ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN: AND A PATHWAY TO PEACE

ANGLO AMERICA, CENTRAL ASIA, MILITARISM, COMMENTARY ARCHIVES, 24 Oct 2009

Jake Lynch

1) The insurgency against the US-led troops in Afghanistan is mutating into a general insurrection

The Bradford peace professor Paul Rogers draws attention to an attack on US forces at two outposts in Kamdish district of Nuristan province, near the border with Pakistan, sited to allow the Americans to crack down on the trickle of military supplies into Afghanistan.

The day-long assault by 300 paramilitary fighters, which killed eight US troops and wounded many more, was blamed on the Taliban and al Qaida, but that, Rogers points out, was a hastily amended assessment from the original: that this was the work of “Nuristani tribal militia” and that “the sources of the conflict in the area involve complex tribal, religious and economic dynamics”.

Rogers comments:

“The intensity and number of attacks in Afghanistan in September-October 2009 make it apparent that the American and British counterinsurgency forces now face an evolving insurgency rooted much more in local communities than in itinerant Taliban paramilitaries. The context of this situation is that many Taliban elements may be far more embedded in local communities than had been assumed – or that they are being joined or supported by local militias motivated to act primarily against foreign occupiers, rather than impelled by any fierce religious orthodoxy”.

2) We are the main obstacle to peace  

Afghanistan’s presidential system of government was provided for in a constitution adopted by show of hands at the Loya Jirga in 2003, after the final draft was produced and discussed for little over an hour. Hamid Karzai, a former Unocal oil executive, was Washington’s favourite to take over, and he repeatedly attempted to short-circuit objections to the excessive concentration of presidential power by threatening not to stand, in the country’s first election scheduled to take place six months later, if he did not get his way.

Even then, some safeguards that were in the draft approved by the Loya Jirga had disappeared by the time the document was published. The US and UK were quick to instrumentalise their ally, forcing the adoption of an anti-narcotics law (that’s really worked, then) the day before the new parliament was sworn in, lest the people’s representatives raise inconvenient objections.

During the Karzai years, Afghanistan has plummeted down the world corruption index, from 118 out of 179 before the invasion of 2001 to 175 out of 179 this year. This combination of corruption and centralised power is self-amplifying, and turns elections into desperate, all-or-nothing contests that can spill over into factional violence – for recent examples, look at Kenya and Iraq. This is why it goes against the instincts of many Afghans to award all the power to one centre – contrary to the consensual principles of traditional decision-making structures like jirgas and shuras.

Those instincts were manifest in the results of a rare opinion poll among Afghans, conducted by the International Republican Institute in May of this year. Most reports of its findings concentrated on the apparent drop of support for Karzai and its implications for this year’s election, but, buried on the last page of the IRI’s own press release is an interesting snippet: “Sixty-eight percent of respondents feel that the government should reconcile with the Taliban, 14 percent do not”.

What’s stopping this from happening is the war being waged by international troops. As witness the shifting explanations for the Kamdish incident, ‘The Taliban’ is a term applied to a much looser and more diffuse group of people than is commonly inferred, but leading commanders are in no mood for compromise at the moment because they believe they are winning, and with good reason: they recently seized effective control of much of Kandahar, the fall of which to the US-backed Northern Alliance appeared to confirm the rout of the Taliban back in 2001.

For the Taliban’s central leadership, forcing the US-led troops from their country would be a decent definition of victory. The determination of those troops to remain, therefore, is putting off the prospect of negotiations leading to reconciliation, and the basis for an inclusive political process to replace the divisive one represented by the presidential election and (now) run-off.

3) The people of occupying countries are sickened by the war and want their troops to come home

A rally in Sydney to mark the eighth anniversary of the invasion of 2001 heard from Jim Casey, an official of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union, with what he called “a fiery’s perspective”.

For the uninitiated, Australia’s ‘firies’ are greatly respected across the community, for their bravery and expertise in safeguarding us from bushfires. A combination of professionals and volunteers, it would be no exaggeration to regard them as iconic Aussies. This is what Mr Casey had to say:

“I’m here today from the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union representing the unionised firefighters of NSW – and that’s every full time paid firie in the state. First up I’d like to thank the Stop The War Coalition for giving the FBEU the honour to speak at today’s action.

The FBEU is opposed to the ongoing deployment of Australian troops in Afghanistan. This war is simply wrong, and our involvement reprehensible. I am quickly going to go over what for me are some of the core issues:

We represent the majority view on this. In spite of the total lack of public debate around our involvement in Afghanistan the majority of people in this country think the troops should come home. But both sides of politics are ignoring this. It is our responsibility to make them listen, and make them act.

It’s been eight years now. Eight years of terrible, terrible waste. And at the end of it not one of the reasons we were given for the invasion has been met. Remember Bin Laden? They still haven’t found him. Getting rid of the Taliban? They now have active units in over 80% of the country – if anything the invasion has strengthened them. And bringing democracy to the poor huddled masses? The August elections were a corrupt joke. The same warlords, the same bosses, are running Afghanistan as ever. There’s no democracy there.

The US involvement has cost a staggering $430 billion. And for that they have successfully destroyed a country.

We shouldn’t be there. The war is wrong, it’s time for us to pull out, and start putting some of the resources back to rebuild what we have helped to destroy.

I’m going to now make a couple of points about why the FBEU has endorsed specifically this action.

My Union has a long and proud history of participation in the peace movement. It’s enshrined in our rules, and over the 99 years of the FBEU’s existence there are many examples of firefighters standing up against war.

But it is bigger than just the FBEU – peace should be every Union’s business. It’s working men and women who fight wars, who die in wars, who suffer as a result of wars. It’s the peasant farmer from Southern Afghanistan, or the economic conscript from the poor suburbs of Washington DC, who are fighting out this war – not the politicians and bosses and warlords who make the decisions, and benefit from the conflict.

It is not only appropriate for the labour movement to take a position on this war – it is our responsibility to do so.

But for the FBEU there’s another, even more immediate, reason. In every warzone in the world you will find men and women doing my job. When the bombs go off it is firefighters who are first in to extinguish the fires, to dig out survivors, and to pick up the pieces. And it is firefighters who die in the process – from Kabul to New York, from Baghdad to London.

So for us to be here today is about standing in solidarity not just with workers in general, but firefighters in particular. In Kabul today there are four fire stations and 13 operational fire engines. That’s for a city of four million. Across the entire country they have 53 working trucks. With this they are expected to cope with all the emergencies associated with living inside a war.

There is one place in Afghanistan where there is decent fire protection. The military bases. The question of fire protection is symptomatic of how the invaders have successfully stuffed the Afghan state. Fire protection, hospitals, schools, roads – all falling apart. The only places where such services are available are the armed camps where the military live.

I’m going to wrap up now, but to restate – we represent the majority on this one. But clearly we still have a lot of work to do.

We need to take the argument up with those who still hold illusions in the conflict. There is a significant minority of firefighters who have such a position – it is my job to convince them otherwise. All of you need to go back to your workplaces, your communities, and take up the arguments about why we need the troops out now. If you are a member of a Union find out what your organisation is doing. If the answer is nothing then start to organise around it. Nothing is going to happen unless we make it happen.

That’s it for me. Thank you all for listening to me this afternoon. I’ll finish with this – they are prosecuting this terrible war in our name. It’s time for them to stop”.
 
4) A pathway to peace  

I spoke at the same rally that Jim Casey addressed, and I was interviewed by a local television station. Among those who spoke, and came to listen, were several Afghans. One of them wrote to me afterwards with the outline of some useful principles for conceptualising a pathway to peace:

Dear Mr. Lynch,

The Afghan Community Support Association of New South Wales heard you on SBS TV last night talking in a protest of anti-war rally in support of Our Troops Out of Afghanistan. Your speech and your ideas for answers to solutions of Afghanistan has already inspired many thousand of Afghan Australian migrants here in Austalia. The majority people of Afghanistan who wish to have peace outline the solution of Afghanistan as follows:

1. A framework for withdrawal of foreign troops should be announced. By announcing the framework, all the opposition fighters who keep fighting and recruiting the young generation of Afghanistan will stop attacking foreign troops and cooperate. This will pave the way for negotiations between involved parties. Afghans will bow to anything fair but never bow to force. The reason that this war started to become ugly was that the people of Afghanistan believe that they were cheated by their close allies such as USA and Australia and Europe. They believe that when they were fighting againt Soviet Union and the West were helping them. They did not expect that their own friends would betray them under the pretext of war on terrorism.

2. An interim government or a transition government under a specific time frame impartially work for general election.

3. If some people worry who should take the security of Afghanistan. Peace keeping forces from Afghanistan should come from Islamic countries, not From Iran and Pakistan but from Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia and Egypt, to be invited to take charge of security. Their job to be to take security of polling station and civilians.

4. The new government established should be recognized by all countries and be helped. Our people believe that intelligent people are still in this world and they thank Allah for people like you who speak the truth. The truth is always inspiring it does not matter who says it.  We all pray for your effort to succeed in bringing peace not only in Afghanistan by also in other parts of the world.  Allah (our creator) chose all prophets to spread the message of justice that surrender to truth, which brings peace.

Kind Regards
Mohammad Sharif Amin
Afghan Community Support New South Wales Public Relations Officer

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 Oct 2009.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN: AND A PATHWAY TO PEACE, is included. Thank you.

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