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U.S./NATO occupation intensifies Afghans’ misery

Published Mar 15, 2008 10:19 AM

Opposition to the U.S.-installed “government” in Afghanistan is so strong that U.S. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell recently testified at a Senate hearing that it controls only 30 percent of the country. Some correspondents in Afghanistan call President Hamid Karzai the “mayor of Kabul.”

One justification the U.S. frequently uses for its occupation of Afghanistan is the claim that the condition of women has improved since the Taliban were driven out of office.

Malalai Joya, an Afghan woman who was suspended from her seat in parliament, recently visited Canada to talk about the conditions women face in her country. Canada has a significant force of soldiers there.

In an interview with rabble.ca, a progressive Internet news site, Joya said, “After six years in control, this government has proved itself to be as bad as the Taliban–in fact, it is little more than a photocopy of the Taliban. The situation in Afghanistan is getting progressively worse–and not just for women, but for all Afghans.”

Figures from the UN Population Fund (UNPFA) make the extent of women’s misery clear. Some 1,600 to 1,900 of every 100,000 women die in childbirth. Only Sierra Leone has a worse record. While 25 percent of boys go to secondary school, according to UNICEF, only 5 percent of girls do. Life expectancy for both women and men is currently about 47 years, again among the lowest in the world.

Another justification the U.S. has used is its fraudulent “war on drugs.” Last year, however, according to UNICEF figures, 93 percent of the opium produced in the world came from Afghanistan and it appears more poppies will be planted during the current season. During the last year before the U.S. invasion, when the Taliban ran Afghanistan, no opium was produced.

Bush leans on NATO countries

The United States has 28,000 troops in Afghanistan, most serving 15-month tours. President George W. Bush has announced he is sending two additional Marine brigades this spring, about 3,200 to 4,000 troops. Along with troops from Canada, Great Britain, Australia, the Netherlands and Denmark, they do most of the heavy fighting in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

At a press conference in Crawford, Texas, March 2, Bush said, “We expect people to carry a heavy burden if they are going to be in Afghanistan.” He is going to a NATO meeting in Bucharest early in April to twist arms, or as Bush puts it, to “encourage people to contribute more.”

A few days later, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner hinted that French troops would reinforce Canadians fighting in southern Afghanistan.

“A strategy is necessary,” Kouchner said, to obtain “a common determination of the allies to stay engaged in Afghanistan for the long-term.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy will announce details of the French plan at the Bucharest meeting.

Even though the U.S. and NATO have complete control of the air, modern telecommunications, transportation and heavy weapons, they have not been able to knock the Taliban out, even after six years of fighting. The Taliban, with rifles and walkie-talkies, dressed in ordinary clothes instead of body armor, are able to ambush U.S. patrols and fight to retain control of small cities and towns they have occupied.

On Jan. 15 they mounted a strong attack on Kabul’s newest and most luxurious hotel, the Serena. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere managed to escape to the basement along with most of his staff, but two journalists and five security guards were killed and a number of other guards and guests injured.

Military analysts are predicting a heavy Taliban offensive later this spring, when the snows are gone.

There is not much difference between the Democratic and Republican candidates for president on the question of the war in Afghanistan. Republican Sen. John McCain says, “The next president must encourage the greater participation and co-operation of our allies in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.’’

Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the Democratic candidates, both criticize Bush on Iraq by saying the real “war against terror” should be fought in Afghanistan.

None of the candidates talk about about how this invasion of a poor country followed by a high-tech war of jet planes against villagers is a brutal violation of sovereignty, human rights and international law.

While almost all the political arguments are couched in terms of Afghanistan’s strategic importance, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) did an assessment of its mineral wealth between 2005 and 2007. It has copper, iron, nickel, gold, lead and other valuable targets like sulfur, talc, marble and rubies. The USGS estimates it has nearly 60 million tons of copper and 2.2 billion tons of iron ore. Since the days of British colonialism, the corporations and banks have been eyeing this region.

Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, has seen decades of fighting that have left it much poorer. The United States and its allies have spent billions on warfare there, almost none of which went to improving the lives of the people. However, in spite of their poverty and in the face of vast military power mobilized to impose occupation upon them, the Afghan people have maintained an effective and strenuous resistance.