The letter below will be distributed at the upcoming ALP national conference, December 3-4, 2011. To add your name to the open letter please visit the Stop the War Coalition Sydney website. We, the undersigned, call on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to rethink the government’s support for the US-NATO war in Afghanistan. Specifically, we call on her to remove the Australian troops, and to send massive amounts of untied aid to the war-ravaged nation.
On the eve of US President Barack Obama’s visit to mark 60 years of the ANZUS military alliance, PM Julia Gillard is not convincing people that Australia must “stay the course” in Afghanistan. A November 4 Roy Morgan poll, taken six days after an Afghan army trainee killed three Australian soldiers and wounded seven, said 72% of people want troops out, the biggest opposition since the war began 10 years ago. Supporters of the pro-war parties polled closely: 69% of ALP voters and 67% of Liberal-National Party voters want troops out. Among Greens supporters, the figure is 80%.
In a grim piece of political theatre that is becoming more frequent, and more surreal, a sombre PM Julia Gillard on October 30 acknowledged the latest three Australian fatalities in Afghanistan by claiming that Australia was winning a just war there. The death toll of Australian soldiers in the decade-long war is now 32. Military deaths in Afghanistan are unusually bipartisan events in Australian politics. Gillard’s claims were unreservedly backed up by the Liberal-National opposition.
Crowds burned a US flag in Kabul on October 6 at a rally to mark the 10th anniversary the next day of the US-led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. For three hours, Reuters said, “men and women … with placards and banners accusing the United States of massacring civilians while denouncing President Hamid Karzai as a puppet subservient to Washington” took part in the peaceful protest organised by the Solidarity Party of Afghanistan.
A 20-hour assault on the US embassy in Kabul by Taliban fighters on September 14 has exposed further weaknesses in the already-crumbling facade of the United States-led occupation of Afghanistan. The Taliban launched a sustained rocket attack on what is supposedly the most secure area in the country, seriously embarrassing Western officials who continue to insist “progress” is being made.
Malalai Joya, dissident author and former member of the Afghan parliament, addressed a packed Marrickville Town Hall on September 9. More than 500 people braved the cold to hear Joya speak defiantly about the war waged on her country by US/NATO forces for the past decade. On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, which became the pretext for the invasion of Afghanistan less than a month later, Joya advocated for immediate removal of all occupying troops.
Malalai Joya is a writer, activist and former parliamentarian in the national assembly of Afghanistan. Prior to speaking at two Overland events at the 2011 Melbourne Writers’ Festival, she discussed occupation and resistance in Afghanistan today. * * *
Private Matthew Lambert became the 29th Australian solider to die in the war in Afghanistan on August 22. Most Australians disagree with the war, but the two big parties remain unswerving in their support of the US-NATO led occupation. Malalai Joya, a former Afghan MP and outspoken anti-war activist, is visiting Australia for a third time on the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. The Sydney Stop the War Coalition, the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Support Association for the Women of Afghanistan - Australia are the hosts of Joya’s Australian tour.
On August 19, a Taliban suicide squad attacked the Kabul offices of the British Council, a government-funded institution that “promotes educational and cultural relations” between Britain and other countries. The August 20 Guardian said at least 12 people were killed, including a New Zealand SAS soldier and three “security contractors” working for multinational security outfit G4S. The company was contracted to guard the offices. Six G4S employees were wounded, including three Nepalese, veterans of the British Army’s Gurkha regiments.
In a June 22 televised speech from the White House, United States President Barack Obama announced plans to withdraw 10,000 US soldiers from Afghanistan in 2011 and a further 23,000 in 2012. This would leave US soldier numbers at about 70,000 the same as before the official "surge" by occuyping forces began at the end of 2009. Britain’s Channel 4 said on June 24 that the reduction in soldier numbers would be partially compensated for by increased use of armed, pilotless drones.