Jun 17, 2009

Where Roads End, the Taliban Begins

(Originally Published here)

It’s your wedding party. You’re happy; a few are dancing. You’re sitting beside your bride; she’s happy too…

A loud sound, darkness, dust, silence…

Coalition Forces fighter planes…

Everyone assumes that they are targeting the Taliban. But, what about the innocent people like you whose wedding party is being celebrated?

The next day, briefly in the news: “… as many as 100 civilians might have died.”

U.S. troops are going to be increased in order to fight the Taliban insurgents more effectively so that terrorism can be eliminated in Afghanistan. Will these terrorists be eliminated? From all we have witnessed in the last few years, this claim is invalid. For six or seven years, al-Qaeda has been increasing its terrorist activities in Afghanistan. Now, in 2009, a top Taliban commander claims that they are “ready to attack Kabul and could strike virtually anywhere in the city.” In fact, the first targets, the defenseless targets, have always been civilians. Last year, on July 7, a suicide bomber, with a car full of explosives attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul. Two Indian diplomats were killed. This attack also killed 41 and injured 141 Afghans. Today, many Afghans have started to think that the cause of all the instabilities in Afghanistan is not al-Qaeda or Taliban, but the international community, and particularly the U.S. If U.S. troops are increased, suicide attacks will be increased, and bombarding of U.S. fighters will be increased too. As a result, what we are going to witness are more civilian casualties, more violence, and more instability.

Why are al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan? The al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, is from Saudi Arabia, which is a friend of the U.S. Why doesn’t he go back to his own country to fight its government? Why are people from Africa, South Asia, Arab countries, and many other parts of the world, coming here to Afghanistan to become terrorist? They’re here because the U.S. is here. This is the reason for them to come and fight against a common enemy; the West. A Muslim activist in Iraq, who supported insurgents against U.S. troops, before the previous U.S. presidential election said he would support the reelection of George W. Bush because he doesn’t want him to leave so easily. He said, “we want to defeat him […] we want to win the war and humiliate him, the way he has tried to humiliate us.” Increasing U.S. troops will definitely strengthen the international forces in the fight against terrorism. But on other hand, it will give a stronger motive to terrorists, from around the world, to find a field to challenge the U.S. The only losers of this political game are Afghan civilians. They are going to be either targeted by suicide bombers or by U.S. fighter planes.

Those who are in favor of increasing troops are arguing that increasing U.S. soldiers will bring Afghans more security. The experience of the last seven years does not support this assertion. Of 2100 civilian deaths in Afghanistan last year, 550 were the result of air strikes by U.S. and NATO-led forces. Homes are attacked and inspected by U.S. soldiers; men, women, elders and kids are treated in an inappropriate way, and villages are targeted by U.S. air attacks supporting the ground troops. On May 6, just a couple of weeks ago, U.S. air strikes killed 100 civilians in Farah province in western Afghanistan. Yet, it said that U.S. troops are being increased to defend Afghans against terrorism. It seems that they create insecurity and anxiety for Afghans.

It is also said that parts of this increase are comprised of those who will come to train Afghan security forces. Afghans should govern Afghans. This is the only way Afghans can endure being governed. Afghans should gradually have the responsibility of removing terrorism, bringing peace, and establishing security in Afghanistan. By transferring such responsibilities, it is assumed that this would considerably decrease the number of Afghan civilian causalities. The U.S. has already had a successful experience of such transition in al-Anbar province of Iraq. The Awakening Movement in al-Anbar province in 2005 showed how cooperatively local people would respond if once their importance in establishing stability was recognized. The U.S. strategy involved a reduction of troops in the Sunni territory of al-Anbar province, and transferring the responsibilities to local militias; those who first fought the U.S.

To end the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, the only solution is to enhance the image of the international community, especially the U.S., among Afghan people. Increasing troops could be a temporary answer to slow down the Taliban and al-Qaeda activities in Afghanistan but it won’t eliminate it. The U.S. should gradually transfer the responsibility of establishing stability to Afghans. In addition, instead of increasing the budget for military action, the U.S. can provide financial support for developing projects in various areas such as agriculture, employment, eliminating narcotics, building roads, and many others. Development in Afghanistan means the end of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Nathaniel C. Fick and John A. Nagl in an article on Foreign Policy say:

“In Ghazni province last summer, one of us spoke with an Afghan road builder whose shirt was covered in dried blood. He’d been shot by the Taliban a day earlier for working with the coalition, but he was back the next morning with his paving crew because he thought that finishing that road was the best way to bolster security in his village. Indeed, the U.S. general who was critical of U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan pointed at Afghanistan’s ring road from the window of his Black Hawk helicopter, and declared, “Where the road ends, the Taliban begins.”

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