NATO realpolitik and U.S. responsibility for the fate of Afghan women

Meredith Tax writes: Why is it so hard for people in the anti-war movement to hold two ideas in their heads at the same time? Can’t we want to end the war in Afghanistan and at the same time practice solidarity with its victims?

As the Taliban, prompted by Pakistan’s ISI, becomes ever more aggressive, Afghan women and civil society campaigners are asking for support to protect the gains they’ve made, but nobody in the US government – or the left – seems to be listening.

Obama’s realpolitik has replaced the Bush administration’s rhetoric about bringing democracy to the region. “Afghan good enough” is the magic phrase in Washington. If this entails throwing women overboard, hey, that’s realpolitik. In March, 2011, Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post asked a senior State Department officer what the policy would be towards women as the US withdrew. The answer:

“Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities … There’s no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down.”

The war has cost too much in lives and money to be sustainable, and no one questions that it has been badly managed. The latest US blunder, according to Human Rights Watch, has been to make a huge strategic investment in the Afghan Local Police force; unfortunately, the ALP is full of rapists and thugs who are not held accountable for their crimes. The latest horror story concerns Lal Bibi, an 18-year-old girl abducted by an ALP leader in Kunduz province, chained to a wall, and raped, beaten and tortured for five days in revenge for an offense by a distant cousin. Normally, Lal Bibi’s family would have killed her – they may yet do so – but they have gone public and are trying to get justice. Meanwhile, the US military continues to express confidence in the Afghan Local Police.

And if its misjudgment is behind the ALP, the US is equally to blame for the rise of the Taliban; together with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the US funded them and gave them weapons in the late 1970s, when they wanted a proxy to fight the Soviets. Thus the US people have some responsibility to make sure that the result of all this intervention is not the Talibanization of the Karzai government.

Further, Obama has committed us to financial aid to Afghanistan for the forseeable future. What kind of financial aid should the US be giving, and what conditions should it place on such aid?

The anti-war movement isn’t discussing these issues. It simply echoes the position of the Obama administration – out as soon as possible and no questions asked. The movement’s entire attention seems to be focused on drones, as if wanting to end the war precludes thinking constructively about peace. [Continue reading…]

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