The recent leak of over 90,000 secret US military documents on the WikiLeaks website reveals the truth about the war in Afghanistan.
Mounting, unreported, civilian deaths are compounded by an increasingly popular and defiant Taliban resistance—both thorns in the side of a US administration struggling to justify its nine-year occupation of the country.
The 90,000 pages of event logs shed light on what is becoming an unwinnable war for the US and its allies. The leaked documents reveal the glossing over of civilian deaths and an increasingly well organised and well resourced Taliban resistance. For example, Stinger surface-to-air missiles previously supplied by the US to the Mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union have been used by the Taliban against coalition military aircraft.
The documents reveal the US covered up a missile attack on a helicopter in 2007 to avoid publicly admitting that the Taliban possessed advanced weaponry.
The leaks confirm that the US presence in Afghanistan is the source of violence, particularly against civilians.
Countless documents even report civilian deaths at peaceful demonstrations.
This makes a mockery of any claim about winning the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people. It also illustrates that the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops is the only way to end the violence.
Rising civilian toll
Reports of bombings and deaths of civilians continue to mount. Three US-led attacks within four days in July—one in Nangarhar, and two in Helmand province—killed 94 Afghans, including 70 civilians.
The first of these attacks in Helmand province, which killed 50 civilians, is one of the worst cases of indiscriminant slaughter in the nine-year war. Taliban fighters had warned residents to leave the area where intense gunfire was being exchanged. Members of eight families fled the area and sought refuge in a house in a nearby village. The house was later blasted to rubble by a NATO air strike.
One resident, Abdul Samad said, “they targeted an area which we believed was safer, but in one hit they killed over 50 people.
“Most of them were children and women, and I have lost my relatives as well.”
Regarding the same incident, communication director Rear Admiral Greg Smith said, “All fires were observed and accounted for and struck the intended target.”
This is a sanitised and clinical portrayal of US war tactics, but represents the failure to uphold the façade. Widespread support for the Taliban resistance has led the US military to treat Afghan civilians as combatants during firefights.
Speaking at a news conference in Kabul in August, UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura said, “We are worried about the future, because the human cost of this war is too much… Afghan children and women are increasingly bearing the brunt of this conflict.”
In the US, even before the documents were leaked, popular opinion had turned against the war. President Obama is feeling the pressure. He has postponed the US summer offensive and has promised to reduce troop numbers by summer 2011.
Here in Australia, Defense Minister John Faulkner admitted that the recent spate of Australian troop deaths will put pressure on his government to withdraw the troops. A recent Essential Media poll revealed 61 per cent of Australians want a full troop withdrawal.
Growing opposition to the war reflects the crisis in the US war strategy. Obama’s surge of troops has failed to stabilise the US-led occupation. The town of Marjah, scene of the first major test of the new strategy, has returned to Taliban control.
Shortly before he was dismissed by President Obama, former head of US operations in Afghanistan General McChrystal described it as a “bleeding ulcer”.
With so much blood on their hands the US forces can never win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghans. Moreover, their divide and rule strategy has not been successful.
In the south and the east, the Taliban resistance controls the villages, and in the north and west, the government of Hamid Karzai has begun to lose control. Non-Pashtun militias have refused to succumb to ethnic divisions and instead work with the Taliban.
The Taliban has captured control of large parts of the country due to their increasing popularity as the only serious resistance to the US-led occupation.
This shows us once again that oppressed people the world over are not oblivious to the bloody history of US occupations and wars, and they will fight them—and do whatever is necessary to win.