From the Dallas Peace Center
The following are comments made at a press conference on December 16 by Aftab Siddiqui, a Dallas Peace Center Board member:
It has been 9 years now that Afghan military campaign is going on. This war has become the longest war in our history. It has caused hundreds of casualties of NATO troops including US men and women. It was here that we lost Pat Tillman to friendly fire. 2010 has been the bloodiest year and more than 700 NATO soldiers including 480 US soldiers have been killed (2008 US casualties were 155 and in 2009 it was 317). According to CBO figures as of Sep 2010, average monthly bill for this war is $ 5.4 billion and total so far comes to $ 336 billion. Afghans have seen thousands killed and injured, houses, schools, businesses, mosques, roads, bridges (whatever meager infrastructure was there) destroyed. It looks like a war without end because nobody knows why we are there.
When President George W Bush decided to invade Afghanistan, two objectives were mentioned:
- Dismantle the Al-Qaida Network and Training Facilities
- Overthrow the Taliban Government that was perceived to be aligned with Al-Qaida and hence guilty of assisting in 9/11 attacks.
Both the military objectives were met in weeks in 2002. Afghanistan was cleared of Ai-Qaida bases and Taliban fled to mountains or neighboring countries. Yet US military is still there. Now the objectives have changed. According to CIA estimates no more than 50 Al-Qaida fighters are in Afghanistan. Taliban are there but do not control large areas. Major cities are in the hands of Afghan Government. Yet we are still there in greater numbers than at any other time. There is no end game from the looks of it.
We are trying to bring Jeffersonian democracy in a country that has no history of democracy; where federal government has always been weak vis-à-vis the tribal leaders. It is a mountainous country of 20,000 villages that have their own code of living and do not care too much about federal government in Kabul. The tribal leaders rule the countryside whether they are Pashtuns, Hazaras, Uzbeks, or Tajiks. The only way to bring peace is to bring the tribes together and let them decide what they want to do with their country. Bring in the regional powers like Iran, India, Pakistan, China, Russia, and other neighboring countries to bring peace to the region. And keep the civilian experts to assist the development of the infrastructure and rebuilding of the country.
Continuous fighting in Afghanistan has destabilized the region, especially neighboring Pakistan. Drone attacks have created havoc in the FATA area where more than 1000 innocents have died. Though there have been successes in killing some Taliban and Al-Qaida mid level leaders, the collateral damage is too high. It is creating more animosity toward the US and increasing the number of anti-American fighters. It is important to understand that though Taliban come from Pashtun, not all Pashtuns are Taliban. And more Pashtuns live in Pakistan than Afghanistan. It is time that we stop this madness of going after people just because they are Pashtun. It is time to wage peace and stop this senseless war.