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Afghans pay price for US refusal to make peace

A sharp increase in civilian casualties in Afghanistan following the closure of some US/NATO bases suggests that ordinary Afghans are now paying the price for the US decision to block earlier peace initiatives.

On 9 July, the UN reported a 24% increase in civilian casualties compared to the same period in 2013, noting that: ‘In 2014, the fight is increasingly taking place in communities, public places and near the homes of ordinary Afghans, with death and injury to women and children in a continued disturbing upward spiral’.

According to the report, these developments were, at least in part, a consequence of the closure of US/NATO bases and command posts, which has led to an increased Taliban presence in some districts and to Afghan government forces in turn ‘initiat[ing] their own operations to protect territory, notably increasing check points and patrols, as well as responding to attacks launched against them.’

The report identified the Taliban as being responsible for 74% of all civilian deaths and injuries, with Afghan security forces responsible for 8% and international forces for 1%.

Blocked peaces

The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988–1989 without a negotiated settlement between pro- and anti-government forces inside the country was a key factor in the horrific civil war that followed.

According to the Guardian’s former Moscow bureau chief Jonathan Steele, the Soviet Union ‘tried hard to achieve a negotiated settlement’ but these efforts were cynically blocked by the West.

Since 2001, under its own occupation, the US has once again been blocking a negotiated peace.

For example, in January 2012, the Taliban announced that it would open a political office in Doha. According to Michael Semple, a former EU envoy to Afghanistan with good contacts among senior Taliban members, this was a ‘game-changing’ move that could have resulted in a ceasefire in 2012, had the US responded positively.

Instead, the US decided to continue the war – albeit increasingly by proxy – far into the future (see PN 2543).

Grinding on

According to Stephen Biddle of the US Council on Foreign Relations: ‘The war will grind on as long as the two sides stay funded’.

With the US set to keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan in 2015, following the ‘end of combat operations’ at the end of this year, and both Afghan presidential hopefuls committed to signing a long-term ‘security’ arrangement with the US within a month of taking office – ensuring the continued flow of US funds, without which the Afghan army and police would collapse – the war looks set to grind on for a good deal longer yet.

Topics: Afghanistan