Socialist Worker

Civilian casualties accelerate in Afghanistan

The occupation in Afghanistan is heading towards disaster writes Simon Assaf

Issue No. 2064

While the British and US governments may admit to “difficulties” in Iraq, they continue to try and sell the invasion of Afghanistan as “the good war”.

Defence secretary Des Browne proclaimed on Monday that the army is doing an “exceptionally good job”.

Yet behind the hype, there is widespread acceptance that the occupation is heading towards disaster.

Hundreds of Afghan civilians have been killed after attacks by Nato and US troops.

Helmand province has seen some of the bloodiest battles. Independent researchers estimate that at least 348 civilian deaths were caused by coalition forces in Helmand in the first six months of this year. In comparison, 320 Afghan civilians were killed by international forces in 2006.

The researchers use hospital data from Helmand to look at rates of civilian casualties. They show that international troops have killed more civilians than they have Taliban since the current operation began last year.

Opium poppy cultivation has reached new records while support for the Western-backed government in the capital Kabul has collapsed.

British troops are holed up in bases scattered across the south of the country with little chance of defeating an insurgency that has the backing of the majority of Afghans.

They rely on US air power to help them fight “insurgents”, but it is these air strikes that cause many civilian casualties.

Since January of this year 26 British troops have been killed in Afghanistan, bringing the total to 70. According to a report from the Ministry of Defence, leaked to The Times newspaper, they expect a further 42 soldiers to die by the end of the year.

In the grim statistics of this military conflict a British soldier has a one in 36 chance of dying in every six months spent on the frontline fighting in a war that is widely accepted as already lost.


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