Afghanistan quagmire: pull the troops out

May 27, 2011

Sydney Stop the War coalition released the statement below on May 26.

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The death of Sergeant Brett Wood in Afghanistan on May 24 should trigger a radical rethink of this failed war, said Stop the War Coalition today.

Instead, PM Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott continue to peddle the myth that the West's military intervention into Afghanistan still has merit.

This is a dangerous myth. Not only have 24 Australian soldiers died for no just cause, but tens of thousands of Afghans and Pakistanis have been killed in this near 10-year-long war.

The bipartisan pro-war position is increasingly out of step with the views of most Australians.

As the retired Australian major-general Alan Stretton put it recently: “How many young Australians need to be sacrificed before our politicians realise that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable?”

The bipartisan view is that Australia has to support the US in Afghanistan. But even while the US has stepped up its war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, US President Barack Obama has promised to start withdrawing troops from July.

Yet Gillard, egged on Abbott, repeats that Australian troops will remain in Afghanistan for at least another 10 years. To do what?

The “training” of Afghan soldiers will not bring security to Afghanistan when what's needed is a nation-wide reconstruction effort for a war-ravaged country.

Billions of dollars are being squandered on this war — money that could be spent on education and medical institutions, among other essential services.

Not only that, Obama is on record supporting the push by fundamentalist warlords to take a bigger role in the corrupt government.

The West's intervention has not only been a human rights disaster, it is thwarting any progress towards finding political solutions.

Increasingly, ordinary Afghans — ordinary men and women, victims' families, university students and democratic-minded parties — are taking to the streets to protest against the occupation.

This is a remarkably brave act given that any opposition to the Hamid Karzai government and Western forces is mistakenly described as “Taliban” or “insurgent”.

Stop the War Coalition is helping to bring former Afghan MP Malalai Joya to Australia in September to present the largely hidden views of Afghan people about the occupation of their country and what help they want from overseas. It is challenging Gillard to meet directly with Joya.

Stop the War Coalition believes that the shoulder-to-shoulder-with-the-US war policy failed in Vietnam and Iraq. It is also failing in Afghanistan.

If the Gillard government doesn't want to repeat the mistakes of history, it should immediately pull the troops out.

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