Socialist Worker

The nightmare of occupation in Afghanistan

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2016

There is a full-scale war going on in Afghanistan, shattering British government claims that its troops would act as “peacekeepers”.

Every day the agony of the Afghan people intensifies and more British soldiers are killed or wounded.

Twenty one British soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001. But, by Tuesday of this week, eight of those deaths had come in August alone.

The scale of suffering inflicted on the Afghan people is far greater still. More than 1,600 people have died in the past four months.

Far from being an amiable “security mission”, Nato’s offensive in Afghanistan has now embroiled British troops in some of their fiercest fighting for half a century.

British freighters packed with weaponry and ammunition arrive in the country five times each week. Last week alone over 80 tonnes of munitions arrived.

But the more troops go in, the more the violence escalates.

According to US Air Force data, B?1s, A-10 ground-attack aircraft and RAF Harriers have bombed the village of Musa Qalah on almost every day this month.

US aircraft have attacked the town on over 20 occasions and there was only one day in August on which US aircraft did not bomb targets in the Helmand province.

Maiwand, the site of a great British military defeat in 1880, has become a centre of resistance to Nato assaults.

It has also emerged that the Royal Military Police are investigating six shooting incidents in Afghanistan involving British soldiers. The circumstances are unknown.

For all the vast outpouring of blood and money, Afghanistan is further from peace or freedom than when the invasion began five years ago.

According to a recent article by the journalist Ann Jones, “The story of success in Afghanistan was always more fairytale than fact - one scam used to sell another. Now, as the Bush administration hands ‘peacekeeping’ to Nato forces, Afghanistan is the scene of the largest military operation in the history of that organisation.

“Today’s personal e-mail brings word from an American surgeon in Kabul that her emergency medical team can’t handle half the wounded civilians brought in from embattled provinces to the south and east.

“American, British, and Canadian troops find themselves at war with Taliban fighters - which is to say ‘Afghans’ - while stunned Nato commanders, who hadn’t bargained for significant combat, are already asking what went wrong.

“The answer is a threefold failure - no peace, no democracy, and no reconstruction.”

“Remember when peaceful, democratic, reconstructed Afghanistan was advertised as the exemplar for the extreme makeover of Iraq?

“In August 2002, secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld was already proclaiming the new Afghanistan ‘a breathtaking accomplishment’ and ‘a successful model of what could happen to Iraq’.

“As everybody now knows, the model isn’t working in Iraq. So we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s not working in Afghanistan either.”

The British ministry of defence has now barred journalists from forward Afghan units, a sure sign of panic.

And while the bloodshed in Afghanistan worsens, the horror continues in Iraq.

Between Saturday and Monday this week a series of explosions, gun battles, car bombs and executions left at least 192 people dead, including eight US soldiers.

This is the appalling world that Bush and Blair defend.

It makes it more urgent than ever to drive Blair out, and the demonstration on the eve of Labour’s conference on 23 September in Manchester is the crucial mobilisation now.

Ann Jones’s article Why It’s Not Working In Afghanistan can be read at www.tomdispatch.com


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News
Sat 2 Sep 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2016
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