A Callous Strategy Continues to Kill Innocents In Afghanistan While Pakistan Fights For The Minds Of Its People
Many US and NATO victories encapsulate defeat within them. Earlier this month, the US military claimed to have killed 32 Taliban fighters in an operation it has presented as a success in counter-insurgency.
The New York Times covers the story after interviews with the wounded in hospital:
But the two young men who lay wincing in a hospital ward here told a different story a few days later, one backed up by the pro-American provincial governor and a central government delegation.
They agreed that 13 civilians had been killed and 9 wounded when American commandos broke down doors and unleashed dogs without warning on Jan. 7 in the hunt for a known insurgent in Masamut, in Laghman Province in eastern Afghanistan. The residents were so enraged that they threatened to march on the American military base here.
Another US raid, this one on Friday, has sparked local demonstrations. Locals are angry at civilian casualties from the raid. “The raid killed at least 16 villagers, including 2 women and 3 children, according to a statement from President Hamid Karzai.”
The CBC reports that “two caches of weapons and roadside bomb-making materials were also destroyed by coalition troops, apparently because they were too unstable to transport to a secure location. The resulting blasts may have killed civilians, according to the deputy governor of Laghman province, Hadayut Qalanderzai.”
This is unfortunately a too common occurrence. US led missions often claim significant victories after ground or air raids in which they present a figure for Taliban dead in a battle but refute claims of any civilians injured or killed. Later investigations by the UN and human rights groups too often discover evidence (and at times record visual evidence) of civilians such as children and women killed in the same fight. The US spokespeople then fall into what has become an ignoble dance of denial sometimes followed by late acceptance of the civilian dead. Afghans can’t help but feel that this communicates little regard for the death of their neighbours, and loved ones. Anger is growing, among the people and government of Afghanistan. Not only are apologies often not forthcoming but the strategy that results in such innocent deaths persists without serious review. It’s not surprising then that there would be little sympathy for or assistance for international troops fighting in Afghanistan when these same troops appear to be competing with the Taliban over who has killed more civilians in their mission for control of the country. In fighting over territory and in the quest to bag as many enemy dead the very people who inhabit the land seem forgotten and their deaths and hardships are reduced to a consequence or collateral of ongoing war. It then follows that the Taliban or US blames the other for instigating a war that has forced them to kill civilians in what each considers a justified mission against a nemesis. The fact remains that civilians continue to die in great numbers at the hands of both parties.
The Taliban in Pakistan continues a campaign of killings of people they claim to be US spies operating near the border with Afghanistan. Likely these executions have multiple facets. They instill fear within the local population so that they desist from resistance against the Taliban, some may well be political deaths of opponents who had no direct ties to US institutions, and others may well be spies. The US does have cash rewards for informants in Pakistan. The latest Taliban execution took place in North Waziristan. The murdered body was found dumped in the mountains.
The fighting between insurgents and the local security forces has become focused on schools. Girls’ schools and state schools are being attacked by the Taliban while the Pakistani military has now taken to securing the educational centres. From UPI:
Suspected Taliban militants blew up a school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, bringing to 183 the number of area schools destroyed in six months, officials said.
Also Monday, local newspapers printed the list of 50 government officials and tribal elders whom radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah threatened to kill if they did not appear before him for opposing the Taliban, CNN reported.
The FATA and NWFP regions of Pakistan have chronically suffered from a lack of education. This has been an effective tool in the hands of Islamist groups who increasingly tend to provide the most readily available form of schooling. This deficiency in education began during the inception of Pakistan, the central government never taking it upon itself to provide adequate social services, economic development, or even equal civic rights to the people of those territories.
The FATA has a 17% literacy rate, 3% for women. The national average is 56%. It seems clear that Islamist militants wish to maintain this trend and monopolize general education to their benefit.
One civilian killed, eight injured after a suicide bombing in eastern Afghanistan, according to a provincial official.