To Members of the Australian Parliament:
The Afghan war debate is your opportunity, after nine years, to give voice to what most Australians wish — the withdrawal of our troops from the war in Afghanistan. It is also an opportunity to bring to light, after years of neglect by mainstream commentators, many important truths about this war. Matters that we ask you to make prominent are:
- The human cost of the war is at an unacceptable level. Estimates of civilian deaths, up to March 2010, vary greatly from about 10,000 to 28,000. By March 2010, the US and coalition forces had lost 1,617 military personnel, and a further 90 had died in activities related to the war. There have been 3.7 million refugees from Afghanistan in the past two decades, with 1.5 million now in Iran, 2 million in Pakistan, and 235,000 internally displaced .
- The cost of war in Australian human life is 21. Over 150 Australian soldiers have been injured, many of whom will be permanently disabled, a huge loss in quality of life for them and their families, and a cost on the people of Australia, as they will need pensions and care for the rest of their lives. This is part of the ongoing cost of all wars — for example we still have the wounded from the Vietnam and Iraq wars who live in our midst with both physical and mental injuries.
- The US alone has spent over $300 billion on the war. For Australia the cost of the war over the next 4 years is expected to be $1 billion each year. When another $1 billion is added for force ‘protection’, the total bill for the war will be around $13 billion.
- The costs include the impoverishment of Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s infrastructure, already severely damaged, now lies in ruins.
- Far from winning local hearts and minds, Afghans do not exhibit the signs of a free and liberated people. Rather Afghans appear more besieged, distrusting and often fearful of both US-led coalition troops and Taliban fighters.
- War is not the way to reduce the influence of the Taliban and change the way people think and behave. War, by its nature, divides and misleads, encourages prejudice and opportunism, and generates violence and wild thoughts.
- War is not the way to assist the impoverished people of Afghanistan, to provide humanitarian assistance, or to improve the lot of women and girls. War causes greater suffering, poverty and injustice.
- The recently released Wikileak ‘Afghan war logs’ have provided a grim perspective on the war. Secret American death squads and robotic Predator drones are roaming the Afghan countryside, killing innocent people, children in some instances, in an attempt to get at insurgents. As consolation for these deaths, coalition forces pay locals off with cash. Not surprisingly this has not won any hearts and minds.
- The role of the 300 Australian special forces in Afghanistan is to assassinate Taliban leaders. This is murder, breaches international law and results in tragedies such as the killing of five children and an adult by Australians, February 2009 in the village of Surkh Morghab.
- Insurgents have been causing human and infrastructure destruction with an increase in the use of IEDs which have claimed thousands of civilian lives .
- If an Australian business man is blown up in a five star hotel, AFP forensic experts are called and the perpetrators are found. In Afghanistan IEDs made up of material from US and European arms manufacturers have accounted for about 80% of Australian deaths and injuries. It is time for these companies to be identified, named and prosecuted.
- Among the peoples of Afghanistan, Australia, the United States and Europe, there is clear majority support for withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
- The rush to the Afghan war was unseemly, ill considered and without convincing justification. The needs of the US took precedence over the needs of the Australian nation in the decision to send Australian troops to war in far away Afghanistan.
- The Prime Minister's stated reason for Australia's military presence in Afghanistan (ie, to train the Afghan National Army so it can prevent the country from becoming a training ground and sponsor of violence and terrorism) is groundless. Improving the military skills of the locals cannot guarantee that their country will never be used as a terrorist base. In fact, Afghan soldiers trained and equipped by westerners may well join the resistance (journalists in Afghanistan report that Australian equipment given to trainee Afghans has been found in IEDs).
- United States electronic warfare bases on our territory are playing a significant role in the war, including directing drone attacks on Afghanistan and Pakistan which are killing many civilians. Australia provides military training facilities and biennial training exercises Talisman Sabre to ensure interoperability for assaults in Afghanistan.
- Only the Afghan people themselves can liberate their country from corruption, lawlessness and religious extremism. We can encourage this, but military force cannot provide the means. If we really want to help the people of Afghanistan we should promote education and literacy, health services, and sustainable economic development .
- Australia should remove our troops. We must respect the right and capacity of Afghans themselves to sort out what happens next, and support them constructively in this. This means supporting an internal peace process in which all parties are involved, including the Taliban.
Next year marks 10 years that US-led forces have been in Afghanistan. The Australian Anti-Bases Campaign calls on Australian Parliamentarians to bring Australian troops home from Afghanistan and to withdraw all Australian assistance to the war in Afghanistan now.