“I would like them to invade us with hospitals and schools.”
So said Malalai Joya, Afghani woman politician and activist about the Western powers that had elected back in 2001 for the path of invasion by bombs, tanks and soldiers.
Over a decade later, the US-lead Afghan invasion is no nearer being “won.” It is what people are calling “endless war.” In fact, it is not clear if it is possible to win. The initial aim of the US politicians was to go after Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda pals who they believed had trained in Afghanistan for the September 11th attack. Yet, as the US-lead bombs fell on the poverty-stricken country of Afghanistan, bin Laden disappeared, as it later transpired, to Pakistan.
The US-lead forces took over the country and have since occupied it, propping up a puppet regime and fighting the displaced Taliban regime. What was supposed to be an attack on Al Qaeda has turned into an endless conflict against Taliban forces and their supporters, with growing civilian casualties every year. As happened in Vietnam and happens in every case of forced military occupation, every incident of occupying soldier brutality, be it violent night raids, Koran burnings, desecrations of dead bodies or shooting sprees, turns ordinary people into sympathisers of the rebels. Moreover, the Taliban have support from across the porous border with North-West Pakistan, a tribal region that the Pakistani government claim that they can do little to control.
Horrible as it sounds, a lot of people are benefiting from the war. Islamic extremist leaders must view it as a good thing because every Western atrocity swells their support amongst victims’ family, friends and sympathisers. On the Western side, the Western military contractors, be it arms producers, private soldier suppliers, drone software programmers, are enjoying great financial success out of the Afghan war – 10 years of business. Many Western politicians are financial or politically involved with such firms. Many will have had their political campaigns heavily funded by such firms. The financial success of military contractors will thus be political success for the politicians.
This is why endless war can happen, despite futility and loss of innocent life. The sad fact is that extremists, be they Western profit extremists or religious extremists, who are, often, not on the front line, are making capital out of bloodshed.
On the other hand, building schools and hospitals for the devastated and poverty-stricken people of Afghanistan is not a profitable enterprise. This is why we are not doing battle with education but with violence – a violence that only perpetuates itself.
However, the people of the West who do not have a vested interest in endless war, are losing faith in their leaders’ justifications. The majority in the US, Britain and Germany believe that the war should end immediately. In fact, the public goes further, the majority believe that the continuing war is actually making us more unsafe at home.
Slowly, this public unease is being reacted to by the leaders. Australia has stated its plans to withdraw troops by 2013, though leaving behind special forces troops. All foreign troops are scheduled to leave the country in 2014. However, the US is seeking a strategic agreement with their Afghani puppet regime to permit them to stay longer if need be. There is no guarantee that US troops will leave by 2014. Even if they do, a large special forces, private forces and “diplomatic presence” will remain in the country, as has occurred in Iraq. The occupation will go on but just less publicised.
Even if this 2014 troop withdrawal is more of a political sweetener for the public, it is at least an opportunity to renew Malalai Joya’s call. If troops are leaving, let there be an invasion of hospitals and schools to replace them, rather than just private soldiers – this is the least the West owe Afghanis after all those innocent casualties.