Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Keep SAS out of Afghanistan

SAS combat troops “look set to return to Afghanistan” according to an NZPA article, that reports on Prime Minister John Key’s response to a request for more troops for the war from the US. The PM says he is “somewhat sympathetic” to the request.
 The mistaken belief that the people from Afghanistan had something to do with the September 11 attacks, or that the aim of the war was to capture Osama Bin Laden, has meant the war in Afghanistan has always had more support in this country, and more importantly in the US, than the war in Iraq. The previous Labour Government was able to exploit this, using troop commitments in Afghanistan to cosy up to the US. National will no doubt continue this policy. 
As the NZPA the article reminds us, there are already “About 140 army, navy and air force personnel are involved in New Zealand’s provincial reconstruction team (PRT) operating in Bamiyan province. The team has been there since 2003 and is committed until September 2010 so far.” And as Peace Movement Aotearoa (who forwarded the the NZPA report) points out:
SAS troops previously deployed to Afghanistan have been integrated with other Special Forces in the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force under US military command. Along with US Special Forces, “six foreign nations including New Zealand and Australia, also assigned some of their best ‘hunters and killers’ to the group” which is headquartered near Bagram air base. Clearly not deployments that could be regarded as peacekeeping by any stretch of the imagination ...

It will be even easier for National to continue New Zealand’s involvement, now that Obama is working to promote Afghanistan as the “good war” in contrast to the mess in Iraq. But the truth is the occupation of Afghanistan has no more justification and is no more successful than the occupation of Iraq. In both cases the US and it’s allies, including NZ, are slaughtering tens of thousands of innocent people, while strengthening the “extremeists” they claim to be trying to stop. As Malalai Joya, a women’s rights actavist elected to the Afghan parliament in 2005, recently stated:
Almost eight years after the Taliban regime was toppled, our hopes for a truly democratic and independent Afghanistan have been betrayed by the continued domination of fundamentalists and by a brutal occupation that ultimately serves only American strategic interests in the region.
It is long past time for New Zealand to end it’s support for the war crime that is the occupation of Afghanistan by withdrawing all troops. As Joya argued in another recent interview, with Australia’s Green Left Weekly (GLW):
“But what’s going on today is like civil war. People are squashed today between two enemies: an internal and an external enemy ... “That’s why its better if the foreign troops leave as soon as possible. People are saying: we don’t expect anything good from you, just stop your wrongdoing. “Bombs falling from the sky are killing our people. On the ground, the Northern Alliance and Taliban are killing our people. From both sides our people are the victims — especially women and children.” She cited a May 4 US air-strike in her native Farah province. “The mainstream media wants to throw dust in the eyes of the world. Over 150 people were killed. I spoke to a young woman who lost 20 members of her own family. “This was a massacre. I was banned from giving a press conference. But the US government and media said only 20 were killed. “Our people hate warlords, don’t support Karzai and his puppet government of war criminals and drug lords who now want to negotiate with the Taliban. Our people hate the Taliban. “If the troops withdraw, then it is easier fight with one enemy. Now we are fighting with two enemies: occupation forces and these criminals.

A village elder from Granai, Afghanistan, points to the grave where his sister and her children are buried. Over 150 people were killed when the village was bombed by the US Air Force on May 4. Photo by Guy Smallman.

For more details about the massacre on the May 4 bombing of Granai village in Farah province, see the interview with Photojournalist Guy Smallman “the only Western reporter to visit the village” in Britain’s Socialist Worker newspaper. For an overview of what’s happening in Afghanistan today, take a look at ‘The Afghan war — unjust and unwinnable’ in the latest Green Left Weekly. Also of interest Reactions to US President Barak Obama’s recent speech “to the Muslim World”, from Noam Chomsky and Robert Fisk.

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