A quiet city in the north of Afghanistan ignited today after yet another NATO night raid reportedly tore another family apart. Thousands of people took to the streets, again chanting, "Death to America!" as they pelted Karzai's billboards with mud and stones. They attacked police. They attacked the local NATO outpost. At least a dozen people were killed in the clash, which showed local rage directed at every level of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency strategy, from the local security forces, to our corrupt and feckless local "partners" in the Karzai government, to the U.S. itself.
Worse, this isn't the only civilian killing by NATO forces even just this week. On May 16, Reuters reported:
"Foreign troops killed an Afghan child and wounded four others when responding to insurgent fire in volatile eastern Kunar province, the provincial Governor said on Monday, the third accidental killing of young civilians in less than a week."
These deaths were senseless enough before Bin Laden was killed and al Qaeda driven from the country. Now, they're downright obscene. With the last rational-sounding excuse for continuing the war, bringing Bin Laden to "justice," gone, continuing this counterinsurgency campaign makes no sense, and it's making Americans and Afghans less safe while wasting precious national resources. If you agree, please join Rethink Afghanistan in calling for an end to the war in the wake of Bin Laden's death.
The uprising in Taloqan triggered by NATO's killing of civilians is a microcosm of a larger dynamic playing out across the country. When one honestly looks at the data, the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan has been, at best, a miserable failure in its stated goal of "protecting the population," or worse, a key driver in an ever-increasing cycle of violence and instability that puts civilians at risk.
Rising Violence in the Shadow of Escalation
Despite an escalation launched under the pretext of "reversing Taliban momentum" and "protecting the population," attacks launched by insurgents and civilian casualties continue to rise. U.S. military leaders expect those numbers to continue to worsen over this summer. This is a strategy, remember, that Admiral Mike Mullen said, "must -- and will -- improve security for the Afghan people and limit both future civilian and military casualties."
Both civilian and military casualties have increased sharply following the escalation, by the way.
A new report published by the Minority Rights Group International shows the price paid by Afghans for the U.S. catastrophic pursuit of escalated military action as a solution to the Afghanistan crisis. MRG says that Afghanistan's population has seen a bigger spike in risk for mass killings than any other country on the planet this year. The military-first strategy for resolving the Afghanistan conflict hasn't made Afghans safer, at best. At worst, it raised the temperature of the conflict to a boil.
We sold the Afghans a bill of goods--that a huge influx of military forces was what was needed to protect them. As Rethink Afghanistan warned at the time, there was no way an escalation was ever going to mean more safety for people caught in the crossfire. Combine that false promise with the U.S.'s continued backing of deeply corrupt thugs in Kabul, and it's easy to understand why the Afghans are angry. The longer this dynamic persists, the less safe Americans become.
Meanwhile, special forces night raids continue all over the country, generating rage, humiliation, and needless death, at the cost of more than $2 billion a week and senseless military and civilian casualties.
The uprising in Taloqan wasn't the first, and unless the U.S. begins a serious drawdown of forces and ends these night raids, it won't be the last.