Kabul’s dirty little secret – the hordes of Afghan collaborators

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai (Image: Shutterstock)

Roshan Muhammed Salih reporting from Kabul, says that Muslims need to have a less generous view of collaborators otherwise we will be giving the West a green light to invade, occupy and subjugate. 


During nearly three weeks in Afghanistan, I have been dismayed to encounter a huge number of people who collaborated with the U.S.-led NATO occupation forces.


These people have been remarkably candid with me when the camera was not rolling and the tape wasn’t recording. And they offered a variety of excuses and justifications for their treason.


We all know that over one hundred thousand Afghans who worked for the Americans, the British and others were evacuated from the country in August as the occupation authorities fled or surrendered to the Taliban.

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But many more remained behind and I have met dozens of them. They are ordinary people who work in ordinary jobs or who are now unemployed. They may have served the occupation forces in hotels or worked for them in administrative roles. Or they may have accepted contracts from them to build infrastructure and implement projects.


Talking to these people, most justified their collaboration by saying they did it because they were dirt poor and needed to put food on the table for their families. Others offered no excuses to me and said they saw nothing wrong with working with the Americans because they were far better than the Taliban. While others seemed genuinely troubled and remorseful because of their actions.


I guess a generous interpretation of this collaboration is that most Afghans did it out of pure desperation in low-level jobs and have no blood on their hands. And who am I – someone who lives a comfortable life in the West – to judge them? Perhaps I would have done the same thing if I were in their position (I hope not).


A less charitable view – and one which I share – is that the occupation simply could not have worked for so long without the sheer legions of Afghans willing to work with foreign invaders and occupiers. Ultimately all these people committed treachery to one degree or another and sold their nation down the river to foreigners. 


Also, we must remember that huge numbers of Afghans refused to collaborate with the foreigners and sacrificed everything to liberate their country from invaders.


As for the Taliban, they have declared a general amnesty against collaborators and there is definitely no systemic policy of reprisals against them. In fact, I have met collaborators in ministries who have kept their jobs and have been assured forgiveness by the Taliban.


On the other hand, I have also heard anecdotal evidence of cases of reprisals being carried out at a local level, often against people who have been denounced by their own neighbours.


Moreover, these stories of collaboration in Kabul have got me thinking of collaboration that has taken place in other Muslim countries I have reported on. In Iraq, the Americans and the British could not have operated without legions of domestic collaborators. Neither could the Israelis control Palestine without Palestinian collaborators.


In my view our attitude to these collaborators is far too forgiving. You don’t even have to be Muslim to realise that one of the most serious crimes you can commit in any country is to help a foreign power establish their authority over your nation. It’s called treason and the usual punishment for it is extremely harsh.


That said, it’s true that if the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan pursued a no-tolerance policy against collaborators they would be jailing hundreds of thousands of people, which is unrealistic for a movement that is trying to win hearts and minds and rebuild a nation.


But at the same time if our general attitude is one of forgiveness to traitors who are willing to betray their own nation, then this is a recipe for eternal Western invasion, occupation and subjugation.

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