More US and NATO soldiers are headed for Afghanistan. In a quiet announcement June 13, US President Donald Trump gave the green light to the Pentagon to send nearly four thousand additional troops to the war-torn country. These troops would be joined by three thousand additional forces promised by NATO, bringing total troop numbers in Afghanistan to nearly 20,000.
This decision comes after months of pressure from US military officials and calls from top US commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson to send more troops to break up what he has called a ‘stalemate’ between the US/NATO forces and the Taliban and other armed groups resisting the sixteen year long occupation.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis explained the US strategy in Afghanistan to the Senate Armed Services Committee in June. The New York Times reports that, “[t]he idea, [Mattis] said, would be to drive down the violence to a level that could be managed by Afghan government forces with the help of American and allied troops in training their Afghan counterparts, providing intelligence and delivering what Mr. Mattis called “high-end capability,” an apparent allusion to air power and possibly Special Operations forces. The result, he said, would be an “era of frequent skirmishing,” but not a situation in which the Afghan government no longer faced a mortal threat.
In short, the US government’s idea of ‘victory’ in Afghanistan is permanent war.
Tragedy of War
Sixteen years of war has hardly brought the promised end to terrorism and better life for Afghans. Civilian casualties are climbing year over year, with at least 1600 killed in the first half of 2016 alone. Nearly all were children.
A brief look at living conditions for Afghanistan’s children tells us much about the future the US and NATO are building for Afghanistan. The United Nations reports that humanitarian conditions are deteriorating in Afghanistan in 2017, with 13% more people in dire need of aid, particularly to address acute health and nutrition emergencies. The United Nations Children’s Fund reports that mothers and children are at greatest risk, with more than 41% of Afghan children already experiencing stunted growth due to malnutrition.
Nearly 40% of Afghans live below the poverty line, forcing many children to work to support their families. Tens of thousands of Afghan children – some as young as five – have to work, often in mining or industrial jobs. Many are not able to attend school – if there are even functioning schools available in the area where they live.
The US alone has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on the war in Afghanistan, yet has failed to improve even the most basic living conditions for the Afghan people. Children in Afghanistan today face not only poverty and lack of access to education, but all the trauma of war as well. Is this really the better future that the US and NATO are building in the country?
US Strategy: Permanent War and Occupation
This war has been a great tragedy for the Afghan people. It has cost billions to taxpayers in the US, Canada, and other NATO countries, even as those governments cry that there is no money for basic necessities like health care and education for their own citizens. It has been a devastating tragedy for the families of soldiers who have lost their lives in this war.
And for what purpose? Acts of terrorism are more frequent today than ever, both in Afghanistan and around the world. The terrorists of ISIS/Daesh are gaining a stronger foothold in Afghanistan each day, and much of the country is now ruled again by brutal warlords.
This war certainly has not brought peace or human rights to Afghanistan, yet the US government and their allies in NATO have no plan to end it soon, as Mattis made clear to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The long-term strategy isn’t to end the war but to turn Afghanistan into a permanent military base through permanent occupation. Afghanistan has long been coveted as an economically and militarily strategic land, perfectly situated between the resource-rich lands of Africa and the Middle East, and near Russia and China, both rising economic powers and competitors with the US.
The Trump administration is arrogantly throwing more money at this war and putting more lives on the line – as did the Obama and Bush administrations before – not for the betterment of Afghan lives or American or global security, but to set up a permanent occupation for their own strategic and economic interests.
More troops are not going to end this war. If this war is ever to end, all troops must be withdrawn and Afghans must be able to determine their country’s future for themselves. It’s time to end this war now!
Follow Nita Palmer on Twitter: @NGP1z0
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