Stop the Afghan war — protest Obama

Issue 

An article posted at RAWA.org on March 10 by Marc W. Herold said that on February 27, the US/NATO forces occupying Afghanistan "killed three people, including two children, in Alasai district of Kapisa province".

"Mohammad Ashraf, a tribal elder of Kotki area of Alasai district, [said] French soldiers ... in an area far from Waldikhel village of Kotki area laid an ambush.

"'When people of the area learned about the arrival of these forces, they started fleeing from their village when the French forces opened fire at them.'"

Ashraf said the three people killed included nine-year-old Joma Gul and 10-year-old Angar Khan.

Herold pointed out such atrocities were not isolated events, but daily occurrences in occupied Afghanistan. He said the level of civilian deaths directly caused by occupying forces was growing. In February, there were at least 80-86 such deaths, compared with 50 in February 2009.

US President Barack Obama was elected in November 2008 on the back of a groundswell of opposition to the policies of the Bush administration — including a rejection of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, while Obama made much of his opposition to the Iraq war, he not only pledged to continue the US-led occupation of Afghanistan in his election campaign, but spoke of escalating it.

In office, Obama has continued the aggressive and militaristic policies of past administrations to extend the reach of US imperial power.

The Obama administration has indeed escalated the Afghanistan war — and dramatically increased its extension into neighbouring Pakistan. The conflict is increasingly referred to as the "Af-Pak" war.

Obama has described the conflict as a war of necessity, forced upon an unwilling United States due to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda — and justified by the tyrannical practices of the Taliban.

But none of these reasons stand up to scrutiny.

Af-Pak

The Af-Pak escalation has not only worsened conditions inside Afghanistan, but has also undermined stability in Pakistan.

Using the pretense of fighting Taliban militants taking refuge in Pakistan, the US has increasingly resorted to unmanned drone strikes that have killed thousands of Pakistani civilians.

Head of the US military in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal has admitted drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan help fuel the anti-US insurgency.

The latest escalation of the Afghan war is Operation Moshtarak in Helmand province, which began on February 13. This offensive immediately resulted in scores of civilian casualties and the displacement of thousands of refugees.

In cooperation with the government of President Hamid Karzai, a corrupt regime dominated by warlords and fundamentalists, this offensive marks a clear line that makes the Afghan war more than a conflict inherited from the Bush regime.

If there was any doubt, it is now clear: this is now Obama's war.

Malalai Joya is an Afghani feminist and outspoken opponent of the US/NATO occupation who was elected to Afghani parliament and then driven out for condemning the warlords who sat in it. She told the February 15 British Independent that corruption is endemic in Karzai's government, and cited uranium deposits and opium as motivation for the Helmand offensive.

"It is ridiculous", Joya told the Independent. "On the one hand they call on [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar to join the puppet regime. On another hand they launch this attack in which defenceless and poor people will be the prime victims.

"Like before, they will be killed in the Nato bombings and used as human shields by the Taliban. Helmand's people have suffered for years and thousands of innocent people have been killed so far."

The Independent said: "Her fears were confirmed when Nato reported yesterday that a rocket that missed its target had killed 12 civilians at a house in Marjah."

Joya wrote in a November 30 British article, entitled "A troop surge can only magnify the crime against Afghanistan", that Transparency International listed the Karzai regime as the second most corrupt in the world.

The United Nations Development Program listed Afghanistan as second last in terms of human development.

A key justification for the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan is the need to defeat the misogynistic and fundamentalist Taliban, which rule by terror from 1996 until the 2001 US-led invasion.

However, the US' allies in the Af-Pak war are simply different factions of the same misogynistic, fundamentalist forces.

US-backing

During the 1980s, the US funded and trained Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas in Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat Afghanistan's secular government that was backed by the Soviet Union.

The government set up hospitals, secular schools and promoted education for women. These measures were undone by the Islamist forces that took power in 1992.

The different factions of the US-funded and-trained fundamentalist forces then turned on each other, plunging Afghanistan into civil war. The Taliban, trained by the Pakistani intelligence services, emerged victorious in 1996.

The Northern Alliance warlords, installed into power in the US-led 2001 invasion, fought the Taliban regime while imposing the same brutal fundamentalist regime in areas it controlled.

The US never officially recognised the Taliban government, but representatives of US oil corporation Union Oil of California (Unocal) entered into negotiations with the Taliban in 1996.

While the Taliban was gradually securing control over Afghanistan, Unocal opened an office in Kandahar.

One explanation offered for the US invasion has been its desire to construct an oil pipe to ferry oil and natural gas supplies from Central Asia through Afghanistan.

However, this alone cannot explain the invasion and ongoing occupation. The Taliban had been willing to negotiate the construction of such a pipeline.

Overthrowing the Taliban has not established th stable regime required for a pipeline's construction — it has plunged the country into even greater chaos.

The invasion and ongoing occupation has been driven by a greater US need to impose its power over the regime. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the "war on terror" have been the justification for the US flexing its military might.

Afghanistan was first in the firing line as part of a campaign to use military force against any government willing to challenge US interests. The invasion was intended to set an example.

Although most of the September 11 hijackers came from US-ally Saudi Arabia, some were based in Afghanistan. War-devastated Afghanistan, one of the world's poorest nations, was seen in Washington as an easy first target.

But the war drive has been bogged down in the quagmires of Afghanistan and Iraq. The US surge in Afghanistan, and the extension of the conflict to Pakistan, is the US response — seeking to impose its will through greater levels of brutal force at whatever cost to the local population.

It is a risky move that threatens to further destablise the region and provoke even greater resistance to US domination. But the alternative, accepting defeat, risks undermining US power in the resource-rich region.

Military power

Facing a deep economic crisis, the US position as the world's superpower is upheld by its military dominance — meaning it can ill-afford a defeat in Afghanistan.

For the long-suffering Afghani people, this spells even more horror. There is no accurate count of the civilian death toll over the course of the nearly nine years of the US-led war, but it is in the many thousands and rising daily.

However, there is growing opposition in a number of countries participating in the US/NATO occupation. The Dutch government collapsed on February 20 over attempts to extend participation by the Dutch military in the occupation beyond the current deadline of August.

In Germany, opinion polls show more than 80% opposition to German participation in the conflict. The German government nonetheless voted on February 26 to extend its military role in the occupation.

Some 76 members of parliament from the left-wing Die Linke (Left Party), the only party in parliament to oppose the war, were suspended for staging a protest during the vote.

Die Linke MPs had held up placards with the names of Afghani civilians killed in a German-ordered air strike.

When US President Barack Obama visits Australia in late March, it is likely he will demand the Australian government play a larger role in the occupation.

US officials have publicly criticised Australia for placing limits on the participation of the Australian soldiers in Afghanistan in the fighting. The March 9 Sydney Morning Herald said McChrystal had "warned that the Rudd government's refusal to allow Australian troops to take the fight to the Taliban was impairing the US-led war effort".

It is up to ordinary people the world over to stand up to oppose the ongoing bloodshed that serves no purpose other than shoring up US power — regardless of who occupies the White House.

[Check the activist calendar for details of protests when Obama visits Australia.]

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