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Afghanistan worse off after 13 years of war

March 27, 2014

Amid much fanfare and a considerable amount of myth-making, the last Canadian troops have come home from Afghanistan. The media has tried desperately to put a positive spin on the milestone with many pronouncements of a successful mission.
The reality is, once again, less rosy. After 13 years in the country and billions spent on war and “reconstruction,” NATO forces have brought little security and the economy is still in shambles. Afghanistan’s per capita income is listed at 175th out of 184 countries. The rate of unemployment is conservatively estimated to be 35 per cent. Violence against civilians has once again spiked with a 14 per cent increase in deaths in 2013 and that includes a dramatic 35 per cent increase in child deaths. The country is tied for the most corrupt place on earth and the warlord led government that Canada spent more than a decade propping up remains thoroughly undemocratic.
We should expect the government and the mainstream media to blame the withdrawal of NATO troops as the reason for the ongoing chaos in the country. What is rarely asked, however, is why, after more than a decade, the situation has not improved at all for the majority of Afghans.
Women’s rights
A war supposedly began because of highjacked planes on 9/11 went on to highjack women’s rights, and has done nothing to improve them. This isn’t surprising since the government that Canada and NATO propped up has consistently enacted anti-women laws.
Malalai Joya, an Afghan feminist and former member of parliament recently spoke about the situation of women in Afghanistan, “In some big cities, some women have access to jobs and education. But mainly the projects were made to justify the occupation. In rural areas, the situation for women is like hell. Self-immolation in Afghanistan is skyrocketing. We’ve seen rape cases, acid attacks, burning girls’ schools, cutting the nose and ears off women, beating women with lashes in public, executing them in public, accusing them of adultery without even bringing them to the symbolic courts that we have.”
She places the blame for this situation on both the Afghan government and its NATO supporters, “The US and NATO presence is making the struggle for justice and peace much harder because they empower these reactionary terrorists (the Afghan Government), who are great obstacles for true democratic-minded elements.”
Oil and imperial rivalry
It was never the intention of the US to bring security or prosperity to Afghanistan. The vast majority of the more than 1 trillion US dollars spent went to war and not to reconstruction.
The goal for western imperialism was always about control of the country. Afghanistan is a state that borders Iran and China both of which are seen as competitors of the US, mainly because Iran is not under direct US dictate and China is a potential economic rival. It also borders the southern end of the former republics of the USSR in central Asia. In short it is geographically placed to be of great benefit to US imperialism.
Afghanistan is also an important energy corridor. The US before 2001 had been working closely with the Taliban to build a trans Afghan pipeline to bring natural gas from the Caspian to the shores of the Indian ocean. It was only after the Taliban turned away from those US ambitions that they became public enemy of the US.
Since the war began in 2001, the plans for the pipeline have been renewed by the Karzai government. Despite the “end” of the war, the Obama administration will keep US soldiers in Afghanistan at least another decade, until 2024.
War, racism and austerity
While it was the Liberals who got Canada into the mess, the Tories have used the war to further militarize Canadian society.
The Conservatives also used the war to whip up Islamophobia in Canada. Harper’s pronouncement that the greatest threat to peace is “Islamacism” is a central argument needed to explain Canada’s own imperial ambitions. Canada wants to open up eight new military bases abroad, as part of a “Canada First Defence Strategy” that will waste $490 billion.
Harper’s increasing attacks on veterans—from the Veterans Charter that cuts their pensions to the indifference to the epidemic of veteran suicides—puts a lie to myth that supporting the war was about “supporting our troops.” The war on Afghanistan has traumatized Canadian soldiers and their families, who are increasingly speaking out. Now that the troops are home we need to link their support with a broader challenge to austerity and militarism—redirecting the $490 billion into green jobs and social programs, and challenging the capitalist system that breeds war.
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