Posted by: Tony Carson | 24 August, 2007

Afghanistan: The ‘Good War?’ Good for whom?

How Can This Bloody Failure Be Regarded as a Good War?The Western Occupation of Afghanistan Has Brought Neither Peace Nor Development – and It Fuels The Terror Threat .

That’s the headline from a Guardian article. It is worth a read in its entirety but here is the money quotes:

For Afghans, six years after they were supposed to have been liberated, life is getting worse. As the International Committee of the Red Cross reported two months ago, the humanitarian situation is deteriorating and civilians are suffering “horribly” from growing insecurity and violence in an increasingly dirty war. The fighting in the south has driven 80,000 from their homes, and the civilian casualty rate has doubled over the past year: more than 200 were killed by US and other Nato troops in June alone – far more than are estimated to have been killed in Taliban attacks. The savagery of indiscriminate US aerial bombardments provoked violent demonstrations and is widely seen as having increased support for the Taliban’s armed campaign.

Given the manifest failure of the occupation to bring either peace or development to Afghanistan, it’s not immediately obvious why it’s still considered by some to be a good war – though a majority of Britons, Canadians, Italians and Germans, it should be said, want their troops withdrawn. Partly it must be the fact that the original invasion was launched in response to the 9/11 attacks – which turned out to have been at least partly coordinated from al-Qaida’s Afghan camps – and had some measure of UN acquiescence (even if the relevant resolutions didn’t actually mention Afghanistan). Added to that is the oppressive and obscurantist record of the Taliban regime and the elite fear that military failure will fatally undermine the projection of western power in future.

But by intervening on one side of an ethnically charged civil war to overthrow the Taliban – rather than, say, targeting special forces against al-Qaida – the US and its allies ended up exchanging warlords for theocrats and turning most of the country into a collection of lawless and brutal fiefdoms. Instead of al-Qaida terror networks being rooted out, they were allowed to migrate to the borderlands, Pakistan and Iraq; Osama bin Laden, whose capture was the first aim of the war, escaped; and the limited expansion of women’s and girls’ freedoms in Kabul and a few other urban areas was offset by an eruption of rape and violence against women. Western politicians like to describe the Afghan government as democratically elected, when in fact the elections were marked by large-scale fraud and intimidation in polls that gave regional warlords pride of place, while political parties were not allowed to take part. In real life, occupied Afghanistan is, as the UN warned last year, a failed state, which now produces 90% of the world’s opium and where corruption and insecurity have sunk reconstruction.

Of course there was a time, in the 1970s and 1980s, when girls were encouraged to go to school and university in Afghanistan, women accounted for almost half the country’s teachers and civil servants and the government redistributed land to the rural poor. But the US spent billions of dollars to destroy it in a cold war coup de grace and laid the foundations for the jihadist Frankenstein of al-Qaida in the process. Gordon Brown now claims Afghanistan is “the frontline against terrorism”. In reality, the key to the al-Qaida threat lies in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and the dictatorial regimes the west sponsors there, while its support is fuelled by the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories.

Britain is now fighting its fourth war in Afghanistan in 170 years, and might have learned by now that you cannot impose a government from outside against a people’s will. Earlier this summer the Afghan senate called for a date to be set for the withdrawal of foreign troops and negotiations with the Taliban, as did the Pakistani foreign minister, Khurshid Kasuri, this month. There will be no peace or stability in Afghanistan while foreign troops remain, and a wider settlement will surely have to include the Taliban and regional powers such as Iran and Pakistan. Unfortunately, politics dictates that a great deal more blood is likely to be shed on both sides before that comes to be accepted.

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  1. […] war in Afghanistan is allegedly the “good war” – a term that liberal interventionists use to justify the invasion and ongoing occupation of […]


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