by Zia Sarhadi (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 10, Rabi' al-Thani, 1442)
In the dying days of the Trump regime, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dashed to Doha on November 21 to meet separately with the Taliban and Afghan government delegations to see if the talks could be advanced. Since the talks started between the two sides last September, they have made little progress.
Four days earlier (November 17), Donald Trump had announced that he will reduce US troops in Afghanistan to about 2500 by January 15, 2021. This immediately evoked strong opposition from the Pentagon top brass. They want to keep American troops in the landlocked country indefinitely.
It is not difficult to speculate why. While the most heavily-armed military machine in the world has been defeated by the rag tag bands of Taliban fighters, America has another purpose. Its troop and intelligence operatives’ presence in Afghanistan is meant to keep the region destabilized. In particular, they want to use Afghanistan as a base to destabilize Iran, China and Russia even while insisting that the Taliban not allow their territory to be used by groups to target US interests!
Let us recount some basic facts. The war on Afghanistan is the longest in America’s recent history. Despite nearly two decades of warfare, the US military is no more successful in this than its misadventures elsewhere. For Afghans, the month of December also revives memories of another grim anniversary: the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Christmas eve 1979. That set the stage for more than four decades of warfare and bloodshed.
To get a glimpse into the Afghans’ suffering, ahead of a donors’ conference for Afghanistan in Geneva last month, data from the UN showed that between 2005 and 2019, at least 26,025 children were killed or maimed, according to Save the Children. The charity urged donor countries to save Afghanistan’s children.
This is a noble quest but armies are trained to kill. And when the victims are brown-skinned people, there is even less concern for their well-being. Racism plays a large part in their psychological make-up. Victims are demonized and considered dispensable as the Australian troops deployed to Afghanistan did over several years.
Following a four-year inquiry into allegations of Australian Special Air Services war crimes in Afghanistan, investigating Judge Paul Brereton found that they had killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians, among them children. Australian Defence Force Chief, General Angus Campbell admitted on November 19 the shameful record that included new patrol members shooting a prisoner in order to achieve their first kill in a practice known as “blooding.” He said the soldiers would then plant weapons and radios to support false claims the prisoners were enemies killed in action.
This criminal practice began in 2009 and was at its peak in 2012-2013, according to Campbell. When journalist Daniel Oakes of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) first reported the killing of unarmed Afghan civilians including children three years ago, the Australian federal police wanted to prosecute him for publishing “classified information.”
It was not until October 15, 2020 that charges were dropped once it became known that Australian special forces were indeed guilty of war crimes. This was about to be announced by the military chief and it would have caused huge embarrassment for the federal police to continue to press charges when the military itself was admitting that Australian forces had indeed committed war crimes!
What the Australian episode reveals is the racist mindset that pervades all Western regimes and their armed forces. Other people’s lives including those of children do not matter. Whether Australian soldiers will be prosecuted for war crimes is debatable. After all, earlier this year when Fatou Bensouda, the Special Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that US troops may have committed war crimes and the ICC would investigate this, Pompeo took great offence. The US barred her entry into the US and even frozen her bank account. How dare anyone even mention US crimes, much less investigate them?
The US and its allies are guilty of war crimes, not just in Afghanistan but in a host of other locales. If the world were governed by the rule of law, these people would be hauled before a properly constituted court to face war crimes charges. Failing that, the only option left for oppressed people is to fight against the illegal occupiers of their lands. International law gives them the right to resist their occupiers, by any means necessary.