By Andre Vltchek
August 3, 2017
A son of the super elite Afghan ‘exiles’
living in London, once ‘shouted’ at me, via WhatsApp, after I dared to
criticize one of the officially-recognized gurus of the Western anti-communist
left, who happened to be his religiously admired deity:
“I’m completely amazed that you’d do such a
thing. Then again, you’re Russian… And Russians held a strange superiority
complex about dominating the whole Asian & African continents – even when
nobody invited or asked them to. Historical examples are plenty… Don’t go to a
country to report about what’s actually going on when you can’t even speak the
This was his tough verdict on Russia and on
my work; a verdict of ‘Afghan man in London’, who never even touched work in
his entire life, being fully sustained by his morally corrupted family. He
never travelled much, except when his father took him on one of the official
diplomatic visits. He has been drinking, taking drugs and hating everything
that fights, that defies the Empire. From President Duterte in the Philippines,
to Maduro in Venezuela, and Assad in Syria. After he was taken out of
Afghanistan at an extremely early age, he never set foot on its soil.
All of his knowledge was accumulated
‘second-hand’, but he is quick to pass endless moral judgments, and he is
actually taken seriously by one of the most influential and famous ‘opposition’
figures in the West. It is because he is an Afghan, after all, and because he
has a perfect English accent, and his ‘conclusions’ are ‘reasonable’, at least
to some extent acceptable by the regime, and therefore trustworthy. He and
others like him know perfectly well when to administer the required dose of
anti-Soviet and anti-Russian sentiments, or when to choose well-tolerated
anarcho-syndicalism over true revolutionary fervour.
Again in London, a lady from an Afghan
diplomatic circle, who still takes pride in being somehow left-leaning (despite
her recent history of serving the West), recalled with nostalgia and boasting
“Once when I got sick, I travelled with my
husband from Kabul to Prague, for medical treatment. It was in 80’s, and we
took with us 5,000 dollars. You know, in those days in Czechoslovakia this was
so much money! Our friends there never saw so much cash in their lives. We
really had great time there.”
I listened politely and thought: ‘Damn, in
those days, my two Czech uncles were building sugar mills, steel factories and
turbines for developing countries like Syria, Egypt, Lebanon. I’m not sure
whether they also worked in Afghanistan, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they
did. It was their internationalist duty and they were hardly making US$500 per
month. The salary of my father, a leading nuclear scientist, who was in charge
of the safety of VVR power plant reactors, was at that time (and at the real
exchange) well under US$200 a month. These were very honest, hard-working
people, doing their duty towards humanity. And then someone came from Kabul,
from the capital of one of the poorest countries in Asia, recipient of aid and
internationalist help from basically all Soviet Bloc countries, and blows 5.000
bob in just a few days!’
In those days, socialist Czechoslovakia was
helping intensively, various revolutionary and anti-colonialist movements, all
over the world. Even Ernesto Che Guevara was treated there, between his
campaign in Congo, and his final engagement in Bolivia.
But the lady did not finish, yet:
“Once we crossed the border and travelled
to the Soviet Union by land. You cannot imagine the misery we encountered in
the villages, across the border! Life was much tougher there than on our side.
Of course Moscow was different: Moscow was the capital, full of lights, truly
Was that really so? Or was this official
narrative that has been injected through the treasonous elites into the psyche
of both Afghans and foreigners?
I listened, politely. I like stories, no
matter from which direction they are coming. I took mental notes.
Then, back in Afghanistan, I asked Mr.
Shakar Karimi point blank:
“You were travelling back and forth,
between Afghanistan and the former Soviet Union. Was life in the Afghan
countryside better than in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan?”
He stared at me, shocked. When my question
finally fully sank into his brain, he began laughing:
“Soviet villages were so much richer; there
could not be any comparison. They had all necessary facilities there, from
electricity to water, schools and medical posts, even public transportation:
either train or at least a bus. No one could deny this, unless they’d be
totally blind or someone would pay them not to see! Of course Tashkent, capital
of Uzbekistan, was totally different story: it was a huge and very important
Soviet city, with theatres, museums, parks, hospitals and universities. But
even the villages were, for us, shockingly wealthy. Culture at both sides of
the border was, however, similar. And while the Soviets were engaged here in
Afghanistan, things began developing at our side of the border, too.”
But who would listen to Mr. Shakar Karimi
from Pole Charkhi Village, on the outskirts of Kabul. He hardly spoke English,
and he had no idea how to be diplomatic and ‘acceptable’ to Londoners or New
Yorkers. And what he was saying was not what was expected from the Afghans to
During my previous trip to Afghanistan,
over the phone from Kabul, I suggested to my friend, another ‘elite’ Afghan
exile, that the next time she should come with me, at least for a few days, in
order to reconnect, to breath the air of the city that she has been claiming
she missed so desperately, for so many years. Reply was curt, but somehow
“Me, coming back like this; incognito? You
don’t understand, my family is so important! When I finally go back, it will be
a big, big deal!”
It is very strange, but Afghans that I know
from Afghanistan are totally different from those I meet in Europe and North
America. So are Afghans who are going back, regularly, to their beloved
country, and who are ‘connected’, even engaged.
In Rome, I met Afghan Princess Soraya. I
was invited to Italy by several left-wing MP’s representing 5 Stelli (‘5 Star
Movement’) and during our lunch together, when learning about my engagement in
Afghanistan, they exclaimed: “You have to meet ‘our’ Afghan Princess!”
They called her on a mobile phone. She was
in her 60s, but immediately she jumped on her bicycle and pedalled to the
Parliament area in order to meet me. She was shockingly unpretentious, and
endlessly kind. With her, nothing was a ‘big deal’. “Come meet me in the
evening in the old Jewish Ghetto,” she suggested. “There will be an opening of
a very interesting art exhibition there, in one of the galleries.”
We met again, in the evening. She was very
critical of the occupation of her country by the NATO forces. She had no fear,
nothing to hide. She had no need to play political games.
“I’m going back to Kandahar, in couple of
weeks. Please let me know when you are going back to my country. I’ll arrange
things for you. We’ll show you around Kandahar.”
In the meantime, I got used to Afghanistan;
to its terrain, its stunning beauty, to its bitter cold in the winter and
stifling heat of the summers, to its curtness, its exaggerated politeness and
even to its hardly bearable roughness, which always surfaces at least once in a
while. But I never got used to all of those upper-class ‘refugees’, people who
have left Afghanistan permanently; to those who later betrayed, and then
betrayed again, spreading false information about their country, serving
Western media/propaganda outlets or as diplomats of the puppet state abroad,
making a lucrative living out of their treason and out of the misery of their
own people. I don’t think that I will ever get used to them. In a way, they are
even worse than NATO, or at least equally as bad, and more deadly and venomous
than the Taliban.
There are many ways how one can betray his
or her country. There are also countless reasons and justifications for
treason. Historically, Western colonialists developed entire networks of local,
“native” collaborators, all over the world. These people have been ready and
willing to run down their devastated countries, on behalf of the European and
later, US imperialists, in exchange for prominent positions, titles and
‘respect’. Unfortunately, Afghanistan is not an exception.
On 21 January 2010, even Kabul Press had
apparently enough, and it published damning article “Afghan UN Ambassador’s
$4.2 million Manhattan apartment”
referring to the super-luxury residence of then Afghan UN Ambassador, Zahir
“Among the billions of dollars being spent
propping up the Karzai government are some choice bits of New York City real
estate. Number 1 is a 2,400 sq. ft. 3-bedroom corner apartment in the Trump
World Tower, one of the world’s most expensive addresses. It was chosen by
Zahir Tanin, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations, who lives there
with his wife.”
“According to Kabul press sources, eight
other diplomats working in the Mission’s offices live about one hour away. The
average rent for them is over $20,000 per month—extremely pricey even for
Manhattan real estate. The previous Ambassador, Mr. Farhadi paid only $7,000
per month for all rent and expenses.”
“Other ambassadors, like Taib Jawad (Afghan
Ambassador to the U.S.) are living in luxury residences, why not me?” our
source quotes Tanin as saying.”
So many Afghans have left, many betrayed,
but others are refusing to bend, remaining proud and honest.
During my previous visit to the country, I
worked along the road separating the districts 3 and 5 in Kabul, photographing
literally decomposing bodies of drug-users.
In June 2017 I returned, but this time I
dared to film the people living under the bridges, and in deep infested hovels.
Later I walked on the riverbank, trying to gain some perspective and to film
from various angles.
Someone was making threatening gestures
from the distance; someone else aimed a gun at me. I ducked for cover.
“Not very welcoming place, is it?” I heard
loud laughter behind my back. Someone spoke perfect English.
I turned back. A well-dressed man
approached me. We exchanged a few words. I explained what I was doing here and
he understood immediately.
“Here is my card,” he said. Muhammad Maroof
(Sarwan), Vice-President of the Duniya Construction Company,” it read. He
“I came to this warehouse here to deliver
my products, and I saw you filming. You’re lucky you were not hit by a bullet.”
“I want to talk,” he said, pointing his
hand at the bridge. “Don’t film me, just take notes. You can quote me, even use
He explained that he used to work for the
US military, as an interpreter.
Then he began speaking, clearly and
“The biggest mafias here are directly
linked to both UK and US. The West lies that they want to stop trade with drugs
in Afghanistan; they never will allow it to stop.”
“My brother is a writer and he has images
of the U.S. army giving water pumps, studs and other basic stuff, for the
growth of poppies. The biggest supporter of drugs production in Afghanistan,
and the export, is the UK government. They are dealing directly with the
locals, even giving them money… The UK is also the major market for the export.
Helmand, Kandahar, you name it, from there, directly, transport planes are taking
off and going straight towards Europe, even the US. The Westerners are people
who physically put drugs into the airplane at our airports.”
“My relative was an interpreter for the
British… He was killed by them, after he had been witnessing and interpreting
at a meeting between the UK officials, and the local drug mafias.”
I was wondering whether he was certain he
wanted to speak on the record. My interpreter was standing by, apparently
impressed by what he was witnessing. Mr. Maroof did not hesitate:
“I have nothing to hide. They are
destroying my country right in front of my eyes. What could be more horrifying
than that? The Western occupation is ruining Afghanistan. I want the world to
be aware of it, and I don’t care what could happen to me!”
Not all the opposition to the present
regime in Kabul is fighting for true independence and progressive ideals. Some
have close links with the West, or /and with the Mujahedeen.
In Kabul, in June 2017, inside a makeshift
camp built near the site of a devastating explosion which in May killed at
least 90 people, injuring 400, I met with Ramish Noori; the spokesperson of
Haji Zahir Qadir’s “Uprising for Change”. The powerful “Uprising” counts on at
least a 1,000-men strong militia, one which is locked in brutal combat with
ISIS (Daesh), and which has already beheaded several terrorist fighters in
Mr. Noory clearly indicated that the goal
of his group is to force the present government to resign, even if that would
have to happen with the help of foreign countries:
“We were shot at in Kabul and 6 protesters
were killed, 21 injured. Professional Special Forces of Ashraf Ghani shot those
who were killed point blank, in the face. Instead of killing terrorists, this
government is killing innocent protesters; people who came to demand security
after that barbaric terrorist attack which took lives of 90 people. We actually
believe that many government officials are responsible for the killings. We
also think that the government is helping to coordinate attacks of the
Mr. Samir, one of the protesters, began
shouting in anger:
“The government is killing its own people,
and so we want both Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah to resign. We want an entire
reset of the Afghan system. Look what is happening all around the country:
killings, bomb blasts and unbridled corruption!”
But when I press them hard, I feel that
behind their words there is no sound ideology, just geographically swappable
‘civil society talks’. And perhaps some power struggle as well.
I don’t know who is supporting them, who is
behind them, but I feel that someone definitely is. What they say is right, but
it is how they say it that worries me.
I ask Ramish Noori about the NATO
occupation of Afghanistan, and suddenly there is a long pause. Then a brief
answer in a slightly uncomfortable tone of voice:
“We are ready to work with any country that
is supporting our position.”
“Can I stop by later today?” I ask.
“Of course. Anytime. We’ll be here till the
morning. We are expecting the Mujahedeen to join us in the early hours.”
Next time I will investigate further.
I visited the British Cemetery in Kabul.
Not out of some perverse curiosity, but because, during my last visit, I was
given this tip by a Russian cultural attaché:
“See how patient, how tolerant Afghan
people are… After all that has been done to them…”
I’m glad that I went. The cemetery puts the
events of the last 2 centuries into clear perspective. To a clear British
Full of patriotic sentimentality, The
Telegraph once described this place as: “Afghanistan: The corner of Kabul that
is forever England.”
There was no repentance, no soul-searching,
no questions asked, like: What was England doing here, thousands of miles away
from its shores, again and again… and again?”
Above the names of fallen English soldiers,
there was a sober but unrepentant dedication:
“This memorial is dedicated to all those
British officers and soldiers who gave their lives in the Afghan wars of the
19th and 20th Century. Renovated by the officers and soldiers of the British
Contingent of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul. February
2002. “We Shall Remember Them””
The cemetery is well kept. There is no
vandalism and no graffiti. In Afghanistan, the death of Englishmen, Spaniards
and other foreigners is respected.
Unfortunately, the death of Afghan people
is not even worth commemorating, anymore.
How many Afghans did those British troops
massacre, in two long centuries? Shouldn’t there be a monument, somewhere in
Kabul, to those thousands of victims of British imperialism? Perhaps there will
be… one day, but not anytime soon.
Again I drove to Bagram, filming the
monstrous walls of the US military and air force base.
Again I saw children with toy guns, running
and imitating landing combat helicopters.
Again I saw misery, right next to the gates
of the base; poor women covered by burkas, babies in their arms, sitting in
stifling heat on speed bumps, begging.
I saw amputees, empty stares of poor local
All this destitution, just a few steps away
from tens of billions of dollars wasted on high-tech military equipment, which
has succeeded in breaking the spirit of millions of Afghan people, but never in
‘liberating the country from terrorism’, or poverty.
I drove to the village of Dashtak, in
Panjshir Valley, to hear more stories about those jihadi cadres who were based
here during the war with the Soviet Union.
I was stopped, detained, interrogated, on
several occasions, sometimes ten times per day: On the Afghan-Pakistani border
which has recently experienced fighting between two countries, in Kabul,
Jalalabad, Bargam. I lost track of who was who: police, army, security forces,
local security forces, or militias?
In front of Jalalabad Airport I tried to
film an enormous US blimp drone, on its final approach before landing. I asked
my driver to make a U-turn, my drift HD camera ready. One minute later, the
military stopped the car, aiming its guns at us. I had to get out, put my hands
on a wall, and surrender my mobile phones. After our identity was verified from
Kabul, one of the soldiers explained:
“Yesterday, exactly the same Toyota Corolla
drove by, made the same U-turn and then blew itself up, next to this wall…”
In Jalalabad, I spoke to a police officer
wounded at the national Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) station, during a
It all felt surreal. The entire country
seems to be dissolving; yet it is refusing to fall, to collapse. It is still
standing. And despite rubble, fighting and the insane cynicism of the elites,
there is still hope, and even some optimism left.
I’m trying to understand.
“Afghans living abroad keep spreading false
rumors that we are finished, that everybody wants to leave,” explains Arif, my
driver and interpreter. “But it’s not true. More and more people want to stay
home, to improve things, to rebuild our motherland. She is beautiful, isn’t
We are passing through a winding road,
enormous mountains on both sides, and a river with crystal-clear water just a
few meters away.
“She is,” I say. “Of course she is.”
We stopped near a small mosque, almost
clinging to a cliff. It was the month of Ramadan. Arif was diligent; he went to
pray. I also left the car and went to look into a deep and stunning ravine.
Another car arrived; an off-roader, most likely an armored vehicle. The driver
killed the engine. Three heavily armed men descended. They left their machine
guns near the entrance to the mosque, washed their feet, and then went inside
Before they entered, we all nodded at each
Surprisingly, I did not feel threatened. I
never did, in Afghanistan.
The scenery reminded me of South America,
most likely of Chile – tremendous peaks, a deep valley, serpentines and
powerful river down below.
I felt strong and alive in Afghanistan.
Many things have gone wrong in this country, but almost everything was clear,
hardly any bullshit. Mountains were mountains, rivers were rivers, misery was
misery and fighters were fighters, good or bad. I liked that. I liked that very
“Arif,” I asked, sipping Argentinian jerba
mate from my elaborate metal straw, as we were gradually approaching Kabul. It
was Malta Cruz, a common, harsh mate, but a decent one.
“Do you think I can get Afghan citizenship
if we kick out Yanks and Europeans, defeat Taliban and Daesh, and rebuild
socialist paradise here?”
I was joking, just joking, after a long and
exhausting day of work around Jalalabad.
However, Arif looked suddenly very serious.
He slowed the car down.
“You like? You like Afghanistan that much?”
“Hmmm,” I nodded.
“I think, if we win, they’ll make sure to
give you Afghan nationality,” he finally concluded.
We were still very far from winning. After
returning me to my hotel, he categorically refused to take money for his work.
I insisted, but he kept refusing.
It all felt somehow familiar and good. Back
in my hotel room, exhausted, I collapsed onto the bed, fully dressed. I fell
Then, late at night, there were two loud
explosions right under the hill.
Afghanistan is here. You love it or hate
it, or anything in between. But you cannot cheat: you are here and if you know
how to see and feel, then you slowly begin to know. Or you are not here, and
you cannot understand or judge it at all. No book can describe Afghanistan, and
I’m wondering whether even films can. Maybe poetry can, maybe a theatre play or
a novel can, but I’m not sure, yet.
All I know is that it is alive, far from
being finished. Its heart is pulsating; its body is warm. If someone tells you
that it is finished, don’t trust him. Come and see for yourself; just watch and
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative
journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of
his latest books are revolutionary novel “Aurora” and two bestselling works of
political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against
Western Imperialism”. View his other books here. Andre is making films for
teleSUR and Al-Mayadeen. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary
about Rwanda and DRCongo. After having lived in Latin America, Africa and
Oceania, Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and
continues to work around the world.
of the First Part: http://www.newageislam.com/war-on-terror/afghanistan’s-lies,-myths-and-legends-–-part-one/d/112081