El Mundo: New Governor of Badghis Controversial

The USG Open Source Center translates an article from the Spanish newspaper El Mundo profiling Delbar Jan Arman, a former member of the Hizb-i Islami of Gulbadin Hikmatyar who fought the Soviets, and whose four-year tenure as governor of Zabul province in the Pashtun south was controversial because of charges of corruption and repression of women. He is being transferred to Badghis in the north. You wonder after treading this if Afghanistan’s big problem is really al-Qaeda.

Afghan Governor of Spanish-Controlled Badghis Province Profiled
Report by Monica Bernabe: “Afghanistan’s Most Hated Governor To Lead ‘Spanish’ Province”
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Document Type: OSC Translated Text

This man of imposing appearance, who wears a turban, may become a nightmare for the Spanish troops deployed in Afghanistan, as well as for the AECID (Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development) workers who are carrying out reconstruction projects. Delbar Jan Arman has been appointed governor of Badghis, the Spanish-controlled Afghan province where some 220 Spanish troops are currently stationed.

Cont’d (click below or on “comments”)

This appointment is not trivial because the Spanish troops and aid workers will have to liaise and negotiate with him in order to operate in the province. However, given his career, Arman could lead Badghis to a disaster that may sweep the Spanish troops away. At least this is what he did in Zabul, one of the most unstable provinces in southern Afghanistan, where he was governor for almost four years.

No matter whom you ask, everybody talks about him in the same way. The Afghan members of parliament who come from Zabul and the local journalists speak very badly of the former governor of Zabul.

There are many examples. “Corruption has reached levels never seen before,” an Afghan reporter said in a telephone conversation. He also said that various NGOs had tried last winter to deliver food and blankets to poor families living in the province. Later, they realized that a significant part of that aid ended up in the hands of government officials working for the governor’s office.

The rights of women were also trampled on during Arman’s term in office. “Three women were killed by their own families as a result of the so-called honor crimes and the governor did not move a finger to punish the culprits. The women even demonstrated on the streets of Qalat, the capital of Zabul, to protest against these crimes,” another local journalist explained.

However, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the governor’s decision to destroy 1,000 shops located by the road linking Kabul and Kandahar, as it passes through Zabul, in order to widen the road and build a park. The demolitions were carried out without any compensation and the storekeepers made complaints to Kabul. They demonstrated in front of the parliament and perhaps that led Afghan President Hamid Karzai to appoint him to another position.

Last week, Karzai decided unilaterally to transfer former governor of Badghis Ashraf Nasery, who has stood out for his brilliance and good understanding with the Spanish troops, to Zabul and the governor whom nobody wants in Zabul was transferred to Badghis.

However, Arman has powerful backing: the US troops of the Coalition Force that are carrying out the so-called Operation Enduring Freedom and have nothing to do with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), to which the Spanish troops belong. Arman’s relationship with the Americans has almost been a honeymoon and, according to local reporters, bombings of civilians and arrests of tribal leaders by the US troops multiplied during his rule as governor.

However, Arman and the Americans have been getting along with each other for a long time. Born in Khost province, the former governor of Zabul, who belongs to the Pashtun ethnic group and has five daughters and three sons, studied at the Afghan Institute of Technology in Kabul during the 1970s. Later, he completed his studies as an electrical technician in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar with the help of US instructors.

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, he took up arms and fought in the ranks of the Hezb-I-Islami party of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the most prominent Afghan war criminals, who is considered to be responsible for many of the current attacks on the Afghan and international troops.

Arman speaks perfect English, is a good speaker, and intends to act like an open-minded man. He tried to smother me with attentions and a table filled with fruits, sweets, and drinks. He even introduced me to his wife, which is unusual in Afghanistan, where under no circumstances should women appear before strangers.

The new governor of Badghis naturally acknowledged that the people in Zabul cannot stand the sight of him. “I had been in office for many years and the people usually get tired and want changes,” he argued.

As for Badghis, Arman said that he has never been there, but he is aware that “the Spanish troops are doing a good job.” “I hope that we will work together as brothers,” he stressed. As for corruption, he did not see any solution to it. “Corruption in this country is the result of 30 years of war and unqualified staff,” he stated. “Hence this problem will go on for a long time and it requires patience,” he said. Patience is probably what the Spanish troops in Badghis need.

(Description of Source: Madrid elmundo.es in Spanish — Website of El Mundo, center-right national daily; URL: http://www.elmundo.es)

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