Afghanistan is in a horrible state, by any measure. From the increasing power of fundamentalist extremist groups, to rising poverty, rising opium exports, a rising number of suicide and other attacks on foreign troops or Afghan government infrastructure, the people of Afghanistan will not see relief any time soon. More and more international criticism is rightly blaming the foreign troops supposedly there to help build a safer, secure country.
Billions of dollars are being spent on more foreign troops to do so-called peacekeeping under NATO or to hunt terrorists under the US’s Operation Enduring Freedom. This only worsens the situation. According to the Senlis Council, an Afghan/European think tank, “Operation Enduring Freedom and the related militaristic counter-narcotics policies are significant contributors to the current state of war in Kandahar and the other southern provinces” where the Taliban are the strongest. Really, the NATO “peacekeeping” mission that is painted as something different from the hunt for anti-US elements is really not that different, since there’s “no peace to keep,” according to Senlis.
The Council points to three main issues contributing to the anti-US and anti-Karzai insurgency: poverty, drugs, and insecurity. All of these are being responded to by the US in such a way as to worsen the situation.
On poverty “little has been achieved” since the US toppled the Taliban in 2001. This is because little has been done, and an extremely tiny proportion of foreign money has been spent on programs for the poor of Afghanistan. Since “[t]he basic needs of the local population are not being met” the predictable consequence is that “the population is giving its support back to the Taliban and other local power-holders.”
On Drugs, the US tactic of choice has been forced eradication. Senlis states that, “this ineffective counter-narcotics policy…has intensified the local power games.” Since warlords and Taliban factions allow the cultivation of poppies by poor farmers, many Afghans are shifting their support back to such groups.
On Security, “the current state of war has been triggered by the very interventions which were intended to counteract the Taliban and Al Qaeda.” These interventions have featured an “aggressive international military presence” and “lack of respect and understanding for the local communities.” International military responses to insurgent attacks are “largely ineffective,” and appear to lack “any learning process.” These tactics “have in fact exacerbated the dynamics (in particular the support of the Taliban in [Kandahar] province) that initially brought the international community to Kandhahar.”
There is no sign that the US or its protege Hamid Karzai are changing their approach. The international troops are still conducting hunts for so-called terrorists, which the New York Times calls “a disastrous approach to counterinsurgency warfare.” And Karzai continues to give carrots to extremists and warlords (appointing them to cabinet, to the justice ministry, the parliament, allowing the reinstatement of the Commission on the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue), but doing nothing to combat the very dire crisis of poverty, inadequate health care, insecurity, and poor access to education. It’s hard to blame him, since it’s only the Afghan people who want him to deal with these problems, and they have no money. The people with the real power in Washington, London, Ottawa, and at the UN, who can actually support the solutions financially, the ones who should put vast sums of money into programs for the people that go beyond helping run elections, instead tell Karzai the military campaign (of which there is “no end in sight”) is extending his authority. If they had any brains they would realize that it is precisely this “support” that is causing his increasingly bad reputation with his people.
Funds should be diverted away from the military buildup, and the US, UK, Canada, and their allies should stop using their troops against the Afghan people. It’s time to repay Afghans for all the suffering they’ve endured in the name of fighting the West’s battles against “communism” in the 1980s and “terrorism” in the 1990s and 2000s.