The war in Afghanistan worsened the lives of ordinary Afghans, and did not advance the country towards democracy. On the contrary, evidence shows the NATO-led occupation forces contributed to civilian casualties and war crimes.
Here are some reasons why the war was wrong and continues to be wrong
1. Life has become worse for Afghans. Life expectancy is 44 years. Adult literacy is just 24%. 50% of children are malnourished. Child mortality has become the worst in the world, with one in five children dying under 5 years.
2. The war is lethal. There are now over 3,000 coalition force casualties recorded, half in the last three years. Its estimated that nearly 40,000 civilians have died due to this war. The UN has documented 11,864 civilian casualties over just the last four years, with 2011 the most deadly year for civilians so far. 32 Australian Defence Force personnel lives have been taken, and another 920 have been wounded or injured (including 287 with mental trauma).
3. The war has cost us billions over the past 10 years. The Labor government budgeted the Afghanistan war to cost $1.6 billion in 2010-11. In the USA the war in Afghanistan has been estimated to cost $400 billion! If this continues for another 4 years, this will be the exact amount the World Bank estimates could have met all the Millennium Development Goals.
4. The war has not liberated women. Only 6% of girls are in high school and violence against women is common. In a bid for fundamentalist support, the Karzai government passed a law allowing rape in marriage. Between half and 95% of women in jail are there for ‘moral’ crimes. 70 to 80 percent of women face forced marriages in Afghanistan.
5. The Afghanistan government is corrupt & undemocratic. The 2010 elections were deeply corrupt with 3,460 fraud complaints lodged. Subsequently 21 ‘elected’ Parliamentarians were forced to step down; and 1.3 million votes were made void. Afghanistan was rated 176th out of 178 countries for perceived public sector corruption. The UN estimates that USD$2.5 billion was paid in bribes in 2009.
6. The drug trade is booming in Afghanistan. It’s estimated that Afghan opium generated US$4 billion income in 2007, 93% of the world’s supply and equivalent to over half the official Afghan economy. Afghanistan supplied only 11% before the war.
7. The majority of the world wants the troops to leave. A recent Roy Morgan Poll found 72% of Australians think we should withdraw our troops. In the USA 63% oppose the war; and a majority of citizens in nearly every country polled wants the war to end.
8. War makes progress more difficult. Malalai Joya, an Afghan democracy activist has said that “people are squashed today between two enemies: an internal and an external enemy … if the troops withdraw, then it is an easier fight with one enemy”.
Malalai Joya: Australian troops must leave Afghanistan
The Afghanistan War and broader world tensions
The Afghanistan War should also be opposed as it is part of the rising tensions between the major powers which threatens to plunge the world into broader regional or even a world war. The U.S. geopolitical interests are in securing Afghanistan as a compliant puppet state from which it can assert its control over Central Asia and the Middle East. Afghanistan neighbors include Iran which the U.S. is openly threatening with regime change. Afghanistan as well as being a key supply route for energy reserves is also in a key location for the U.S. to increase its sphere of influence at the expense of nearby China and Russia. The determination of the U.S. to stay in Afghanistan must be seen in this context. Likewise our opposition to the war must be understood in the context of opposing the militarism and imperialism of the U.S. which threatens world stability which has seen the U.S. It is the same interests which saw the U.S. invade Iraq in 2003.