The war in Afghanistan brings increasingly more losses, both for the soldiers of the international coalition, and for the civilian population.
In July, 45 soldiers from the international contingent, 33 of them Americans, have been killed in Afghanistan. In June, the loss amounted to 100 people, the worst month for 9 years of war. “We are experiencing the most difficult moment in the war,” Brigadier General Joseph Blotts, a representative of ISAF forces, said at a press conference.
But a far greater threat to the international coalition forces, designed to ensure order and security in Afghanistan, is a frightening increase in casualties among the population. Currently, more civilians are being killed here than ever before.
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In the first six months of 2010, over 1200 people in this country have become victims of the war. During the same period, 1,997 civilians were injured. In general, the UN estimates that the number of losses in 2010 has increased by 31 percent, while increase in losses in 2009 (compared to 2008) amounted to 14 percent. These disappointing numbers were released in the last UN report quoted by the Associated Press.
"The human cost of this conflict is unfortunately rising,” Staffan de Mistura, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA-UNAMA), commented on these data. He said the UN was very concerned about the future of the country experiencing large civilian casualties.
According to the report of the Afghan human rights organization Afghanistan Rights Monitor, this year has already become a record year in terms of number of losses among local residents since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban regime.
Although the military claimed that thousands of dead and wounded were victims of roadside explosions of mines and attacks perpetrated by the Taliban, the UN report notes that 386 civilians, or 12 percent, suffered from the actions of the U.S. armed forces, NATO forces and the Kabul regime.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly warned the West that incidental victims of NATO air raids only inflame the discontent among the population and push militants to be more active.
“The death of each Afghan civilian moves us away from the goal, [we are trying to achieve],” agrees with Karzai General David Petraeus, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
However, soon after his words, a routine air raid killed 25 people on their way to a funeral in the province of Nangarhar.
Is it possible to win the war whose victims are primarily civilians? Experts and analysts ask this question increasingly more, trying to determine the price of the longest military campaign in the U.S. history.
In July, website Wikileaks published secret documents about the war in Afghanistan. In particular, the documents stated that not all civilian casualties were recorded in official statistics. The consequences of this leak of classified information at thescale that makes the so-called Pentagon papers of the time of the Vietnam War pale in comparison have not yet manifested themselves in full, The Guardian newspaper reports.
In particular, the Taliban has threatened to behead the informants identified in the documents of the U.S. intelligence published on the Internet, the newspaper Daily Mail reports. Afghan fighters said “We know how to punish them,” which is a hint at beheading, the usual method of punishment for the “traitors” by the Taliban.
President Karzai has expressed extreme regret about the publication of the secret documents that revealed the names of Afghans who had collaborated with the NATO forces, calling it “extremely irresponsible and shocking.””Their lives are now in danger,” he said. “ This is a very serious matter .“
Yet, Max Hastings, the author of the article published in the Daily Mail, thinks that there is a much more serious aspect of the story. It is the fact that the publication of hundreds of thousands of documents about the war in Afghanistan by Wikileaks did not become a cause for serious rethinking by U.S. politicians of all evils and futility of the Afghan war.
“If we wait for military success before starting a political negotiation, a lot more good people will die uselessly,” says Max Hastings. "But some of us have always argued that we can win endless firefights in Afghanistan without achieving anything, if there is no credible local political structure to support. The regime of President Hamid Karzai is irredeemably corrupt, incompetent and unpopular. We can fight on until doomsday without changing that, and President Obama knows it. It is time to talk, and start packing,” the author continues.
“The only way forward is for President Obama to start a political process, involving the Taliban and its leader Mullah Omar, which gives our departure a figleaf of dignity. If he fails to do this, he will betray his responsibility to his own people, to his allies and especially Britain, and to the Afghans,” the analyst thinks.
"For all the undoubted brilliance of new U.S. commander General David Petraeus, he cannot make bricks without Afghan straw. The most likely outcome is that we shall declare victory and come home some time quite soon, thank goodness. There has been much talk about fighting on until 2014. I believe that even if we keep going until 2054, Afghanistan will still be ungovernable,” says Hastings.
The latest incident, in which three British soldiers were shot by a soldier in the Afghan army, only confirms the theses of the British military analyst. Afghans do not need order which rests exclusively on the bayonets of the international coalition. And the more civilians suffer in the course of this endless war, the more supporters the Taliban will get. It will be those opposed to foreign occupation, whose goals are more difficult to justify even by the UN mandate.