Why Are We Still In Afghanistan?


In an amazing bit of candor, but not for American consumption it is important to note, US Defense Secretary had this to say about what’ s going on in Afghanistan

the Taliban (are) part of the “political fabric” of Afghanistan, but said any future role for it would depend on insurgents laying down their weapons.

“The question is whether they are prepared to play a legitimate role in the political fabric of Afghanistan going forward, meaning participating in elections, meaning not assassinating local officials and killing families,” Dr Gates said in Pakistan yesterday.

“The question is what do the Taliban want to make out of Afghanistan? When they tried before, we saw before what they wanted to make and it was a desert, culturally and every other way.”

The above statement seems to be an admission that what’s taking place is a civil war in Afghanistan within the Taliban movement between who are going to forsake armed struggle versus those who are willing to work towards political solutions to the problems of Afghanistan.  The president, Hamid Karzai has made similar statements over the years of the political viability of the Taliban movement and has even tried to incorporate many followers of that movement into his government.  The kicker for this observer is that many people on the outside looking in seem to think there’s not much difference between a Karzai run government and its predecessor the Taliban, except for the presence of an American occupying force propping up the latter.  Otherwise issues of intertribal warfare persist, the economic blight affecting the country and the status of women…..something always used to bring about change, but usually in the wrong direction, remain the same under Karzai.

Why then do American forces remain in Afghanistan?  There’s nothing in Gates’ comments which would legitimize a US military presence in Afghanistan, and especially an escalation of forces the likes Obama suggests is necessary.  It would appear the more the US attempts to rout Taliban forces by force of arms, the more precarious Karzai’s position becomes in Afghan society, which is no doubt why he, Karzai, is appealing to the Taliban himself without the good blessings of American policy makers in his attempts to bring Taliban under his wing.  What you have in Afghanistan therefore are two conflicting ideologies that are mutually exclusive; a military foreign occupier fighting a nationalistic movement that has been embraced by the government put into power by that military authority.  This scenario looks even more difficult than what the Russians faced during their occupation of that country.  The answer is not in escalation but rather in de-escalation, and for all those who say it’s about capturing OBL, I would remind them some of the biggest names in the al-Qaida hierarchy were caught not by US troops but by the CIA.

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Afghan Women: A Political Football for Western Feminists


AfghanIt all started back in 2001 with Laura Bush when she gave the rallying cry, “Afghan women know, through hard experience, what the rest of the world is discovering: The brutal oppression of women is a central goal of the terrorists”, which was one of the justifications for the US military invasion of Afghanistan.  Of course after the legitimacy of the invasion was accepted by the majority of Americans, Bush had little to say about the treatment of Afghani women under a newly installed and US backed government, even though it’s record of women’s rights was as deplorable as it was under the Taleban.  The lip service of the feminist movement given to the plight of Afghan women has been insulting to Afghani women who view with a certain disdain the paternalistic attitude some Western women bring to the discussion of women’s rights for people that are  as far removed from the West as can be.

Now comes word, Afghan women are again in the cross hairs of the feminist movement, with one group, the Feminist Majority Foundation, lending its moral support for the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, stating as one of its objectives: Increase security and safety for Afghan people, especially women and girls, by increasing the number of US combat troops in Afghanistan.

Addressing this point other more politically aware feminists had this to say:

First of all, coalition troops are combat forces and are there to fight a war, not to preserve peace. Not even the Pentagon uses that language to describe U.S. forces there. More importantly, the tired claim that one of the chief objectives of the military occupation of Afghanistan is to liberate Afghan women is not only absurd, it is offensive.

Waging war does not lead to the liberation of women anywhere. Women always disproportionately suffer the effects of war, and to think that women’s rights can be won with bullets and bloodshed is a position dangerous in its naïveté. The Feminist Majority should know this instinctively.

Here are the facts: After the invasion, Americans received reports that newly liberated women had cast off their burquas and gone back to work. Those reports were mythmaking and propaganda. Aside from a small number of women in Kabul, life for Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban has remained the same or become much worse.

Under the Taliban, women were confined to their homes. They were not allowed to work or attend school. They were poor and without rights. They had no access to clean water or medical care, and they were forced into marriages, often as children.

Today, women in the vast majority of Afghanistan live in precisely the same conditions, with one notable difference: they are surrounded by war. The conflict outside their doorsteps endangers their lives and those of their families. It does not bring them rights in the household or in public, and it confines them even further to the prison of their own homes. Military escalation is just going to bring more tragedy to the women of Afghanistan.

The U.S. military may have removed the Taliban, but it installed warlords who are as anti-woman and as criminal as the Taliban. Misogynistic, patriarchal views are now embodied by the Afghan cabinet, they are expressed in the courts, and they are embodied by President Hamid Karzai.

Paper gains for women’s rights mean nothing when, according to the chief justice of the Afghan Supreme Court, the only two rights women are guaranteed by the constitution are the right to obey their husbands and the right to pray, but not in a mosque.

These are the convictions of the government the U.S. has helped to create. The American presence in Afghanistan will do nothing to diminish them.

Sadly, as horrifying as the status of women in Afghanistan may sound to those of us who live in the West, the biggest problems faced by Afghan women are not related to patriarchy. Their biggest problem is war.

….in the eight years since the U.S. invasion, opium production has exploded by 4,400 percent, making Afghanistan the world capital of opium. The violence of the drug mafia now poses greater danger to Afghanistan and its women than the rule of the Taliban.

Some of the biggest drug-traffickers are part of the U.S. puppet regime. To make matters worse, corruption in the Afghan government has never been so prevalent — even under the Taliban. Now, even Western sources say that only pennies of every dollar spent on aid reach the people who need it.

If coalition forces are really concerned about women, these are the problems that must be addressed. The military establishment claims that it must win the military victory first, and then the U.S. will take care of humanitarian needs. But they have it backward.

Improve living conditions and security will improve. Focus on security at the expense of humanitarian goals, and coalition forces will accomplish neither. The first step toward improving people’s lives is a negotiated settlement to end the war.

The U.S. presence in Afghanistan is doing nothing to protect Afghan women. The level of self-immolation among women was never as high as it is now. When there is no justice for women, they find no other way out but suicide.

Columbia Professor Lila Abu-Lughod, a woman of Palestinian descent, writes: “We need to be suspicious when neat cultural icons are plastered over messier historical and political narratives; so we need to be wary when Lord Cromer in British-ruled Egypt, French ladies in Algeria, and Laura Bush, all with military troops behind them, claim to be saving or liberating Muslim women.”

It’s sad to see western feminists being used as tools for the military occupation of a country, but it shows how political affiliations of the left and the right converge when it comes to certain policies such as military expansion and imperialism over poor people who are far removed from the West’s reality.