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Afghanistan: An Outright Humanitarian Disaster

Afghanistan: Not Just A Failure, An Outright Humanitarian Disaster


By Jay Shaft
Coalition For Free Thought In Media
6/12/03

Afghanistan, the country the U.S. invaded after 9/11/01 to root out al-Qa’ida and remove the repressive regime of the Taliban. In all respects the stated intentions of U.S. policy makers and leaders have gone terribly off course. This isn’t just a failure of U.S. foreign policy; it is an outright humanitarian disaster of monstrous proportions.

Taliban Back, Just Like Old Times

The Taliban is back, if it ever really left at all. Al-Qa’ida is known to have returned to Afghanistan as if they were ever completely removed from Afghanistan. The Taliban is starting to reclaim dominance and power in many of their old strongholds.

The only thing different in the scheme of things is that the U.S. military bases have been established at great expense to the U.S. taxpayers and U.N. peacekeeping forces. Kabul has been supposedly been stabilized, but firefights and violence break out almost daily between rival factions feuding for power.

5,500 U.N. peacekeepers from 22 nations patrol Kabul, but no U.S. troops. U.S. forces stay out in the country except for one notable exception. President Hamid Karzai is protected by U.S. Special Forces, because two Afghan ministers have been killed right in Kabul. Now isn’t that special???

Afghanistan is once again the number one supplier of heroin and morphine in the world. Militias of drug lords and smugglers largely control the north of Afghanistan. Fighting breaks out all the time in outlying areas of the country resulting in civilians being caught in the crossfire.

The Afghani national army being trained right now consists of around 3000 troops. Marshall Fahim, the Afghan Defense Minister has 85,000+ troops in northern Afghanistan, completely controlling the Pan Jeer valley, a major drug smuggling route used since ancient times.

Here is the real kicker, Fahim also has 15,000 troops in Kabul itself and he is not friendly towards Hamid Karzai in any way. Fahim was a Northern Alliance warlord commander during the fight against the Taliban. He has stated his opposition to the current U.S. supported government. With a combined private army of over 100,000 strong, it would not be very hard for him to overthrow Karzai, putting the U.S. in a serious dilemma.

The Taliban is calling for a Jihad against all Americans, civilians and military alike. The have announced they will cleanse Afghanistan of American occupiers and all foreign imperialist occupation.

The last time there was a Jihad in Afghanistan it was against the Soviet communist occupation during the 80’s. The war that took place over many long years was one of the bloodiest guerrilla actions to be fought in the last century.

The U.S. funded the Mujahadin and armed them in the fight against the communist occupation of Afghanistan. Military aid in the form of weapons like the Stinger missile was given to the rebel group. Hundreds of millions were given to various leaders including Ossama Bin Laden himself.

After Russia pulled out of Afghanistan in 1988 many of the highly trained fighters and leaders of the Mujahadin were absorbed by the Taliban al-Qa’ida and the many warlord’s militias. Many of the leaders of the Taliban had extensive CIA funded training in guerrilla tactics and terrorist acts.

The mainstream media and the general public often ignore the human facts of Afghanistan’s continuing tragedy. There is hardly ever any discussion of the worsening conditions and instability threatening to erupt in another long civil war. The fact that many people are still dying in Afghanistan is ignored and forgotten.

Over 4000 Killed In US Bombing

Over 4000 people were killed during the bombing of Afghanistan from October 07, 2001 to March 2001. There were reports of whole villages with populations of 300 or more being completely wiped out.

Journalists and U.N. forces have reported numerous civilian deaths from the U.S. bombing. I am going to just list some of the worst examples of civilian murder.

October 11th: At least 160 civilians are killed in the village of Karam, west of Jalalabad. The village had a population of over 450 inhabitants.

October 18th: The central market place of Kandahar was bombed killing 47.

October 21st: Herat Hospital is hit with a 1000 pound cluster bomb; killing over 100 already wounded and injured civilians.

9 children are killed in Uruzgan when the tractor they are being pulled by is bombed.

October 23rd: AC130 gunships repeatedly strafe and Bari-Chokar and Chowkar-Karez, both farming communities 25 miles north of Kandahar, killing 93 civilians.

October 29th: A Red Crescent medical clinic was hit in Kandahar, killing at least 25.

November 10th: The village of Shah Aqa and a neighboring village are bombed, resulting in over 300 reported deaths and 125 actual confirmed dead.

November 11th: A bus full of fleeing refugees was hit in Uruzgan and 35 died.

November 18th: B-52’s carpet bomb a small village near Khanabad killing over 100 people.

November 29th: B-52’s drop 25 JDAM MK-83 1000 pound bombs on the village of Kama Ado killing a reported 200-300 villagers. 156 were confirmed killed by a village elder. Khan-e-Mairjudden was also bombed and the death toll was as high as 200 with over 150 confirmed dead. Another nearby village Zaner Khel was also bombed, hitting a minor Taliban leader’s house, with a death toll confirmed of at least 60 dead.

December 5th and 6th: The village of Moshkhil is hit at least 3 times in 12 hours. 16 people were confirmed dead. There were no Taliban or al-Qai’da forces anywhere near this village. The villagers believe a former village chief gave the false information that caused the village to be bombed.

December 29th: The Red Cross investigated the deaths of at least 52 civilians in the village of Qalaye Niazi, south-east of Kabul, when a B-52 and two B-1B bombers hit what a regional warlord told the Americans was a Taliban stronghold. That information proved to be false. At least 25 children were killed, according to the UN.

This is by no means a complete list of the civilian deaths during the bombing.

The Pentagon response when asked about all these civilians’ deaths was, “It just did not happen, there is no verifiable evidence that large numbers of civilians were killed by bombs.”

There are now countless eyewitness survivors’ descriptions of what happened, but there has been no real coverage in the U.S. media. It seems to be a taboo subject and one that brings the accusation that you are somehow “un-American” for daring to suggest that there were innocent victims of indiscriminate bombing. It is definitely not discussed that more people died in Afghanistan than in the 9/11 attacks.

The death toll for 9/11 now stands at 3,019 so it looks like we got our revenge, and I guess now we’re even for the Twin Towers. Imagine staining the memories of those killed on 9/11 with the blood of innocent Afghanis killed in retribution.

That is exactly what happened; the memory of one group of innocents is now forever tarnished by the killing of thousands in their name. REMEMBER 9/11! has become a battle cry for slaughter in the name of revenge.

Cluster Bombs and Land Mines: Indiscriminate Killers

There are at least 50,000 cluster bombs lying scattered around Afghanistan. This is a country that had the highest concentration of landmines before the U.S. used cluster bombs. U.S. planes dropped cluster bombs on over 130 Afghan cities, with Herat, Tora Bora, and Denar Kheil being some of the hardest hit. The entire Shomali Plain, where the Taliban were hiding, is littered with thousands of live cluster bombs.

In the area of Herat and surrounding villages on the Shomali Plain, at least 250 children have been killed and over 320 permanently injured from handling cluster bombs. Children confused the yellow bombs with the food packets that were air dropped and many gathered the bombs only to have them blow up in their face.

The cluster bombs were responsible for most of the civilian deaths in Afghanistan during the aerial campaign. The B-52’s and B-1’s dropped the bombs into many villages resulting in massive destruction of houses and killing indiscriminately.

At least 10 people each day were being killed or injured by c.b.s right after the bombings were over. Now it is estimated at least one person a day is killed by cluster bombs. Counting the unexploded ordnance like mines and anti-personnel devices, at least three people are killed a day on average.

There are between 5,000,000-10,000,000 actual land mines of various designs littering the country. UN officials estimated that before the U.S. bombing an average of 88 Afghans were hurt or killed each month by landmines or unexploded bombs.

The UN MAPA (Mine Action Program Afghanistan) has estimated that a 10-year plan it has developed to remove landmines will prevent 17,000 mine and unexploded ordnance accidents and save over $180 million in reduced medical costs.

Refugees Still Huge Problem

2,000,000+ refugees remain stranded in the countries surrounding Afghanistan. There are up to 2 million more that are internally displaced at any one time.

Last year over 1.7 million refugees returned to their homes but many found empty, burned, bombed out shells where their former homes had stood. Cluster bomb attacks have destroyed many villages and made the farmland to dangerous to grow any crops.

The U.K. and Australia have begun to forcibly return refugees back to Afghanistan. Human rights groups have tired to stop this practice, pointing out the fact that Afghanistan is not safe when coalition forces are still on patrol in the country.

Throughout northern Afghanistan, ethnic Pashtun communities faced widespread looting, beatings, abductions, extortion, and incidents of killing and sexual violence. In some communities, these abuses continued for months. The main reason is that the Taliban leadership consisted of Pashtuns from southern Afghanistan and many people took revenge on any Pashtun available.

As soon as the Taliban collapsed, Pashtun communities were quickly disarmed across northern Afghanistan, and soon faced widespread abuses at the hands of the three ethnic militias (Junbish, Wahdat, and Jamiat) as well as by armed Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Hazaras taking advantage of the imbalance of power created by the sudden disarming of Pashtun communities. It has been reported by Robert Fisk that thousands of Pashtuns were massacred after the battle at the fort of Qal-i-Jangi, which was considered a slaughter in its own right.

While the wave of violence and abuse against Pashtuns has somewhat diminished since the first months following the fall of the Taliban, Pashtun communities continue to face serious and regular abuses. In addition, Pashtun communities have been stripped of their assets, impoverished, and displaced by the abuses, and face a difficult future. Targeted violence against ethnic Pashtuns has led to the internal displacement of thousands across northern Afghanistan.

Continued Starvation and Unsafe Water

The current situation points to the crisis of over 7.5 million people being in direct jeopardy of imminent starvation or extreme malnutrition. UNICEF, the U.N., Save The Children, and many other aid groups have made many airlifts into the country over the last year and a half.

80,000+ head of livestock have died of starvation and drought in the last year, increasing the crisis by taking not only a source of food but of milk for the children and a source of wool from the sheep. Many families relied on their herds of livestock to make it through the winter months.

The only bright spot was unusually high rainfall amounts this year during the germination time for the wheat crop. Even with an increased amount of rainfall many farmers cannot return to the land because of ongoing conflicts and tribal skirmishes. The added danger of all the new bombs and ordnance has made many traditional farmers move to the city.

With fewer farmers to grow food the crisis will only deepen without depending on years of foreign aid and food imports. This means Afghanistan will be reliant on the US and allies for years into the future.

The death rate of children under 5 in Afghanistan is 350(est.) in each 1000 with more than 1 in every 4 that will not grow up. There have been over 400,000 children that died in the 24 year long conflict.

270,000 children die a year in Afghanistan every year from disease and war. This figure is now several years old and current figures point to 500,000 a year being a more accurate figure.

85% of all Afghans rely on agriculture to survive. There was almost a 100% crop failure for 1999 2000, and 2001. The drought is still plaguing much of the country with no end in sight. The current lack of seed for crops even further complicates this desperate situation.

Over 60% of children are moderately or severely underweight and the current surveys show malnutrition increasing very rapidly over the last few months. 68% of all infants show moderate to severe malnutrition. 72% show stunting of growth due to malnutrition.

Only 13% of Afghanistan has access to a reliable source of clean water. Only 12% have access to adequate sanitation or sewage systems to dispose of human waste safely. This situation has resulted in growing reports of water borne diseases like cholera and typhoid.

The Failure of the U.S.

This leaves one thing to be discussed. What is the US going to do about stabilizing and rebuilding Afghanistan? Nothing it seems; all the money that was promised has never materialized. A pledge to help the Afghans modernize and have a democratic system has also fallen by the wayside.

In recent weeks the talk actually has turned to the situation and what to do about it. While watching the so called media experts like Tony Blankly and George Will hash it over it became clear. The so called experts were all saying that the priority has changed for Afghanistan. They were all admitting there was nothing that was going to be done by the US administration beyond holding Kabul.

It appears to be business as usual over there. Same game, different names, more killing. Just a few weeks ago the State Department made a statement about the ongoing commitment to Afghanistan. Other than making sure we have adequate, modern military bases to “keep the country secure” not much else has been done.

The only significant amount of US money to be spent in Afghanistan has been to build these bases and staff them with cooks, barbers, laundry workers, and support staff. I find it ironic that because of security issues, the base staff is imported from other countries at great expense.

Due to the same security concerns I could not get anyone in the State Department or DOD to tell me how much was spent on these bases.

Afghanistan is in now worse off than it was before. This is outrageous because the country was considered a disaster area by many aid groups before the war. All the US has done is take an extremely bad situation and make it 100 times as bad.

There seems to be no help to come from the occupying US. All promises in the end are forgotten and blow away like the dust in the drought stricken areas. It has been a year and a half since the bombing started and no relief from America is to be seen.

The very same conditions that have been stated to cause terrorism prevail again in Afghanistan. Poverty, starvation, death of children, and occupation by a foreign force, all root causes of terrorist acts.

It doesn’t appear that the US has made it any safer from terrorism, which was the stated reason for bombing Afghanistan. The Taliban have returned, the warlords are still fighting and killing, and drugs flow freely. What a great victory over terrorists we have won.

**************

- Jay Shaft is the Editor of the Coalition For Free Thought In Media ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/coaltionforfreethoughtinmedia). Send your feedback to… freethoughtinmedia@yahoo.com


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