Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Visit to Kabul

I was a member of the high-level delegation that President Khatami led to Kabul only a few months after Hamid Karzai was installed in 2002. We started at 6/30 and had a 1/30 hour flight from Tehran over the Hindukush heights , in the early hours of daylight, breathtaking scenes from the mountain range could be viewed from the small plane we were flying. Kabul airport was still littered by dozens of shattered warplanes and tanks . It was a dreadful view from above. Blue-eyed blond Americans escorted the delegation, welcomed by Karzai in the Airport, to the presidential palace. It was a fascinating visit , after the downfall of the Taliban, after so many years of internal conflicts and war. Women were back in the streets of Kabul and contrary to the naive speculations that Laura Bush and Cherie Blair had made in their trips and messages to Afghan women , they had not all put the burga aside , many still covered their body and head in spite of the change in political atmosphere. Freedom had not done away with the hijab for the Afghan women. However they had a very very long way ahead.

The opium production and trade business was by then deeply rooted in Aghanistan. Since before the Revolution in 1979, Iran was the transit route for the trade of narcotics, taking its toll on the Iranian populace. Hundreds of kilometers of rugged mountainous borders has made it very difficult almost impossible to prevent the influx of Afghan nationals, many of whom are engaged in the illicit trade. During the years after the downfall of the Taliban poppy crop plantations have increased and the trade of opium has boomed. Today Afghanistan provides more than 90% of the world's opium.

A few days ago I watched a report on Aljazeera describing the incompetence and reluctance of the Karzai government to deal with the matter. The show also aired an interview with a former advisor to the Bush Administration who indicated that high-level American officials were involved in the narco-trade. I was contemplating on the matter, trying to digest what I had for long speculated, when I came across a New York Times report; "Is Afghanistan a Narco State?"This report implies that both the Afghan government and the American administration are accomplices in the illicit drugs production and trade. The report provides insight into some of the startling realities in Afghanistan today, it reads:
" By late 2006, however, we had startling new information: despite some successes, poppy cultivation over all would grow by about 17 percent in 2007 and would be increasingly concentrated in the south of the country, where the insurgency was the strongest and the farmers were the wealthiest. The poorest farmers of Afghanistan — those who lived in the north, east and center of the country — were taking advantage of anti drug programs and turning away from poppy cultivation in large numbers. The south was going in the opposite direction, and the Taliban were now financing the insurgency there with drug money — "

I knew this was happening from long before, since when we visited Kabul, a major issue I followed was the drying of the Hamoun wetlands which were located in the Southeast of the country close to the Afghan border. The Hirmand river flowing deep from the Hindokush mountains provides water resources for the wetlands and according to a historic treaty, this right to freshwater resources for the Hamoun has been officially recognized. However the Hirmand river has not been flowing into Iran due to the large plantations which the Afghans were creating to derive water from the Kajaki Dam and the river; no ordinary crop plantations according to the information we were receiving, but the lucrative opium trade was on the rise and demand for poppy cultivation was supported by the wealthy and powerful. Without the water resources from Hirmand the large and regionally important wetlands were devastated.
The Hamoun wetlands are now dry for the third consecutive year. The satellite picture on the left belongs to the 1980s while the other belongs to 2001.


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Anonymous said...

yes dr. Entekar, this is all true, but this is exactly why the world is counting the days till the inauguration of our beloved president Barack Obama to the White House, b/c he's the ONLY man in the entire world, with enough WORLDWIDE popular support and therefore a strong enough political mandate to do something about it!

this is why your country ALSO needs to take advantage of this opportune time, and elect someone like president Khatami again next year, so that cooperation can be made between US, NATO, the Karzai government AND Iran, Pakistan, and other neighbors of Afghanistan in order to rid the world from the plague of narcotics!

now, ...

about Iran's golden opportunity to become (convincingly) a positive force for GOOD in the region, a beacon of peace, stability and democracy, and therefore help develop the region (Central Asia and Middle-East):

Iranian PEOPLE first NEED to make sure they oust and cleanse their government from the radical extremist elements whose actions, words and policies are in fact proving the OPPOSITE!!!!
Iran needs to show its true face (that of its culture and people), rather than allow its self-absorbed arrogant statesmen to make moves that will brand it as a Pariah State!

please DO NOT let history repeat itself!
Darius-III, Yazdgerd-III, Sultan Mohammad Khwarazm-Shah, and Fathali-Shah Qajar ALL had similar self-aggrandizing attitudes toward their powerful adversaries, as your current leaders are showing toward the so-called "Great-Satan"! and they all ended up leaving their people to burn in the ashes of destruction that could have been avoided through "wise diplomacy" instead of arrogant defiance, and they all had to escape like cowards, handing over the SOVEREIGNTY of Iran to Alexander (330 BC), to Khalid-ibn al-Walid (637 AD), to Genghis Khan (1220 AD), and losing so much of its TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY to the Russian Empire in 1828!!!!

Don't Let History Repeat Itself!!!

Anonymous said...

i hope the old "Geneva-Channel" of 2001 has been reopened between Iran and the Democratic nominee's foreign policy advisers!!!! i have a feeling it already is! :-)

just as 28 years ago, your fundamentalist rivals helped the Republicans of Ronald Reagan's camp do one to Jimmy Carter's camp in the 1980 election year (by getting Iran to delay the release of their own hostages, in order to prevent an "October Surprise" by Carter), now it's time you and president Khatami's friends help the Democrats of Barack Obama's camp do one to these John McCain people, who are the same exact neoconservatives who used Iran's help in Afghanistan in 2001 but then repaid Khatami's policy of "Detente" with their "Axis of Evil" gift!