New killings show why troops must leave Afghanistan now

August 31, 2012

Overnight on August 30, an Afghan army sergeant shot dead three Australian soldiers at an Afghan National Army patrol base in the Oruzgan province of Afghanistan. A helicopter crash that killed two more soldiers made the day the deadliest for Australia's forces since the Vietnam War.

On four separate occasions, a total of seven Australian soldiers have been killed by “rogue” members of the NATO-trained Afghan army, supposedly tasked with taking over security when NATO forces withdraw in 2014.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and defence minister Stephen Smith paid lip service to the tragedy, but refused suggestions the occupation should end. Gillard said Australia “cannot allow even the most grevious of losses to change our strategy”, while Smith said “staying the course is absolutely the right thing to do”.

Below, Socialist Alliance member and Sydney Stop the War activist Pip Hinman calls for a total withdrawal and an end to war that is destroying Afghanistan.


The unimaginable tragedy of the near 11-year-war in Afghanistan war and occupation has once again hit the front pages with the deaths of five Australian soldiers ― in two separate incidents ― on August 30. Not since the other long-running imperial occupation ― the Vietnam war ― have so many Australians been killed on the one day.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been quick to assert that these latest deaths would not hasten any military withdrawal.

But she is clearly concerned about the political impact of the growing death toll of Australian soldiers. After 11 years, 38 Australian soldiers have died in Afghanistan.

Gillard admitted that most Australians could not see the point of this war. Even the government is having a hard time coming up with persuasive reasons why Australia should “stay the course” until 2014.

In the 12 months prior to last November, Essential polling found that public support for pulling Australian soldiers out of Afghanistan rose from 56% to 64%. A March 19 Essential poll again found 64% wanted Australia out of the occupation.

But with more “geen-on-blue” insider killings, opposition to the war is likely to rise. “Blue” refers to the NATO occupiers who are supposedly training “green” Afghan army recruits that will supposedly protect Afghans from the Taliban once the NATO forces leave.

It is not news that Afghan people are overwhelmingly against the occupation. Even leaving aside the hypocrisy of the US-NATO occupying forces now actively looking for a deal with the reactionary Taliban and other fundamentalists, there would be many other reasons ― including suspicion, fear and pay-back ― for why these attacks are increasing.

Researcher Gideon Polya estimates that since 2001, the US-NATO war has been responsible for the violent and non-violent avoidable deaths of some 5.6 million Afghans. He accurately calls this an "Afghan holocaust" and cites the UN Geneva Convention on its definition of genocide including acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

Besides NATO's attacks on innocent civilians, there are the suicide bombings that keep pace with US-NATO advances across Afghanistan. Three suicide bombers killed at least 30 civilians in Zaranj, the capital of south-west Nimruz province, on August 14. The bombers targetted crowds who were shopping for the coming Eid al-Fitr celebrations.

NATO's much promised infrastructure and services ・ including electricity and running water ・ have not materialised for those living outside the main cities. Education, the much vaunted "prize" for allowing the occupiers in, has not spread to across the country. Of the schools that do exist, many are being forced to close. If anything, the modern Afghanistan, now the world's biggest supplier of opium, has slipped back to feudal times.

Clearly the West's "war on terror" has delivered a war of terror on the Afghan people.

Like most Australians, outspoken democracy activist Malalai Joya believes Australia's war policy is shaped to service the United States.

“The Afghan national army and police have not been created to look after the welfare of our people,” she said in March. “They are being trained to be the cannon fodder so that the occupiers' causalities decrease.

“Furthermore, the army and police units mostly consist of criminal bands connected to the warlords in government. There are hundreds of security companies connected to these criminals. The government claims to be closing them down, but very few are.

“A real national army and police need to be independent of these corrupt elements.”

She was confident that Afghans could defeat the reactionaries ― given a chance. But she said the longer the foreign forces stay, the harder it gets for Afghan people. This is because the Western powers are not concerned about real democracy in Afghanistan. Rather, they want a compliant ruling elite they can do business with, and, if that includes former warlords and Taliban thugs, so be it.

In just over a month, Australia will mark its 11th year of occupation in Afghanistan, making it the nation's longest war on occupation. No doubt the war mongers will try to mark the occasion with an outpouring of patriotic grief and entreaties to "stay the course".

The anti-war movement must continue to demand the troops get out. We must also call a halt to the farcical “training” of another country’s army, and force the government to send a huge amount of untied aid and assistance as war reparations.

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