One thing that irritates me when our politicians-both Labour and Tory- are asked about the deepening difficulties in Afghanistan, is their unwillingness to link those problems with our devastating policy failure in Iraq.
We are being constantly told, not only by our politicians but our military, that the reason we are fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan is so we don't have to on the streets of London, Edinburgh or Newcastle. This is reminiscent of the nonsense of the Bush/Blair excuse for the invasion of Iraq!
Now that may or may not be true. After all, as RUSI's Michael Clarke emphasised on the Today progamme this morning, even if we were to clear out the Taliban from Afghanistan and Pakistan, there are many other failed or failing states al Qaeda could use as training camps. He suggested Somalia, Yemen or Southern Mali.
But even if the politicians are right about this, what is clear is that the the Iraqi debacle distracted both the US and UK from the real problem of Afghanistan. The cost of that disaster in both men an materials is the main cause of the problems we are experiencing in Afghanistan today.
Had we not followed Bush into Iraq in 2003, and dealt with the real threat in Afghanistan-for which there was a UN Resolution-the problem of the Afghanistan as a potential training ground for al Qaeda would have probably been resolved by now.
And it gets worse. Iraq provided an effective training for the Taliban who are using it to deadly effect in Helmand province today. Does anyone think that the improvised explosive devises being used so effectively today did not have their gestation in post 2001 Iraq?
Last November, I blogged here about dragging Bush and his cronies into the dock to face punishment for the crimes they certainly committed during the time they all had their hands on the levers of power.
Paul Krugman in the New York Times interpreted this in the only possible way.
I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.
I want to say one quick thing about Obama’s comments on this, echoing Paul Krugman in today’s NYTimes: a) Obama would be making a huge mistake, despite the short-term advice being given him by inside counselors (the top one the son of an Israeli terrorist) about letting the Neocons and other criminals get off the hook; and, b) it isn’t up to him.
Krugman tally of crimes reaches six, but Anderson manages to add a few more, but both agree the biggie is this one.
Here is a simple question: who is responsible for nearly a million civilian deaths in a faked war? There was never, ever a need for an Iraq war; and that statement will stand the test of history. Given its truth, we should not be talking about the few thousand GI deaths as the cost of the war, but should recognize that the United States, without cause or any particular aggression on Iraq’s part, and without any proven concern for its own safety, did cause the deaths of between 600,000 and 1,000,000 civilians in that country.
Obama has now sworn to "preseve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States". By allowing Bush and his pals to walk away with no investigation into their behaviour, Obama's first mistake is not far away.
One of the articles is headed " Court Indicts Bush on High Treason Charge. Clicking on that headline takes you to a piece written by Bart Garzon. Garzon writes,
“In this case, high treason has been interpreted to include pursuing an
illegal and devastating war that has cost hundreds of billions of
dollars and the lives of over 4,000 Americans and perhaps a million
Iraqis, for essentially insane ends,” said Vincent Bugliosi, a former
federal prosecutor....... . “In effect, the Iraq War amounted to a war against America,”
added Bugliosi, who is also the author of the book, The Prosecution of
George Bush for Murder."
A friend of Mr. Bush, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed that
Mr. Bush would attempt to move the case to the International Criminal
Court, which does not have a death penalty, and was quietly pressing
Secretary of State Naomi Klein to bring the U.S. under the court’s
jurisdiction. In 2002, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
rejected the I.C.C.’s jurisdiction, saying it was “unaccountable to the
All quite amusing, but Bush and the other war mongers may be facing more serious charges.
When the case of Hamdan v Rumsfeld eventually found its way to the US Supreme Court the judgement contained, what may turn out for Bush and his colleagues, a slow burning fuse.
"Even more importantly for present purposes, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva applies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda. That is the HUGE part of today’s ruling.........
This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques,
because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons “shall in all
circumstances be treated humanely,” and that “[t]o this end,” certain
specified acts “are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any
place whatsoever”—including “cruel treatment and torture,” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”
And as Lederman concludes.
"This almost certainly means that the CIA’s interrogation regime is
unlawful, and indeed, that many techniques the Administration has been
using, such as waterboarding and hypothermia (and others) violate the
War Crimes Act (because violations of Common Article 3 are deemed war
"In other words, the whole top administration, from Commander in Chief George W. Bush on down, is guilty of war crimes. The punishment for committing war crimes
ranges from a lengthy jail sentence to, in the event the crimes
in question caused the death of any prisoners being held, to
death. And there have been many deaths among those who have been
held and tortured on orders of the administration-most recently
the three suicides at Guantanamo, which included on man who had only three days
earlier been targeted for release (but who never learned this
because government's secrecy and tight security prevented his
attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights from getting
the news to him)."
Whilst Bush and his cronies still hold the levers of power in Washington, nothing will happen. After January 20th 2009 all bets are off.
To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate he has made of the number of (a) schools, (b) teachers and (c) pupils in Afghanistan, in the last two years, broken down by state. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander:
Data are not currently available in the time frame requested. However,
we estimate that there are currently around 5.4 million children now in
school in Afghanistan, over a third of them girls. This is up from an
estimated one million children in 2001, of whom very few were girls,
who were officially denied access to education under the Taliban. 27
per cent. of girls and 44 per cent. of boys in rural areas now attend
school, and 51 per cent. of girls and 55 per cent. of boys in urban
areas now attend school. ( my emphasis).
So where exactly does this 5.4 Million figure come from? I suspect it comes from the Afghan Ministry of Education. After all, they should know the figures, shouldn't they?
More than 5.4 million children
are enrolled in schools today, nearly 35% of them girls, compared to a
little more than a million 5 years ago and almost no girls.
Still, half of our school-age children are estimated to be out of schools with significant gender and provincial disparities.
The word " enrolled" seems to have morphed into the phrase " in school". There may be 5.4 million kids trooping through the school gates in Afghanistan. I doubt it , but certainly that cannot be deduced from the word "enrolled". The difficulties parents are exposed to are shown here in the Telegraph last year.
"We always wanted our daughter to acquire education,
but we are scared," said Baaz Khan, a businessman, who took his
11-year-old daughter from the school.
really awful not to educate our daughters, who have the challenges of
the modern world ahead of them, but for me and my friends, the very
thought of having to carry the dead bodies of our young daughters out
of the wreckage of a bombed school is equally unnerving."
Not only the girls, but this piece describes just how difficult it is for parents to send all their children to school.
In the past 13 months, 226 schools, many run from tents,
have been burnt down by the insurgents. A total of 110 teachers and
students have been killed in incidents of indirect violence and another
52 wounded, officials say.
The Taleban also shut down 381 schools, the majority of them in provinces like Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul and Uruzgan where they have a formidable presence.
Indeed, the Afghan Education Minister, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, tells the BBC that
I am very worried that such incidents will make parents very scared to send their children to school.
So come on DfID lets have the real figures please!
Yesterday on the Today Programme, I heard an American who was described as the US Ambassador to NATO. I had no idea who she was. Her function seemed to be taking the begging bowl round for more European troops to assist the British, Canadian and Dutch in taking on the Taliban in the south of Afghanistan. She looked and sounded like one of those botoxed women you see flogging perfume on some shopping channel. She was about as unconvincing.
In a dismissive observation,the UK Foreign Office rejected a report from SENLIS about the state of Afghanistan in 2006. The SENLIS paper puts into perspective the failure of the international community's efforts, led largely by the US and the UK, to get even close to achieving what they set out to achieve in 2001.
Below is the Executive Summary, but it's worth reading the entire paper. It can be downloaded in chapers (pdf) here
Collapsing security and return of Taliban
Five years after their removal from power, the Taliban is back and has
strong psychological and de facto military control over half of
Afghanistan. Having assumed responsibility for the country in 2001, the
United States-led international community has failed to achieve
stability and security in Afghanistan. Attacks are perpetrated on a
daily basis; several provinces, particularly those of the South,
considered safe just weeks ago, are now experiencing regular suicide
bombings, murders, and ambushes.
The international military coalitions in Afghanistan – the US-led
Operation Enduring Freedom and the NATO-led International Security
Assistance Force (ISAF) – are fuelling resentment and fear among the
Afghan population. The distinctions between the two are extremely
blurred, with the NATO-led ISAF now constantly engaged in war
operations. Afghans see the international military coalitions as taking
sides in a civil war situation, and as NATO-ISAF troops retreat to
their fortified military compounds in southern Afghanistan, locals
perceive that the Taliban-led insurgents are once again defeating
global military powers.
Failure to address Afghanistan’s extreme poverty fuelling support for Taliban
After five years of international donor pledges to provide resources
and assistance to Afghanistan, Afghans are starving to death, and there
is evidence that poverty is driving support for the Taliban.
Prioritising military-based security, the United States’ and United
Kingdom’s focus on counter-terrorism initiatives and militaristic
responses to Afghanistan’s opium crisis has undermined the local and
international development community’s abilities to respond to
Afghanistan’s many poverty-related challenges.
US and UK counter-narcotics strategies have accelerated and compounded all of Afghanistan’s problems
By focusing aid funds away from development and poverty relief, failed
counter-narcotics policies have hijacked the international community’s
nation-building efforts in the country and undermined Afghanistan’s
democratically elected government. Poppy cultivation is a food survival
strategy for millions of Afghans, and the United States’ and United
Kingdom-led poppy eradication policies are fuelling violence and
Afghan central government legitimacy and effectiveness undermined by US-led international community’s approaches in Afghanistan
years of internationally lauded democracy-building achievements in
Afghanistan mask the growing scepticism with which Afghans view their
central government. Increasingly, Afghans perceive that their
government is accountable to international donors, and not to the
Afghans themselves. In establishing democratic institutions, the
international community raised expectations high, yet stood back as the
United States and United Kingdom undercut the Afghan government’s
ability to deliver on these expectations by forcing the adoption and
implementation of militaristic counter-narcotics policies. Failed
counter-narcotics policies have undermined the legitimacy of the Afghan
Nation-building sequencing in wrong order
international expenditure on security illustrates that right from 2001,
the international community’s priorities for Afghanistan were not in
line with those of the Afghan population. Rather, for the past five
years, the US-led international community has prioritised
military-focused security over the relief of Afghans’ extreme poverty
and economic instability. Military expenditure outpaces development and
reconstruction spending by 900%. An intensive and extended focus on
relieving the poverty of Afghans could have created a solid foundation
on which to re-build Afghanistan. Instead, because the fight against
poverty has not been prioritised, the international community’s
democracy-building efforts are collapsing as Afghans starve.