Penny-pinching superpower! | By S R H Hashmi

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Penny-pinching superpower!

THE United States government did not mind wasting $ 2,600 billion in Afghanistan which only caused widespread death, destruction and misery to Afghans.

As for Americans, the misadventure brought back in body bags a large number of healthy Americans sent out there, with thousands of others maimed and disabled physically and/or mentally, needing lifelong care.

And the humiliation suffered by the super power America at the hands of a rag-tag army of Afghans greatly dented its stature. However, this folly did bring windfalls to the military-industrial complex.

This also gave birth to the formation of mercenary armies popularly called civilian contractors. The US benefits from their use because they cost less, their deaths don’t count as military casualties and through them, the US government can get even inhuman and ‘dirty’ things done which regular soldiers may dislike doing.

Moreover, Afghanistan provided a testing ground for freshly-developed armaments like ammunition with depleted-uranium, MOAB, daisy cutters, etc without having to worry about serious consequences to Afghans, who were considered disposable and not worth bothering about.

And now, taking this heartlessness and shamelessness a step further, the US government as well as US judiciary seem determined to grab, virtually at gun point, the $ 7 billion worth of Central Bank of Afghanistan’s reserves held in trust by the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.

Part of this amount of $ 7 billion are the reserves of commercial banks which they are required by law to keep with the Central Bank of Afghanistan in order to provide protection to the deposits by their clients with the commercial banks.

And that means the amount of $ 7 billion does not belong to the Afghan government but mostly to commercial banks and the rest to ordinary Afghan citizens, with the whole amount kept as reserves with the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, liable to be returned on demand.

In view of the above, just how could the US judiciary or the US President grab these funds, wrongly claiming these to be the assets of the Afghan government – which they do not recognize anyway – and determine their use according to their whims and fancies, like paying compensation to Americans supposedly wronged by Osama bin Laden with which alleged crime the owners of the funds had no connection whatsoever.

The act of the US Judiciary looks particularly atrocious in the circumstances where the connection of Osama bin Laden with the 9/11 brutal attack has not been proved through a due process in any court of law.

It was only an unproved accusation by the US which, incidentally, had also attacked and ravaged Iraq on the false accusation of possessing weapons of mass destruction.

After naming Osama bin Laden as the mastermind of 9/11 attack, the US had asked the then Taliban government of Afghanistan to hand him over to the US. However, the Taliban had offered to hand over Osama for trial in any neutral country.

But the US rejected that offer, and later launched a clandestine operation against him. And even when they had the opportunity to capture Osama alive, and present him for trial in a US court, the Americans shot him dead, because dead men tell no tales.

First of all, how could the US courts, without a due process of law, treat Osama bin Laden to be the killer of the innocent victims of 9/11, hold Afghan government responsible for shielding the alleged killer and on that pretext, order dishing out half of the $ 7 billion funds as compensation to the 9/11 affectees, when the money belonged not to the Afghan government but in reality to the private Afghan citizens and to Afghan commercial banks, who had no connection whatsoever with the 9/11 attack.

And then the US President Joe Biden seems determined to give the other half in humanitarian aid to Afghans. What a joke!

One feels that by pinching $ 7 billion, the US government is trying to disable the banking system in Afghanistan as part of its plan to destabilize the whole country.

And by exploiting the dissatisfaction among Afghan masses, and using its agents and possible allies llike Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, oust Taliban from power again.

And of course, India is also there to help.Unfortunately, Afghan Taliban’s own rigidity about not forming an inclusive government, rejection of due rights to women and revengeful attitude towards the former government officials is further aggravating the problem.

And since a lot of former government officials and other skilled workers have already fled from Afghanistan, governance problems have multiplied.

In these circumstances, by demonstrating too much inflexibility and needless arrogance, Afghan Taliban are worsening their own situation as well as that of the masses.Penny-pinching superpower!

In fact, even Afghan Taliban’s well-wishers like Pakistan, China and Russia are put off because of unreasonable attitude of Afghan Taliban, which is why they have not yet recognized their government.

For their own sake, as well as for the sake of Afghans and others in the region, Afghan Taliban must take stock of the situation, heed sane advice and popular demands and adopt a reasonable attitude.

And once they do that their neighbours, especially resourceful China, can put their country on a path of progress and prosperity by helping dig up vast mineral deposits in Afghanistan Also, China’s Belt and Road project and TAPI can create further opportunities.

Pakistan is doing all it can to help Afghans and Afghanistan but this one-sided goodwill cannot last for ever. So, while it may sound harsh, the fact is that it is another ‘do or die’ moment for Afghan Taliban.

— The writer is senior political analyst based in Karachi.

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