I’m going to be as biased as the mainstream media here – only in the totally opposite direction – and give only the views of people who oppose Nato and its Afghan occupation…
Rice optimistic as reactionaries reign
(Thursday 07 February 2008)
US SECRETARY of State Condoleezza Rice claimed to see “progress” in Afghanistan on Thursday, a day after clerics urged President Hamid Karzai not to interfere with a death sentence handed down to a young journalist convicted of insulting Islam.
Ms Rice flew to the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in tow a day after over 100 influential tribal and religious leaders convened in Gardez, the capital of Paktia province, to demand that the Western-backed government implement the sentence.
Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, 23, was sentenced to death on January 22 by a three-judge panel in Mazar-i-Sharif for handing out a report that he printed off the internet to fellow journalism students at Balkh University.
The article questioned why men can have four wives but women cannot have multiple husbands.
Mr Kaambakhsh has appealed against his conviction.
Speaking to an assembly of powerful tribal chiefs in Gardez on Wednesday, Islamic council of Paktia chief Khaliq Daad said: “Kaambakhsh made the Afghan people very upset. It was against the clerics and Islam and he has humiliated Islam.”
“We want the Afghan president to support the court’s decision,” Mr Daad declared.
But pressure group Reporters Without Borders called on authorities to “find a way to provide better protection for freedom of expression, one that will be effective even when subjects as sensitive as religion are involved.”
The US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch noted that the case reflects the lack of progress in reforming the Afghanistan judiciary, which it said included “deeply entrenched traditionalists, many of whom have close links to notorious warlords.”
As well as triggering an international outcry, the sentence has intensified doubts in the West about the wisdom of contributing yet more troops to fight and die defending a fragile regime that appears to espouse extremist interpretations of Islam.
The Taliban launched more than 140 suicide missions last year, the most since the regime was ousted from power in late 2001 by the US-led invasion that followed the September 11 terror attacks, underlining the failure of US and NATO forces to bring security to the war-ravaged country.
Britain has confirmed that it will not increase the size of its 7,700-strong force in Afghanistan and now Canada has threatened to remove its combat forced based around Kandahar unless NATO supplies about 2,000 reinforcements.
“It’s not an overwhelming number of forces that is being sought here,” Ms Rice pleaded yesterday, adding: “Our populations need to understand this is not a peacekeeping mission.”
Some NATO nations had hoped that Britain would essentially transfer fighting forces from Iraq, where its operations are scaling down.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown told MPs on Wednesday that he will continue to push European allies to provide more combat troops.
RICE-BROWN WAR TALKS
Prime Minister Brown had war talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at Downing Street yesterday afternoon.The pair discussed tensions within NATO over the deployment of forces in Afghanistan where US and UK and Canadian troops are suffering a large number of casualties.
Canada has warned that it will pull out unless EU combat troops are mobilised to engage the Taleban.
Earlier Rice held two hours of talks with Foreign Secretary Miliband.
Following these talks, Rice said: ‘The (NATO) alliance is facing a real test here. And it is a test of alliance strength.’
She added that people needed to understand that Afghanistan was not a peace-keeping mission but a counter-insurgency fight.
Miliband said: ‘I am confident that the 7,700 troops that we have got in Afghanistan are the right number.’
Earlier at Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons Tory MP Patrick Mercer, who has advised Brown on defence issues, asked why the 600 extra troops called for by brigade commanders in Afghanistan had not been provided as part of new troop deployments announced earlier to ‘ensure there are enough bayonets on the ground to hold territory’.
Mercer warned that the UK did not have enough troops to fight a war on two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In response to a question from Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell, who has visited British troops in Afghanistan, Brown called for ‘proper burden sharing’ when it came to personnel and equipment from other EU countries.
Separately, Defence Secretary Des Browne announced plans for 16 Air Assault Brigade to replace 52 Infantry Brigade on the next redeployment of UK forces to Afghanistan in April 2008.
The Ministry of Defence also announced plans for the replacement in Afghanistan of 16 Air Assault Brigade, in October 2008, by 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines.
An MoD statement added: ‘As the lead formation deploying in April 2008, 16 Air Assault Brigade will provide the majority of the units serving in Afghanistan, the bulk of which represent direct replacements for previously announced deployments to Afghanistan.
‘Overall force levels will be broadly unchanged.’
On her flight to England, Rice had told reporters she wanted to ‘intensify discussions about Afghanistan’.
She also said the appointment of a high-level figure to co-ordinate international civilian and military operations in Afghanistan was high on the agenda.
Over 300 protesters picketed Downing Street from 12.30pm yesterday, shouting ‘Who let the bombs out? – Brown, Bush and Rice!’ and ‘Troops Out!’
Student Hanna Mansson told News Line: ‘I’m here to show Condoleezza Rice that she is not welcome here, and we don’t agree with her politics.
‘America is like a big brother and should mind its own business, and not send troops to invade and occupy other countries.’
Another student, Bilkisu Ibrahim added: ‘I’m here because of the way the Palestinians are being treated in Gaza.’
UK resident, Angelo Skotadis from Greece, said: ‘It’s the third time Britain has been in Afghanistan and it will end up like the previous two times, in defeat.’
Bush and Brown’s Afghan strategy lies in tatters
“MAKE NO mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan.” These are the words, not of an anti-war group but of the opening line of a report by think-tank The Atlantic Council of the United States. This report, which goes on to warn of Afghanistan becoming a “failed state,” is just one of three released last week showing the US and UK strategy is in tatters.
Another by the US-based Afghanistan Study Group states the need to “rethink our economic and military strategies” while Oxfam warns of humanitarian disaster without a “major change of direction.”
These reports make uncomfortable reading for George Bush whose 2001 invasion was part of the ‘neo-con’ plan for American dominance of the region.
Since then the position has become no better for ordinary Afghans, the majority of whom live in grinding poverty. Life expectancy in the country is just 46 years. Farmers have turned to opium production to try and support themselves and last year was estimated to be a record drug crop. Despite changes to the law the repression of women is still an everyday reality.
Attempts to rebuild the country under NATO occupation are doomed to failure and Oxfam describe how “aid is wasted on very expensive consultants or on contractors who make quite significant profits.”
Under these conditions the support for the Taliban and other insurgents has been increasing. 2007 saw the highest number of Taliban attacks since 2002 and the deputy governor of the southern Helmand province (where most British troops are based) was killed in a recent bomb attack.
The corruption and repression of the Karzai regime, along with the killings of civilians by western forces and the failure to bring about reconstruction, has provided fertile soil for the re-emergence of the Taliban. However the repressive forces of the Taliban offer no real answers to the needs of the Afghan people.
The US and UK have now been calling for their NATO allies to devote more troops to the country but other governments are unwilling to commit more forces to an unpopular and unwinnable war. Germany has recently refused to redeploy troops and Canada has even pledged to withdraw its 2,500 soldiers next year if Nato doesn’t send more support for them.
However, even if more soldiers are sent, as in Iraq they will not be able to significantly improve security. Even the US-installed president Hamid Karzai recently criticised the inability of British forces to ‘secure’ Helmand province.
Apparently, the beleaguered president wasn’t even told of British plans to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on buying off Taliban fighters and training them to be local police.
The occupation plays a divisive role; the Western powers are there to support their own interests and are not capable of improving people’s lives.
On the basis of continued occupation a ‘failed state’ and humanitarian disaster seem inevitable. Only the withdrawal of all occupying forces and a government of the working class and the poor, basing itself on a socialist programme, can meet the needs of a majority of Afghans.
A united struggle to improve living standards can overcome division and allow the Afghan people to decide their own future.
- Withdraw the foreign armies
- For a workers’ and peasants’ government based on a socialist programme
- For workers’ unity and socialist internationalism
Troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan demo
Called by Stop The War Coalition
Saturday 15 March,
Assemble 12 noon, Trafalgar Square, London.