Afghanistan: A war to lose and a peace to win

Posted: February 15, 2008 in Uncategorized

For those who think Canada’s military efforts in Afghanistan will produce a victory for NATO (or for the Afghan people), this article offers a chilling perspective. And for those who believe we never should have invaded Afghanistan, it is one more grim reminder of the needless bloodshed that was loosed on the Afghan people.

It was supposed to be “the good war”; a war against terror; a war of liberation. It was intended to fix the eyes of the world on America’s state of the art weaponry, its crack troops and its overwhelming firepower. It was supposed to demonstrate—once and for all– that the world’s only superpower could no longer be beaten or resisted; that Washington could deploy its troops anywhere in the world and crush its adversaries at will.

Then everything went sideways. The war veered from the Pentagon’s script. The Taliban retreated, waited, regrouped and retaliated. They enlisted support from the Pashtuns and the tribal leaders who could see that America would never honor its commitments; that order would never be restored. Operation Enduring Freedom has brought neither peace nor prosperity to Afghanistan; just occupation. Seven years have passed and the country is still ruled by warlords and drug-merchants. Nothing has gotten better. The country is in shambles and the government is a fraud. The humiliation of foreign occupation persists while the killing goes on with no end in sight.

War is not foreign policy. It is slaughter. Seven years later; it’s still slaughter. The Taliban have taken over more than half of Afghanistan. They have conducted military operations in the capital of Kabul. They’re dug in at Logar, Wardak and Ghazni and control vast swathes of territory in Zabul, Helmand, Urzgan and Kandahar. Now they are getting ready to step-up operations and mount a Spring offensive. That means the hostilities will progressively intensify.

The Taliban’s approach is methodical and deliberate. They’ve shown they can survive the harshest conditions and still achieve tactical victories over a better-equipped enemy. They are highly-motivated and believe their cause is just. After all, they’re not fighting to occupy a foreign nation; they’re fighting to defend their own country. That strengthens their resolve and keeps morale high. When NATO and American troops leave Afghanistan; the Taliban will remain, just as they did when the Russians left 20 years ago. No difference. The US occupation will just be another grim footnote in the country’s tragic history . . .

Read more: Swan song for NATO: The real cost of defeat in Afghanistan

Stephen Harper addresses Canadian troops in Afghanistan March 13, 2006

The caption for the photo, taken from the PM’s website reads “Prime Minister rallies Canadian troops in Afghanistan”. Look at their faces and tell me this is a rally. It looks more like a requiem for those who have died and those who were yet to die in an unwinnable war. ISAF Commander General Dan McNeil has said:

“By U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine, we should have security forces that total well over 400,000. That’s not going to happen . . . So we’re going to have to do what we have to do with what we have.” MORE.

Or, we can do what we should have done in the beginning. End this military disaster. Stop wasting lives and let the Afghans work out their problems on their own terms.

Much has been said about the disaster that will befall Afghans if we leave. The sad fact is foreign military campaigns (the Russians, ours) has made life in Afghanistan much worse.

According to Human Rights Watch, 20 years of war have created 3.7 million refugees. The World Health Organization says Afghan life expectancy at birth is 42 for men and women alike. (In Canada it is 78 and 83, respectively.) According to the World Food Programme 54% of children under five are stunted from malnutrition; 6.7% are wasted.

Kabul: Children search garbage Jan.23, 2005 – Kabul: Children search garbage to find food or pieces of metal and plastic for sale. Many of children belong to families who came to Kabul from Pakistan and Iran or moved from provinces where warlords brutalize them. Photo: RAWA.ORG.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Afghanistan is devastated by war, and the countries that have made war on and in that country owe it big time. An immediate emergency relief operation coupled with an ongoing commitment to helping rebuild its bombed communities and shattered economy are the least we should be doing — that, and working for peace.

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