As people who follow World Can’t Wait know, we’ve been opposed to Barack Obama’s plans to expand the US occupation of Afghanistan since the 2008 campaign began. Now that Obama has expanded the US occupying forces beyond 150,000 (not including all the contractors outside the US military) and is pressuring European allies to send more troops, how is the occupation going?
Reminders: Obama kept Bush’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has promoted the expansion into Afghanistan. He’s expanded Bush’s quiet drone war, and is now has two unmanned drone programs (run by the military and the CIA), making far more attacks than Bush ever did. The administration endorsed the “election” of Hamid Karzai over widespread, incontrovertible evidence of massive fraud in it.
So how is all that working? I had a chance to hear Anand Gopal speak Monday night, at a Brooklyn for Peace event. I hope his talk will be broadcast, but in the meantime, I’ll report from my notes.
Anand Gopal gave us important information with “America’s Secret Afghan Prisons,” a piece based on 24 interviews with detainees and families of those held at Bagram Air Force Base, called “Obama’s Gitmo.” See a ten minute interview by Russia Today (who surely has an interest in counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan) with Gopal.
Gopal stated that the Taliban had virtually been removed from Afghanistan in 2001-02 with the US invasion, relatively easily. Now, they once again dominate 1/2 of the country.
The main reason for this he cited was the civilian casualties caused by US/NATO attacks. He said that the Taliban also kills civilians, directly or indirectly, but that the civilian population thinks the US occupation is what’s responsible for the deaths. There have been major protests in all the cities, and every time that a group of civilians are killed by NATO or US forces, with American flags and effigies of Obama burned. People are very angry.
Another reason the US occupation will fail, Gopal said, is that they are supporting the “corrupt and predatory” Karzai government, which is viewed as the enemy by much of the country. During the 1990′s civil war, the Northern Alliance, and other warlord groups now allied with Karzai were responsible for horrific treatment of women. In areas they controlled, girls not married by the age of 12 were raped,
When the people protested the treatment of women, so bad that in 2003 hundreds of women drowned themselves rather than be raped by the Northern Alliance, the Karzai government did nothing, because Karzai needs the warlords to hold onto power. Because people in the country are preyed upon by the warlords, get no help from the Karzai government or the U.S. government, they have turned increasingly to the Taliban, despite the crimes against people they have committed.
Another reason for the U.S. lack of success in “winning hearts and minds” of the Afghan people Gopal cited is the “lack of reconstruction.” He said that 85% of the billions marked for reconstruction goes to US contractors. Of the remaining 15% much goes to the warlords. He said the major Kabul-Kandahar highway built by the Bush regime a few years ago is falling apart from shoddy construction.
Gopal said the only solution for the people of Afghanistan is the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
The Toronto Star reported Sunday February 7 in Afghans flee ahead of planned NATO offensive
Mohammad Hakim, a 55-year-old tribal leader in Marjah, said fear has risen over the past two weeks and he knows at least 20 families who had left. He himself planned to take his wife, nine sons, four daughters and grandchildren to live with relatives in Lashkar Gah.
“Everybody is worried that they’ll get caught in the middle when this operation starts,” he said in a telephone interview.
Hakim said he was worried about the length of the operation.
“I can stay for one or two weeks,” he said. “But if I have to leave my agriculture land for months and months, then how will I feed my family?”