Comment by: Jalil Afridi
Nothing in life moves forward or for better unless we look at the past, learn from our mistakes and decide the strategy we need to adopt in future. Same is the case in foreign relations, development, Justice and running of any responsible and developed nation. I will try to keep my argument short and to the point because Washington DC has a lot of so-called scholars and I know they are very busy so it’s better I don’t waste their time. But I do expect the what nots of Washington DC to at least convey to President Joe Biden that Congress should form an Accountability Commission to see how much Corruption has been done in Afghanistan and present a figure to the people of America about their Tax Money being wasted in Afghanistan.
Washington DC has a new administration so they must be doing evaluation of the last four years of their predecessor. But I think President Biden’s administration needs to do the evaluation of the eight years that he was in power along President Barack Obama.
I was midway in my journalism profession and I remember very well how President Obama and his team was handling the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. I want to specially focus on Afghanistan for the specific reason that I lived along its border city Peshawar, I worked there and my village is just a few miles away from Afghanistan, in Khajoori, the then Khyber Agency. I also want to specially focus on Afghanistan because that is where the big chunk of the American taxpayer money is spent.
I want to first start with USAID, which was considered as a Gold Mine for those who were working in the Non-Government Organization structure. People became millionaires within a couple of months. Money was spent in the name of schools but schools which were never built. Bridges, water Wells, clinics, skilled labor institutes, Breast cancer treatment centers, institutes for protection for children, minorities, journalists’ protection, farmers’ rights, women rights, construction of libraries, access to justice, provision of clean water, availability of medicines, students’ development and god knows what was there in the books of USAID but nothing existed on ground in Afghanistan.
A few rich people in NGO sector were driving around in their bullet proof Porsche and Land Cruiser in Kabul but the majority of Afghans were living a miserable life. They were either under the rule of Taliban or under the rule of NATO and ISAF forces who humiliated them and looked at them with suspicious eyes in their own country.
I did not ever hear that President Obama had put in jail an official of USAID for doing corruption in Afghanistan and for looting the American taxpayer. I even personally approached the Inspector General of USAID once, with proofs of corruption. But nobody ever followed up with me. I can never forget and forgive the lady who asked me to help her rent this property for one month so she could open up a school there, have USAID official visit that school and get some pictures taken so her invoice of 300K dollars could be cleared. She offered me 30K, the offer was not bad to simply introduce a contact to her but the weight of guilt was so much that I could not bear it. How will President Biden take up the corruption issue in USAID is for time to tell but it will certainly not be an easy task
Private contractors are another example of those who plunder the American taxpayer money. These contractors are either hired here in America or fictitious Americans or Europeans who have opened their companies in Afghanistan and they charge their own government, twenty times more for everything they do. For example, if they buy something or get something done for one hundred dollars, they charge the US government two thousand dollars for the same thing. Is that fair? If I am the ruler in some place, I am not going to pay twenty times more price for things that I purchase. I cannot forget a contractor in Arlington, Virginia who refused to work with me because the prices I offered his company were too low. Then, a few years ago I reported on these Afghan brothers who have a pending case in Washington DC courts for cheating the US Department of Defense for two Billion Dollars. Yes, two billion dollars not two million! and yes they cheated the Department of Defense, not some thrift store.
Which issue which President Biden and his team needs to look at is that Afghanistan on average gets about six billion Dollars each year in Drugs trade of Opium and Heroin. And that is why I have always written in these pages of The Frontier Post for more than two decades that until and unless drug production is eliminated in Afghanistan, no one can restore peace there. Since the last twenty years I have heard about drugs being smuggled out from Afghanistan in planes and helicopters. Where does this Heroin land? In the streets of Los Angeles, New York and Florida. I don’t even know how many departments you can blame for this heinous crime but I know there must be a few of them.
State Department officials are lovely people. But not all of them. Many of them who served in Afghanistan and Pakistam from the last era of President Biden to this tenure of President Biden seem to be only interested in their perks and privileges. They love to do their shopping and they are incredible in making friends, especially fun friends. Friends like myself, who went to high school and college in America were not really the priority of these officials. Me being next door to Afghanistan, being in the only English newspaper in that area were not good enough credentials for State Department officials to visit our offices or to learn about our opinion. Representatives of media from all over the world were packed in my office after 911 but never did any official from the State Department ever visit the offices of The Frontier Post to inquire about anything. Our Afghanistan page for the last twenty-two years and our first freedom of press seminar in Kabul after 911, did not create a single voice or concern for us in the State Department when Afghanistan banned the entry of The Frontier Post, eight years ago. President Biden was the Vice President at that time. What happened to Freedom of Press? By doling out millions of dollars of American taxpayers’ money into television channels in Afghanistan who have no credibility or standing is a waste of time and money. Can these media outlets ever tell the truth? Can these TV channels even tell the truth to the US? Why would they? They want the flow of money, US tax payers money to land in their pockets so they can buy more property in UAE and Turkey.
President Biden needs individuals in the State Department on Afghanistan and Pakistan desk who tells him the truth and who protects the interests of American people instead of their own personal interests. President Biden should do the accountability of those State Department officials who were with him during his last eight years when he was in power and especially those who were looking after Afghanistan and Pakistan. Their bank balances and properties should be checked and it should be checked within the US and outside the US as well.
Last but not least, President Biden should ensure Justice in Afghanistan. Justice in elections and Justice with the people of Afghanistan. I am nobody to suggest or recommend whether the US should or will leave Afghanistan or not. But I can at least suggest that Justice should be done with the people of Afghanistan. And Justice should be done with the people of America. Justice will be done with the people of Afghanistan by holding free and fair elections. Somebody from George Town Washington DC cannot bring peace in Afghanistan. It has to be somebody local, who has his own interests in Afghanistan. At the same time Justice should be done with the people of America, whose hard earned money is spent in Afghanistan.
Due to the Corona effects on the US economy, each dollar of American taxpayer money should be spent with honesty and there should be a process of Accountability. A process which nobody should escape. Lastly, Congressman be directed by President Joe Biden to form a commission which will present an exact figure to the people of America about the Corruption done with their Tax Money since last twenty years in Afghanistan. Off course without the help of FBI such task can not be completed and without putting the guilty ones in jail will again give opportunity to who wants to loot American Tax payer.