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Iraq: Slipping Back Into Unrest
Though the disastrous consequences of America’s inept intervention in Iraq hog the headlines, problems stemming from Washington’s similar lack of understanding and inadequate planning are now building rapidly in Afghanistan. The main difference between the two countries is that it has taken longer for Afghan good will toward the US to evaporate, perhaps because of the success of the government of President Hamid Karzai.
Maybe the Afghans have also been more patient because they really believed the international community’s promises to transform their ruined country with cash and aid. Unfortunately, only a fraction of this promised help has arrived. Now, far from being transformed, Afghanistan is slipping again into the unrest and instability, which, with few interruptions, have dogged it since the overthrow of the constitutional monarchy in 1973.
In the last 30 years the Pul-e-Charkhi prison on the outskirts of Kabul has been a place of harsh detention for opponents of the government of the time. The bloody riot this week and the seizure of part of the penitentiary by hundreds of inmates, led, it is alleged, by Taleban and Al-Qaeda members, underlines the injustices that still blight this country as it struggles to reform. The majority of these men have been in jail without trial since the Taleban’s ouster in 2001. Whatever they may have done, the delay in bringing them before the courts is inexcusable. There is, however, an even more serious problem for which the Americans themselves are directly responsible. At the huge Bagram Air Base, Washington has been running a long-term detention center in an old machine shop. A Pentagon source has confirmed that it is in fact now being used as a regular prison in which suspects are being detained in circumstances even worse than in Guantanamo Bay.