Friday, March 4, 2011

A Friday Roundtable - Death in Afghanistan

Kathy Kelly looks at the human cost - in Afghanistan with lives lost and here with lost opportunity.

“Recent polls suggest that while a majority of U.S. people disapprove of the war in Afghanistan, many on grounds of its horrible economic cost, only 3% took the war into account when voting in the 2010 midterm elections. The issue of the economy weighed heavily on voters, but the war and its cost, though clear to them and clearly related to the economy in their thinking, was a far less pressing concern.

U.S. people, if they do read or hear of it, may be shocked at the apparent unconcern of the crews of two U.S. helicopter gunships, which attacked and killed nine children on a mountainside in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, shooting them “one after another” this past Tuesday March 1st.”

Stephen M Walt (Hearts Minds and Gunships: What are we really doing in Afghanistan?) notes that winning hearts and minds sounds good on paper and puts a ‘humanitarian’ veneer on our troop presence. But it is a policy that is not politically neutral.

“[Using the military to protect] a local population often requires interfering with their daily lives in sometimes onerous and bothersome ways, whether through the construction of massive concrete barriers (as in Baghdad), or "strategic hamlets" (as in Vietnam), or through intrusive search missions in local villages. Even when we are in fact improving the security of the local population, that may not be how the people we are supposedly protecting perceive it. In the Pech Valley, at least, the local population mostly wanted us to get out and leave them alone.”

Nowhere to Turn: The Failure to Protect Civilians in Afghanistan.

Oxfam International with 28 aid agencies working in Afghanistan released this report in November. The goal was to influence the NATO summit that was to take place in Lisbon. The paper argues that military solutions don’t work, and that the protection of Afghans is better achieved with a comprehensive and transparent political solution. The challenges are daunting.

"2010 is the deadliest year for Afghan civilians since 2001. According to UNAMA Human Rights, there were 1,271 civilian deaths in the first six months of 2010 - an increase of 21% on the same period last year."

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Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
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