Sodium Haze: Muddled Imperialism - Afghanistan

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Muddled Imperialism - Afghanistan

In days gone by, nations had empires that were acquired and retained through the use of military force.

In the modern age of globalisation, nuclear weapons, international terrorism and economic superpowers - surely the days of 'gunboat diplomacy' are gone forever...

...and yet the UK is fighting two wars at the moment. 

This morning Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant, the RAF's second-in-command, said "huge" demands were being placed on equipment and personnel by running operations in both Afghanistan and Libya. 

Quite aside from the cost to the UK taxpayer of these hugely expensive wars at a time of supposed 'Austerity' and budget cuts - just what is the rationale for our continued fighting in Afghanistan and Libya?

The Haze will look at Afghanistan today


A coalition including UK troops followed an American lead and deployed in Afghanistan as part of the oxy-moronic 'war on terror'.

Post 9/11 the idea was that this 'failed state', ran by the Taliban under Sharia law was a breeding ground for terrorists and it needed sorting out.

What was the criteria for success in Afghanistan? The right-wing Understanding War site has this criteria published on its website:

Success in Afghanistan is the establishment of a political order, security situation, and indigenous security force that is stable, viable, enduring, and able—with greatly reduced international support—to prevent Afghanistan from being a safe-haven for international terrorists. This objective is the most narrowly-constrained goal the United States and its allies could achieve in Afghanistan that would support our vital national security interests.

So has this been achieved? Given that the removal and defeat of  The Taliban in Afghanistan was obviously seen as a central component to this end -  then it doesn't look as if things are going well with violence in Afghanistan reaching record levels in 2010 with AlertNet reporting that

The Taliban are at their strongest since they were ousted...the insurgency has spread out of its traditional strongholds in the south and east over the past two years into once peaceful areas of the north and west. The north in particular has become a deadly new front in the war.

Clearly the Taliban are not vanquished -  215 coalition soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan in 2011 and the Taliban launched a spring offensive with another suicide bombing in which four people were killed.

Going through the August 2010 casualty statistics listed here on The Guardian website makes for sobering reading and even a quick glance reveals a security situation which is a long way from "stable, viable, enduring, and able"

This morning was typical of many others as another terrorist attack claimed another life.

Its obvious that preventing "Afghanistan from being a safe-haven for international terrorists" has been a miserable failure - but what of the government that was installed after the invasion of Afghanistan - how is that doing?

Well the two of the oft quoted reasons for invading Afghanistan were:

(a) That the Taliban refused to handover Osama Bin Laden.

(b)  The reprehensible treatment and oppression  of women by the Taliban.

Bin Laden was never handed over and as we now know was happily holed up in a luxury bunker next to a military base in Pakistan - but what of the women of Afghanistan, has their lot improved?

This is what Afghan Malalai Joya, teacher, peace activist, and women’s rights campaigner had to say about the situation facing Afghan women back in January last year.

“The situation of women was, without a doubt, the best excuse for the US government to occupy our country underthe banner of women’s rights… But they pushed us from the frying pan into the fire.”

hardly a ringing endorsement of the new deal for Afghan women but she has harsher words for the government of Hamid Karzai.

"The NATO-backed alliance is brandishing “criminals in suits” as moderates and as proponents of democracy. they have established a puppet regime,full of people who are photo-copies of the Taliban."

Refferring to a Human Rights Watch report she said that:

“since 2001 65,000 civilians have died in Afghanistan, while only 2,000 Taliban fghters have been killed. The daily lives of the people of Afghanistan are progressively being mired in corruption, poverty, injustice, violence and joblessness.”

and just in case  the point hadn't been made...

“My people have no faith in these puppets and their government.”
How about Anissa Haddadi writing in the International Business Times:
...after the Taliban were ousted, Hamid Karzai and his government were instated and since then, the same sharia (Islamic religious) laws remain, sometimes slightly modified.

A leading Afghan judge illustrated the current situation for women when he declared that "those convicted of adultery will still be stoned to death...but with smaller stones."

Women's rights marches are still prohibited and they remain subject to purdah, forcible seclusion in the home, they are still being executed and thanks to a bill passed by the Karzai government, they cannot seek work, education and have to agree to sexual intercourse with their husband a minimum of every four days.
How about Sarah Chayes quoted in this article by Michael Winship

...the United States and its NATO allies have had to convince themselves and public opinion in each of their countries that “this is a democratically elected representative government [in] Afghanistan in order to justify the sacrifices in money and troops. But the Afghans see it differently.”

What they see instead, she said, is a restoration to power under President Hamid Karzai of the gunslinging, crooked warlords who were repudiated when the Taliban first started taking over vast parts of the country a few years after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

The “appalling behavior” of officials in the current government, including rampant bribery, extortion and violence, is a serious factor in the Taliban resurgence
That was back in 2009 - but this was what US diplomats had to say about the Afghan government yesterday complaining of:

"....political interference, corruption and what one official called a “narrow skill layer” of trainable people"
It seems hard to find ANY evidence that would suggest that the foreign 'mission' in Afghanistan has been anything other than an unmitigated failure. Hugely costly in terms of military and civillian deaths, money and equipment - Afghanistan represents a total failure of old colonialist ideologies to adapt to a changing world.

The UN is finally catching up. On July 17th it acknowledged the obvious difference between the perpetrators of 9/11 - Al Queda and the hardline islamists of Afghanistan The Taliban. 

This childishly obvious fact makes the whole mis-adventure in Afghanistan even more baffling - since it was supposed to be a response to 9/11 whose operatives and funding were from - Saudi Arabia.

All that is left for the defeated coalition is to find some way to cover up this shambolic excercise in 21st century gunboat dipolmacy.

Negotiations have begun between the US Govt and the Taliban and President Obama wants to pull out troops and hand things over to the Afghan army and the aforementioned bunch of warlords and drug kings (the Afghan government)

Doubtless some version of the Vietnam 'peace with honour' PR spin will emerge over the coming months with the installed Afghan government comprising of "photo-copies of the Taliban" (but with better drug connections and able to embezzle foreign aid) being held up as the shining success of the whole endeavour.

If you see the press conferences, the medal ceremonies, the applause and the flag waving - just remember:

(a) The appaling loss of life (the majority Afghan civillians)

(b) The corrupt oppresive sham of a government that is left behind,

(c) A resurgent Taliban which stands victorious and unbowed

(d) A shattered country riven by a decade of war.

The Haze thinks that the only good thing that may yet emerge from this disaster is something that it took a 27 year old peace activist who has survived four attempts on her life to say - I leave the last words to Malalai Joya.

“These occupation forces, they are victims of the wrong policy of their own government that sent them to a bad, costly war. Democracy will never come by war, by cluster bomb or by the barrel of a gun"

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