Thursday, October 04, 2007
Why do we know so little about the occupation of Afghanistan and the resistance to it? After all, we get regular detailed reviews of the security situation in Iraq, discussing reconstruction, attacks, operations, public opinion, etc etc. All of this from the US Department of Defense, provided in ideological camouflage, sure, but still quite useful because the ruling class requires accurate information. Nothing of the kind, so far as I can tell, about Afghanistan. I have seen detailed studies of provinces from the Senlis Council [pdf]. Every now and again an NGO discusses human rights abuses, insurgent violence, reconstruction problems. The UN provides us with breathless accounts of (ho ho) 'Peace Day' [pdf]. But there is no detailed, authoritative study of the kind we get about Iraq - none that is made public at any rate.
Well, there are two recent studies, one by the UN and one by the Associated Press, reported here and here. The UN estimates in the Secretary-General's report that suicide attacks in Afghanistan have increased by 30% in the last year, and states that 75% are directed at occupying forces and Afghan security forces. Recently it was suggested by the UN, quoting a Taliban commander, that over half of the suicide attacks are international combatants rather than people from Afghanistan. However, this seems to conflict with a study carried out by the same body which showed that suicide attackers are Afghans "motivated by a variety of grievances such as foreign occupation, anger over civilian casualties and humiliation rather than a 'martyrdom culture'". This confirms what General Dannatt said about the resistance as a whole. The UN explains that they are "duped" into carrying out the attacks, or coerced, but they know perfectly well that it is never that simple. On the other hand, though most of the focus on violent deaths is on that caused by the insurgents, most of the deaths appear to be caused by the occupiers. Associated Press estimates that the total deaths from all violence in Afghanistan in the last 9 months is approximately 5,100, most of them "militants" killed by the occupiers. That's almost certainly a vast underestimate of the actual deaths, and there's always the problem of the 'mere haji rule'. (Anyway, since when were AP in the business of doing body counts?).
Curiously, the US is signalling a possible rapprochement with the Taliban, cautiously endorsing Hamid Karzai's plans for a meeting with Mullah Omar. Hold on a minute. Go back over that a minute. Mullah Omar? Isn't he evil? Didn't America have to invade in order to get the evil-doer? Apparently, the empire is all-forgiving. Karzai has said he will offer Taliban leaders posts in exchange for giving up violence, and he has for a long time supported the idea of including the Taliban in the government. The Taliban are for the first time seriously considering his offer. This isn't because by bringing the Talibs into the government they can stop the war: the root cause of the war is not the Taliban. The Taliban is a heavily armed force that taps into popular discontent rather than a popular movement itself, and the puppet regime has always felt it's better to have such a force inside the tent pissing out. With the Taliban on the side of the government, they could help enforce the crackdown on small farmers by the ruling elite of landowners and rentiers rather than arming the small farmers as they presently do.