Homicidal Negligence in Afghanistan
On October 24, two days before Eid, an opinion piece published in the elite US journal Foreign Policy extolled the fact that US forces are winning in Afghanistan, adding, “Why doesn’t the media notice?” In the article, the author suggests that Taliban forces are so decimated and demoralized that they have been resigned to orchestrating “sensational attacks to give the perception [their] narrative is winning out and to reassure [their] followers.”
Eid is traditionally a time to visit family and friends, and in Afghanistan it often extends into 5 or 6 days as millions of people relish this chance to reunite with folks who they care about. At the apartment of the Afghan Peace Volunteers where I am staying, we hosted many visitors over these days, including some kids from the tutoring class that usually meets at the APV apartment in the afternoons after the regular school day is done.
Some of them had come over on their way home from the Kabul zoo. For a while we had a rousing time talking about the animals at the zoo, while one of the young toddlers carried around by his older sister crawled out of her grasp to clutch a handful of almonds and raisins from the snack tray and throw them in the air.
At the same time as this visit, one of those “sensational attacks” like the ones mentioned in Foreign Policy occurred in a mosque in Faryab province. The attack came during afternoon prayers, killing 41. For the families of these 41 people, and for all the Afghan people terrorized by the fact that such attacks could happen anywhere with increasing regularity, the morale of the Taliban is scarcely relevant. Innocent Afghans continue to die, sensationally or otherwise.
It would be bad enough if the only effect of the US troop presence in Afghanistan were the increase in militant recruitment and the follow-through of increased attacks against civilian and military targets. Unfortunately, the US military is also an active participant in homicidal negligence, as the killing of 3 Ghazni farmers (a man, woman and child) in a night raid on October 29 recently showed.
NATO spokespersons call such killings accidental, if they confirm the incidents happened at all, but “accidental” murder, like “sensational” murder, is still murder, no matter what label one chooses to put on it. Afghans have been vividly aware of the consequences, since they are the ones living with them. Many wonder why the same horrid drama keeps repeating. How many times can the same mistake occur before it becomes intentional?
Buddy Bell is a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. He is in Kabul, Afghanistan by invitation from the Afghan Peace Volunteers.