Esquimalt News, Jan. 3, 2007

Aid ineffective due to corruption: MP

Warlords siphon Western aid, stall redevelopment

By Vern Faulkner

Eve Ensler Zoya being interviewed after the Oct.7 event in Hollywood.

Aid both resources and money is vital to effect change in Afghanistan, NDP MLA Denise Savoie (Victoria) said.

Yet what little money going to Afghanistan is largely pocketed by a corrupt regime and warlords, charged Zoya, a representative of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan a group trying to secure peace and women's rights in the war-torn country.

In October, Zoya told a gathering in Los Angeles that "democracy cannot be practised in a country infected by the germ of fundamentalist terrorism.

"By compromising with infamous fundamentalist warlords, and appointing them to high governmental posts," she said, the current regime has failed to bring about change.

"Now we have a parliament full of warlords," Zoya charged.

Those warlords, she suggested, have their own agenda and the continued violence serves those private agendas very well. Ergo, NATO forces can expect little support from Afghanistan's fractured and corrupt leadership, Zoya argued.

Indeed, more than 30 seats in Afghanistan's parliament are held by Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (The Islamic Party of Afghanistan, or HIA), a group directly linked to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar a man ranked highly on the U.S. terrorist list.

Savoie has no problem believing the charges of rampant corruption in Afghanistan and said the corruption is a major obstacle to brokering change in the war-torn nation.

"I think they are more than allegations. There are lots of indications that's happening. The aid isn't getting to the people it's intended for."

Similar laments from Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai support charges of internal corruption from those like RAWA, Savoie said.

"The warlords, apparently, are creating as much a problem and greater in many cases for women than the former misogynist Taliban regime," she said. "The idea that we're saving the women is kind of an unfortunate simplification of what's happening there."

Liberal MP Keith Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca) cited the diversion of aid as a key obstacle that must be solved before meaningful change can take place.

"Aid money comes in the front door and leaves out the back door in the hands of terrorists," Martin said, adding that international oversight is vital to ensure aid money goes to those who need it most.

Savoie said that aiding in the rebuilding of Afghanistan's infrastructure by placing aid in the hands of Canadian troops and placing them to work at the ground level will do much to circumvent corruption.

Conservative MP Gary Lunn (Saanich-Gulf Islands) dismissed any allegations of corruption as coming from "naysayers".

"I'm not going to get into this," he said, stating again that in any military mission there will be "critics" whose negative views are largely irrelevant and must be dismissed.

Currently, Afghanistan's police officers are put to work after a mere eight days of training, yet are grossly underpaid, making them susceptible to bribery and corruption, Martin said.

"They're engaging in thuggish behaviour in order to put food on their table."

Without a viable civilian police force, said Martin, military action can't proceed. Forces on the ground cannot be expected to pursue Taliban targets with military force while also trying to maintain civil order.

Savoie said there are many opportunities to change the role of Canadian forces and the training of Afghanistan law enforcement is one such perfect example.

"There are very few people that are actually, on the ground, trained to do policing," she said. "That is what Canada should best be doing."

Lunn dismissed claims of police corruption entirely, stating that "you can always find critics" of a military mission.


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