Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More civilians dying but not because of NATO

The United Nations Kabul mission has released data showing that civilian deaths in Afghanistan are up 31% this year and child victims have risen to 55%. This, of course, would appear to contradict Obama's claim that policy changes have addressed some of those problems in Afghanistan that were revealed by the Wikileaks disclosures at the end of July. However, perhaps it doesn't, and the 'Guardian', reporting on the data released by the UN, informs us that "even as the number of child casualties has soared by 55%, strict rules on the use of air power by NATO troops has led to a 30% drop in deaths and injuries caused by foreign forces in the first six months of this year, compared to the same period in 2009." The paper then comes to the conclusion that this highlights the successes achieved by Stanley McChrystal, in protecting Afghan civilians a even if this meant putting his own troops at greater risk.

Well, if ceasing to bomb innocent civilians can be accredited to a policy change that was ushered in by McChrystal and if the appointment of General David Petraeus to replace his disgraced predecesor only represents, according to Obama, "a change in personnel, but not a change in policy", there might, indeed, be some substance in Washington's assertion that policy changes have addressed some of the problems in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, are we really going to fool ourselves here? The fact remains that more civilians are being killed than at any previous time and to say that this is because the Taliban are using more sophisticated bombs to target NATO troops and that those bombs invariably kill innocent civilians, while simultaneously maintaining that Afghans are being threatened with death if they work for the Kabul government or its backers, is only to admit that the war has escalated. Moreover, whatever the UN report supposedly reveals it might be a little less than far fetched to suggest that the the assumed assassinations by the Taliban are in fact targeted killings which are being carried out by those CIA paramilitaries and those other covert forces that have already been revealed by Wikileaks and, while it is difficult to substantiate contentions such as this at the moment, one thing is certain, and that is that this dirty war is not and cannot be won.

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