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US War Machine Leaves Ugly Imprint in Afghanistan

Dispatch from remote base reveals physical and political damage left in wake of US occupation

Jon Queally, staff writer

Afghan boys play on the remains of an old Soviet tank in the eastern city of Jalalabad. US troops have been accused of leaving behind their own 'detritus'. (Photograph: AFP/Getty Images)

If only in a microcosm, a dispatch from a remote outpost in Afghanistan reveals the damage and dysfunction created by years of US occupation and how little regard western military forces have for local communities when a final determination is made that an outpost should be abandoned.

Reporting from Kunar province, the Guardian's Emma Graham-Harrison describes that following a recent midnight departure from a US military outpost that had existed for years, all that was left in the morning were "piles of equipment, an unpaid rent bill and a festering land dispute that threatens to undermine the Afghan government."

As Graham-Harrison writes:

Rows of air conditioning units stuck out of a damaged wall, a giant, dilapidated generator was marooned near shipping containers and twisted, dented vehicles remained. But there was no sign of a cheque for a landlord who said years of rent, running to hundreds of thousands of dollars, was owing to him.

"They stayed six years and only paid rent for one year," said Haji Najibullah Khan, who grew up in the Pashengar house that became a US base. He said the departing US commander warned him off pushing for rent money when they met a few weeks before the soldiers drove away in the night.

At a separate base closing nearby, all that was left following the US departure was a land dispute that villagers warned would push neighbor against neighbor and some into the the welcoming arms of the Taliban.

With a planned drawdown scheduled for 2014, but with no signs of a significant peace agreement in Afghanistan, the reality of life on the ground in the shadow of war appears precarious at best for most Afghans. 

The US made no promises to its people when it invaded Afghanistan in 2001. More than eleven years later, little has changed.

As 2013 dawns, it seems, the US focus will continue to be on its own desires and interests. For Afghans, on the other hand, the useless waste of war is all they should expect to keep.

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