First we learned of bandits stealing food from humanitarian
aid convoys on the road. Now even if the food gets to its destination,
brutal local warlords -- back
in power big time across Afghanistan -- are seizing
most of it to feed their own troops.
The result is that there's not enough
food to feed the refugees for whom the food was intended. Children are
dying of hunger:
"There are children who have
become very thin because of the cold and not enough food," said
Muktar, a [Red Crescent] society employee. "Some of them are dead
already, and others will die soon."
Nightmarish scenes result when
starving people try to grab whatever supplies are left, and soldiers beat
Outside the Red Crescent compound in
Jalalabad, soldiers at times struck children, women and old men
indiscriminately. Some soldiers hit women who sat on the ground and
[T]he crowd wailed and pushed on the compound gate. The crowd
surged, the gate held, the crowd relaxed, then surged again. Soldiers
could be seen swinging sticks from the top of the walls down into the
crowd, striking those who pressed too close.
Three times since late November,
relief organizations in this area tried to distribute wheat. Local
soldiers took most of the food for themselves each time.
Warlord: Stealing Food? Not me!
The local warlord, Hajji Hazat Ali,
blames corruption at the Red Crescent Society for the food shortages!
"Some people who are working
for the non-government organizations are all thieves," he said.
"They try to divide some food they receive between themselves and
some of the local commanders. We are trying to capture these people."
The reporter astutely points out that
this accusatory warlord
did not seem to be trying very hard
to catch the thieves or recover the rice, sacks of which could be found
today in the city being used to feed his own soldiers at each of the
checkpoints he maintains.
U.S., Allies Sit Back & Watch
Indeed, these very soldiers are part
of the alliance of local warlords which worked with U.S. troops in the
anti-Taliban campaign. A small number of U.S. troops left behind with
these "allies" of ours could easily have prevented this kind of
theft. Warlords are good at stealing from women, children and old
men. They are not the type to challenge heavily armed American
Why haven't some of the thousands upon
thousands of U.S. troops in the region been entrusted with this task?
It's wonderful that the U.S. is
providing over half the food pledged to feed hungry Afghans. It's
despicable that we then act like we don't care whether or not the food
actually reaches the starving people. (This attitude brings to mind
our high altitude drops of yellow food packages, which were not only the same color and size as
unexploded, still-dangerous cluster bombs, but unlikely to ever find their
way to the people who really needed the food.)
Alternatively, one might think, with a
5,000-man international peacekeeping force set to be operational shortly,
the theft of humanitarian aid food -- whether from convoys on the road or at
the destination location -- will quickly be put to an end.
Not so. The mandate of the
peacekeepers absurdly limits them to Kabul, already the safest part of the
Atiqullah Mohmand, the Jalalabad
program director for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said
this stealing of food was being perpetrated by the same local officials who
ran the province in the early 1990's and abused civilians and stole from
"The people who are now in the
positions of authority in our province, they are exactly the same persons
who were here before.
They are following the same system
It is not good."
"Meet the new boss/Same as the
old boss" as The Who sang in a different context.
No, it is not good at all.