In Afghanistan, the tragic Kandahar killing spree has prompted renewed talk about the proposed U.S. Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement. At stake in these discussions is the security of Afghanistan, the U.S. and the region. Citizens in the U.S. and Afghanistan should be urgently exchanging their views or concerns about this partnership. Many are not even aware of it.
Currently, citizens of Syria and the world can at least discuss Kofi Annan’s warning that the situation in Syria should be handled "very, very carefully" to avoid an escalation that would de-stabilize the region, after an earlier warning against further militarization of the Syrian crisis. The crisis in Afghanistan is as severe as the one in Syria, if not more chronic. Two million Afghans have been killed four decades of war. Yet, not a single diplomat is warning against the further militarization of the Afghan crisis.
The previous U.N. Envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Edie, did try:“The most important reason for my bitterness was my ever-growing disagreement with Washington's strategy in Afghanistan,” Kai Edie writes, in his book Power Struggle over Afghanistan. “It had become increasingly dominated by military strategies, forces, and offensives. Urgent civilian and political requirements were treated as appendices to the military tasks. The U.N. had never been really involved or consulted by Washington on critical strategy-related questions, nor had even the closest NATO partners. More importantly, Afghan authorities had mostly been spectators to the formation of a strategy aimed at solving the conflict in their own country.”
It has taken the tragic killing-spree of 16 civilians in Kandahar for the world to notice the anger that the war has enflamed in the hearts of both U.S. soldiers and Afghan mothers.
Military and foreign policy elites in Washington have encouraged a conventional presumption that the ‘war on terror’ requires a long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Underlying that presumption is a deeper assumption that ‘terrorism’ can be resolved through war. That is, the supposition is that humanity can somehow counter ‘terrorism’ by killing as many ‘terrorists’ as possible, regardless of the anger these killings, so similar in themselves to terrorist acts, must necessarily fuel, not to mention the costly ‘collateral damage.’
Taxpayers from the 50 coalition countries involved in the Afghan war should be alarmed at how and where their money is spent. They should be considering how they would feel were they offered $2000 in compensation for the murder of a child, husband, father or mother, the compensation NATO handed out ‘ex-gratia’ (with no admission of its own wrongdoing) to the families of the 16 children, women and men slaughtered in their sleep on March 11,2012.
Will the Afghan Parliament, the U.S. public or the U.N. debate the 10-year U.S. war strategy in Afghanistan? Will the Afghan Parliament, the U.S. public or the U.N. debate the U.S. Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement?
The Afghan Parliament
A few Afghan Parliament lawmakers have already raised a protest following the Kandahar killings. Following the U.S. decision to move the soldier who allegedly committed the massacre to Kuwait, a Kandahar lawmaker, Abdul Khaliq Balakarzai, said that agreement. On the 14th of November 2011, the National Security Advisor to President Karzai, Dr. Rangin Spanta, had announced that the Strategic Partnership Agreement will be finalized by the Afghan Parliament. Will that be the case, or did Dr. Rangin Spanta lie to pacify public sentiment? Note that last year, the parallel Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement was put to the Iraqi Parliament for approval and was rejected, denying the U.S. long-term, uniformed military presence in Iraq. Neither the Iraqi Parliament nor the Iraqi public wanted the Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement to be signed. They deemed that it was not in their interests. This could be the case as well in Afghanistan, if the Obama/Karzai administrations allowed democratic parliamentary processes.
The American Public
It has been reported that 60% of the U.S. public believes that the war is not worth its cost in life and expense, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News Poll. However, Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates have already insisted that low public approval of the Afghan war won't change (U.S.) policy. “I think if you look at polling in almost all of our 49 coalition partners' countries, public opinion is in doubt," said Defence Secretary Robert Gates. "Public opinion would be majority, in terms of majority, against their participation. I would just say it's obviously the responsibility of leaders to pay attention to public opinion, but at the end of the day, their responsibility is to look out for the public interest and look to the long term." So, whether led by the previous Republican, George Bush, or wanting-a-second term Democrat Barack Obama, there’s not much likelihood the U.S. government will value a poll showing that 60% of the U.S. people want the war to end.
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