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article imageOp-Ed: Afghanistan wants NATO bases transferred not demolished

By Ken Hanly     Jul 27, 2012 in Politics
Kabul - President Hamid Karzai demands that NATO bases be turned over to Afghanistan rather than being demolished. Karzai said the facilities could be used for schools, government offices, and health clinics.
As NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan, they are demolishing some bases that they believe the Afghans do not have the capacity to operate or are no longer operationally significant for NATO. Dozens of facilities from small checkpoint buildings to larger bases could be demolished before the end of 2014 when security is to be handed over to the Afghans.
Karzai has often been at odds with the NATO countries that have helped put him in power. Karzai has asked his defense minister Abdul Wardak to “take all necessary measures to stop the demolition of bases by NATO and make their handover possible,” according to a presidential spokesperson. Afghan officials complain that they have been left out of the process. This is a complaint in other areas as well.
When NATO forces mount night raids many times the Afghan authorities are not involved. Some military authorities fear that if Afghan officials were informed the targets might be forewarned of the attacks. Karzai has constantly complained that these raids have killed innocent civilians and asked that they cease. Now Karzai and other Afghan officials claim that some of the most modern and best-defended facilities in Afghanistan are being demolished for no discernible reason. Perhaps this is the NATO version of capitalism's creative destruction. New facilities will need to be built by the Afghans using foreign aid funds and foreign contractors for the most part.
One lawmaker said:They have spent lots of money for constructing the bases, and now they are spending more money for their destruction....We can use these bases for clinics, schools and for other administrative purposes.”
NATO officials say that the Afghans can claim bases before demolition. However, the Afghans often are too late in acting. Lt. Colonel Sarah Goodson said that NATO and the U.S contact “directly and regularly with the Afghan Ministry of Finance-led Base Closure Commission, who ultimately determines the disposition of bases.. On those occasions where the Afghan government does not desire a base which ISAF [the International Security Assistance Force] is leaving, the base is demilitarized and the ground is returned to its original state and appearance.”
Serco based in the UK had already been awarded a 57 million U.S. contract for the planning and documentation of the dismantling and demolition of bases across Afghanistan. The global company that also operates prisons among other jobs also had the contract for dismantling Iraqi bases. The U.K. has been a reliable U.S. ally in both Iraq and Afghanistan. One wonders how much control the Afghans really have over the base closure commission. Karzai officials may suffer from the same defects as Karzai himself. As Wikipedia says: The other main areas of criticism surrounding President Karzai involve nepotism, corruption, electoral fraud.....
U.S. officials claim that the Afghan army does not have the logistical capacity to use the hundreds of bases spread throughout Afghanistan. Many are in isolated mountain ranges. This may be true but it does nothing to argue against the view that the bases could serve in non-military uses. In isolated areas where there are few buildings and facilities does it make sense to destroy relatively new and modern buildings? Perhaps the real reason for demolition is the fear that these areas will be taken over by the Taliban and the facilities used by them.
What seems clear is that it is the U.S. and NATO not Afghans that are doing the planning. The plan is to concentrate the Afghan forces in a few larger bases. Even some large bases are being down-sized. No doubt the U.S. will continue to depend upon drones and raids along with Afghan support to try to control more remote areas. Possible civilian uses for military installations were never part of the planning.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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