New poll: Majority want troops out of Afghanistan

Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Anti-war rally in Sydney, March 2010. Photo by Peter Boyle.

Stop wasting lives - get our troops out now!

Socialist Alliance statement June 22, 2010

The Socialist Alliance today renewed its call on the Rudd government to withdraw all Australian troops from Afghanistan in wake of more Australian troop casualties and a poll showing that a majority of Australians support such a withdrawal.

An Essential Poll released today showed that 61% of respondents thought Australia should withdraw our troops from Afghanistan, 24% thought we should keep the same number and 7% thought we should increase numbers.

Support for withdrawal of troops has increased by 11% since this question was asked in March last year.


See Essential Poll for more details.

It is a tragedy that three more Australian soldiers have been killed in this near-decade long war but it is ordinary civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan who have been the biggest victims in this war.

Some 3.3 million Afghans have fled their country as refugees or are internally displaced and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed and many more maimed and wounded, according to UN figures.

Australia has around 1550 combat troops in Afghanistan as part of the 100,000-strong US-NATO command. They are taking part in the summer military offensive in the southern province of Kandahar.

So far 16 Australian troops have been killed in this war but the number is certain to rise unless the troops are withdrawn.

The former Howard Liberal-National government joined the war against Afghanistan without even a discussion or vote in Parliament.

The Rudd government should immediately allow a debate in Parliament to explain to the Australian people exactly how being in a war of occupation in central Asia helps protect the Australian people’s interests.

Defence Minister John Faulkner has urged Australians to continue supporting the war in Afghanistan but his only justifications are the lies rolled out by the disgraced former US President George W Bush.

The misnamed “war on terror” is better described as a war of terror against ordinary, poor folk in Afghanistan and currently serves to prop up the corrupt and despotic puppet regime of Hamid Karzai.

* See also Afghanistan war must end

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Pip Hinman, Socialist Alliance anti-war spokesperson and candidate for Grayndler 0412 139 968

Trent Hawkins, Socialist Alliance candidate for Wills 0407 070 841

Alex Bainbridge, Socialist Alliance candidate for Perth 0413 976 638

From GLW issue 841

Comments

We should look towards the opinions of the Afghan people

Certainly if the reasons you give for us leaving Afghanistan were because Australian soldiers were dying, I would respect your opinion (though I would disagree as soldiers have said they wish to be there, and families of dead soldiers have shown support for the war e.g. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/10/20/3043384.htm), I must take umbrage to your last statement: "The misnamed “war on terror” is better described as a war of terror against ordinary, poor folk in Afghanistan and currently serves to prop up the corrupt and despotic puppet regime of Hamid Karzai.".

While indeed the legitimacy of Karzai's government is certainly questionable, I must protest the idea that the war is against the Afghan people. This is because you have implied that the Afghan people do not support the war. Such statements come from those who do not understand the brutality of the previous Taliban government, which while it created peace, it also created oppression, restriction of freedom of speech, womens rights etc., (things we in Australia take for granted) as well as great use of corporeal punishment.

I was not in Afghanistan during the time of Mullah Omar's reign. I doubt you were. So, we must go to the opinion of the people who were, who can then make comparisons between then and now.

A couple months back a poll was taken by the Washington Post, the BBC and ARD Television to survey 1691 Afghan adults about what they think of the state of their country (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/postpoll_12062010.html). The poll indicates that 59% of those surveyed believe that their country is heading in the right direction, while only 28% believe that the country is heading backwards (with 10% of mixed opinion and 3% with no opinion).

While the Karzai government is certainly wrong (illustrated by evidence, and the poll does indicate that 56% of people consider the previous elections fraudulent), if all troops were to leave, either civil war would erupt (as did after the defeat of the Soviets) or the Taliban would return. When asked if they would rather the current government or the Taliban, 86% of those polled said they would prefer the current government. And when asked about what was the biggest danger to the country, the Taliban came in first place at 64% (as compared to 6% saying the US was the biggest danger, and with those polled being allowed to give 2 answers).

While a return to the Taliban is not supported, peace in exchange for the Taliban being able to hold political office is (73% polled support the idea and 23% wish to continue fighting).

In short, the opinion of the Afghani people has illustrated that there is the idea that their nation is heading in the right direction. While the people believe that there should be a negotiated peace, there is overall disdain for a return to the Taliban, and if all Western nations were to pull out of Afghanistan, it is not certain that the Afghan National Army and the Northern Alliance could repel the Taliban (the status of the Afghan National Army at this stage is not strong enough to strongly repel the Taliban, and without someone like Massoud, an organisation like the Northern Alliance would not come together).

In terms of pulling out of Afghanistan, I think that is something determined by two things. The first is the opinion of the Afghan people. If they do not wish Western (inc. Australian) soldiers to be in Afghanistan, or the people can handle themselves, then foreign troops should depart as soon as possible. If they do not, then the troops should be allowed to stay.

The second is what the soldiers' opinions are. If the Afghans want them to stay there, and the soldiers themselves believe what they are doing is right, then it is correct for them to stay.