Afghanistan: it's time to leave

June 25, 2010
The role of Australian troops in Afghanistan is to opress the Afghan people, who increasingly and overwhelmingly despise the occ

The deaths of three Australian commandos in a helicopter crash on June 21 should bring home the message: it's time to leave Afghanistan.

The deaths bring the total number of Australians killed in the occupation to 16. This, not to mention the countless thousands of Afghan deaths, should be enough reason to call an end to Australian participation in this war.

But on June 23, defence minister John Faulkner said: "Our resolve in Afghanistan remains unchanged." This was despite media headlines suggesting Australian soldiers could be brought home as early as 2012. The earliest full troop withdrawal actually looks to be two to four years away, the June 24 Australian said.

On June 25, a day after being installed as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard phoned US President Barack Obama to pledge continued Australian participation in the US-led occupation force.

“I assured President Obama that my approach to Afghanistan will continue the approach taken to date by the Australian Government. I fully support the current deployment and I indicated to President Obama that he should expect to see the Australian effort in Afghanistan continuing”, she told the June 26 Herald-Sun.

Another two to four years of the Australian government risking the lives of soldiers for no good purpose. Worse, Australia will be actively aiding and abetting mass killings by allied troops in Afghanistan for a cause few support.

The role of Australian troops in Afghanistan is to oppress the Afghan people, who increasingly despise the occupation. The active cover-ups of civilian massacres by the war machine show that they are far more than mistakes.

For example, US commandos targeted a house in Gardez on February 12. They killed five people, including two pregnant women. After discovering that the victims weren't "insurgents" but the family of a police officer, the marines used knives to cut the bullets out of the female victims so that the soldiers wouldn't be held accountable.

They tried to make it look like the three female victims’ deaths were “honour killings” by the male victims.

In another example, helicopter gunships in Kandahar blew up a busload of people. The soldiers that called in the air-strike said it was driving suspiciously. We just have to trust them.

In Fabruary, the three minibuses were destroyed by US Special Forces in February, which killed 27 people. The US Army later apologised.

The corrupt government of Hamad Karzai has little support outside the capital of Kabul, which is so far the only city to show any signs of recovery from the war. The mansions of drug lords dominate the city, while slum dwellers live in their shadows. For most Afghans, the talk of reconstruction remains just that — talk. Afghans live in the squalor of a country that has known nothing but war for the past 30 years.

The education and health systems have been ravaged beyond repair — Afghanistan is a world leader in infant mortality, maternal mortality and illiteracy. Despite slogans that promise the liberation of Afghan women, female literacy remains appallingly low and misogynist laws remain in force.

Little wonder so many Afghans oppose the presence of foreign troops.

Many seek to escape this horror by any means. But this doesn't mean Australia will accept them as refugees. On April 9, the Labor federal government announced that it would freeze applications of refugees from Afghanistan for six months, arguing that the country was becoming safer.

This is one of the government’s most obvious lies. It doesn’t even believe it itself —its own travel advice warns Australians against going to Afghanistan. But we're expected to believe it’s safe to deport refugees there. The recent deaths show it isn't even safe for armoured soldiers.

There are 2.8 million Afghan refugees in the world seeking asylum. Last year Australia took in 940. No matter how you slice that, whether you compare it to intakes by other industrialised countries or as a percentage of Australia’s overall migrant intake, this is a totally inadequate response to the worldwide refugee crisis.

The few refugees who make it to Australia by boat are incarcerated. Both the government and the opposition have been keen to vilify these refugees as "invaders", even while sending Australian soldiers to invade Afghanistan.

People fleeing Afghanistan are doing so partly to flee violence that Australia has helped create. We have an obligation to allow them refuge in our country and an obligation to end the military occupation of theirs.

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