Prime minister Julia Gillard’s April 17 speech on Afghanistan was widely heralded as a change of policy. It is and it isn’t. It does set out a schedule for a partial withdrawal of troops — thereby bringing Australia belatedly into line with the US drawdown of troops by 2014. But it also affirms that Australia, like the US, will not withdraw all its troops.
Malalai Joya, a brave activist from Afghanistan who opposes Western occupation and local Afghan warlords, gives an impassioned message to the Australian government and the Australian people. Among the questions she answers are: Who is Australia supporting? What is the role of Australian troops in the occupation? What should Australian people do?
“You have to put more pressure on your government to allow Afghans to decide their own future,” Afghan democracy activist and former MP Malalai Joya told a 150-strong public forum on April 11. “No nation can liberate another nation,” Joya said. “Ten years of war should have made this clear. It's better the troops leave.”
The massacre of 16 people in the Panjwai District of Kandahar province in Afghanistan on March 11 re-ignited widespread calls, inside and outside Afghanistan, for Western forces to leave. US army spin has not quelled anger or questions over how the massacre took place, who was involved and how to deal with those responsible. Witnesses say US army staff sergeant Robert Bales, along with 15-20 others, went on a rampage — sexually assaulting, then massacring and burning mainly women and children from the remote farming villages of Najeeban and Alkozai.
Malalai Joya, a former MP and one of Afghanistan’s best-known democratic leaders, recently survived the sixth attempt on her life. Taliban gunmen attacked her office at 3 am on March 10, wounding two of her guards. In an exclusive interview, she told Green Left Weekly’s Pip Hinman that “such terrorist acts will never stop my fight for freedom, democracy and justice”.
For the US military and the pro-war Western corporate media, the March 11 slaughter of 16 civilians, nine of them children, as they slept in their homes in the villages of Alkozai and Najeeban in Panjwai district, Kandahar province, was an aberration. For Afghans, it was just the latest massacre. There are differing accounts of what happened. The US maintains the killings were the work of a single “rogue” soldier. Eyewitnesses, however, insist there was more than one attacker.
The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on March 13. * * * The 1968 My Lai massacre of at least 500 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam was a turning point in the US war on Vietnam. Most of the victims of the US platoon outrage were women, children (including babies) and elderly people. It was not until the following year when investigative journalist Seymour Hersh broke the news of this atrocity that it became one of the tipping points in finally ending the US-led war on the Vietnamese people.
The case of the soldier who went berserk in Afghanistan and killed 16 people must be utterly baffling to psychiatrists. Who can imagine what might cause someone in a stable environment such as Kandahar, with reliable role models training you to distrust the entire local population as terrorists, and no access to weapons except automatic machine guns, to flip like that? Still, they say it's always in the tranquil places that these things happen.
There has been a surge in protests and attacks against the US-led occupation forces in Afghanistan since February 20. The catalyst was the discovery by Afghan workers of burnt copies of the Koran at the waste disposal facility of the US military-run Bagram prison. More than 30 unarmed protesters have been shot by occupation and puppet forces since February 20 (or, as the Western media prefer to phrase it, “died in the riots”). Six occupation soldiers have been killed in attacks ― not by insurgents but by members of the Afghan security forces.
The US-led international occupation force in Afghanistan (ISAF) is in the country to fight the Taliban as the ally of the Afghan state headed by President Hamid Karzai. The ISAF’s primary mission is training and mentoring the Afghan government forces so they can take over the fight, allowing the foreign forces to leave. That is the official story. But casualties suffered by ISAF soldiers are increasingly being inflicted not by the Taliban but by the soldiers they are meant to be mentoring.