An Island Named Kabul

Trickle-Up Economics and Westernization in Karzai's Afghanistan

White Land Cruisers, Boutiques, and Bollywood's Kajol spice-up Kabul
White Land Cruisers, Boutiques, and Bollywood's Kajol spice-up Kabul (sources: left top; left bottom; right photo from AFP)

by Marc W. Herold
Departments of Economics and Women's Studies
Whittemore School of Business & Economics
University of New Hampshire

POSTED DECEMBER 6, 2004 --

The evidence of class exclusion and westernization abound in the island called Kabul, the mayoralty of U.S.-anointed and DynCorp-protected Hamid Karzai.1 Liberation and civilization arrive through acts of westernized consumption and also participation in U.S.-modeled, organized and protected "elections," a topic explored elsewhere by others.2 The distinctive element of the Karzai reconstruction project – to use the memorable phrase of Ross Perot3 – involves a "giant sucking sound" meaning here transferring income upward in the social structure, e.g., trickle-up, well-lubricated by drug and foreign monies.4 The obscene, sickening spectacle of an import-dependent consumption boom in Kabul coexists with deep impoverishment and destitution, the whole sordid mess "protected" by close to 20,000 foreign troops.

The Kabul scene was captured in an article published in Outside Magazine (December 2003),

"When the world community of do-gooders arrives to rescue a nation from itself, the first sign is the blinding white traffic jam. White Land Rovers stack up thick at the airport; white Nissan Pathfinders block the streets at lunch; miraculous white-on-white Toyota Land Cruisers choke the traffic circles of the lucky target country. This caravan of chariots was triple-parked outside the Mustafa Hotel in downtown Kabul on a Saturday night. Late-model 4x4s filled the avenue and circled the block, churning up dust as the chauffeurs maneuvered for parking. I threaded my way through a cluster of acronyms: UN, UNESCO, UNDP, UNHCR, FAO, UNICEF, UNICA, UNAMA, UNOPS, UNEP, MSF, ACF, MAP, MACA, IRC, WFP, IOM, IMC. Even the hotel was painted white. I could hear Shakira (Colombian singer and sex symbol) playing faintly from above."5

Some 330-350 foreign NGOs are operating in Afghanistan, often prominently advertising their presence on large signboards. A writer for The Hindu posted in Kabul observed recently,

"people working in some of these NGOs lead a lavish lifestyle. A look at their offices and their houses, the way they are furnished, the air-conditioned cars they drive, all add to the resentment of the people, as it all comes out of the aid being pumped into the country."6

The foreigners-only Supreme Market in Kabul with the white Land Cruiser
The foreigners-only Supreme Market in Kabul with the white Land Cruiser (source: "Supreme PX Kabul")

No reliable figures exist on the share of overhead in NGO aid expenditures, but fragmentary indirect signs – luxurious cars and residences - suggest a high figure. Many Afghans are outsiders in their own country, by virtue of class exclusion. Afghans are not allowed into western-style stores like the "Supreme" market which cater only to the moneyed foreign expat community.

An article in The Scotsman headlines "Aid Workers Live the High Life" begins with,

"Kabul. The Elbow Room bar is the place to be seen sipping cocktails, while the Gator club and restaurant offers a fine range of caviar and Cuban cigars. For brunch, why not linger over an imported cappuccino at the Flower Street café, and if you're still feeling delicate from the night before, there's a Thai massage available at $25 an hour."7

The bloated expatriate community even has its own monthly magazine, Afghan Scene Magazine, replete with photos, stories, advertisements (by Roshan and the Elbow Room), and tidbits of social life.8

In a mid-year assessment in 2004, veteran Canadian-born reporter for the Associated Press with 15 years of experience living in Afghanistan, Kathy Gannon, wrote,

"today, nearly three years (after the fall of the Taliban, (Afghans)... are a deeply disappointed people. They have seen little development outside of the cities. Jobs are rare, the infrastructure is still woefully inadequate and little substantive change has come to their daily lives. Yet Afghans see international aid workers in fleets of large, four-wheel drive vehicles, lively in grandly refurbished and rebuilt homes."9

The costs of maintaining these foreign "guests" in Afghanistan is exorbitant. In October 2002, the Guardian's Rory McCarthy noted

"The average cost of maintaining a foreign UN employee in Afghanistan for a year is around $250,000. Add to that the soaring cost of house rentals, which means some UN agencies are paying $15,000 a month for their Kabul offices, and it is little wonder funds are running out."10

Certain activities by foreign aid and/or Afghan organizations do improve living conditions of the many (e.g., such organizations include Medecins Sans Frontieres, the Swedish Afghanistan Committee, Emergency Italia, and Oxfam to name just a couple). Here mention needs to be made of the heroic de-mining efforts carried out by the Halo Trust, the Mennonites and others, but also the rebuilding of traditional Afghan irrigation systems, the inoculation efforts by international health agencies11, the repair of destroyed and building of new water wells, educational efforts in matters of primary healthcare, and restoring traditional agricultural systems using native seeds. The U.N.'s World Food Program initiated a spate of bakeries operated by war widows in urban areas. A modern hospital rebuilt and refurbished with support from the Government of Italy and the United Nations Population Fund opened its doors in impoverished north-west Kabul in July 2003, no doubt improving mother and infant care in the neighboring poor, densely populated area of Khair Khana with a population of close to 1 million.12

But, Mandira Nayar cautions, "Afghanistan today, the situation is far from perfect."13 She mentions shopping malls (with glass flown in from the U.S.), the mobile-phone boom, huge Toyota Land Cruisers "the chosen vehicle of the donor community, jostle for space on narrow pot-holed streets," and the five-star luxury hotel, the Kabul Serena (Kabul Hotel), rising sphinx-like in the center of town courtesy of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). Fittingly, it will include "a presidential suite." AKDN plans include building a pedestrianised piazza outside the Kabul Hotel, which "development could foster the rebirth of the cosmopolitan culture, the café culture of 30 years ago."14

Not to be outdone, Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels inaugurated construction of a 200-room Hyatt Regency in April 2004, appropriately situated opposite the U.S. Embassy. The project is a no-risk venture for Hyatt as it is financed by a $40 million loan from the U.S. Government (and ultimately, U.S. taxpayers). Hamid Karzai even donned a hard hat for the construction opening ceremony and the U.S. proconsul in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad announced,

"the Hyatt will become a focal point for international and Afghan business leaders."15

Karzai and Khalilzad in hard hats, well-protected by DynCorps personnel
Karzai and Khalilzad in hard hats, well-protected by DynCorps personnel, posing at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Hyatt (Reuters, Zainal Abd Halim, April 17, 2004)

The more venerable Intercontinental Hotel underwent a $30 million face-lift under Dubai management. The revitalized swimming pool is an attraction and might soon revive its "glory days" of the 70s, when

"...bikini-clad Afghan women frequented the pool at Afghanistan's first luxury hotel, where an outdoor bar served local red wine. Many educated middle-class women in those days wore Western clothes and shed their veils as the former king, Mohammad Zaher Shah, nudged the nation toward a parliamentary state. A 1972 guidebook still sold in the hotel bookstore describes a city with a modern airport, happy populace and 'picturesque retreats for picnics and gay outings'."16

The super-deluxe Khyber Suite located on the Intercon's fifth floor costs $470 a night, more than ten times the monthly wage of most Kabulis.17

For the slightly more athletic types, the Kabul nine-hole golf course has re-opened near Lake Qargha. The aged Afghan attendant hopes more foreigners from Kabul's burgeoning community of aid workers, diplomats, security types and journalists will tee-off (and pay the $10 fee for two rounds).18 An ex-warlord is building Swiss chalets near the golf course, prefabricated in Switzerland and priced from $183,000 which should be ready by year-end 2004,

"for inspection by well-heeled residents of Kabul who are looking for their own slice of Lucerne just six miles northwest of the Afghan capital."19

The warlord has far bigger designs. He plans a $100 million ski resort complete with ski slope and alpine chalets.20

While the mostly undamaged diplomatic enclave in Kabul – where Karzai dwells in his fortified palace – is bathed in light and its streets clogged with 4-wheel drive vehicles of "aid" organizations, some 94 percent of Afghanistan's population has had no access to electricity since the country's power grid was destroyed in 20 years of fighting. Many people in Kabul have only candles or oil lamps and plastic sheets to keep out of the Afghan winter.

Victoria Burnett writing in the Los Angeles Times, described the post-Taliban revival of commerce in Kabul,

"Apricots, Heineken, Issey Miyake eau de toilette. There is little you cannot buy in the Kabul bazaar. The wheels of commerce are spinning in this capital city, where traders crowded back into the market after the end of the Taliban regime. …The commercial district of Shar-i-Naw is a blur of colored neon and fairy lights. The vibrant retailing sector sprung up around the foreign aid workers, diplomats and journalists who poured into Kabul after the Taliban regime fell in 2001. But shopkeepers are also targeting an emerging community of Afghan consumers that includes refugees who have returned with money from overseas and those who have benefited from an expansion fueled in part by aid dollars and the booming opium trade."22

Muhammed Khaled, salesman in Kabul's Toyota dealership said, pointing at a glittering black Landcruiser in the showroom,

"we have enough customers willing to pay $ 50,000 for this car...Customers are either foreigners, important commanders or government officials."23

Some Western "feminists" have assisted opening a score of beauty shops in Kabul which, in their words, "allow Afghan women to be glamorous again."24 Liberation arrives through acts of westernized consumption. Lucy Edwards Morgan heralds "the fearless new face of Kabul" decorated with mascara and lipstick. Revlon, l'Oreal, Clairol and Vogue have generously assisted such beautification efforts.25 Hamida Ghafour extols the eight-month Beauty Without Borders course run in Kabul by two America women.26 Such salons are praised for providing skills to women who can then earn a living. Many Muslim women are rightfully deeply suspicious of western feminism.27

Madeleine Coorey of Agence France-Presse in a column titled "Kabul Shopping" informs us about a new west Kabul boutique in the Bazaar-e-Zanana or Women's Market, where

"...the three women shoppers laugh as they examine the sexy lingerie on sale...enjoying their first chance to buy such garments from a female sales assistant...inside the small store…they have the luxury of chatting and laughing with the saleswoman as they weigh up the purchase of a mint green, made-in-China brassiere against a lacy beige one..."28

But outside of Kabul's and a few other urban center's urbanized upper middle-class women, the situation for Afghan women remains largely what it has been historically, the visibility of Bollywood's Kajol and lingerie and lipstick liberation in Kabul notwithstanding.29 Outside a few cities, western ways are absent and the situation for women remains appalling.30

As part of "civilization returned" to Kabul (and Afghanistan), an agreement was announced on Thursday, April 29, 2004, that a private firm, the Faiz Mohammad Mahtabudin Company, has contracted with the Kabul city authorities to build an amusement park complete with Ferris wheel and bumping cars, in Kabul's historic Zarnigar Park. The following day, Friday, April 30th, we learned that the Rand Corporation think-tank and a Qatar-based company, is introducing "Sesame Street" into Afghan schools. The first 400 "education" kits with specially adapted programs featuring Big Bird and other Sesame Street characters, have been given to Afghan authorities who will distribute them to schools. The kits will help Afghan teachers,

"move into a new century of education."

The kits, naturally, include a personal message from President Karzai.

Luxury hotels, Swiss chalets, beauty salons, amusement parks, boutiques, the new Roshan City Tower department store, restaurants, Godrej cosmetics, cyber cafes31, traffic jams, a repaved highway here and there, and mascara do little in terms of what most Afghans need, things like clean water and sewer systems or any kind of a job.32 Kabul's new supermarkets thrive amid Kabul's sea of poverty.33 Begging in Kabul co-exists with traffic.34

Begging on a street in Kabul
Begging on a street in Kabul (Reuters photo, September 3, 2004)

On the vast Bagram Air Base, U.S. occupation soldiers can indulge themselves and have their "morale raised" at Burger King or a makeshift Starbucks housed in an old steel shipping container (when not being so motivated by visiting cheerleaders from U.S. professional sports teams or by Hooters Calendar Girls), get manicures by beauticians imported from Kyrgyzstan.35

Beyond the obscene consumption boom fuelled largely by imports in Kabul, the economy has experienced GDP growth rates of 29 percent in 2002, 18 percent in 2003, and possibly 16 percent in 2004.36

But such figures are more chimera than real: first, the drug trade accounts for an estimated one-half of GDP; and secondly, foreign money inflows represent 40 percent of GDP according even to a charter member of the Karzai "necktie crowd", Anwar ul-Haq Ahady, governor of the central bank.37

In other words, real domestic non-drug output amounts to a paltry 10 percent of GDP. Data for 2003 is yet more revealing: a recent U.N. report says the opium trade valued at $2.8 billion in 2003 accounts for more than 60 percent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product.38 Moreover, opium cultivation rose with the Afghan share of world supply going from 76 percent in 2003 to 87 percent in 2004. The country runs enormous current account deficits with imports at $2.3 billion and exports a piddling $100 million (2002-3) with opium by far the largest export item followed by small amounts of fruits, nuts, mutton, sheepskin, carpets and rugs.39 The churning around of such money has predictably attracted foreign banks which have established some local branches in Kabul – including the Pakistan National Bank, Britain's Standard Chartered and the Dutch banking group, ING.40

Such churning inspired Secretary Rumsfeld to utter a novel upbeat economic profundity during a recent visit,

"every time I come I notice the amazing progress that's being made...energy on the streets, the new stores, kiosks, cars."41

The kiosk theory of development!

Rumsfeld might have added to his list of successes the new American-style steakhouse called Hot and Sizzling.42 Scott Baldauf elaborates on this new entrepreneurial venture,

"all of this, unfortunately, is outside the price range of ordinary Afghans. Those pork chops, for instance, would cost about a week and a half's salary for a recruit of the new Afghan National Army (and pork is verboten by Islam anyway). Some restaurants serving alcohol, such as Hot and Sizzling, won't even allow Afghans to enter, out of respect for Afghanistan's strict Islamic traditions, and to avoid being shut down by Kabul police (run by another ex-warlord, General Baba Jan)."43

For its part, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers puts forth a kites-are-flying-again-in-Kabul, music-blaring-from-taxis, and uniformed-schoolgirls-with-backpacks-heading-home-from-class criterion of "reconstruction progress."44

In effect, three major processes underpin the "giant sucking sound" of Afghan income concentration at the top. First, the drug trade hinges upon the exploitation of poor peasant farmers by a chain of middlemen who enrich themselves while keeping peasant farmers at subsistence. The dearth of income-earning opportunities in the countryside has encouraged more Afghans to turn to the opium trade. In 2003, the opium trade is alleged to have generated $1 billion for peasant farmers and $1.3 billion for local traffickers. The output amounted to 4,000 tons produced in 28 of Afghanistan's 32 provinces.46

The U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime's 2004 Afghanistan Opium Survey reveals the "huge sucking sound" at work. While there was a 65 percent increase in land devoted to poppies over 2003, yields per hectare declined substantially, and the profits to opium traffickers soared – combined with a decrease in revenues to poor poppy farmers. Carl Robichaud summarized the situation,

"...there has at least been (in the past) one bright side to the drug trade: it injected much-needed capital into one of the world's poorest countries and helped feed impoverished farmers who had been buried in rural debt following a three-year drought...last year, for every dollar in drug revenues entering Afghanistan, farmers received forty cents and traffickers sixty. This year (2004), however, traffickers pocketed eighty cents and farmers twenty. The gross income a farmer earned off a hectare of poppy decreased almost by two-thirds, from $12,700/hectare to $ 4,600/hectare, and since the vast majority of poppy farmers have less than half a hectare under cultivation, this resulted in a drop in per capita income among families that cultivated poppy from $600 to $260 – or less than 75 cents per day."47

Secondly, the vast foreign money inflows have allowed the Karzai central regime to buy-off potential political opposition and finance an import-dependent consumption boom. Afghanistan imports neigh everything – from American glass to bottled Pakistani mineral water to Chinese bras to Toyota Land Cruisers to Indian Bollywood DVDs. Besides fueling the consumption spending of tens of thousands of sundry foreigners and returned expats, mostly in Kabul, part of the foreign money inflows which accrued to the Karzai regime contributed to further ostentatious spending. Bribes for securing contracts are the norm. The award-winning director of the film Osama put it,

"the situation is much worse than during the War. We are now faced with warlords, money-lords and position-lords. Corruption is rampant in the Government. It is now possible to buy justice with money in Afghanistan."48

Citizens complain that nothing in Afghanistan gets done without a bribe.49 Kabul's cops shake-down the middle class when twilight emerges.50 Malcolm Garcia of Knight Ridder Newspapers writes,

"In west Kabul, residents regularly report being robbed by troops of the former fundamentalist mujahideen leader Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, whose headquarters in the Paghman district are less than an hour from Kabul. Car mechanic Sayad Zaher, 28, a resident of west Kabul, said a police officer occupied his house last month and refused to leave until he paid $1,000. They bargained down to $300. '"Herat is better than Kabul,' Zaher said, referring to the western city controlled by powerful warlord Ismail Khan. 'The rule there is strong. The police can't rob you, beat you. The shops are open late. There is peace, real peace. The peace in Kabul city is not real'."51

Afghan military officers deal in drugs.52 Even the national airline is rife with corruption. The authoritative Eurasia Insight writes that nepotism and cronyism are rampant in the Karzai administration.53

Thirdly, for putting down arms, local chieftains get brought into the central government where they can safely live off rents rather than living dangerously by preying on a regional economy. A classic example of such cooptation occurred with "the U.N.'s warlord of the year," Gul Agha Sherzai, the notorious bandit, brutal thug and pedophile who was governor of Kandahar before and after the Taliban, transformed himself into Karzai's minister of public works.54 Others similarly "handled" included the Tajik Marshall Fahim, the Uzbek General Dostum, Hazrat Ali who rules over Jalalabad, the Hazara Haji Mohaqiq. The offer was made in September 2004 to Ismail Khan, the Lion of Herat but he declined.

The results of massive siphoning are plain for all to see, as for example in the mansion recently completed by Karzai's minister of agriculture or Dostum's swimming pools. The lovely new home of Karzai's Agricultural Minister, the Hazara Sayed Hussain Anwari, located in the Shar-e-Nau district of Kabul (see photo below). General Anwari was/is a member of the fundamentalist Harakat-e-Islami party and he had served as military spokesman of the United Front opposition fighting the Taliban.

The phalanx linking Karzai, the warlords/commanders who did the ground fighting to overthrow the Taliban (while the U.S. did the bombing), and the United States is immutable. Each needs the other. Kathy Gannon reported upon the result,

"along a potholed road in eastern Afghanistan, Mohammed Jan points through a cloud of dust at a line of mansions that seems out of place in such poverty-stricken surroundings. 'This is where the new, beautiful houses begin. They belong to the commanders. Their money is from drugs, from smuggling. They will never be caught. Their soldiers are working with the Americans,' says Jan, himself a small-time opium grower."55

In the south, The Economist recently reported upon Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province where

"...shiny tractors and SUVs mingle with camels and donkey-carts. The marble mansions of drug-dealers have mushroomed among the mud-brick houses."56

The forests of Kunar are ravaged by illegal smugglers, cutting trees and shipping the logs to Pakistan. Karzai's military allies and Karzai's governor run around 750 truck loads of timber a month into Pakistan, bribes being paid all along the way.57 Timber thieves also are at work in the border province of Paktia, in the Speen Ghar Mountains of Nangarhar.

As The Guardian's Isabel Hilton explains,

"the Pentagon prefers to pay the warlords to run the country outside Kabul, dressing up the exercise with a loya jirga in which 80 percent of those 'elected' were warlords...A Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday documents crimes of kidnapping, rape, intimidation, robbery, extortion and murder, committed not in spite of government but by its forces – by the warlords and their police and soldiers, who are paid, directly and indirectly, by US and British taxpayers. The British have been shipping cash to Hazrat Ali, the head of Afghanistan's eastern military command and the warlord of Nangarhar...His men specialize in arresting people on the pretext they that are Taliban supporters and torturing them until their families pay up."58

In September 2003, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) issued a report documenting 634 human rights violations recorded in a mere three months. They include rape, lynching, illegal detention, torture, illegal occupation and destruction of public property, the all carried out by officials in the Karzai regime associated with the Northern Alliance.59 In mid-November 2004, the bruised body without fingernails of Kachkool, 25, arrested on November 11th accused of involvement in the kidnapping of U.N workers, was returned to his family. He had been beaten to death – his body covered with bruises – by Karzai's police at the Police Academy.60

The level of corruption and payoffs reached such proportions that even Karzai's Planning minister denounced the behavior. It is common knowledge in Kabul that no big business can start in Afghanistan without a percentage being paid to one or several ministers, generals, governors, and commanders.61 As Pamela Constable noted, the Taliban have been replaced by poppies and corruption.62 She ends her account describing a scene at a school in Naw Zad, Helmand province, quoting from a local teacher's diary,

"please excuse our children from class today. Because of the poppy harvest, they are needed in the fields"

Another type of widespread corruption involves warlords, politicians and land speculators forcibly evicting thousands of Afghans from their homes.63 The process was described in detail by a U.N. Human Rights expert, Miloon Kothari, who documented land-grabbing across Afghanistan in mid-2004. In Kabul, he noted some ministers in the Karzai regime had bought plots of land for as little as $4,000 and subsequently sold them for about $100,000.64 This illustrates another important feature of the Karzai reconstruction bubble: speculation.


One of the new mansions of a Karzai minister (source)

The fourth element is simply a direct result of an over-crowded labor market which maintains at best subsistence wages and income for those lucky enough to find employment. The majority continues now as in years past to eek out an existence in the informal sector. The slow-investment economy further contributes to continuing impoverishment. On the other hand, those with property (and connections) – such as homes or buildings in the high-priced Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood or refurbished hotels or reconstructed factories making items like cement, plastics or plywood, or sales outlets selling high-priced imports (e.g., the Toyota Land Cruiser dealership) – have gotten very rich.

None of these processes involved in generating "the giant sucking sound" is in the least effected by more Afghan girls (and boys) going to school. To assert that such a supply-side economic intervention must inevitably lead to poverty eradication is a sad reincarnation of Say's Law ("supply creates its own demand"). One recalls that it was the dearth of meaningful employment opportunities in the Third World which often promoted the "brain drain."

Unemployed people wait to be recruited for casual work in the central square in Kabul
Unemployed people wait to be recruited for casual work in the central square in Kabul, October 18, 2004 (AP Photo, Emilio Morenatti)

The poor, property less masses provide the wealthy few with the services (from taxis to gardening to security personnel, etc.) to live like royalty. They and child laborers also are the labor power which makes the commodities often under abysmal working conditions to be sold at high prices in the frenzied consumerist bubble economy or abroad (e.g. lapis lazuli or emerald gemstones), making the owners of business establishments yet richer.65

Trickle-up works well in Kabul. Lucerne is arising six miles northwest of Kabul. The others are literally consumed by trying to survive. A young man in Kabul told a visiting internist from California and author of "The Kite Runner,"

"In Kabul, dying once is not enough."66

Covered in coal dust, an Afghan girl grabs spilled charcoal at an aid relief distribution in Kabul
Covered in coal dust, an Afghan girl grabs spilled charcoal at an aid relief distribution in Kabul. Children are often seen picking up scraps of wood and coal for small wages, or for their families (photo from Chien-Min Chung, 2002)

-- 30 --

Footnotes

1. I have been describing such reality since early 2002. See for example my "Karzai & Associates Trickle-Down Reconstruction," Cursor.org (March 12, 2002). A year ago, I wrote "AfghaniScam: Livin' Large Inside Karzai's Reconstruction Bubble," Cursor.org (September 24, 2003). The sordid record of DynCorp going from South America to Central Europe is described in Anthony Bennett, "Scandal-hit US Firm Wins Key Contracts," The Observer (April 13, 2003).

2. As for example, "RAWA Rejects Afghan Polls,"; Jim Ingalls and Sonali Kolhatkar, "Afghan Elections: US Solution to a US Problem," CommonDreams.org (October 7, 2004); Natasha Walter, "The Winners Are Warlords, Not Women," The Guardian (October 12, 2004); "Afghan Farce...Christian Parenti Interviewed by Democracy Now," ZNet (October 14, 2004);John Hickman, "When More is Less: What High Voter Turnout Doesn't Mean For the Future of Afghanistan," The Baltimore Chronicle (October 18, 2004); and David Peterson, "Beyond Demonstration Elections I – IV," ZNet Blogs (October 11, 13, 14, 25, 2004)

3. "It was President Clinton who signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which accelerated the "giant sucking sound." The curmudgeonly presidential contender, Ross Perot, correctly predicted that NAFTA would shift millions of manufacturing jobs south of the border. Perot was right. Now, ironically, even the jobs of those dollar-an-hour Mexican workers are being lost to China and other more impoverished nations" (from Adam Sparks, "The Return of the Giant Sucking Sound. View from the Right," SF Gate (February 9, 2004)).

4. The failure in Afghanistan is well described in Kim Sengupta, "Afghanistan: Unraveling of a Nation 'Liberated' by the West," The Independent (June 30, 2004)

5. At here. My parenthesis added. The fleet of white U.N. 4-wheel drive vehicles

6. Mandira Nayar, "Life. Afghanistan today, the situation is far from perfect," The Hindu (October 31, 2004)

7. Colin Freemen, "East and West Part in Kabul as Aid Workers Live the High Life," The Scotsman (October 5, 2004)

8. Launched in June 2004

9. Kathy Gannon, "The Wrong Way to Build a Nation," Los Angeles Times (May 18, 2004)

10. Rory McCarthy, "This Woman Lost Everything in a U.S. Air Raid," The Guardian (October 7, 2002)

11. For example, efforts by UNICEF have reduced the infant mortality rate for children under one from 165 to 115 deaths per 1000 live births

12. Details in "Kabul Hospital Rebuilt by UNFPA Now Provides Lifesaving Obstetric Care," ReliefWeb (July 14, 2003)

13. Nayar, op. cit.

14. "Afghanistan Rolls Out the Welcome Mat," Afghan Recovery Report No. 103 (January 29, 2004)

15. "Karzai Hails New Afghan Hyatt," Associated Press (April 17, 2004 at 9:46 AM ET) with a photo of Karzai in his hard hat.

16. From Richard Reed, "Analysis: Peace is Hell," Oregonian (March 3, 2002). Such outdoor frolicking continued throughout the last 20 years, though only within the walled premises of the United Nations compound in Kabul. See a picture of the coveted U.N swimming pool

17. "Afghanistan Rolls Out the Welcome Mat," op. cit.

18. "Teeing off at Kabul Golf Course," Sydney Morning Herald (May 24, 2004)

19. Julie M. Bowles, "Lake Qargha Resort. Condos, malls now weapons of choice for ex-Afghan fighter," Los Angeles Times (September 10, 2004)

20. Nick Meo, "Afghan Warlord Plans $100m Ski Resort. Fighter Plans a Swiss-Style Resort," The Independent (September 18, 2004)

21. Sanjeev Migliani, "Afghans Long to Step Out of Darkness," Reuters (March 16, 2003)

22. Victoria Burnett, "Afghan Commerce Revs Up," Los Angeles Times (February 16, 2004)

23. Aleksandar Vasovic, "Cars of All Kinds Clogging Kabul Streets," Associated Press (September 27, 2003)

24. Lucy Morgan Edwards, "The Fearless New Face of Kabul: After years of oppression, Afghan women are learning how to be glamorous again," Daily Telegraph (November 8, 2002)

25. Hamida Ghafour, "Opening Afghan Eyes With Mascara and Beauty Classes," Los Angeles Times (April 5, 2004)

26. Beauty salons are a hot topic in the mainstream western press reporting on Afghanistan – much more so than writing about poverty, child labor, and officialdom's corruption. See for example Hamida Ghafour, "Afghans Flocking to Beauticians Without Borders," Telegraph (February 21, 2004), or Bronwyn Curran, "Out of Kabul's Underground Salons, Into Beauty School," Agence France-Presse (October 30, 2003), and Jill Colgan, "Afghanistan – Kabul Beauty School," ABC Online (Australia) (September 8, 2003)

27. A theme explored in Katherine Viner, "Feminism as Imperialism," The Guardian September 21, 2002)

28. Madeleine Coorey, "Kabul Shopping." Things Asian (March 1, 2004)

29. "Afghan Lipstick Liberation," BBC News (October 17, 2002)

30. Hasima Suliman, "One Country, Two Worlds," IWPR (April 22, 2004) and Marian Rawi, "Rule of the Rapists," The Guardian (February 12, 2004)

31. Sanjoy Majumber, "Kabul's Cyber Café Culture," BBC News (June 13, 2003)

32. Paul Watson, "Afghan Aid Faces Hurdles. Reconstruction Effort is Plagued by Mismanagement, Confused Priorities and Sheer Need, Although Large Projects Are Planned," Los Angeles Times (September 1, 2003).

33. Victoria Burnett, "Amid Kabul's Poverty, Supermarket Buzzes," The Boston Globe (January 31, 2004)

34. Mike Collett-White, "Businessmen, Beggars Ply Bustling Streets of Kabul," Reuters (November 17, 2003 at 9:09 AM ET)

35. Thomas E. Ricks and Liz Spayd, "Makeshift Starbucks Brings Taste of Home to Troops," Washington Post (January 24, 2004) and Declan Walsh, "Fighting Tooth and Nail in Afghanistan. Burger King and Manicures Raise Morale for US Troops," The Guardian (September 27, 2004

36. See Christian Oliver, "Afghan GDP Growing Fast but Risks Inflation Rise," Reuters (September 15, 2004)

37. Former Missouri Senator Thomas F. Eagleton calls Kabul an oasis and a mirage, see his "Kabul is an Oasis – and a Mirage," St. Louis Post (December 4, 2003). The Karzai regime in April 2002 appointed a new governor of the Afghan central bank, Anwar Ul-Haq Ahady, leader of the Afghan Social Democratic Party [the Afghan Mellat Party], and holder of American degrees in finance and political science and a professor of political science and international finance at Providence College, R.I.. Ahady lived in the United States since the late 1970s, acquiring a M.B.A. from Northwestern University. Even more importantly, Ahady is married to Fatima Gailiani, the daughter of Sayed Pir Gailiani, a Pashtun tribal leader, moderate member of the anti-Soviet mujahideen in the 80s, and close supporter of King Zahir.

38. "U.N.: Afghanistan Becoming 'Narco-State,' " Associated Press (November 18, 2004)

39. Sengupta, op. cit.

40. "Dutch Bank Sets up Shop in Kabul," BBC News (March 26, 2004)

41. "Rumsfeld Hails Free Afghan Elections," Associated Press (August 12, 2004)

42. Scott Baldauf, "What's Hot and Sizzling in Kabul? The New Steakhouse," Christian Science Monitor (March 26, 2004)

43. Baldauf, op. cit. parenthesis added by author

44. See Andrew Wright, "Reconstruction Effort Shows Progress," Engineering News-Record (September 20, 2004)

45. James Rupert, "Citing Flaws in U.S-led Recovery, More Afghans in War-Torn Nation Turn to the Lucrative Opium Trade," Newsday (October 3, 2004).

46. Amy Waldman, "Afghan Route to Prosperity: Grow Poppies," New York Times (April 10, 2004)

47. Carl Robichaud, "Afghanistan's Latest Drug Report: The Hidden Story," Afghanistan Watch (November 25, 2004). See the entire report. The reasons for this shift in profits distribution are in poor agricultural practices of farmers which led to decreased yields, in price-fixing by monopolistic traffickers and the speculative nature of the market, and the continuing high prices for opium at Afghanistan's borders even as the domestic market bottomed as the domestic supply rose.

48. Nayar, op. cit.

49. Hafizullah Gardish, "Corruption Rampant at Every Level," IWPR (May 28, 2004)

50. Owais Tohid, "Cops Go Crooked in Kabul as Pay and Training Lag," Christian Science Monitor (July 2, 2003)

51. Malcom Garcia, "Security Woes Plague Afghanistan. Widespread Crime, Lax Police Worrying Officials, Peacekeepers," Detroit Free Press (April 14, 2004)

52. Scott Baldauf, "Afghan Military Tied to Drug Trade," Christian Science Monitor (September 4, 2003)

53. Farangis Najibullah, "Afghanistan: Nepotism, Cronyism Widespread in Government," Eurasianet.org (May 11, 2003)

54. Robert Fisk, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Let's Have A Big Cheer for Gul Agha: the UN's Warlord of the Year," The Independent (August 9, 2002)

55. Kathy Gannon, "For Afghans, the Enemy Isn't the Taliban, but U.S.-Backed Warlords Who Get Money From Drugs," Associated Press (September 7, 2003 at 3:05 PM ET)

56. "After the Taliban (Kabul and Lashkar Gah)," The Economist (November 18, 2004)

57. Ezatullah Zawab, "Afghan Woodland Ravaged by Border Traders," Pajhwok Afghan News (November 20, 2004 )

58. Isabel Hilton, "Now We Pay the Warlords to Tyrannise the Afghan People," The Guardian (July 31, 2003)

59. "Afghan Ministers Accused of Graft," Dawn (September 14, 2003)

60. Safia Milad, "Police Return Body 'Minus Fingernails'," Pajhwok Afghan News (November 20, 2004)

61. Tanya Goudsouzian, "Money Talks in Afghanistan's Scramble for Reconstruction," Daily Star (August 27, 2004) and Pamela Constable "Far From Prosperity," Washington Post (February 17, 2004)

62. Constable, op. cit.

63. Phil Reeves, "Afghanistan: Elite Seizes Land," The Guardian (September 19, 2003)

64. "UN Report: Thousands of Afghans Forcibly Evicted From Their Homes," VOA (April 11, 2004)

65. See the extraordinary photos by photographer Chien-Min Chung depicting child labor in contemporary Afghanistan. For case studies, see "The Short Life of Afghanistan's Child Workers," Mail & Guardian Online (December 11, 2003).

66. Khaled Hosseini, "Desperation in Kabul," New York Times (July 1, 2003)

 

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