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Afghanistan: the wrong war at any time

Published Nov 6, 2008 10:35 PM

For months now Afghanistan has been deadlier for U.S. troops than Iraq, even though there are 32,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and 160,000 in Iraq.

A total of 1,004 foreign soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001. Some 625 of the casualties were from the United States. Forty percent of them occurred in the past two years. (icasualties.org)

A handful of U.S. special forces in coalition with warlords from the north of the country overthrew the Taliban government in 2001. The Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan sums up the event this way: “The U.S. ‘war on terrorism’ removed the Taliban regime in October 2001, but it has not removed religious fundamentalism which is the main cause of all our miseries. In fact, by reinstalling the warlords in power in Afghanistan, the U.S. administration is replacing one fundamentalist regime with another.” (rawa.org)

Currently NATO supplies the troops for the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force. About 18,000 U.S. troops operate under ISAF control.

Most of the casualties from violence in Afghanistan are civilians. A very rough and incomplete count from January 2008 by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission counted 900 civilian deaths, many of them from attacks on wedding parties and funerals or children at play. An estimate from the Xinhua News Agency gives civilian deaths as 1,415. (Sept. 28)

The AIHRC, which was set up by a UN General Assembly mandate and is funded from a levy on donations flowing through the UN, asserts that 98 percent of civilian casualties caused by coalition forces in Afghanistan are “intentional.”

The head of the AIHRC, Lal Gul, said in a Sept. 2 report, “The actions of the coalition forces, especially the American forces, are not only against the human rights laws, but are considered war crimes.”

In addition to the deaths caused by the violence raging throughout the country, Afghanistan is facing the threat of famine this winter due to three years of failed crops. The Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock estimates that the country needs two million tons of basic food–wheat, flour and rice–in the next six months to feed people in isolated areas.

Even if the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and other donor organizations can get tons of food to Afghanistan’s major cities, they will encounter extreme problems with moving it to the isolated communities where most of the country’s poor live.

Not only have 40 years of war destroyed Afghanistan’s roads, but the Afghan resistance attacks supply lines to keep materiel from reaching the U.S. and NATO outposts that are far from the capital. These two factors have driven up the cost of moving a truckload of food or goods from Kabul to Khandahar, the two largest cities in Afghanistan, from $1,800 in the spring to almost 10 times as much currently. The price increase implies a large increase in risk to the truckers. (Der Spiegel, Oct. 17)

According to Asian Times Pakistan bureau head Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Taliban have such accurate intelligence on U.S./NATO shipments to Afghanistan through the Pakistani port of Karachi that the ISAF made a deal to move nonmilitary cargo through Russia. (Le Monde Diplomatique, Oct. 2008)

Even though foreign donors–mainly the U.S. and its imperialist European allies like Britain, Germany and France–have supplied Afghanistan with $35 billion in “aid” since 2001, around 20 million people out of a population of 26 million are living under the poverty line based on official statistics. (BBC, Oct. 17)

According to the FAO, being poor in Afghanistan means living on less than two U.S. dollars a day. Adult literacy is only 29 percent. In some regions, less than one percent of the population is literate. One in five children dies before the age of five.

While the living standards of the Afghan people as a whole are deteriorating rapidly as the war intensifies between the client government of Hamid Karzai, propped up by ISAF and the U.S., and its opposition, led by the Taliban, the Kabul government is also attacking the conditions of women.

“We have the same ideas as the Taliban,” says parliamentarian Qazi Naseer Ahmad. “We want sharia [Islamic] law in our country. Women must ask permission from their husbands before they leave the home, and they must not wear clothes that are against Islam.” (Christian Science Monitor, April 21)

The Monitor also wrote that some members of parliament proposed legislation in April that would ban T-shirts, loud music, women and men mingling in public, billiards, video games, playing with pigeons and kites, and more. This proposal would reinstate the regulations from the Taliban era that the U.S. corporate media publicized in order to justify removing the Taliban with the 2001 invasion.

Gen. David Petraeus took the helm at Central Command Oct. 31, a step which puts him in charge of the U.S. military in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq he was the architect of the surge. He is expected to promote a similar “surge” in Afghanistan, with a twist that underlines the weak U.S. position in that country.

Petraeus is open to negotiations with the “moderate” elements of the Taliban. He recognizes that the U.S. and its allies can’t win militarily.

The colonial occupation of Afghanistan by the United States and its imperialist allies has been a disaster for the Afghan people. Progressives outside Afghanistan must demand an end to the entire occupation and not allow an increase of U.S. and NATO troops, even one that accompanies negotiations.