October 7th marks the 17 year anniversary of the US and Coalition forces’ invasion of Afghanistan which was triggered by the 9/11 attack on New York only a month before. It’s a war few predicted, it's a war even fewer realise is still ongoing, it's a war which started when many of the soldiers who are signing up today weren't even born.
To date, 3,546 US/NATO soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, 456 of which were British, while a conservative estimate calculates 217,000 Afghans have died as a direct result of fighting, that figure can be at least tripled when taking into account indirect deaths caused by war, like not being able to access health care.
Despite well publicised ‘draw downs’ of troops by the US and UK, and proclamations of ‘mission complete’ by David Cameron in 2014, the troops are still there. The UK Government has recently deployed over 1,000 further British soldiers to Afghanistan, and is calculated to have spent £40 billion by the 2014 ‘draw-down’.
In October 2014 Defence Secretary David Fallon said: "Mistakes were made militarily, mistakes were made by the politicians at the time and this goes back 10, 13 years… We're not going to send combat troops back into Afghanistan, under any circumstances."
More recently U.K. ambassador for Afghanistan Sir Nicholas Kay, while speaking on how to resolve conflict in Afghanistan, said: “I don’t have the answer.” Indeed, neither US or NATO have a stated plan for the future of Afghanistan.
British troops are now joining 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, plus some 6,000 other NATO troops, 1,000 mercenaries, and another 26,000 contractors. That's 48,000 people engaged in a foreign occupation of a country 17 years after the accomplishment of their stated mission to overthrow the Taliban government.
Last year £49billion in British taxes were spent on defence, meanwhile councils up and down the country go bankrupt or borrow millions just to stay afloat. The public sector faces a crisis with the NHS being stripped to the bone, and the education of our children is being sold off to largely failing Academies. The wisdom learnt over the last 17 years shows us that wars do not work for us or the countries they are being waged against, they only create further violence, some of which gets directed back at the UK in the form of terrorist attacks against our own civilians.
During each of the past 17 years, Afghanistan has continued its descent into poverty, violence, environmental degradation, and instability. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world, and one of the most dangerous. A UNAMA report published in July 2018 described fatality rates in the first six months of 2018 as being "the bloodiest on record" at an average rate of 28 Afghan civilians killed or injured every day.
While a power struggle plays out between the US/NATO Coalition military, the Taliban, ISKP (Daesh) and the Afghan Government, not to mention shadowy interference from elements in Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China, civil society groups are taking matters into their own hands.
People are coming together and organising peace walks, they're fasting outside of foreign embassies and government buildings, some have even headed to the hills to negotiate peace with the Taliban.
In June women and girls in Helmand welcomed the Taliban with flowers with the message to extend the Eid al-Fitr ceasefire. The Taliban did not respond to the request, but the audacious move by women represents the strength and determination of Afghan people, even more so that the protestors were women who potentially risk death for such a bold move.
Acts of civil disobedience are springing up across the country, after the attack on the education centre in Kabul last month, villagers in Bamiyan gathered together and undertook a fast.
Afghan protest has one thing in common, ceasefire and a peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan Government.
Here in Britain we want to support the initiatives by Afghans seeking peace, we want to encourage the self determination of Afghans who are striving for a peaceful future.
We demand that the UK Government withdraw their military and do everything in its power to bring stability and peace. We urge that any further UK resources allocated to Afghanistan be spent on desperately required aid, shelter and agricultural equipment for Afghans, we ask for economic justice for Afghanistan, for example foreign workers should pay their taxes in the country, produce from Afghanistan should be fairly traded, money should be kept within the country instead of it largely flowing out.
For more info: www.vcnv.org.uk
is an activist in Hastings CLP who has visited Afghanistan several times