Afghanistan: The Gloves Are Off
Between August and December 2017 there were 2,000 airstrikes which is nearly as many as 2015 and 2016 combined
This weekend Kabul endured another Taliban attack, current reports say at least 95 were killed and 185 injured after an ambulance packed with explosives was driven past a police checkpoint and into a street of government workers. Just in this week alone attacks have included the Intercontinental Hotel where 22 people were killed, and Save the Children in Jalalabad which killed 3 and injured 25.
Our friends in the Afghan Peace Volunteers are all fine, narrowly missing the attack today while attending an exhibition of peace photography.
Meanwhile last month US military officials announced in regards to Afghanistan "the gloves are off". In the coming year the US intends to double its Afghan Special Operations and triple Afghan Air Force.
In December, US and Afghan forces conducted 455 airstrikes, an average of 15 per day, compared with just 65 for the previous year. Between August and December 2017 there were 2,000 airstrikes which is nearly as many as 2015 and 2016 combined.
The blitz is set to intensify as the US withdraws from Iraq and Syria, redeploying assets such as jets, field advisers and drones to Afghanistan.
The US Air Force says there are now nearly three squadrons worth of Reaper Drones in Kandahar, these include the new bigger Block 5 version which can carry an external fuel tank allowing the drone to fly further and stay in the air for even longer. US military say this drone fleet might only be the start of a larger drone mission both in size and scope.
Today my Facebook feed was full of disturbing photos from Kabul, posted by my young friends, comments included "We are alive but Kabul is dead".
Other Afghans in Kabul ask "Why do EU countries still deport Afghan refugees back to Kabul despite deadly attacks now being weekly to daily". Three quarters of families forced to flee their homes are not receiving any aid assistance, one in two are highly food insecure, often skipping meals and reducing food intake, trapped in an endemic cycle of poverty. There are now 1.3 million internally displaced within the country. Germany was the last European country to deport 19 Afghan Asylum seekers just 5 days ago, they arrived early in the morning, some would have never been to Kabul, and yet they are expected to make their lives in a city already massively overpopulated.
In the last year foreign NGOs and workers, including the Red Cross, have pulled out of the country. Foreign diplomats cross Kabul by helicopter when visiting.
Overall the country appears to be in a stalemate situation, the Taliban controls or at least has influence over 50% of the country, US military officials commented last August that they hope to engage the Taliban in 'peace talks', possibly allowing them to join with the current government or to hand over various provinces for the Taliban to run.
The Taliban psychology is that they were a legitimate government which was toppled by the US and a puppet government installed. The recent intensity of US attacks has likely made the Taliban even more determined to 'wait it out', confident that the US can not maintain its intense presence in the country indefinitely, reasoning that they have nowhere else to go.
We at Voices UK continue to visit our friends in Kabul, steadfast in our conviction to support the non violent grassroots activities of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, resolute to show solidarity to our long term friends who are trapped in an imploding bubble. Maya Evans is set to depart imminently, she takes with her the good wishes of UK peace activists, messages of love and support.
While in Kabul she will update our friends with the news that the UK peace movement is growing in strength and activity, that the mainstream British public are awake to the fact that global wars are just making everyone more unsafe.
Source: Voices For Creative Non-Violence