Why We Must Leave Afghanistan
We are entering our 9th year in Afghanistan and to allow the occupation to last 10 years is criminal and an injustice to the many that will inevitably pay the price with their lives.
Initially Britain along with the US entered the war to find Bin Laden. Bush, Blair and their neocon advisors jumped at the opportunity to invade Afghanistan, and whilst we can argue the merits of invading in the first instance, what is beyond doubt is that with no signs of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan our presence now is counterproductive.
Proponents of the war give different reasons, depending on who they are and what they believe in, ranging from securing the UK, securing the region, securing Pakistan, saving the West from Afghan drugs, installing democracy or freeing Muslim women. It is obvious that there are no agreed objectives and a closer look at each one shows that not only have we failed to achieve anything in the last 8 years, we are unlikely to attain anything in the coming years.
Having been in Afghanistan since 2001, the invasion failed to stop the 7/7 attacks of 2005, The Madrid bombings of 2004, the Bali attacks of 2005 and 2002. More recent convictions related to the airline terror plot of 2006 fail to show any direct connection with the Taliban. Even the latest “serious terror plot” which uncovered a “trans-Atlantic terrorist network”, the biggest threat since 9/11 had nothing to do with Afghanistan.
So why exactly are we fighting the Taliban? Why exactly have 232 of our boys and girls given their lives? The Taliban aren’t a threat to us and anyone who claims this is lying. The unfortunate truth is that the terrorist threat we face in the UK is mainly a home grown threat, something that will only be thwarted by having an ethical foreign policy and persuading disaffected people to be more involved in the political process - as organisations such as MPACUK have called for some time.
On a recent debate on the BBC, Professor Anthony Glees stated – through his apparent hate for all things Islamic – that one of the reasons we were there was to protect Afghanistan and Pakistan. Such compassion for a Muslims is patently disingenuous coming from a man who has urged the Government and university dons to spy on Muslims. It will also come as no surprise that such an objective is also shared by those who advise military companies that profit from such endless war.
The truth is that since the invasion the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan has deteriorated.
Bombings in Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi have become an almost weekly occurrence. Pakistan is fighting a critical war against the Pakistani Taliban and it is paying the price with massive internal displacement and huge civilian and military casualties. Unlike the US/UK operation, the Pakistani offensive has popular support and by admission of US General Petraeus, our involvement is making the situation in Pakistan worse.
The situation in Afghanistan hasn’t improved either. Last October has been the deadliest month for the US with 55 dead, and this year has been the worst for the international presence. The worsening situation (presented in graph form) has implicitly been acknowledged by the UN with its withdrawal of half its foreign staff and the threat of a full withdrawal if the situation doesn’t improve. A more depressing piece of evidence that illustrates the worsening situation is how five years ago, 70% of eligible voters participated in the Afghan presidential election. This year it was down to 38%. This can only mean that Afghans were either too scared to vote or they didn’t see the point.
People who clamour for more British involvement argue that if we leave all hell will break loose. Such a warning is worthy of no more credibility than the cries of warmongers many years ago who tried to justify the US occupation in Vietnam by wrongly predicting that if US forces abandoned Vietnam, the whole of South-East Asia would become a communist stronghold.
Another reason we’re often given for being in Afghanistan is to stop the drug trade. Today this is claimed by fewer proponents of war mainly because of the saddening realities that they can no longer deny. Instead of its eradication, drug production has registered a hike of 40 times under the watchful eye of the occupation. Previous to the invasion, 7606 hectares of land was being used to cultivate drugs, now it is a shocking 157000 hectares.
And they are all at it. The brother of our installed puppet President, Ahmed Karzai, is notoriously known to be one of the country’s biggest drug lords. He has also apparently been on the CIA’s pay roll since the start of the war for maintaining a paramilitary armed force which works at the behest of the US when they need it and at the behest of the drug baron when they don’t.
Bush and Blair’s claim that they wanted to bring Democracy to the Muslim world has been the most visible failure of them all. The culmination of this sham was the recent election in Afghanistan which was perhaps the most corrupt the world has ever seen, or at best a close runner up to Mugabe’s shenanigans in Zimbabwe.
The reality is that Afghanistan is mainly a feudal society that has previously picked its leaders on basis of either religion or tradition. As sociologists theorise, government legitimacy comes from three basic sources, traditional, religious, and legal. Karzai has obviously no traditional or religious backing, and what little legal backing he had previously from the presidential election of 2004 has been wiped away with the massive election rigging that he effectively administrated.
What is more puzzling is that even if a democracy were workable in Afghanistan, something Muslims all over the world would no doubt welcome, why are the Taliban being excluded from the process? The jury is still out on the popularity of the Taliban in Afghanistan (with the difficulty involved in polling Taliban controlled areas) but to claim to have the will of the people in mind and exclude the Taliban from all manner of government does not show a genuine commitment to democratic principles. It is in fact an overt attempt at installing a puppet regime. Something that didn’t work back in Vietnam, didn’t work when the Russian’s tried it and won’t work for us now either.
It’s not as if the Taliban are the worst bunch of people we could have diplomatic relations with, the government obviously has no problem when it comes to North Korea, Burma and Israel.
The biggest Islamophobes in the country, people like the despicable David Toube of Harrys Place and his ilk, despite their patent dislike for Muslims are always the first to claim that they are the protectors of Muslim women. We all know that they only ride this bandwagon because it is simply another stick to beat Muslims with.
In Afghanistan, the despicable treatment of women as property is more a cultural and traditional problem than an Islamic one and it will take time to remedy. A military presence will change nothing.
A sad reality that has been made obvious by the recent signing of the personal status laws by President Karzai, a person who has Obama and Brown’s full backing. The law allows Afghans to deny food to a wife who does not provide sexual services once every four days and many other horrors. One can only sigh in desperation when reading the comments of Ann Jones, a person who has spent years working with women in Afghanistan, when she says that “an unsentimental look at the record reveals that for all the fine talk of women's rights since the US invasion, equal rights for Afghan women have been illusory all along, a polite feel-good fiction that helped to sell the American enterprise at home and cloak in respectability the misbegotten government we installed in Kabul”
More damningly even Afghan feminist organisations, in particular members of the hard working Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), have called upon western forces to leave with the slogan “Liberation can only come from within – end the US occupation”.
The final word on this goes to Malalai Joya, a female MP from Afghanistan who shocked a London audience when she lamented that “that the situation for women in Afghanistan is now worse than it was under the Taliban”.
So why are we there?
Our military presence is helping no one other than the vultures that profit from war.
A commonly suggested solution is that we need to increase troops in the long term. The US President is mulling a request for installing a further 60,000 troops in Afghanistan, but what we all need to accept is that a military solution is simply unworkable.
A redacted section of US General McChrystal’s report claimed that to gain any sway over the insurgency we would need at least 500,000 troops and another 5 years. More worryingly the presence of foreign forces are the single most important factor in the resurgence of the Taliban and strengthens the hand of Taliban recruiters, a reality corroborated by an independent Carnegie Institute report early this year.
Gordon Brown, a notorious ditherer, knows a military solution is unworkable as do most of the cabinet, but foremost on their mind is not the bodies of British soldiers but re-election. Gordon Brown knows full well that if he even mentions withdrawal in his sleep, the Conservatives along with The Sun will have him for breakfast.
There are many alternatives to war in Afghanistan, including diplomatic and non violent conflict resolution, a “Books not bombs” approach and the involvement of more Muslim countries - something that neocons will no doubt balk at as it will increase the influence of Muslims in the region.
Regardless of which approach is ultimately taken, it is worth noting that the worst possible solution is to attempt to bomb the Taliban back to the stone ages. They already live in the stone ages.