Call for a Self-Determined Afghanistan


Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace laureate – TRANSCEND Media Service

Presentation to the International Conference on Afghanistan – Bonn, Germany 4 Dec 2011

Dear Friends,

Ten years after the US led NATO invasion and war against Afghanistan, the Afghan people are trapped in a downward spiral of violence.   The US and British generals for war are upbeat and optimistic but the facts of suffering, injury, displacements  and deaths of  Afghan civilians,  including many women and children,  reminds us of the ongoing daily and unacceptable cost of war.  Add to this the injury and death of soldiers from NATO countries – particularly UK and USA. Surely, the question has to be asked: ‘At what point is enough killing enough? And when will people everywhere unite and act to ‘stop this military madness and insanity?’

Precisely because the war in Afghanistan is going so badly, and is in truth unwinnable, NATO and the US military are using even more illegal and cruel forms of violence in their increasingly desperate attempts to stop the dissidents and build-up their own power base in Afghanistan.  These immoral and illegal actions include drones, bombing raids, and destruction of ‘suspect’ building, when often whole families have been killed.  Whole villages have been destroyed by NATO forces that in turn results in recruitment to the Taliban. (Drone strikes in 2008/10 have killed 14 Taliban leaders and over 700 civilians).

The US military have a massive targeted assassination program.  The US Air Force personnel at Creech, Nevada, pilot surveillance and combat drones, unmanned aerial vehicles with which they carry out extrajudicial killings in Afghanistan and Iraq.  These drones include the ‘Predator’ and the ‘Reaper’.  The Obama administration favours a combination of drone attacks and joint special operations aid to pursue its stated goal of eliminating whatever Al Qaeda presence exists in these countries.  Such extrajudicial killings, sanctioned by President Obama, are in clear violation of international law.    The Afghan people are caught in an increasing cycle of violence between NATO forces, tribal militias, the Taliban, and drug and crime warlords.

The US invasion of the sovereign state of Afghanistan is supported militarily by the UK with token forces from a few other NATO states, as most countries initially involved have pulled out.   Billions continue to be spent on the Afghan war (£15bn for 2011-15 by the UK, and the 400 American bases across the country cost $7.5 billion).

The UK government has said that British combat troops will be out of Afghanistan by

2015, but the continual build-up of US military presence in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia (716 American bases worldwide) gives an indication that their presence will be long-term.   As the gravity of power moves from the West to the Asia-Pacific region, it behoves the Western military/political powers, instead of arrogantly trying to control these countries militarily for their own purposes, to acknowledge the right of these countries, including Afghanistan, to self-determination.

Afghanistan is already, after ten years of war, a country in deep poverty and sorrow.

It is immoral and unethical to ask the Afghan people to accept to live four more years with a war being played out in their streets and villages, and having yet more of their lives, their homes, and their livelihoods destroyed.   It is time now for the Taliban and all groups using violence to end the violence and for US-NATO to withdraw militarily and use their financial resources to compensate the Afghan people for the destruction of their country.

We can all join in solidarity to support the peaceful, nonviolent Afghan civil communities, working from the bottom up, rebuilding their communities and their country.   We are seeing this in such courageous movements like the Afghan Youth for peace in Kabul.   We can also encourage political leaders to end the violence and support the Afghans in a negotiated, all-inclusive peace settlement, with unconditional dialogues and negotiations with representatives of all sectors of society, including women, community groups, the Taliban, and other tribal and religious leaders.   Now is the time to listen to the voices of the Afghan people who call for an end to all violence, their right to self-determination, and a solution based on international law and human rights.

Abolish NATO, Militarism and War

On its 62nd year, NATO continues to expand its military operations – including the current war in Afghanistan and recent military attacks on Libya.  We should not be surprised by the NATO attack on Libya, as the programme for wars was revealed to us by US General Lesley Clarke, NATO commander during the bombing of Serbia, stating on American TV seven years earlier, in 2001, that the Pentagon had drawn up a ‘hit list’ of seven states they wanted to ‘take-out’ within five years – Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.

In a world where there is a new consciousness of our inter-dependence and inter-connectedness as a human family, NATO is a Cold War relic and an obstacle to real development and peace.  NATO should be disbanded and its resources put into human security, i.e., removing poverty, the environment, human rights, international law, education, health care, nonviolent civilian security, and so on.

Increasingly we are aware that violence, armed struggles, militarism, and war do not solve problems.   I therefore believe we must abolish militarism and war, use peaceful settlement of disputes, and make this method a principle of international relations.

The Nobel Peace Laureates Charter for a World without Violence, Chapter 13, states: ‘We have a right not to be killed and a responsibility not to kill others’.   Adopting this principle wherever we live would help bring about a new culture of peace and nonkilling for the human family; more in keeping with the magnificence of the human spirit.

We can build such a world. Working together, each one of us can make a difference.

Thank you.



Mairead Corrigan Maguire is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See:

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 12 Dec 2011.

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  1. […] By Mairead Maguire*, Nobel Peace laureate – TRANSCEND […]