Liberated by the West (III)

KABUL/BERLIN | | afghanistan

KABUL/BERLIN (Own report) - Following Afghanistan's presidential elections, threatened violence could barely be averted. According to reports, one of Germany's cooperation partners - Atta Muhammad Noor, the governor of the Balkh Province - was responsible for the repeated threats to storm government buildings, in Kabul, if Abdulla Abdullah, the alleged loser of the elections, is not included in the government. The German Bundeswehr maintains its main military base ("Camp Marmal") in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of the Balkh Province. To prevent unrest, the Bundeswehr is closely cooperating with the warlord Atta, who is accused of serious human rights violations and who uses his power to amass enormous wealth. He is now considered one of Afghanistan's wealthiest men. Strengthened by his cooperation with the West, Atta is planning to extend his regional influence through Abdullah, who will become "Chief Executive Officer" of the new government. Atta, today's warlord ruler of the north of "liberated" Afghanistan, had already been terrorizing the region's population in the 1990s. At the time, widespread fear of the warlords' terror had paved the way for the Taliban to take power.

Afghanistan's CEO

Only with great difficulty and under massive western pressure, did Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdullah - two candidates in last weekend's Afghanistan's presidential run-off elections - reach an accord in their power struggle. Abdullah had contested Ghani's electoral victory, pointing to massive electoral fraud. The results of the recount were not disclosed leaving indications that - even after corrections - Ghani was still the clear victor, confirmed. The accord stipulates that Ghani will be appointed President and Abdullah "Chief Executive Officer" (CEO) - a newly created office primarily handling daily policy. Both parties will have an equal share of ministerial posts. Observers assume that, should the "unity government" last, it will preserve the country's balance of power. Ghani represents the ultra conservative Pashtun tribes and Abdullah, the forces of the Northern Alliance. Atta Muhammad Noor, the Governor of the Balkh Province, who is in control of Mazar-i-Sharif, the most important economic center in northern Afghanistan [1] is the driving force behind Abdullah Abdullah.

Situation under Control

Since 2005, the German Bundeswehr has maintained its largest military base, "Camp Marmal," in Mazar-i Sharif. Around 1,450 of the 1,800 German soldiers in Afghanistan are currently stationed in "Camp Marmal," from where the so-called training mission is to be conducted over the next few years - also with German participation. Berlin has considerable interests in preventing unrest in Mazar-i-Sharif and the surrounding region and therefore is cooperating with Atta Muhammad Noor. Already immediately following the occupation of Afghanistan, the West had supported Atta, because he was considered to be capable of restraining his rival, the notorious butcher, Abdul Rashid Dostum and establishing a stable balance of power in the country's North. In 2004, he became Governor of the Balkh Province, with western approval, and has since met with several German ministers. In March 2012, Chancellor Merkel had had her picture taken during a personal meeting with him. In July 2011, Foreign Minister Westerwelle held consultations with Atta for the celebration of the transfer of official control over Mazar-i-Sharif to local authorities. At the time, it was explained that the governor of Balkh is being "courted by Germans and Americans," because he has "the situation largely under control" and has shown his "willingness for economic modernization."[2]

"A Murderer, a Criminal"

Atta Muhammad Noor's critics give insight into how he keeps "the situation largely under control." Atta, who, since the early 1980s, has been fighting in the various Afghan wars and, since the early 1990s, was considered one of the country's most important warlords, had maintained a "human slaughterhouse" near Mazar-i-Sharif, according to an analysis of the "Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission" (AIHRC). The AIHRC has investigated war crimes committed between 1978 and 2001 in Afghanistan.[3] The publication of their analysis had been suppressed at the time and there was no investigation of the crimes on persons, whose remains have been discovered in mass graves over the past few years - also in the German controlled area of northern Afghanistan. "If you would talk about Governor Atta to an average Afghan, living in the North, you would get the response: He is a murderer, a killer, a criminal," remarked an Afghan observer in 2009. "But the ISAF countries turn a deaf ear."[4] Repeated abuse - particularly on the Pashtun minority of northern Afghanistan - has been reported. For example, journalists described how a doctor was murdered, simply because he owned property in a part of the city, Atta sought to bring under his control.[5] Already in an interview with german-foreign-policy.com in 2010, the journalist Marc Thörner warned that "the police force, trained by the Germans in Balkh, is the police force of Governor Atta's principality. As various reports and testimonies have proven, this police force is still committing serious human rights violations."[6]

Afghanistan's Orange Revolution

Atta Muhammad Noor, who was successfully able to accumulate huge sums of money over the past few years, to become one of the most wealthy men in the country, is now said to seek to transform his wealth and regional power into trans-regional influence. Since the death of the North Alliance leader, Muhammad Qasim Fahim, he has been seeking to impose himself as the leader of the Tajik-speaking sector of the population, forging alliances with warlords throughout the country and investing large amounts of money to finance Abdullah Abdullah's election campaign. According to an Afghan journalist, "Abdullah is merely Atta's marionette." It is reported that Atta has threatened to have "government buildings stormed and occupied," should Abdullah not receive "half of the posts" in the Afghan government. "He announced he would stage an Orange Revolution, like in Ukraine, and has instructed his followers in Kabul to begin sewing orange flags."[7] In fact, according to the report, it is feared that Atta could organize a putsch, should his demands not be met. US President Barack Obama has personally talked to him on several occasions by phone; soldiers of a US special unit visited him in his governor's palace several times, to make it clear "that it is not in his best interests, to act against Washington's interests." German diplomats have also intervened and sought to "have a tempering effect."[8]

The Voice of Freedom

Last weekend's accord can be considered a victory for Atta. His candidate, Abdullah has secured equal influence for himself in the "unity government," which enhances Atta's own opportunities for expanding his influence, thanks also to the systematic promotion he was receiving from Berlin and Washington. The German-US supported ruler uses an iron hand to suppress criticism from within the population. Media representatives complain of massive pressure. Just last week, the journalist Palwasha Tokhi was murdered in the center of Mazar-i-Sharif. Tokhi's life could have been saved. Having worked for four years for the Bundeswehr's "Camp Marmal" radio station ("Sada-i-Azadi Shamal" - "Voice of Freedom in the North"), she was among that category of Afghans considered particularly endangered in the aftermath of the western troops' partial withdrawal and, therefore, would have been eligible to apply for being allowed to leave for Germany. Had Berlin accepted her application, she would still be alive. In Afghanistan, reports explain that journalists "could also face threats from government employees." However, this kind of threat is "not included among the criteria established by the German government for accepting an application of a former Bundeswehr employee."[9]

Please read also Liberated by the West (I).

[1] Friederike Boege: Der Scharfmacher von Mazar-i-Sharif. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 17.09.2014.
[2] Thorsten Jungholt: Warum hofiert Westerwelle einen Kriegsfürsten? www.welt.de 22.07.2014.
[3] See Facing a Power Vacuum.
[4] See Strafexpeditionen.
[5] See Warlords.
[6] See Klassische Warlords.
[7], [8] Friederike Boege: Der Scharfmacher von Mazar-i-Sharif. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 17.09.2014.
[9] Friederike Boege: Drohungen von allen Seiten. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 19.09.2014.