The forgotten “victory”

Afghanistan remains a troubled nation, riddled with violence, Taliban brutality and American cluelessness:

A U.S. commander’s repudiation of a ceasefire in Afghanistan that was backed by his British predecessor reveals rifts among the main Western allies over how to defeat Taliban insurgents and win hearts and minds.

London and Washington, with the most troops on the front line, have alternated command of NATO’s ISAF force since it was expanded and thrust into heavy fighting last year.

They have occasionally disagreed in private over tactics. But with concern that mounting civilian casualties are alienating Afghans, those disagreements seeped into the open.

“The higher echelons of ISAF appear to be in some disarray over the forward direction of strategy in southern Afghanistan,” said British defense writer Tim Ripley.

The aggressive U.S. approach “doesn’t seem to be in tune with the philosophy of the British Army,” he said. “On several occasions, senior British commanders have expressed a desire to try to modify the allegiances of potential insurgents, rather than try to kill them.”

Furthermore, as reported in today’s UK Independent, Afghan women are bearing the brunt of the chaos:

There are two million war widows in Afghanistan, and their plight is easy to forget in Hamid Karzai’s capital, where Western-style shopping malls, bars and French restaurants are opening up for wealthy foreign aid workers and Afghan expatriates.

Every morning Gul, who was widowed when an American bomb hit her house in 2001, leaves her two daughters to go begging on the streets of Kabul. “If I’m lucky, I’ll make about 50 afghanis (80p), enough to buy two pieces of bread,” she says.

Kabul, it is said, is the widows’ capital of the world. As many as 50,000 women like Gul live in the city, and many make their home in the abandoned buildings that dot the suburbs, often living in horrific conditions. In a nation with a fractured infrastructure and, at …£125 a year, one of the lowest per-capita incomes in the world, many widows are left without relatives able to take them in or offer even modest financial support.

Gul’s blue burqa at least affords her some dignity. “The men hurl abuse at me, they make indecent gestures and I’m always being harassed, but at least they cannot see me,” she says.

War widows often stand outside government buildings holding frayed photographs of their late husbands, hoping to be noticed. “They should be the government’s top priority,” says [Kabul based NGO worker] Ms Akrami. “These women are uneducated; they lack basic job skills and cannot fend for themselves. If America invaded us to liberate our women, this is a clear sign that they are failing miserably.”

The utter failure of the West to bring any kind of stability or dignity to the Afghan people since “liberation” in 2001 proves, yet again, that “humanitarian intervention” is often little more than empty rhetoric.