US Called 'Main Cause of War' as Afghan Propaganda Campaign Fails
February 15, 2014
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Tariq Majidi / Tolo News & RT News
Afghan High Peace Council spokesman Maulvi Shahid has harshly criticized the continued US military presence in Afghanistan, calling it the main cause of war in the region and saying the US is "selfish and arrogant" about its role in the country. Meanwhile, a US federal agency that sought to pay photographers for "positive images" of its work in Afghanistan has canceled the program. The project, created to combat negative news coverage, collapsed amid charges that the effort amounted to propaganda.
Afghan Peace Council Spokesman:
US Main Cause of War in the Region
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(February 13, 2014) -- Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) spokesman Maulvi Shahid issued a statement today harshly critical of the continued US military presence in Afghanistan, calling it the main cause of war in the region and saying the US is "selfish and arrogant" about its role in the country.
Shahid said the US "acts in a manner that it can do whatever it wants," going on to say that they "came under the pretext of Osama, you martyred Osama and yet you are still here."
The terming of Osama as "martyred" raised a few eyebrows, and is being used by Karzai's parliamentary rivals as evidence that the Afghan President and the HPC, which Karzai appointed, are secretly in league with the Taliban.
Yet the sentiment of the US having long overstayed their welcome is one that is prevalent across much of Afghan society, and one which is particularly important right now, as the US seeks to coax Karzai or his successor into signing off on a deal to continue the occupation "through 2024 and beyond."
The HPC was established by the Karzai government to negotiate a peace settlement with tyhe Taliban. It's former leader, Barhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated in 2011, and his son former Ambassador Salahuddin Rabbani, is the current head.
HPC Questions US Presence,
Calls Bin Laden 'Martyr'
Tariq Majidi / Tolo News
(February 13, 2014) -- Maulavi Shahzada Shahid, a spokesman to the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC), said on Thursday that the main cause of war in the region is the interference and presence of foreign forces.
The comments come just a few days after a number of Afghan lawmakers expressed concerns with pro-Taliban statements being made by government officials.
The HPC spokesman called the former leader of Al-Qaeda, the late Osama Bin Laden, a martyr and criticized the presence US forces in Afghanistan.
"The US is selfish and arrogant and says that no one can stand before her technology," Maulavi Shazada Shahid said. "The US acts in a manner that it can do whatever it wants, or influence someone, it thinks always to establish a system and change a regime, but these approaches pursued by the US have led to insecurity in the region," he continued.
"The US committed crimes in Iraq, the US came under the pretext of Osama, you [the US] martyred Osama and yet you are still here."
This is the first time an Afghan government official has publically declared Osama Bin Laden a martyr, and it has received quite a bit of blowback.
"When the President of Afghanistan begins secret relations with the Taliban and releases prisoners and allows elements to enter in the Presidential Palace with fake documents and even delay signing of the agreement to make Taliban happy, it is natural that the individuals who are related to government circles or serve on the HPC will talk louder than the President on behalf of the Taliban," Parliament's Youth Affairs Chairman Naqibullah Fayeq said.
Recent statements and actions from President Hamid Karzai, along with the most recent ones from the HPC spokesman, do not bode well for Kabul-Washington relations. Instead, they suggest Afghan leaders are looking to push the US and its allies away while also ingrating themselves to violent Islamists in the region.
Facing Mounting Questions, USAID
Cancels Afghan Propaganda Contract
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(February 13, 2014) -- Pictures of Afghanistan, beyond picturesque poppy fields, have been uniformly unpleasant. USAID, which funnels all the money into the Obama Administration's various projects noticed this too, with most pictures of USAID work in Afghanistan meaning pictures of crumbling, half-built structures accompanying stories of millions wasted on them.
USAID had a plan though, and it was to hire photographers to take some more upbeat photos to "help inform Afghans" about how great their projects really are. It didn't last long.
USAID first requested proposals on Monday, and was immediately pressed by NGOs about why it was using its budget, which it is constantly complaining is too small, on "glossy propaganda" photos. [See next story.]
By Thursday, USAID decided that instead of answering that question, it'd be easier to just scrap the contract entirely.
USAID is constantly under fire from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction for wasting money, and failing to account for where the money goes when they hand over block grants to Afghan government agencies. Today's scandal will no doubt add more questions about that.
US Scraps 'Glossy Propaganda' Plans for Afghanistan Aid Projects
(February 14, 2014) -- A US federal agency that sought to pay photographers for "positive images" of its work in Afghanistan has canceled the program. The project, created to combat negative news coverage, collapsed amid charges that the effort amounted to propaganda.
Using US$1 billion on aid programs in Afghanistan, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) solicited proposals on Monday for a project that aimed to "help inform Afghans about the assistance American taxpayers are providing," an anonymous USAID official told USA Today of Thursday's decision.
"The wording of the (request) did not appropriately articulate that purpose and is being re-evaluated," the official said.
In addition to targeting Afghans, the program was intended to gather support in the United States for USAID initiatives in Afghanistan. Over 12 years old, the war in Afghanistan is highly unpopular with the American public, if the war can be called an issue of popular awareness at all. A CNN poll released at the New Year found record low 17 percent support for the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.
The proposal was quickly criticized by a public advocacy group as a blatant hype campaign.
"USAID should instead be focusing on accomplishing mission goals, not glossy propaganda," said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, a non-partisan government watchdog organization. "Waste, fraud, and poor performance have already resulted in billions being lost, let's not throw additional money down the drain."
The agency called the budding program one that would serve to show positive influences of US aid in the war-torn country amid the "negative" images usually shown by news organizations.
"USAID is executing the most massive US international assistance campaign ever, and the gains particularly in health and education have been impressive, yet the overwhelming majority of pictures recording that effort are negative, and at least to some extent misleading," the solicitation reads. "This is because professional photographers working for news agencies are the prime source of high-quality images of USAID work in Afghanistan. News photographs by their very nature focus on the negative."
Top objectives of the project included countering negative representations of Afghanistan, distributing those images through USAID social media, and to establish a long-term contract that would continually provide such images "to conventional media and directly to the US public."
USAID also sought to influence American thought on efforts in Afghanistan.
"The US and Afghan publics require accurate, well-balanced information about USAID work abroad," the proposal states. "Currently, this requirement is not being met in Afghanistan."
USAID did not disclose how much contract photographers would earn for the photos.
The announcement of the "positive image" proposal on Monday came alongside the unveiling of three new USAID development programs worth almost $300 million to wean Afghanistan off its 'war economy,' which is heavily subsidized today by opium exports -- a trade that had been practically squashed while the country was under Taliban rule.
Under the USAID initiative, $125 million will go to reviving Afghanistan's food and farm sector, and another $77 million to opening up the country to greater international trade and investment. The last program, valued at about $100 million, would seek to assist Afghanistan's educational system.
A report released late last month by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that Afghanistan cannot be trusted to properly spend the millions of dollars it receives in aid from the United States. The report found that none of Afghanistan's 16 ministries could be entrusted with USAID funds without high risk of that assistance being stolen or wasted.
In September, the SIGAR chastised USAID for poor oversight of money the agency spent there. A SIGAR report highlighted how USAID gave over $230 million to the Afghan Ministry of Health with little guidance for how the money was to be spent.
"Despite financial management deficiencies at the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, USAID continues to provide millions of US taxpayer dollars in direct assistance with little assurance that the (ministry) is using these funds as intended," according to the SIGAR report.
Meanwhile, after a long, protracted struggle that sought to convince Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to approve a security deal, the US is considering leaving the issue suspended until the Afghan presidential elections in April in order to address Karzai's successor.
The Obama administration has long hoped to get the long-lasting bilateral security deal with Kabul signed by the end of 2013, yet Karzai has refused to take responsibility for leaving a several thousand-strong US military contingent in the country beyond 2014.
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