For the last 16 years Afghanistan celebrates April 28th by honoring its Mujahidins, an Afghan term which somewhat translates to Warriors of Religion or Warriors of God, depending who you ask. The celebrations, a vigorously enforced public propaganda in the form of a national holiday, was made much more significant than usual this year with the return of Gulbudin Hekmatyar, the man responsible for the deaths of over 60 thousand innocent Afghan civilians.
During the 90's civil war, Hekmatyar nicknamed "the butcher of Kabul" by Afghans, unleashed a massive barrage of artillery and rockets on the capital while laying siege to it. Thousands either died because of the shelling or succumbed to famine.
Afghan demonstrators shout slogans against Gulbuddin Hekmatya, the leader of Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin party, during a demonstration in a public park in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. (Photo: AP Photo via CP/Massoud Hossaini)
This past weekend, after 20 years of banishment, Hekmatyar reappeared in eastern Afghanistan in the province of Laghman. Early images and videos show a lineup of Afghan men in military uniform and turban kissing Hekmatyar's hands. Whether it is a sign of allegiance to the returned warlord or a sign of respect to the so-called Warrior of God, remains to be determined.
So why is this Canada's problem?
Well for starters, since 2001, from his hideout in Pakistan, Hekmatyar has guided his own legion of "wannabe" Warriors of God to the path to heaven, by sending them to Afghanistan to indiscriminately inflict maximum damage. Many of our fallen Canadians have likely been the victims of these heaven-bound passengers.
In early September 2016, the failing regime of Afghanistan signed a truce with Hekmatyar, granting him and his party the Hizb-i-Islami -- which ironically translates to Party of Islam -- full immunity, a Warrior of God`s welcome and financial compensation for "...his years of struggle for the peace and freedom of Afghanistan..."
Now that Hekmatyar is in Afghanistan he will be enjoying that wealth, fortified villas and around the clock military protection.
Again, why is this Canada's problem?
Speaking to a packed room at the University of Ottawa, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), John F. Sopko, delivered the raw picture of the disappointing reality on the ground. Sopko was invited by the university's Centre for International Policy Studies in early April 2017 to share his agency's (SIGAR) 16 years of observations and lessons learned in Afghanistan.
In his remarks, he exhaustively emphasized that: "...Given the fact that Canada continues to fund Afghanistan, the challenges we (SIGAR) identified, witnessed and documented are not solely American problems. If they are stealing from the United States, they're probably stealing from the Canadians too..."
In July 2016, the Trudeau government extended this country's financial aid to Afghanistan by another 150 million dollars per year until 2020. That is a little over half a billion dollars of Canadian tax payer's money to a country that has already received exponentially more funds than the U.S. Marshall Plan, which resuscitated Europe after World War II.
In their 2016 report, SIGAR unveiled an elaborate scheme nicknamed Ghost Soldiers in which scores of non-existent soldier names were listed on official Afghan government paper trails to collect higher funding. According to SIGAR, Afghanistan, a country the size of Texas, has more generals than the entire United States military, with over a thousand generals. Most of whom bought their stripes through ethnic or family patronage "...an insidious combination of poor leadership and corruption is the reason for the Afghan military's failure..."
Just a week ago, the Afghan minister of defense Abdullah Habibi and Army Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim, both resigned over a growing outcry because of their roles in the terror attacks on the country's 209th Shaheen Army corps mosque in the province of Mazar-e-Sharif where over 300 men have lost their lives. Both men have been conveniently and swiftly relocated to ambassadorial roles to Jordan and Kazakhstan, effectively avoiding any formal judicial inquiry or accountability.
The moral of the story is that no amount of wealth in the universe will fix the incompetence of the Afghan regime. In their failure to defeat the enemy and maintain its territorial sovereignty -- it sought to mask its shortcomings by bribing them with foreign aid, land and honorary titles.
Canadians should make no mistake that their tax dollars has/is and will be paying for Hekmatyar's lavish retirement.
If our American neighbour's longest military engagement has taught anyone anything -- it is that until the Afghan regime and those in position of power in Afghanistan are not held accountable and meticulously monitored, not only will there not be any gains, but both the Afghan people and the international community will suffer great losses, Hekmatyar being one of those incomprehensible failures.
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