Afghanistan

1 April 2010News

“Rubbish!” cried a man in the audience. The scene was a public meeting against the war in Afghanistan. What prompted his outburst was a reference to the results of an opinion poll conducted there last December.

According to the ABC News poll, 68% of Afghans “strongly” or “somewhat” support the presence of US military forces in Afghanistan. This was unpalatable to our heckler, and so it had to be wrong. A complex picture He is not alone. Last year, in the teeth of similar poll…

1 April 2010News in Brief

Plans to erect two mock Afghan villages in northwest Germany have been placed on hold after a court ruled that tests were necessary to assess the potential impact on (among other things) a rare sand lizard and a blue-winged grasshopper. Senior army commanders are apparently furious, as this could severely hamper training plans for 5,000 British troops.

1 March 2010News

Despite “a growing recognition in Washington… that some form of power-sharing deal [between the Afghan government and the Taliban] may be the only way to end the war” (Financial Times, 22 January), the US and Britain remain committed to war-war rather than jaw-jaw for the foreseeable future.

Three years ago, Gordon Brown told the Commons that: “Our objective is to defeat the insurgency by isolating and eliminating its leadership. I make it clear that we will not enter into any…

1 March 2010Review

C Hurst & Co, 2009; ISBN 978-0-23-170-112-9; 320pp; £25

The public debate surrounding Afghanistan has been “dominated by superficial or plainly wrong assumptions”, notes Dr Antonio Giustozzi, a researcher at the London School of Economics, in Decoding the New Taliban.

In an attempt to “expand the horizon of knowledge” about the command and control structure of the post-2001 Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, Giustozzi has enlisted the help of 14 journalists, diplomats, military officers and academics.

Due to the complexity and…

1 February 2010News

A recent alleged massacre by US-led forces in Afghanistan has been greeted with near-total silence on the part of the British press.

On 31 December, The Times’ Jerome Starkey reported allegations that ten civilians – including seven children – had been killed during a night-raid on the village of Ghazi Kang. According to the local headmaster – who provided Starkey with their names and school registration numbers – the children, whose ages ranged from 11 to 17, were…

1 February 2010News

The British Government is considering plans to redeploy British troops in Afghanistan from the more dangerous, northern areas of Helmand province to its quieter central districts, in an attempt to undermine growing anti-war sentiment here in the UK. 71% of Britons support a one-year withdrawal of all British forces (see PN 2516/17).

McChrystal’s thinking

The move is apparently the brainchild of the head of US/NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal.

1 February 2010News

Americans rallied against President Obama’s decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan with demonstrations big and small throughout December. Over 200 protesters marched to the military academy in West Point, where President Obama was making the announcement on 1 December, to hold a candlelight vigil. Six people were arrested for “blocking the roadway.”

On 12 December about 150 activists gathered in front of the White House, including four 2008 presidential candidates – Ralph Nader,…

1 December 2009Feature

A British soldier accused of desertion for refusing to serve in Afghanistan is now being prosecuted for taking part in an anti-war protest, on charges that carry a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. Lance corporal Joe Glenton, 27, of the Royal Logistic Corps, appeared in court on 10 November in Aldershot, Hampshire, facing charges of disobeying a lawful order, as well as his desertion charge. At the end of the hearing, Glenton was imprisoned pending his trial.

Joe Glenton spoke…

1 December 2009News

On 14 November, a small but perfectly formed march against NATO and for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan took place in Edinburgh. The demo was called by Stop the War Scotland.

In keeping with the tradition of most Edinburgh protests, only five men and their dog were present at the official start time of the march. However, after going to fetch myself a coffee, about 300 had appeared.

Numbers were diminished due to an anti-fascist counter-protest against the…

1 December 2009News

On 5 November, six of us – Katrina Alton and Steve Barnes of the London Catholic Worker, PN columnist Maya Evans, PN co-editor Milan Rai, Trident Ploughshares co-founder Angie Zelter, and myself – were found guilty of causing “serious disruption to the community” for our role in the “Die-in for NATO’s Victims in Afghanistan” at Britain’s military nerve centre at Northwood earlier this year.

During the trial in Watford, chief inspector Dempsey-Brench conceded that he had not…

1 December 2009News

Discontent over the war in Afghanistan continued to grow in November in both the UK and US, with support for withdrawal reaching 63% in Britain and 39% in the US, according to BBC and CBS News polls, respectively.

A ComRes poll for the Independent on Sunday put the support in Britain on 15 November even higher: 71% for phased withdrawal within 1 year.

The BBC survey, published 8 November, also found that 64% of Britons now believe the war to be “unwinnable”, up from…

1 November 2009News

Afghan anniversary actions

This year’s G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, drew worldwide attention to radical politics. As in previous years, the streets were saturated with police as well as protesters. This year, however, both radical actors and police brought a new series of high-tech approaches to the summit. In addition to the now familiar truncheons, tear gas, and rubber bullets, police for the first time used the long range acoustic device, or LRAD. This “sound cannon” emits loud and high-pitched noises at…

1 November 2009News

Are those calling for withdrawal selling out Afghanistan’s women?

“To fight is not the solution. We have a mouth and a brain, we should talk.” Afghan Women’s Affairs Minister, Dr H.B. Ghazanfar
“Freedom, democracy and justice cannot be enforced at gunpoint by a foreign country; they are the values that can be achieved only by our people and democracy-loving forces through a hard, decisive and long struggle.” Afghan women’s rights activist Zoya.

Recently, I overheard a significant figure in the UK anti-war movement bemoaning the collapse…

1 November 2009News

Afghan anniversary actions

“This is last year’s protest,” he told us, smiling.

Ten minutes from the end of our eight-hour vigil opposite Downing Street – during which four of us had our details taken by the police for the crime of holding an “unauthorised” demonstration within 1km of Parliament – he had stopped to talk, apparently oblivious to the disruption he was causing to our name-reading ceremony.

95%

Smartly dressed, and apparently on his way from one Whitehall department to…

1 November 2009News

Afghan anniversary actions

Waves of anti-war protests hit major and minor cities across the US throughout October. About 180 demonstrators marched to the White House on 5 October, carrying signs like: “Yes we can: US out of Afghanistan.”

After 15 activists chained themselves to the fence, police officers and secret service agents began clearing the sidewalk and yelling warnings. Some 61 people were arrested. The organisers from 27 states wished this pre-protest to inspire others for the 7 October…