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PROGRESS IN AFGHANISTAN – DON’T WORRY May 24, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in South West Asia, Terrorism Issues.
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Another soldier dies in Afghanistan; the Prime Minister assures us that “progress” is being made.

Here by progress is meant that ground is supposedly has been won from the Taliban and that Australian soldiers have been replaced by Afghans. No mention is made of the desertion levels among the Afghans troops, the continuing effects of night raids and drone-based missile attacks, or the likelihood that some form of negotiation will be necessary, or that the people perhaps bested placed to take over are the drug warlords. So it goes.

ABC News reports:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to the war in Afghanistan after this morning’s announcement that a soldier had died while serving in Uruzgan province.

Sergeant Brett Wood, a decorated soldier serving his third deployment to Afghanistan, was killed by an improvised explosive device overnight. Two other diggers were wounded in the blast.Three other Australian soldiers were wounded in a separate gunfight with insurgents.

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston made the announcement in Canberra this morning.

The Prime Minister says she sends her condolences to 32-year-old Sgt Wood’s wife and family “who must be in unimaginable pain”. But she says Australian forces are in Afghanistan “for all the right reasons” and it is the dedication and bravery of soldiers like Sgt Wood that make progress possible.
“There will be some who despair and wonder why we are there in Afghanistan and whether we are making any progress,” she said. “I think the best thing that I can say to people is to reiterate the words of Ben Roberts-Smith – our most recent VC winner. He said to me and he said to the nation we are making a difference in Afghanistan.” She quoted the Victoria Cross winner as saying it is a “different place” than the Afghanistan he first went to.

Ms Gillard says Australian troops will be in Afghanistan until 2014 when local forces take over security. “We will see the mission through,” she said. “Progress is being made – it’s difficult, but progress is being made and we are there for all of the right reasons. “We are there to ensure that Afghanistan does not again ensure a safe haven for terrorists.” Ms Gillard says she is able to measure progress in Afghanistan by the degree of security on the ground for Australian soldiers and local Afghans; by the numbers of Afghan army and police being trained; and by improvements in living conditions for Afghans.

Neil James, from the Australian Defence Association, says despite the spike in casualties, Australian forces are making headway in Afghanistan. “The ADF and its Afghan and America allies in Uruzgan took the war to the Taliban very much over the winter – didn’t give them any rest,” he said. “This spring and summer fighting season is pretty much a make or break one and the pressure is being applied. “Now the fact that we’re taking casualties doesn’t mean necessarily that we’re losing; it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re winning. “But if you study what’s been going on recently, we are actually doing quite well in putting the Taliban off-balance in Uruzgan.”

That such facile reasoning can be used to justify placing either the lives of the soldiers or the people of Afghanistan at risk borders on the unbelievable. The principle is that violence creates violence. How are the conditions for peace to be created? As a consequence of what historical circumstances and decisions were the training camps first set up in Afghanistan?

By way of contrast, Rethink Afghanistan notes today:

While U.S. generals stick to talking points that claim “progress” in the Afghanistan War, the truth on the ground is that Afghanistan is more violent than ever, even after the U.S. sent tens of thousands of new troops. A new report from Minority Rights Group International shows that Afghanistan’s population has seen a bigger spike in risk for mass killings than any other country on the planet this year.

Here’s what their report had to say about the situation in Afghanistan:

Civilian deaths have climbed every year for the past five years, totalling nearly 3,000 in 2010 according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. Over 75 per cent of these the UN attributes to anti-government forces, including the Taliban, while government forces, NATO and the US were together responsible for 440 civilian killings, nearly half in aerial bombing. The continued weakness of the central government, internal disunity and systemic corruption contribute to the poor prognosis, as does the fact that the Taliban now appear able to carry out complex, coordinated attacks in the capital.

That’s a picture of failure, not progress, for the U.S.-led war effort. We can’t afford to keep wasting lives and resources on this fiasco. Get those troops home.

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