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The Latvian Summit Viewed from Afghanistan

Blood, Snow and NATO

by CHRIS SANDS

in Kabul.

As the powers that be met in Latvia for a NATO summit, the first snowflakes of winter were falling lightly on Kabul city.

The suits thousands of miles away talked about the progress being made here. The Afghan people huddled around pathetic little fires and muttered dark warnings about the future.

Terrorists will not prevail, said the officials. Just wait until the fighting rages again next spring, said the men and women as they shivered in the cold.

The gulf between NATO members and the Afghans they are meant to protect is widening. And it will continue to grow until blood mixes with the rubbish on these streets and Kabul becomes another Baghdad.

Boosting troop levels will not help defeat the insurgency, it will only lead to soldiers, civilians and militants dying in even greater numbers. Every day a new "terrorist" is created by the actions of the foreigners here.

There have already been too many doors kicked in, bombs dropped and innocent people interrogated. The more NATO vehicles that speed through Kandahar or Helmand, the more suicide attackers there will be to hit them.

Support for the insurgency no longer just comes from those Pashtuns who traditionally favour the Taliban, it now exists among a broad section of society. Many Afghans want to fight the occupation forces and Mullah Omar’s band of fundamentalists.

The limited progress that has been made is steadily eaten away by bitter memories and sad new experiences. Last week a van travelling near a NATO convoy on the outskirts of Kabul was shot at and subsequently crashed. One civilian died and four were injured.

Hamid Karzai has lamented the increasing number of innocent people killed as a result of NATO actions, but his fragile grip on power grows weaker with each passing day. The feeling here is that the president will be forced from office, with the Americans ushering in a new figurehead to take his place.

Trying to impose Western-style democracy upon a country where strict Islamic values dominate was always going to be a miserable failure. But its demise is being hastened by the increasingly violent nature of the occupation.

A new chapter in this country’s tragic recent history has now started. The Taliban cannot be defeated or marginalised , no matter how many times they are called terrorists by NATO officials. Many people support them and a lot of those that don’t will end up backing other militias. A civil war is inevitable if foreign troops stay or leave.

When the snow melts next spring any remaining optimism will be carried away with it. Blood will be all that’s left.

CHRIS SANDS is a British freelance journalist who has been living in Afghanistan since August 2005.