The Worsening Situation in Afghanistan

Nine years ago, NATO was going to breeze into Afghanistan, sweep the Taliban from power and install a nice, stable Government, while the Tokyo and Berlin Reconstruction Conferences for the five years starting December 2001 pledged 13.4 bn USD for projects. In 2005, the Human Development Index for Afghanistan was 173 out of 178 countries. Today it is 181 out of 182.

The roads remain unbuilt, a tiny percentage of Afghans remain without access to basic utilities, unemployment is rife, the country, despite NATO’s presence for nearly a decade, ranks lower and lower in terms of human and economic development indices. In 2005, the Human Development Index for Afghanistan was 173 out of 178 countries. Today it is 181 out of 182. Opium production has risen 40-fold. Drug income represents over 60% of the economy. Afghanistan has the worst record in infant deaths and has a life expectancy of 44 years.

This, despite hundreds of billions of dollars being spent by NATO, a force which appears powerless to defend the population from the activities of a handful of warlords.

What exactly is going on?

Worsening situation

The recent UNO report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (2010 Mid-Year Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict), released on Tuesday, reveals shocking statistics: the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2010 has risen by 31% over the same period last year due to an increase in the number of hostile actions undertaken by armed elements.

According to the UN Mission, UNAMA, human casualties in this period totalled 1,271 dead and 1,997 injured. Of these 3,268 casualties, 76 per cent were attributed to the activities of Anti-Government Elements (a rise of 53%) and 12% were caused by the actions of Pro-Government Elements (a decrease of 30%), while the number of children killed or injured has increased by 55%.

The same report stated that aerial bombardment by the International Security Assistance Force was the main cause of the casualties inflicted by the Pro-Government Elements, namely 69 of the 223 civilian deaths and 45 injuries, although the number of victims of these attacks had decreased by 64% over the course of the year.

Georgette Gagnon, Director of Human Rights for UNAMA, declared that “Nine years into the conflict, measures to protect Afghan civilians effectively and to minimize the impact of the conflict on basic human rights are more urgent than ever”.

Calling on all those concerned to do more to protect civilians, complying with their obligations under international law, the report recommends that the international military forces should make their accountability more transparent in the case of human casualties and be more careful when perpetrating aerial activities; that the Afghan Government should create a special organism to respond to casualty incidents and that the Taleban should cease executing civilians.

Under the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, the clauses stipulate clearly that the invading forces have a responsibility to protect civilians. If after nine years the casualties are rising, then it is a telling statement on the incapacity of NATO to conduct the mission successfully.

What, then, is NATO doing in Afghanistan? Could it have anything to do with the reported trillions of dollars-worth of untapped mineral resources?



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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey