Malalai Joya: US not in Afghanistan to bring peace

May 26, 2012
Thousands of people protest against NATO on May 20, Chicago.

The protesters in Chicago on May 20, marching against NATO, remind us that the US government is not representative of the US people. It's encouraging to see so many willing to take action and stand up against this unjust, disastrous war.

Recently, US President Barack Obama travelled to Kabul to meet Afghanistan's so-called president, Hamid Karzai. Both leaders used this meeting to pretend that they are ending this war when they are really trying to prolong it.

Obama knows that the US people are turning against the war and both know the Afghan people are against the continued occupation of their country.

Both claim the war will end in 2014, while saying simultaneously that US troops will remain in some capacity until 2024. As 2024 nears, they will probably say they mean to remain in Afghanistan until 2034.

The reality is that the US and its NATO allies plan to dominate Afghanistan and the larger region militarily for the next generation.

Their reasoning is geostrategic — to control our energy and mineral resources and maintain military superiority over China and other competitors.

No one can believe leaders like Obama, who say they are working for peace even as they continue the bombings, night raids and drone attacks that kill civilians every week — sometimes every day — in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

The protesters in Chicago faced repression. Police in Chicago reportedly spent US$1 million on riot-control equipment ahead of the summit. But it's vital that people took to the streets to raise their voices.

Here in Afghanistan, peace and women's rights activists risk their lives to hold protests against both the occupation and the fundamentalist warlords.

Obama lived in Chicago for many years; it is practically his hometown. Mine is in Afghanistan's remote Farah province, where I was elected as an MP in 2005, at the age of 26.

Because I spoke out and denounced the occupation, the warlords and the Taliban, I faced threats and assassination attempts — and was kicked out of parliament in 2007.

As I was banished, I was unable to stand in parliament and condemn a NATO bombing in May 2009 that killed about 150 people in Farah. Most of the victims of this massacre were women and children.

I would like to ask Obama and his wife, Michelle, how they would feel if their own daughters were killed in this senseless and brutal manner?

Because this is the reality of the war in Afghanistan. This is the reality of what NATO does all around the world and, if NATO is allowed to stay and continue the war in Afghanistan, it will be emboldened to wage more wars against more people — in the Middle East, in Africa and beyond.

We have many problems in Afghanistan — fundamentalism, warlords, the Taliban. But we will have a better chance to solve them if we have our self-determination, our freedom, our independence.

NATO's bombs will never deliver democracy and justice to Afghanistan or any other country.

The voices of protest in the streets of Chicago were heard in Kabul, and in Farah, and eventually in every corner of Afghanistan. As we say here, the truth is like the sun: when it comes out, nothing can block it.

I could not physically be in Chicago. But I, along with millions of other Afghans, were there in heart and in spirit, standing in solidarity with the demand that NATO withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

[A version of this article first appeared in The Guardian.]

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