September 25, 2020
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Five Years After

Large sections of the people of Kabul, who had welcomed the entry of the Northern Alliance and US troops into Kabul in 2001 with flowers, song and dance, shouted the most abusive slogans against the US and Mr Karzai on May 29, 2006. What gives?

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Five Years After

(To be read in continuation of my May 2005 article titled So Who's Behind The Afghan Violence?)

An accident caused to a US Army convoy moving through Kabul due to a technical problem (jamming of brakes) faced by one of the vehicles in the convoy triggered off nearly two hours of violent demonstrations against the US and President Hamid Karzai in some parts of  Kabul on May 29, 2006. The accident damaged a number of vehicles not belonging to the US army and resulted in the  death of one passer-by. At least four to six more were killed subsequently  due to firing by the Afghan and allegedly by the American security forces too to bring the riots under control. Many vehicles on the roads were damaged or set on fire by the demonstrators.

The authorities had to impose a night curfew in order to prevent further acts of violence.  In a televised address to his people before the curfew was imposed, President Karzai appealed for calm and requested his people not to let themselves be misled by agents-provocateur.  The incidents of May 29, 2006, have been described by the Afghan authorities themselves as the most violent public demonstration in Kabul since the US started its operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban on October 11, 2001, under Operation Enduring Freedom.

Large sections of the people of Kabul, who had welcomed the entry of the Northern Alliance and US troops into Kabul in 2001 with flowers, song and dance, shouted the most abusive slogans against the US and Mr Karzai on May 29, 2006, and called for the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan.

The violent demonstrations came in the wake of spreading anger against the US and the Karzai Government due to the frequent use of air strikes by the US in its counter-insurgency operations against the Taliban in the Kandahar area. These strikes have resulted in at least 16 innocent civilians, who had nothing to do with the Taliban, being killed.

The demonstrations also came at a time when the Hizbut-Tehrir (HT), which has an increasing following amongst Afghan youth of different ethnic groups, has stepped up its propaganda  amongst the youth of Afghanistan against the US , the UK and the Karzai Government. The propaganda has sought to exploit various issues: the alleged desecration of the Holy Koran by the US Guards in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre; the Danish cartoons caricaturising the Holy Prophet; incidents of violence in Guantanamo Bay; the denial of economic assistance to the Hamas-led Government in the Palestinian territory by the West; and the alleged violation of the human rights of the Iraqis and the Afghans.

The HT-organised demonstrations against the alleged descecration of the Holy Koran, which involved the participation of a large number of Afghan youth, spread across 10 out of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan in May last year. It spread to Kabul itself on May 12, 2005. The demonstration against the Danish cartoons had a greater impact in Pakistan than in Afghanistan . While there has so far been one HT-inspired demonstration on the Hamas issue in Indonesia , the HT has not so far had any success on this issue in Pakistan or Afghanistan .

The HT, which has been projecting Afghanistan in its propaganda as a US-UK  colony, said as follows in a statement issued by its London headquarters on January 31, 2006, and subsequently disseminated all over Afghanistan through the intermediary of students:  " Afghanistan five years on has become a metaphor for everything that has become wrong about the West’s War on Terror. Violent occupation, inhumane treatment of prisoners, chronic insecurity, minimal reconstruction and a huge growth in narcotics are the key emblems of modern day Afghanistan . The major problem in Afghanistan is not one of economic resources but of political will. Afghanistan is not a ‘basket case’ and the main priority for the Afghans is to realise that they must solve the problem themselves to confront their own demons and to get their own politics right. Unfortunately for its citizens, they have been invaded twice recently, first by the USSR and now by the US led alliance and this remains the hub of their problem. The Karzai regime promotes political and security dependency on the US led coalition. It continually transmits the negative image that Afghanistan is a perpetual beggar, dependant upon Western largess rather than an independent nation acting on its own, free of external influence. It is clear that the West’s and Kabul ’s interests are increasingly divergent geo-politically. Unless the Afghan people can wrest their sovereignty from the occupying force and become truly free people, they will not be able to overcome their current tribulations. Hizb ut Tahrir calls you to work to expose the colonial plan of Britain, the US and their collaborator Hamid Karzai and calls for the liberation of the Muslim world through the establishment of the Khilafah, the only plan that can unify the Muslim lands and protect the rights of the the people of Afghanistan."

The violent incidents of May last year were well-orchestrated. The Kabul incidents of May 29, 2009, were spontaneous and not pre-planned. However, the incidents of May last year as those of  May 29, 2006, saw the large-scale participation of  Afghan youth belonging to different ethnic groups--Pashtuns, Tadjiks, Uzbeks etc. Only the HT has a multi-ethnic following in different parts of Afghanistan , including Kabul . The following of the Taliban and Al Qaeda is confined to the Pashtun belt in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan . They had organised sporadic acts of suicide terrorism in Kabul too, but they do not have the capability for mob mobilisation. Nor are they experts in AGITPROP techniques. Only the HT has these capabilities and has been imparting them to the people of Afghanistan , particularly the youth.

Though not pre-planned, the demonstrations of May 29, 2006,  could not have spread within a short time so disconcertingly and attracted such a large number of youth without the guiding hand of an organisation such as the HT. 

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd.), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai.

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