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    “Taliban Rising” in Afghanistan?
    OR the Rise of a Popular Resistance Movement?

    By Nita Palmer
    The daily news reports from Afghanistan warn of a major offensive by Taliban forces in the coming months, and that NATO forces must do all they can to protect Afghans from the Taliban. Yet, on February 17th NATO soldiers shot and killed an innocent Afghan civilian walking near their convoy. The same day, Canadian soldiers gunned down an obviously mentally ill man in a village outside Kandahar on the grounds that he appeared to have wires, presumably from a bomb, sticking out of his jacket. The “wires” were later revealed to be bits of string holding his tattered jacket together. The next day, Canadian soldiers also shot and killed a homeless man in Kandahar.

    An Examination of NATO’s Track Record in Afghanistan

    The most recent examples of Canada and NATO “saving lives” in Afghanistan doesn’t give much hope to the claim on the Department of National Defence website that Canadian forces are in Afghanistan to “provide the people of Afghanistan with a hope for a brighter future”. 2006 was the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion and bombing campaigns in 2001. Human Rights Watch estimates that 4,400 Afghans were killed by the NATO occupation in 2006, although the actual numbers are likely much higher. In June 2006 alone, US Central Command recorded 340 NATO air strikes, which cost many civilian lives.

    "We're going to… continue the fight against the Taliban and continue our reconstruction efforts for the people of Afghanistan.”

    - Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, February 2007

    NATO claims that, in fact, great progress is being made in Afghanistan. What does this progress look like? The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) notes that:

    - Life expectancy is down to 42 years
    - 1 in 4 children dies before their 5th birthday
    - 1 in 6 women dies during childbirth.

    These are some of the shining examples of life in Afghanistan.

    The WHO also notes that there are only 1.28 hospital beds per 1,000 people in Kabul that number drops to 0.22 beds per 1,000 people in rural Afghanistan. “War Zone Hospitals in Afghanistan: A Symbol of Wilful Neglect”, a report released in February by the Senlis Council, an international policy think-tank, found Afghanistan’s few hospitals were barely able to function, never mind save lives. The report details the conditions at the Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar City, where the bathrooms lack soap or even hot water for sanitation, where patients with infectious diseases such as polio are crammed side by side, and where, more than half the time, there is not even an oxygen tank available to save patients’ lives. There are also virtually no facilities available to treat patients with head injuries; 95% of head injured patients admitted to Mirwais hospital die.

    In more rural areas outside Kandahar city, where NATO frequently carries out bombing campaigns, war zone hospitals are not even available to treat these patients. An orthopaedic surgeon at the Mirwais Hospital told the Senlis Council that, “no one, no doctor, from the Canadian Army base has ever come to our hospital to ask about the patients.” (January 17, 2007). This is how much Canada and NATO care about bringing a “brighter future” to the people of Afghanistan.

    Afghan Government: NATO’s Corrupt Lackeys

    In addition to the brutal reality of just trying to live under the gun of occupation forces, Afghans also have their “democratically elected” government to contend with. 78% of Afghans see massive government corruption as a major problem, and one in four say they or someone they know has had to pay a bribe to receive a government service. (PakTribune, Feb 15th 2007) Although the occupation forces point to the “success” of the “democratic elections” in Afghanistan, in reality the government does not represent the interest of Afghan people, but of the occupation forces. Under the section “Puppet State” in another report released by the Senlis Council this year, it says “the entire government system is funded and assisted by foreign governments. For example, staff and ministers receive regular media training funded by foreign governments…The widely held perception in Afghanistan is that this leaves little room for an independent policy formulation and implementation by the Afghan government itself.”

    Afghan Resistance Rising

    In 2006, the occupation forces in Afghanistan began to be faced with a new level of resistance, unseen since the 2001 invasion. The news reports here call the resistance a “Taliban insurgency”. But reports from Afghanistan speak otherwise.

    “Although the current insurgency in Afghanistan is being carried out by a group described as the Taliban, this has come to loosely mean all anti-government groups which operate somewhat independently of each other, but which continue to be referred to as the Taliban.”

    - Countering the Insurgency in Afghanistan: Losing Friends and Making Enemies, Senlis Council, February 2007

    The government of Canada and NATO continue to maintain that they are fighting a “Taliban insurgency” in Afghanistan. Why? Because saying otherwise would mean admitting the truth: that they are not fighting and killing a small number of isolated rebels, but that they are battling a popular resistance movement of regular Afghan people who are fighting with sticks and stones and everything they have against the occupation.

    While the Taliban does form part of the resistance movement against the occupation – One has to understand many people join the Taliban simply because they are the most organized armed group. This happens everywhere, people always look around for the most organized group either in politics or war - Senlis Council report notes that the grassroots resistance movement is significantly larger, and is driven, “mainly by economic incentives and by grievances held against the government and the international community”. With the hundreds of bombings, civilians being shot for walking down their own streets, and people dying from lack of health care every day, it is little wonder that the resistance to the occupation is growing in strength and size every day?

    NATO Scrambles in Afghanistan Quagmire

    When the US, Canada, and NATO invaded Afghanistan in 2001, they understood the importance of securing the country for their interests. Afghanistan was an important country for them to occupy not because it was “harbouring terrorists”, but because of its strategic place in the world, located on the old Silk Road from China between the major trade markets of the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. When they invaded, they thought the country, weakened by thirty years of war and a government that lacked popular support would be easy to occupy. Today, with the Afghan resistance growing and learning how to fight back every day, their occupation is going anywhere but where they planned. They are finding themselves in a quagmire in Afghanistan. This quagmire in the face of a major downturn in the world economy, is increasingly dividing NATO as its imperialist member countries are beginning to shift and scramble to find the best way to preserve their interests on the world stage.

    The US, facing an even worse quagmire in Iraq, is looking to Afghanistan as another way to secure its interests. The US military budget for Afghanistan was recently doubled to $11.8Billion, and 3,200 US troops in Afghanistan have had their deployment extended. The UK, even as it begins to pull its troops back from Iraq, is deploying an additional 800 to Afghanistan. The government of Canada has taken a similar route, giving $10Million to the Afghan police force in January. Canada’s Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence recently released a report recommending that 250 Canadian Forces instructors and 60 police trainers be sent to Afghanistan to train the Afghan military and police. The report also criticized France and Germany specifically for not pulling their weight in the Afghanistan mission. France, though, is looking to other places in the world to secure its interests, and has responded that it already has troops in many other missions around the world (primarily in Côte d'Ivoire, where it has 3,700 troops stationed), and cannot afford any for Afghanistan.

    What Future for Afghanistan?

    As the imperialist powers negotiate their plans for Afghanistan, one thing is sure: whatever the outcome, it won’t be in the interests of Afghan people. After five years of yet another foreign occupation, Afghans have learned that this occupation, like occupations by the former Soviet Union, the British, and many others before them, has not brought “reconstruction” – only death and misery. The only way to reconstruct Afghanistan and meet the needs of the people is through Afghans themselves. It is not an easy road, but it is the only one possible. From here in Canada, those fighting for peace, justice, and self-determination in Afghanistan need our support. This means not just opposing the occupation, but actively building an anti-war movement against Canada’s war drive in Afghanistan. We must call for an immediate withdrawal of all Canadian troops and NATO forces from Afghanistan, and for an independent public inquiry into the government of Canada’s war drive, which has been launched, extended, and had its budget doubled without the consultation of people in Canada, at the cost of the lives of people in Afghanistan.


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