The anti-war movement must step up its campaign for the immediate withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan.
Although Australian sentiment is to see an end to any Australian involvement in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Rudd Labor Government’s budget demonstrates its commitment to sustained increases in military funding to both occupations. The Australian Government’s excuses are that Australian troops are aiding in “reconstruction” efforts in Afghanistan.
The Afghan occupation is in its seventh year, and resistance to the occupation has not abated. According to the US National Intelligence director the US puppet regime of Hamid Karzai exerts control over no more than 30 per cent of the country. Further, US army senior commanders in Afghanistan have requested at least 10,000 more troops to deal with increasing violence and attacks.
The NATO led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) rely heavily on airpower because of “shortages of ground-troops”. Bombings are causing heavy civilian casualties as well as resentment in the Afghan population.
Afghanistan is no better off. In reading the 2007 Afghanistan Human Development Report we can see some catastrophic development indicators: access to water is at 31 per cent of households; life expectancy is 43.1 years; adult literacy is 23.5 per cent; 50 per cent of Afghan children under five are malnourished; while 6.6 million Afghans do not meet their minimum daily food requirements.
Infant (IMR) and maternal mortality rates (MMR) have worsened since 2001. IMR is 135 per 1,000 live births; MMR is estimated at 1,600 per 100,000 live births, while in the remote rural area of Badakshtan MMR is 6,500 per 100,000 live births. 100,000 children are disabled and otherwise severely affected physically due to prolonged conflict in the country.
Unemployment rates, citing CIA World Fact figures, remain high at 40 per cent plus, while 4 million Afghans have taken refuge in neighbouring countries since October 2001.
While under the Taliban the opium cultivation was almost eradicated, after the US led invasion Afghanistan has become the “opium capital of the world”. A Christian Science Monitor article published in March 2008 states that Afghanistan:
… is responsible for 92 per cent of [opium] global output. Each year, the country produces about $4 billion [in opium, amounting to] 53 per cent of gross domestic product, making drug production easily Afghanistan’s most lucrative industry. There are twice as may heroin users on the streets of Kabul than just four years ago and about one million of Afghanistan’s 34 million people are drug users - the majority of these living in the country’s principal cities.
Sixty thousand children are addicted to drugs.
In May 2008 the French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, called for a review of international aid to Afghanistan, saying “international aid has not fully yielded fruit” since the US led war against the Taliban regime and al-Qaida militants in October 2001. Much of the aid money is being used for military purposes rather than reducing poverty.
The situation for women has not improved since the US led invasion, in fact quite the contrary. RAWA, the leading Afghan women’s rights group (which fought the Soviets and the Taliban) says the US-backed regime in Kabul is no improvement for Afghan women:
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