Afghanistan: murder and mayhem

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

The 11 November 2012 BBC coverage of the Remembrance Day ceremony held in Whitehall, London included a list of names of those British soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 11 November 2011. There were 52 names, an average of one soldier killed each week for a year. On that day another British soldier was killed by a member of the Afghan National Army during a game of football, bringing the total British dead in 11 years of war in Afghanistan to 438. The British rate of deaths as a proportion of troops deployed in Afghanistan is almost four times that of its US counterparts. No mention was given in the broadcast of Afghan deaths in these 11 years; the number of civilians killed is estimated to be between 12,500 and 20,000. No estimate was given for Taliban dead. These deaths result primarily from the US and British ruling classes’ determination to remain global powers, and in Afghanistan they are failing.

There are 120,000 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops in Afghanistan of which 68,000 are from the US and over 9,000 from Britain (the second largest foreign contingent). The US and British governments state that they will withdraw their troops by the end of 2014, but the US is negotiating a Bilateral Security Agreement that seeks to retain a military presence in Afghanistan until 2024. The US and British governments claim that as their forces wind down so the Afghan government forces will take over. This is preposterous! The US spent $50bn setting up the Afghanistan National Security Forces and $10-12bn a year to maintain them; this is when Afghanistan’s GDP is about $20bn. However, by 31 October, 53 NATO soldiers had been killed by these self-same Afghan forces in 2012; so-called ‘green-on-blue’ killings.

16% of the ISAF Coalition casualties in 2012 were the result of ‘green-on-blue’ attacks. Joint patrols between ISAF and Afghan forces have been ended; they do not trust each other. In October the outgoing head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation to Afghanistan, Reto Stocker, said that the conflict had ‘taken a turn for the worse’ and that ‘hope for the future is steadily declining’. The country is in chaos. Fuel theft is rampant; the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction is unable to account for $1.1bn of fuel given to the Afghan National Army over a number of years and the state police forces are unable to patrol for lack of petrol and diesel. Taliban factions extract protection charges on construction projects, extort money from private contractors who service the occupation armies, and charge tolls for their use of main roads. Increasingly, ISAF bases are supplied by air drops: the number of roadside bombs makes travel by road too dangerous. The border police run the customs for their own profit. Opium poppy cultivation now accounts for 92% of the global supply.

The US and British states increasingly resort to drones to continue the conflict (see ‘Afghanistan and Pakistan – drones and the new doctrine of war’, FRFI 228, August/September 2012). Robotic warfare removes the pilot from the battlefield; drones can attack where previously special forces would have been deployed. The British Ministry of Defence states that up until the end of September 2012 the RAF’s five Reaper drones had flown 39,628 hours and fired 334 missiles and bombs; their rate of use has doubled in 15 months. Hitherto, these drones were operated from Creech Air Base in Nevada, US. On 23 October The Guardian revealed that within six weeks the RAF is to deploy a further five Reapers over Afghanistan, piloted from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. Britain, France and Israel are testing a new Watchkeeper drone at Aberporth, west Wales.

The Financial Times reports that under US President Obama drones have killed people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen: Drones are cheaper than fighter jets; each F-35 fighter costs about $130m, while a Reaper drone costs $53m. The ability to wage war without risking casualties to their own soldiers makes selling the war to their domestic populations easier for the US and British governments. The idea of technological omniscience over their subjects has always appealed to the imperialists. Drones and robotic warfare increase the likelihood that the imperialists will wage war and prolong war. Despite typical claims from the RAF and CIA that drone strikes are surgically precise, a Stanford and New York University study states that just 2% of those killed by drones were ‘militants’ (Living under drones, September 2012).

Relatives of a Pakistani man killed in a ‘surgically precise’ drone strike have brought their case to the High Court in London. They allege that the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) provided the US with information for the strike, which could be deemed to be encouraging or assisting murder under UK law. The man killed was chairing a meeting of tribal elders in March 2011 to discuss chromite mining rights in North Waziristan. He was among at least 42 people, including a child and local police officers, killed by the drone-fired missile. The British government will do all that it can to keep the facts hidden and to maintain its murderous alliance with the US. While the BBC summons up a show of solemnity to read out the roll call of the dead, the war criminals – the ministers and former ministers – who sent them to war wear poppies to hide their guilt in another war without honour.

Trevor Rayne


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