Afghanistan

In a new study, entitled Stumbling into Chaos: Afghanistan on the Brink, the Brussels-based Senlis Council international policy think-tank said that the Taliban is now the de facto governing authority in large portions of southern Afghanistan.
“Taliban insurgents have captured a third district in western Afghanistan, local officials said on Monday [November 5], defying Western assertions the rebels are unable to mount large military offensives”, Reuters reported that same day.
The death, on October 25, of the second Australian SAS soldier in Afghanistan this month, Matthew Locke, in the province of Oruzgan in southern Afghanistan, has again focused attention on the hidden military occupation that has bipartisan support in Australia. David Pearce was killed in the same province by Taliban forces on October 8.
On October 9, Prime Minister John Howard declared that David Pearce, an Australian Army trooper killed by a Taliban-planted roadside bomb in Afghanistan, had died for a “just cause” while fighting “brutal terrorism”. Pearce’s death was only the second combat loss for the 950 Australian soldiers participating in the US-led occupation of Afghanistan. A Special Air Service sergeant died in Afghanistan in February 2002 when his vehicle hit a landmine.
On September 29, US-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai offered to meet Taliban leader Mullah Omar and give the Taliban — classified as “terrorists” by the US and its NATO allies — posts in his government.
Air attacks by US and NATO forces that killed dozens of villagers in Afghanistan’s western Herat province on April 28-29 sparked angry protests by thousands of residents of the province’s Shindand district. The Inter Press Service news agency reported that on April 30 protesters torched the district headquarters of the US-installed Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai.
“A preliminary US military investigation indicates that more than 40 Afghans killed or wounded by Marines after a suicide bombing in a village near Jalalabad last month were civilians”, the April 14 Washington Post reported it had been told by the US commander who ordered the investigation.
It is year six of the UN-backed NATO occupation of Afghanistan, a joint US-European Union mission. On February 26 there was an attempted assassination of US Vice-President Dick Cheney by Taliban suicide bombers while he was visiting the “secure” US air base at Bagram (once an equally secure Soviet air base during an earlier conflict). Two US soldiers and a mercenary (“contractor”) died in the attack, as did twenty other people working at the base. This episode alone should have concentrated the US vice-president’s mind on the scale of the Afghan debacle. In 2006 the casualty rates rose substantially and NATO troops lost 46 soldiers in clashes with the Islamic resistance or shot-down helicopters.
The new constitution of Afghanistan formally grants equal rights to women and men. The government has also endorsed the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which, according to development agencies, is significant progress on gender equality “policy advocacy”. The first time I arrived in Kabul the women I saw on the streets were wearing scarves on their heads and those wearing full chador were a minority. Maybe, at a superficial glance, the situation had improved for the women of Afghanistan?
In a report released on September 5, the Senlis Council, an international policy think tank with offices in Kabul, London, Paris and Brussels, said that Taliban forces fighting the US-led occupation of Afghanistan have regained control over the southern parts of the country.

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