Thursday, June 14, 2007

British Veteran on Afghanistan

From (originally from The Guardian: "The Afghans Are Sick of Our Armies Killing Their People"

But accidental or not, civilian deaths catastrophically undermine the entire Nato effort, as relatives of the dead, bent on vengeance, flock to the Taliban cause. As Pashtuns, the inhabitants of Helmand hold Badal, the pursuit of revenge, as a central concept of their social code, which is devotedly adhered to. “A Pashtun waited a hundred years for revenge,” a local saying goes, “and was pleased with such quick work.” Indeed, the Taliban are ruthlessly exploiting this mindset by deliberately engaging Nato troops from villages.

Afghans are sick of foreign armies killing their people. Their president, Hamid Karzai, has publicly
criticised Nato’s methods and warned that “bad consequences” will follow if civilian deaths continue unchecked. The Afghan parliament has called for a halt to Nato military offensives, and for negotiations with Afghan members of the Taliban. In Kabul last month, I met displaced civilians from Helmand province, some of the 80,000 to 115,000 people the UN estimates have lost their homes in the fighting in southern Afghanistan. “Why do British planes kill our people?”
they said. I struggled to answer.

And now, some sources detailing the destructiveness of NATO's airstrikes:

"Afghan civilian deaths damaging NATO"

The reliance on air power has led to a string of prominent episodes recently involving the deaths of large numbers of civilians, who often cannot escape being caught between NATO forces and the Taliban and its sympathizers.

Since the beginning of March [2007] at least 132 civilians have been killed in at least six bombings or shootings, officials say.

The actual number of civilians killed is probably higher, since the areas of heaviest fighting, like
in Helmand, are too unsafe for travel and many deaths go unreported and cannot be fully verified.


"Air war costs NATO Afghan supporters" (

But with so few boots on the ground, the increased reliance on air power has led to thousands of civilian deaths. The devastating air offenses are undermining support for the Afghan government, say human rights workers and Afghan officials, and are turning public opinion in the four southern provinces of Afghanistan against NATO forces, who took command of the south from the US in August.

[That Christian Science Monitor piece gives the impression that more Western soldiers are necessary to provide an alternative to indiscriminate airstrikes. But the fact of the matter is that even if one supports "the mission" in Afghanistan, the NATO countries and the US with its NATO-based and its independent special forces cannot provide more troops.]


"NATO continues slaughter of civilians in Afghanistan" (

The extent of civilian deaths is usually concealed by NATO allegations that the victims are insurgents. Villagers from the Kandahar area targeted during Operation Medusa claim dozens of locals were included in NATO’s body count of dead “Taliban”. A farmer, Toon Jaan, told the Canadian Press agency last month that 26 members of his extended family were killed during the Canadian military’s bombardment of the village of Sperwan.

These indiscriminate killings are a significant factor in encouraging Afghans to take up arms against the occupation. The ranks of the insurgency are continuing to expand despite the tremendous casualties the poorly equipped Afghan guerillas suffer in any direct engagement with NATO troops.

You know, we can talk about $39,000 spent on educating TEN THOUSAND Afghan children (works out to $3.90 a child). We can talk about a bag of candy here or there. We can talk about a soccer field in Kabul. But we also have to face this grim reality of the human toll of our airstrikes on the Afghan people. And the destruction of their poppy crops. And the families left behind when we shoot up people at check-points. And the anger that grows when Karzai's corrupt, brutal, police force and prison system oppress and torture Afghan civilians. Whatever we in Canada think of the Taliban is entirely irrelevant if we ourselves are causing so much destruction and suffering. Our victims aren't going to be thinking of our Canadian values vis-a-vis the Taliban. They're going to be thinking of the loved ones that we killed, the homes we destroyed, the bad government we installed, the livelihoods we destroyed.

It's time we grew up and faced reality.

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