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Afghan war: Unwinnable, unjust — end it now!

November 19, 2011
Saturday, October 11, 2008 – 11:00
By Tim Dobson

Britain’s most senior military commander in Afghanistan, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, told the British media about the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan that “We are not going to win this war”.

According to an October 5 Timesonline.co.uk article, Carleton-Smith stated the current strategy was “doomed to failure”.

Carleton-Smith argued that the realistic task facing the occupying forces in the military conflict was “reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency”.

His views were supported by the United Nations envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide, who stated: “We all know that we cannot win it militarily. It has to be won through political means.”

While the October 7 Australian reported that Australian defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon agreed with Carleton-Smith, the US government labelled the comments “defeatist”.

However the comments came on the back of growing evidence of how widespread opposition to the occupation, which has further impoverished one of the world’s poorest nations and killed thousands, is becoming.

A renewed offensive by anti-occupation forces, which has threatened to topple the puppet government of President Hamid Karzai — whose authority barely extends beyond the capital Kabul — and has made 2008 the deadliest year since the US-led occupation began in 2001.

This year, 237 occupying soldiers have been killed already, surpassing the 232 killed in 2007.

The rise in anti-occupation violence, and the inability of the occupying forces to military subdue the country, is not hard to understand with reports like those in the October 8 Los Angeles Times, which stated: “A new investigation of a U.S. airstrike on a village in Afghanistan in August has found that 33 civilians were killed, far more than the U.S. military had previously acknowledged.”

The UN and the Afghan government, however, have put the civilian death toll at over 90. The US has offered no compensation to anyone affected by the atrocity.

There has been a sharp increase in Afghan civilian casualties this year. The UN found that from January to August, 1445 Afghan civilians were killed — a rise of 39% on the same period last year.

A October 8 New York Times article also reported that “A draft report by American intelligence agencies concludes that Afghanistan is in a ‘downward spiral’ and casts serious doubt on the ability of the Afghan government to stem the rise in the Taliban’s influence there”.

According to an October 5 article posted at SMH.com.au, a leaked coded French diplomatic cable quoted Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, which predicted the occupying forces’ military campaign would fail.

“The security situation is getting worse”, Cowper-Coles stated. “So is corruption and the [Karzai government] has lost all trust … The foreign forces are ensuring the survival of a regime that would collapse without them.

“In doing so, they are slowing down and complicating an eventual exit from the crisis.”

According to Cowper-Coles, the very presence of the foreign occupying forces “is part of the problem, not the solution”.

The British diplomat was quoted as arguing that the “realistic outlook” was the replacement of the Karzai regime with an “acceptable dictator” and that “we must prepare public opinion [in the US and Europe] to accept it”.

The aim, according to the memo, would be to allow occupying forces to withdraw in five to 10 years time.

Presumably towards the end of finding an “acceptable dictatorship” that can end the insurgency, proposals have increased to negotiate with the Taliban anti-occupation fighters, seeking to allow them to be part of the government.

Karzai has revealed that for two years he has been writing letters to the Saudi Arabian regime asking them to meditate peace negotiations with the Taliban.

Karzai said in a speech on September 20: “A few days ago I pleaded with the leader of the Taliban, telling him ‘My brother, my dear, come back to your homeland. Come back and work for peace, for the good of the Afghan people. Stop this business of brothers killing brothers.

“‘Don’t be afraid of the foreigners. If they try to harm you, I will stand in front of them.'”

Such rhetoric from the US’s puppet aside, the US government is not opposed to negotiations with the Taliban. While the extreme Islamic fundamentalist nature of the Taliban regime overthrown by the US-lead invasion in 2001 was used as an excuse, the current Karzai-led gang of fundamentalist warlords are no better.

Both the Taliban and the warlords in the current regime emerged out of the Islamic fundamentalist fighters backed by the CIA to fight against the Afghan government created by the 1978 revolution and the occupying Soviet forces that backed it.

Unlike resistance groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Taliban are not listed by the US as a terrorist group.

Asked whether it was wrong to seek to reconcile with Taliban leader Mullah Omar, on the US government’s “most wanted terrorist list”, the top US commander in Afghanistan General David McKiernan stated: “I think that’s a political decision that will ultimately be made by political leadership.”

An October 9 Christian Science Monitor article reported that sources close to the insurgents and the government indicate that, despite recent reports to the contrary, the Taliban are yet to take part in any peace talks with the Karzai government.

“Instead, meetings held in September in Saudi Arabia, which brought former Taliban officials together with members of the Afghan and Saudi governments — may be an attempt by Kabul to start negotiations”, the article stated.

Waheed Muzhda, a political analyst in Kabul and former official in the Taliban government, was quoted as stating: “The meetings signal that the Afghan government is weak and is desperate for a solution.”

He also noted that the former Taliban officials who took part in the meeting do not represent the current Taliban forces fighting the occupation. “Most of the people have almost no standing with the current Taliban leadership”, Muzhda argued.

Taliban forces involved in the anti-occupation fighting have so far rejected negotiations. Omar called on the US government to “reconsider your wrong decision of wrong occupation” and to “seek a safe exit to withdraw your forces”.

Omar stated: “If you leave our lands, we can arrange for you a reasonable opportunity for your departure”, but if the occupation continued “you will be defeated … like the former Soviet Union”.

While negotiations are sought, the US is seeking to increase the levels of occupying troops. US secretary of defence Robert Gates has urged other NATO countries to increase troop numbers, with military commanders reportedly seeking a further 12,000 soldiers on top of the 70,000 currently in Afghanistan.

Despite polls showing that 61% of Germans want troops to leave Afghanistan, the German government has agreed to send an extra 1000 soldiers.

US presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama have both called for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan, as has the Australian government. According to an October 6 ABC News report, Australian defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon is seeking to use “next month’s NATO meeting in Canada to lobby for a greater troop commitment”.

Fitzgibbon complained that: “One can’t help but feel the distraction of the financial meltdown in the US and the cost of that meltdown could have implications for future US commitments.”

Meanwhile, the ongoing war is increasingly unpopular among citizens of countries participating in the occupation.

In France, 62% favour an immediate withdrawal of troops. In Canada, 59% opposed an extension of Canadian involvement, while 51% of US people think the war “has not been successful”.

In Australia, 56% want the 1000 Australian soldiers currently in Afghanistan to leave, according to a poll by Field Works Market Research.

All of which points to the only “political solution” to ending the current war: ending the occupation via the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops.

From GLW issue 770

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