what ordinary Afghans think. This is what the Americans and, to a lesser degree the British, thought in Iraq in 2003. They soon learned different. I remember visiting the town of al-Majar al-Kabir in June 2003, soon after six British military policemen had been shot dead in the local police station. The British Army had unwisely sent patrols with dogs through one of the most heavily armed towns in the country, famous for its resistance to Saddam Hussein, as if the British were an all-conquering occupation army.

The Americans and British eventually learned the unnecessarily costly lesson in Iraq that what Iraqis thought and did would wholly determine if foreign forces were going to be shot at or not. Mr Fox claims the US and Britain will not be in Afghanistan in defence of the Afghan government, but if we are not doing that, then we become an occupation force. A growing belief that this is already the case is enabling Taliban fighters, who used to be unpopular even among the Pashtun, to present themselves as battling for Afghan independence.

Mr Eikenberry expresses frustration over the lack of US money being allocated for spending on development and reconstruction after Afghan-istan's infrastructure has been wrecked by 30 years of war. The ambassador has not even been able to obtain $2.5bn for non-military spending, this though the cost of the extra 40,000 US troops requested by General Stanley A McChrystal, the top US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, is put by army planners at $33bn and by White House officials at about $50bn over a year.

This is one of the absurdities of the Afghan war. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. Some 12 million out of 27 million Afghans live below the poverty line on 45 cents a day, according to the UN. Yet the lower estimate for each extra 1,000 US troops is $1bn a year.

The much maligned and rightly maligned Afghan policeman earns around $120 a month. In return for this he is forced to do a more dangerous job than Afghan soldiers, some 1,500 policemen being killed between 2007 and 2009, three times the number of deaths suffered by the Afghan army. Compare this money and these dangers with that of a US paid consultant earning $250,000 a year – and with the cost of his guards, accommodation and translator totalling the same amount again – lurking in his villa in Kabul.

Mr Eikenberry is rightly sceptical about the dispatch of reinforcements to prop up a regime which is more of a racket than an administration. The troops may kill more Taliban, but they will also be their recruiting sergeants. As for the Afghan government, its ill-paid forces will not be eager to fight harder if they can get the Americans and the British to do their fighting for them.
 
#4
Cockburn was born in Ireland and grew up in County Cork, Ireland. His father was the well-known socialist author and journalist Claud Cockburn by third wife Patricia Byron, née Arbuthnot (who also wrote an autobiography, Figure of Eight). He was educated at Glenalmond College, Perthshire, and Trinity College, Oxford.

I think he writes in the Independent.
 
#7
My immediate reaction on reading this was shame it wasn't Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Is Cockburn right? Not really.

Karzai government being corrupt isn't really a show stopper. This is idea being groomed into is the great excuse. Some folk are treating the politics of Field Manual 3-24 like it's the word of God.

As if a strong centralized Afghan state was ever viable? Kabul has rarely in its history had command and control over the provinces and the country is dirt poor. It's not like they are sitting on a lake of oil that can fund the control of all that bumpy terrain. And next door you have the Pak Military and their old chums.

Nouri al-Maliki shaky legitimacy is largely as a result of his bold action in launching Saulat al-Fursan. It's not like chaps aren't being buggered senseless in Iraqi police stations and let's face it corruption is rife there too. The land of the two rivers is also the land of Ahmed "The Thief" Chalabi. The well branded The Sons Of Iraq had more far in common with The Sopranos than a suburban neighborhood watch.

In Islamabad Mr 10% notionally governs as representative of a very narrow elite and DC is snuggled up to a kleptocratic pack of braided Islamist goons of extremely dubious loyalty who seem able to misplace huge amounts of aid money.

It's more a matter of if the people view Karsai's rule as a viable route to some sort of order and that depends largely on his ability to deploy force. At the moment Karzai looks weaker and more dependent on DC than he did a few years ago and its a function of DC's tendency to undermine him as much as anything.

With the tribal structures in tatters after decades of war if Afghan's don't think Karzai can cut it they'll look to other centers of power. And that's the likes of Haqqani, Hekmatyar and Mullah Omar, more austere men than Karzai but also surrounded by just as many bandit allies eager to line their pockets.

A thuggish but better paid police force and reliable village Sharia courts is what might help legitimize the regime. Unfortunately those are some of the enemies logical lines of operation.
 
#8
Not really an intelligent answer but "So fcucking what!" Hope he gets a fcuking bomb from an A10 up his arrse next time.
 
#9
How come Gulbuddin didnt shoot this officer instead of the British soldiers?
 
#10
Mag_to_grid said:
Not really an intelligent answer but "So fcucking what!" Hope he gets a fcuking bomb from an A10 up his arrse next time.
Slightly more intelligent than my initial response: I hope the b@stard gets AIDS. :oops:
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#12
Can't see what is wrong from the article even if is is from the Indi. The fact that we are supporting a police force - ie one of the main arms of government - that is so abusive toward the local population that it routinely shags children is an outrage - can you imagine how you would feel if you heard the local plod raped your son?

EVEN if in the Afghan cultural context such behaviour is far more acceptable than it is to us, it still should not be countenanced; it may be more acceptable, but that does not make it acceptabled. It's abuse.

There is, however, one assumption in thie article I do question: the strong (and empirically unsupported) emphasis on the Taliban's virtue.

Are they a better disciplined force than the rozzers? They are Afghans too, coming from the same culture; have the Taliban managed to suppress their unpleasent vices? If so (and I mean this seriously) then we should investigate how they did it with a view to introducing it to the guys on our side.
 
#14
alib said:
My immediate reaction on reading this was shame it wasn't Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Is Cockburn right? Not really.

Karzai government being corrupt isn't really a show stopper. This is idea being groomed into is the great excuse. Some folk are treating the politics of Field Manual 3-24 like it's the word of God.

As if a strong centralized Afghan state was ever viable? Kabul has rarely in its history had command and control over the provinces and the country is dirt poor. It's not like they are sitting on a lake of oil that can fund the control of all that bumpy terrain. And next door you have the Pak Military and their old chums.

Nouri al-Maliki shaky legitimacy is largely as a result of his bold action in launching Saulat al-Fursan. It's not like chaps aren't being buggered senseless in Iraqi police stations and let's face it corruption is rife there too. The land of the two rivers is also the land of Ahmed "The Thief" Chalabi. The well branded The Sons Of Iraq had more far in common with The Sopranos than a suburban neighborhood watch.

In Islamabad Mr 10% notionally governs as representative of a very narrow elite and DC is snuggled up to a kleptocratic pack of braided Islamist goons of extremely dubious loyalty who seem able to misplace huge amounts of aid money.

It's more a matter of if the people view Karsai's rule as a viable route to some sort of order and that depends largely on his ability to deploy force. At the moment Karzai looks weaker and more dependent on DC than he did a few years ago and its a function of DC's tendency to undermine him as much as anything.

With the tribal structures in tatters after decades of war if Afghan's don't think Karzai can cut it they'll look to other centers of power. And that's the likes of Haqqani, Hekmatyar and Mullah Omar, more austere men than Karzai but also surrounded by just as many bandit allies eager to line their pockets.

A thuggish but better paid police force and reliable village Sharia courts is what might help legitimize the regime. Unfortunately those are some of the enemies logical lines of operation.
Good critique :D
If you are short of a job, which I very much doubt, please apply for the position of PM, Foreign Secretary, Defence Sec....in the following countries....all of Europe, the US and Aussie. Coz the chaps we have, and have had over the past 10 years have made a total dogs breakfast of the job.

Its good to see someone who understands the situation, and lays it out with zero spin....thank you :)
 
#15
Not too sure why people are panning the article. I would have thought it is useful to know his motivation. His action doesn't appear to have been part of an ALQ plot. British soldiers would appear to have become the enemy by affording protection to a sodomising violent Afghan.

Not the first time soldiers have been caught up in the middle of local practices. I have heard accounts of troops being forced to march on by as young women are stoned to death in rural villages.

Poses a moral problem for the Brits in Afg. It is a microcosm of how we have cosied up to a totally corrupt government. If the locals think Brits are protecting rapists, drug runners and corrupt officials it is only a matter of time before resentment turns to violence.
 
#16
stacker1 said:
How come Gulbuddin didnt shoot this officer instead of the British soldiers?
This point is as pertinent as who "originated" the story - Christina Lamb.
A stylist writer rather than reporter - in spite of her "journalistic" awards.

She was thrown out of Pakistan in late 2001 when she & her snapper bought tickets on a PIA flight in the name of "Mr B Laden" to create a story,
whilst they were holed up in the Quetta Serena hotel waiting for things to happen.

So whilst I would question the veracity of anything Lamb writes -albeit very well-
the bottom line to this sad tragic tale is, that IMO, British blood is no longer worth being shed for Afghans who have made little effort to safeguard their own sordid nation.
 
#17
RhodieBKK said:
stacker1 said:
How come Gulbuddin didnt shoot this officer instead of the British soldiers?
This point is as pertinent as who "originated" the story - Christina Lamb.
A stylist writer rather than reporter - in spite of her "journalistic" awards.

She was thrown ot of Pakistan in late 2001 when she & her snapper bought tickets on a PIA flight in the name of "Mr B Laden" to create a story,
whilst they were holed up in the Quetta Serena hotel waiting for things to happen.

So whilst I would question the veracity of anything Lamb writes -albeit very well-
the bottom line to this sad tragic tale is, that IMO, British blood is no longer worth being shed for Afghans who have made little effort to safeguard their own sordid nation.
Disagree with your criticism of Lamb. She was one of the very first to bring home the reality of the war with eye witness accounts of firefights. She did her bit to highlight equipment and troop shortfalls.

I do agree with your assessment of Afg though. We should leave them to it, a complete waste of lives. All we need is a shed load of bombers and UAVs on hand. Keep paying the warlords, a scattering of SF types on the ground and inclusive talks with local Taliban. They will be occupied with each other for years to come. The bombs will take care of any nascent strategic threat.

Not only are the majority of Afghans refusing to lift a finger, many of them are indifferent to Taliban rule and many more would welcome the enhanced security.
 
#18
stacker1 said:
How come Gulbuddin didnt shoot this officer instead of the British soldiers?
Exactly.

It seems to be saying that if you are an Afghan and get p*ssed off, it's OK to shoot British Soldiers.
 

rasselas

Swinger
Book Reviewer
#19
Apparently he (Gulbuddin) had been transferred away from the post where he was being 'bullied' but was having similar issues with his new boss. His new (Afghan) boss was the first to get shot, sadly we all know what happened next.
 
#20
The writer says Liam Fox is patronising because he doesn't believe it is realistic to hold the government of afghanistan up to the ideals of highy developed western nations. I think that shows that she is extremely naive.

She also says reinforcements should not be sent into afghanistan and taking the fluff away from her arguments, she feels that reinforcements shoudn't be sent is because the current afghan government isn't very nice. Of course, she fails to say what she thinks will happen when the current government in afghanistan crumbles.

I feel that for developing nations, the over-arching, most important factor is stability, and for me at least, I would take a stable, relatively friendly, albeit corrupt government anyday, over a weak government with its head in the clouds.
 

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