The War on Terror: 10 years on

After a decade of military action in Afghanistan it is fair to say that the West is not any closer to defeating the Taliban. The Western troops entered Afghanistan on October 7th 2001, launching ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ to topple a Taliban government which had harboured the Al Qaeda terrorists behind  9/11.

The only thing we have to show as a result of this war is the massive loss of human life on both sides of the conflict and the eventual assassination of Osama bin Laden some 300km over the Pakistan border. When President Obama came into power he promised to withdraw the American troops from Afghanistan but instead he sent 30,000 additional troops to continue the ‘war on terror’. Obama said this “will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces.”

The popularity of this war has not only decreased in the Western world but also in Afghanistan. On October 7th hundreds of Afghans took to the streets demanding the withdrawal of Western troops from their country shouting slogans like, ‘no to occupation’ and ‘Americans out’. Back in December, 2009, Obama stated; ‘‘…our forces lack the full support they need to effectively train and partner with Afghan security forces and better secure the population. … In short, the status quo is not sustainable.”UK forces are still facing strong opposition as the battle continues in the key Taliban popular areas of southern Afghanistan. Roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have claimed the majority of the British lives and are becoming the weapon of choice for the opposition. Britain has suffered more deaths in Afghanistan than any other country apart from the United States.

Coalition forces are in the process of transferring security control to Afghan forces ahead of a U.S. drawdown set to be completed by the end of 2014.The 33,000 additional American troops sent last year are scheduled to depart the war-torn country completely by September next year.

In a Geo televised interview President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, said that he would side with Pakistan in the event of any war with America.”Anybody that attacks Pakistan, Afghanistan will stand with Pakistan,” he said. “Afghanistan will never betray their brother.”Karzai has attempted to get closer to Pakistan over the past 18 months as efforts to draw the Taliban into peace talks has been made possible. His statement in the interview appalled the US as the West believes he is not grateful enough for the Western interference in Afghanistan.

According to a briefing given to the Associated Press, from April to July this year 2,832 special forces raids have resulted in the deaths of 834 militants, while an additional 2,941 have been captured.Because of this, General Petraeus stated, violent attacks have fallen by 14% in 12 months. However, the US military‘s figures are challenged by other sources. Stefan de Mistura, representative of the UN secretary general for Afghanistan, and Georgette Gagnon, director of human rights for the mission portrayed a 15% increase in civilian casualties in the preceding six months, with May 2011 being the deadliest month of the war for civilians since 2007. Gagnon stated, “The human cost of the Afghan conflict for Afghan civilians rose in the first six months of 2011.’’

Details of the discovery of a hidden treasure trove of minerals in Afghanistan that could transform the fortunes of the war-damaged country were leaked out maybe as the US administration was desperate for some good news at a time the military was achieving only limited gains against the Taliban. The untapped deposits include huge veins of gold, iron, copper, cobalt and key industrial metals like lithium. They have been valued at more than £820 billion. This discovery will also raise questions over the intention behind the lengthy and costly war launched post the 9/11 attacks.

Hilary Clinton embarked on the creation of the Taliban stating “Let`s remember here… the people we are fighting today: we funded them twenty years ago… and we did it because we were locked in a struggle with the Soviet Union. They invaded Afghanistan… and we did not want to see them control Central Asia and we went to work… and it was President Reagan in partnership with Congress led by Democrats who said ‘you know what, it sounds like a pretty good idea… let`s deal with the ISI and the Pakistan military and let`s go recruit these mujahedeen.’ The West supported the sort of characters we are currently fighting. After the Soviets withdrew, we left them to kill one another in a civil war which the Taliban ultimately won.

According to an independent study Afghanistan risks sliding into failed state status  and becoming the “forgotten war” due to weakening international support and a growing violent insurgency.

“Afghanistan stands at a crossroads,” concludes the study, according to an advanced copy. “The progress achieved after six years of international engagement is under serious threat from resurgent violence, weakening international resolve, mounting regional challenges and a growing lack of confidence on the part of the Afghan people about the future direction of their country.’’ The study adds a major issue has been trying to win the war with “too few military forces and insufficient economic aid,” which is understandable with the current recession.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates said he did not agree with the study’s conclusion, but he struck a more positive tone on Afghanistan’s prospect.”I would say that the security situation is good,” Gates said. “We want to make sure it gets better, and I think there’s still a need to coordinate civil reconstruction, the economic development side of it.”

The report warns if international forces are pulled at this time, the fragile Afghan government would “likely fall apart.”

Written by: Mahwish Jabeen


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