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Interview: US wants control of Afghanistan’s resources

Voice of Russia
January 29, 2014

US wants control of Afghanistan’s resources – Kathy Kelly

John Robles

US wants control of Afghanistan’s resources – Kathy Kelly

Photo: © Flickr.com/familymwr/cc-by

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The amount of money that the US Government has poured into Afghanistan on non-military aid is approaching $100 billion yet children are starving and the country is completely decimated. The US agencies that are supposed to implement development projects are completely incapable of carrying out their missions due to corruption and a complete lack of oversight. In an interview with the Voice of Russia’s John Robles three time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly, who recently completed her twelfth stay in Afghanistan said she would not recommend that US agencies that are supposed to be involved in development work be given the authority or the funds to provide assistance because their abysmal track records. Ms. Kelly believes the reason the US wants to maintain a militarily presence in Afghanistan may be a US interest in controlling the pricing and flow of precious resources found in Afghanistan. When asked whether opium was one of these resources Ms. Kelly agreed that at this point that appears to be true.

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This is John Robles. You are listening to part 1 of an interview with Kathy Kelly, the coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She is also a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. This is part 1 of an interview in progress.

Robles: Hello! How are you this evening?

Kelly: I’m good, thank you.

Robles: It is a pleasure to be speaking with you. I understand you’ve just returned from Afghanistan and I was wondering if you could tell us about your trip and what is going on with your fight against the drones.

Kelly: Thank you. I returned from Afghanistan about four days ago after having spent a month living in a working class neighborhood in Kabul as a guest of a group called the Afghan Peace Volunteers.

I think this was the twelfth time that I’ve been a guest of these young people. It is a privilege really to be with them. They are young people who want to live together inter-ethnically, they come from Hazara and Pashto and Tajik backgrounds and they share together also a good deal of altruism and had initiated projects that try to be of service to people who are extremely needy.

Of course there are many in Kabul special those who are living in refugee camps in the very cold winter time and mothers who are not able to see their children because they don’t have enough income to get anything more than stale bread and tea without sugar.

So a project has been devised in which people from the US and the UK and Australia have donated funds so that women can be paid a meager wage to manufacture very heavy blankets, wool-stuffed coverlets. And then those are given free of charge to people living in refugee camps and to widows, orphans and to several other institutions, they serve people who are pretty desperate.

So I’m able to watch that project unfolding and also be with the young people who have another project which welcomes street children.

There are 600,000 street children working as venders in various places across Afghanistan and many of them are in Kabul, and many of them are children of families who have been displaced by war and violence.

Amnesty International reported in 2012 that the war and violence displaces 400 people every single day. You can imagine living in already overcrowded cities that lack infrastructure to support them, people end up in these refugee camps and they don’t have enough food or water; generally men in the families cannot find work, maybe occasional jobs as porters at a construction side. But often the families resort to send their children out to work as street vendors. And the children can then become prey really to various kinds of criminal gangs. So this is a terrible situation for children.

The Afghan Peace Volunteers have welcomed 20 young children to stop working as street vendors and get ready to enroll themselves in school and they’ve also supplied them with boots and warm clothing and welcomed to come and get some tutoring, a kind of remedial preparation, so that they can eventually go to school.

During the winter months schools are closed down in Afghanistan because there is no way to heat the buildings, and it were just to be too cold to keep children in unheated schools all day long. But spring will come and then these kids, I hope, will be enrolled in schools.

This is a tiny effort in face of the need for as I mentioned 600,000 children under these conditions. It is a good project and I’m glad I had a chance to witness that as well.

Robles: I see. I’d like to ask you a very hard question now. Don’t you think it is a responsibility of the governments that have decimated Afghanistan and I’m talking about the US and its NATO allies? Don’t you think it is part of their responsibility to be helping the people of Afghanistan after they have pretty much destroyed their country?

Kelly: Well, I don’t want to recommend that US agencies that have been involved in development work so far be interested with either the authority or the funds, provide that kind of assistance because their track record has been abysmal.

You know, the Special Inspector General’s report on Afghanistan comes out every year and every year it chronicles and details tremendous corruption, shoddy workmanship, unfinished projects, and ways in which these developments funds have been squandered.

The most recent report this year is no different. And there is a graph in the most recent report which shows that the amount of the US development aid since 2001, non-military aid, is approaching $100 billion, but of that sum of money in all those years only $3 billion was ever spent in humanitarian aid, the other $97 billion was distributed for counter narcotics and governance and what they had called, I’m sorry I’m blanking on the other two things, but the humanitarian aid was only $3 billion.

And so I think the US should pay reparations unquestionably. Money should be invested to groups that have had some track record of being able to engage in development without corruption and without so much inability to complete projects.

Robles: I see, couple of thing before you move on. What you just said was very telling, very damming I think. So you are basically telling me that it is not a matter of that the US has no responsibility, you are saying that even the agencies that should be responsible for implementing development projects can’t be trusted? You said their records are abysmal.

You talked just a minute ago about $97 billion that have gone to counter narcotics and other operations and the level of opium growth in production in Afghanistan has risen 40 fold. And I’ve written on this, that is about the only success of the US-NATO military operation in Afghanistan for almost 13 years.

I think that is worse than abysmal, that is criminal. But if you could comment on development and why you think the opium trade has gone up and why you think the development agencies aren’t to be trusted other than corruption. I mean, is there any way to fix all this?

Kelly: I think that many of the provinces in Afghanistan being governed by very corrupt leaders some of whom are drug lords and some of whom are war lords and some of whom might be both. And I’m sure it is quite difficult for farmers who stand up to people who were saying: ‘We want you to plant opium’.

If they were to say: ’No, we’d rather plant another crop’. Well, then how are they going to have incentives to plant other crops when even the World Bank Report will indicate that growing the opium means that the farmer will have some assurance that people that are selling the opium and transporting the opium will provide them with seeds and tools and transport of the harvest eventually. it is difficult for farmers to say: ‘No, we don’t want to go along with’.

It is certainly a difficult crop to harvest from everything I understand and it requires labor intensive. It seems now that 93% of the world’s opium is coming from Afghanistan. And it is also I think worth noting that they transport of these crops most likely through truck convoys.

And even though the US is engaging in so much drone surveillance of Afghanistan 24 hours a day 7 days a week, it seems that there is almost no evidence that anybody collects about the transport of this opium from Afghanistan across borders by truck and then to other countries.

Robles: I’ve seen pictures and I don’t know if you can verify this, I’ve seen pictures and exposés of pictures of US troops guarding opium fields. Can you comment on that?

Kelly: No, I’m afraid I cannot comment on that. But I think it is also important to note that many of the roads that are used by the US military in order to deliver supplies to bases all across Afghanistan are controlled by drug lords and sometimes war lords or both and they don’t allow free passage along those roads.

The US just has to pay more or less a toll for the trucks in these convoys that go along those roads. And even in the New York Review Books a writer noted recently that these tolls that are paid are very likely ending up lining the pockets of some of the most corrupt people including possible Pakistani and Afghan Taliban leaders who control these roads.

We have to ask ourselves how can it be that it has been costing $2 billion per a week for the US military to maintain its presence in Afghanistan. And at least this past year they were saying that the price per soldier for one year would be $2.1 million.

Previously it was $1 million per year but amount of money required to keep one soldier in Afghanistan for one year went up because of so much money being spent on bringing supplies and equipment home to the US and to getting it out of the Afghanistan.

Robles: You are telling me that these poor soldiers – $2.1 million a year they must be driving Ferrari tanks and eating caviar? What is that? Are they wearing silk uniforms or something? What is going on?

Kelly: Again I want to emphasize that tolls are being paid for every truck that passes along the roadway. And then also there is a plenty of evidence of projects that the US military has undertaken which they then had to spend a lot of money to dismantle.

For example, mine resistant anti-personnel carriers were purchased and the US discovered that they were not mine resistant, they didn’t work very well. And they don’t want to bring those back to the US and they didn’t want to leave them for people in Afghanistan. And so they decided to turn all of them into scrap metal. Just that project alone cost $7 billion.

Recently in the province of Kandahar a big military facility was built that cost $345 million and then they decided that they didn’t really want this big building. So they are going to have to spend huge amount of money to destroy it. Just knock it all down.

These kinds of instances of ways and spending huge amounts of money in a country where right now the estimate is said 1 million children in the south are suffering from severe acute malnourishment really makes you wonder what in the world are the US people doing?

And every time there is an aerial bombardment or a night raid or some kind of a drone attack against people of Afghanistan it seems likely to exacerbate and prolong the war. Because when people are killed they have likely got relatives and friends who will then pledge themselves to engage in some kind of retaliation.

Robles: Millions of children are starving to death, millions of innocents being killed, lives destroyed, $97 billion to fight narcotics but it’s gone up 40 fold, you said 93% of the world’s opium is now coming out of Afghanistan. I think before the war started it was something like in the single digits if I’m correct – 7%-8% or 9% was coming out of Afghanistan 12 years ago. You told me about $345 million projects that were then just destroyed. What is the leadership thinking? Are they thinking anything? I mean, who are these people?

Kelly: Well, I think we should ask ourselves why the US wants to stay in Afghanistan and maintain a military presence in Afghanistan?

If a bilateral security agreement is signed it will allow for 9 major military bases, 3 airfields and the presence of some number of troops, I’m not sure how many, but the Joint Special Operations Forces (JSOC) would be a major contingent of US remaining troop presence. And these are some of the most highly trained professional warriors in the world: Navy Seals, Green Berets, Army Rangers and the other ones that have become very proficient in the night raids and calling in aerial bombardments and possible drone attacks.

Why does the US want to maintain this militarily presence? I think we should at least be asking about a US interest in controlling the pricing in the flow of some very precious resources found in Afghanistan.

Around the Caspian Sea base there are natural gas and fossil fuel deposits and under the Hindu Kush mountains where rare earth elements that are extremely valuable, they are the kinds of elements that are used in a manufacture of cell phones and computers and also iron ore and copper.

The US may not want China for instance to have access to these resources at cheaper rates than what the US might have to spend.

So I think the control over the pricing in the flow and the extraction of resources could be a reason why the US has spent all these years and so much money and resources to prolong the war in Afghanistan.

Robles: Opium is the recourse, isn’t it? I mean it is the biggest recourse, it is the biggest money maker coming out of Afghanistan.

Kelly: I should imagine at this point that is true.

This is John Robles. You were listening to part 1 of an interview with Kathy Kelly. She is the coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Thanks for listening and we wish you the best wherever you may be.
Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_01_28/US-wants-control-of-Afghanistan-s-resources-Kathy-Kelly-9962/

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