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What Have We Done to Afghanistan? Reviewing a Decade of Anglo-American Occupation. ( 0) Printer friendly page Print This
By TJ Coles. Axis of Logic exclusive.
Axis of Logic
Friday, Oct 14, 2011

“Many times you have fallen into the snare of greed.
And given your throat up to be cut.”

Britain’s fourth occupation of Afghanistan in two hundred years began in September 2001, when US Special Forces and friends, presumably Britain’s SAS, illegally invaded the country without UN knowledge or approval.1 The full-scale invasion began a month later, proving that Britain and America had no intention of acquiescing to the Taliban’s agreement to hand over the alleged perpetrator of 9/11, the egregious Osama bin Laden.2

Britain and America had been working with the Taliban from 1994, when the organisation evolved from the refugee camps of Pakistan and agreed to work with Unocal and Enron during the Bill Clinton years in order to lay a pipeline from the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan into Pakistan, and possibly to India.3 The arrangement prevented Iran from piping oil and gas to China and India.4

An Afghan boy in the shadow of a US soldier
“[E]ither you accept our offer of a carpet of gold,” meaning the pipeline, “or we bury you under a carpet of bombs,” US officials apparently told the Taliban,5 whose human rights record at that time included paedophilia, public executions and scorched-earth tactics. “We can live with that,” said one Clinton official.6 Although the Taliban had seized Kabul by 1996, the ragtag band of Islamofascists had failed in their efforts to build the pipeline. By 1999, millions of Afghans were facing starvation and many were reduced to eating locusts.7

When Britain began bombing in October 2001, it was acknowledged by the House of Commons Library that 7.5 million Afghans were at risk of starvation because the bombing was driving out aid agencies, eliciting no media reaction.8 The courageous efforts of organisations like the Red Cross prevented genocide: that’s probably why Red Cross warehouses were intentionally bombed by Anglo-American jets.9 The bombing killed around 20,000 Afghans, but we will never know how many died of starvation, disease, and pneumonia because they are unpeople, to use George Orwell’s phrase.10

Iran, Pakistan and a few other countries in the region have given refuge to Afghans, driven out of their country by the US and UK.

Afghan refugee child holding her baby sibling
(Photo: BK Bangash)
In 1999, life expectancy for Afghans was just 46 years and infant mortality (that is children under 5) was up to 147 per 1,000 live births, according to a British House of Commons study.11 The Afghanistan specialist Carol J. Riphenburg reported in 2004 that infant mortality had increased to around 165 per 1,000.12 Last year’s UN humanitarian update suggests that today, following a decade of occupation, life expectancy has plummeted to 43 years, with infant mortality rocketing to 191 per 1,000.13 It is not surprising that the health and security situations are deteriorating when we consider reports like this from Médecins Sans Frontières:

In late August [2009], Afghan and NATO forces raided a clinic in Paktika following reports of an opposition commander being treated inside, killing 12 insurgents with the support of helicopters firing at the building. One week later, U.S. forces raided a hospital supported by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) in Wardak Province. Soldiers searched the hospital, forced bedridden patients out of rooms, and even tied up staff and visitors. On their way out ... they ordered the staff to report admissions of any suspected insurgents to the coalition forces. That same month, the director of Helmand’s health department denounced the occupation of a clinic by Afghan and U.S. forces in Mianposhta saying “people are scared and do not want to go to this clinic.” The clinic is now closed.14

After eight years of occupation, Afghanistan was ranked the fifth most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International: Iraq is joint third with Haiti (another country subjected to Anglo-French-American torture), and number one is Somalia—a country subjected to years of covert interference, such as Britain’s backing of the appalling Transitional Federal Government.15

Previously rare suicide bombings have increased exponentially over the last decade,16 making Afghanistan the fourth country most at risk from terrorism according to the Maplecroft Terrorism Risk Assessment Index: number one is Somalia; number three is Iraq, the “cradle of civilizations” now reduced to tatters.17 Meanwhile, propagandists like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens blame religion for the appalling violence, as opposed to imperial ambitions and the subsequent resistance—however illegal and immoral terrorist resistance may be.

According to dubious Western sources, hundreds of Afghan civilians are killed by “foreign troops” every year,18 though the reality is bound to be much worse. We will never know to what degree because, coming from such a humanitarian culture, the UK Ministry of Defence destroys its records of civilians deaths. As a British Parliamentary inquiry explained: “you will not find any of those figures in terms of the number dead coming from us because we disavowed that approach to success and/or failure. It is not about body count”19 —regardless of what the relatives of victims may think.

Afghan children trying to survive under
the scourge of the Anglo-American war.

In 2010, it was reported by Oxfam that Anglo-American-trained Afghan forces have now militarized aid relief: a practise that is becoming common across the globe.20 The occupation has resulted in at least thirty schools being closed because the children are afraid of the Anglo-American drones which strike civilians without warning.21] Despite condemnation by Amnesty International, international weapons have continued to flow to the country, turning it into an arms bazaar.22

This has helped to keep the occupation going—thus hampering Sino-India-Iranian energy hopes—because many of the arms have ended up going to the Taliban. This is because half of all UK-trained Afghan forces defect.23 Consequently, the occupation has been a boon for the mercenary industry, with around 100,000 mercenaries operating in the country (at least 500 to 700 of whom are British).24

It is of little interest to Westerners that 18% of Afghans surveyed informed Oxfam that the “presence of international forces” was “the major driving factor of the current conflict”: a further 18% said it was “al-Qaeda,”25 which, according to Jason Burke, is just a name invented by the CIA for a loose network of terrorists.26 For Afghans, then, the Anglo-American occupation is as dangerous as “al-Qaeda.” However, considering that Anglo-American forces funded, armed and trained “al-Qaeda” in the 1980s (when they were called mujahideen) and invaded Afghanistan allegedly in order to capture them, Afghans probably consider the “presence of international forces” and “al-Qaeda” to be one and the same.

These grim statistics indicate that the occupation is further pushing the country into disaster: it’s what the Awakened Youth of Afghanistan peace movement calls “Afghanicide”; the death of their nation. The majority of Britons now oppose the occupation, however, having suffered major losses in “the graveyard of empires” over the last two hundred years, and more recently been subjected to an impressive media propaganda blitz as British occupiers continue to return home in coffins.27

Part of the propaganda is MI6’s support for the London-based Islamic extremist Anjem Choudary, whose previous organisation al-Muhajiroun was set up by MI6 in the mid-1990s, according to a Parliamentary inquiry, to help the Kosovo Liberation Army to attack Serbs in the hope of eliciting reprisals which would then be used to justify bombing Serbia.28 In a pathetic effort to turn Britons against all Muslims (and support the occupation by association), Choudary has held pro-Muslim demonstrations at Wootton Bassett, the village through which British corpses are repatriated.

Other propaganda includes fear. In 2010, a draconian sentence was issued to Joe Glenton, the soldier who refused to continue serving in the British Army, in order to frighten others from going AWOL.29 The Soviets, likewise, suffered defeat in the 1980s, and the American Empire is now hollowing out its economy in order to achieve Full Spectrum Dominance, following the pattern of all empires that overstretch and collapse. When asked how foreigners can be most helpful, most Afghans told the Red Cross that they should put pressure on their local politicians,30 and keep doing it until the occupation is over.

Also see TJ Coles' recent essay, A World of Drones


  1. United States Department of Defense, "Quadrennial Defense Review Report‘, 6 February, 2006, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, On the admission that the invasion did not receive UN approval, see George W. Bush’s then-legal advisor John Yoo, “Using Force”, University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 71, No. 3, Summer, 2004, pp. 729-797.

  2. According to John Pilger, bin Laden agreed to be put under house arrest in Pakistan, see The New Rulers of the World, 2003, London: Verso, pp. 105-6; Gareth Porter discovered that the Taliban had already put bin Laden under house arrest before the 9/11 atrocities, see “How the Taliban pressed bin Laden”, Asia Times, 13 February, 2010, the London Guardian confirmed that the Taliban were willing, right up until their initial collapse in November 2001, to extradite bin Laden, but the US refused to provide evidence, see Brian Whittaker, “Taliban agreed Bin Laden Handover,” 5 November, 2001, Ron Suskind’s One Percent Doctrine (2006, London: Pocket Press) confirms that the CIA did have some evidence prior to 9/11 that an attack was imminent, namely a document entitled Bin Laden Plans to Strike U.S.

  3. On Britain’s support for the Taliban, and on oil and gas interests in general, see Winstone and Young, “The Caspian Basin, energy reserves and potential conflicts”, House of Commons Library, Research Paper 05/24, 16 March, 2005, London: HCL, See also, Robert Dreyfuss, 2006, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, NY: Metropolitan; John Pilger, 2006, Freedom Next Time, London: Black Swan.

  4. Before 9/11, Iran was even thinking of invading Afghanistan for their own energy interests. See Ahmed Rashid, 2010, Taliban, London: I.B. Tauris. In an effort to twist the facts to suit his argument, Christopher Hitchens claimed that the Iranian regime was going to invade Afghanistan for humanitarian reasons(!), having spent much of his book exposing the Iranian theocracy’s own appalling abuses: Hitchens, God is Not Great, 2007, London: Atlantic Books.

  5. Julio Godoy, “US policy on Taliban influenced by oil,” Asia Times, 20 November, 2001.

  6. Cited in Robert Dreyfuss, Devil’s Game.

  7. Harim Ruiz and Margaret Emery, “Afghanistan’s Refugee Crisis,” Middle East Research and Information Project, 24 September, 2001.

  8. House of Commons Library (HCL), “Operation Enduring Freedom and the Conflict in Afghanistan: An Update,” Research Paper 01/81, 31 October, 2001.

  9. On the deliberate bombing, see Mark Curtis, 2003, Web of Deceit, London: Vintage, pp. 51-3 and Robert Fisk, 2005, The Great War for Civilisation, London: Harper Perennial, pp. 1109-10n

  10. Unperson is an Orwellian word from Nineteen-Eighty Four, popularised by Mark Curtis. On the deaths of Afghans in the initial phase, see Curtis’s Web of Deceit.

  11. House of Commons Library (HCL), “Operation Enduring Freedom and the Conflict in Afghanistan: An Update,” Research Paper 01/81, 31 October, 2001.

  12. Carol J. Riphenburg, “Post-Taliban Afghanistan: Changed Outlook for Women?”, Asian Survey, Vol. 44, No. 3, May-June, 2004, pp. 401-421.

  13. United Nations, 2010, Afghanistan: Humanitarian Action Plan, NY: UN.

  14. Médecins Sans Frontières, “Afghanistan: A return to humanitarian action,” March 2010, Geneva: MSF.

  15. Transparency International, 2009, Global Corruption Report 2009: Corruption and the Private Sector, Cambridge: University Press, p.402.

  16. Cameron Scott, “Assessing ISAF: A Baseline Study of NATO’s Role in Afghanistan,” British American Security Information Council, March, 2007, London and Washington: BASIC.

  17. Maplecroft Terrorism Risk Assessment Index, “Somalia overtakes Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Colombia to become world’s terror capital – Global study,” 15 November, 2010.

  18. BBC News Online, “Afghanistan: civilian deaths hit ‘record levels,” 1 February, 2011.

  19. House of Commons Defence Committee (HCDC), “UK Operations in Afghanistan, Thirteenth Report of Session 2006-7,” 3 July, 2007, London: Stationary Office Ltd.

  20. Oxfam, “Aid agencies sound the alarm on the militarization of aid in Afghanistan,” 27 January, 2010.

  21. Kathy Kelly, “The Indefensible Drones: A Ground Zero Reflection,” Huffington Post, 8 September , 2010.

  22. Amnesty International, “Afghanistan: arms proliferation fuels further abuse,” Public briefing, 3 April, 2008.

  23. Cameron Scott, “Assessing ISAF: A Baseline Study of NATO’s Role in Afghanistan”, British American Security Information Council, March, 2007, London and Washington: BASIC.

  24. Peter Jackson, “UK private security fears in Afghanistan,” BBC News Online, 17 August, 2010.

  25. Oxfam, “The Cost of War,” November, 2009.

  26. Jason Burke, 2003, Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam, London: Penguin.

  27. On the Ministry of Defence’s impressive propaganda strategies, see Mark Curtis, 2004, Unpeople: Britain’s Secret Human Rights Abuses, London: Vintage.

  28. Supplementary memorandum from Institute for Policy Research & Development (PVE 19A).

  29. Kim Sengupta, “Soldier who refused to serve in Afghanistan loses appeal,” Independent, 22 April, 2010.

  30. International Committee of the Red Cross, “Our World. View From the Field: Afghanistan: Opinion Survey, Part 1,” 23 June, 2009, Geneva: ICRC and “Part 2,” August, 2009, Geneva: ICRC.
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