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Father Shay Cullen is an Irish Columban missionary who has worked in the Philippines since 1969. In 1974, he founded the Preda Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to protecting the rights of women and children and campaigning for freedom from sex slavery and human trafficking.

Unwinnable 20-year Afghan war brought only human suffering

Unwinnable 20-year Afghan war brought only human suffering

Wounded Afghan women arrive at a hospital for treatment after two suicide bombers killed at least 90 people and injured many more at Kabul airport on Aug. 26. (Photo: AFP)

Published: August 27, 2021 03:52 AM GMT
The only real winners in the conflict are the financiers and suppliers of the tools to conduct mass killing

Life is precious and sacred. Many people believe in the sanctity of the human person with rights and dignity to be protected and preserved.

This is not true for many more who kill and murder and execute their perceived enemies. Those that declare war and invade other nations are also guilty of bringing death and destruction.

There is no “good” war. In the end, after millions are dead and wounded, peace is negotiated and made, and life returns to normal. Why then fight the war in the first place and not negotiate a settlement of differences before violence is inflicted?

That is because war is very profitable for weapons manufacturers. A prolonged “endless” war is the best thing ever for the industrial military complex.

This industry dominates and greatly influences American politics and the US economy. It is what President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the country about in 1946. He called it a danger to the nation.

The armaments industry is today immensely greater and more powerful. It needs, and perhaps promotes, continuous wars to sell more arms to prosper and grow.

The American people are mostly duped into believing that their national security is always under threat 

Politicians, arms manufacturers and traders get candidates elected who seemingly work continually to support military interventions. This is the great wrong behind all wars: immense greed fuelled by lies, ambition and power.

The American people are mostly duped into believing that their national security is always under threat and a super strong military, always at war, with real or imagined enemies, is necessary.

The futility of the 20-year unwinnable Afghan war has brought incredible suffering and death to millions of civilians and soldiers and generated hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people.

That was illustrated yesterday when two suicide bombers at Kabul airport killed at least 90 people including 13 US military personnel. ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The invasion of Afghanistan was launched primarily to deprive al-Qaeda terrorists of a haven in the Central Asian country, which was then controlled by the Taliban.

When that was achieved, the occupation continued and was prolonged mostly for the glory of US career generals and the benefit of the US industrial military complex and a few thousand corrupt Afghan politicians and their cronies.

The immorality of it is staggering. We do not live in a just or moral world. The disaster is still unfolding as thousands of people are rushing to the airport to escape the Taliban on US and British planes.

According to research by Brown University in the United States, the number of innocent Afghan civilians caught in the crossfire or killed by suicide bombers is a shocking 47,245 men, women and children.

Countless others are wounded, having lost arms and legs, and they will suffer for the rest of their lives. Besides, 66,000 half-trained Afghan army soldiers and police officers were killed.

The number of Taliban and other opposition fighters that were killed is 51,191. A total of 164,436 Afghan people died in this avoidable war.

Meanwhile, as many as 2,448 American service members had been killed up to April 2021. An additional 3,846 US contractors, civilians and mercenaries were killed, and as many as 1,344 service people from other NATO countries died also. The number of aid workers killed was 444. Seventy-nine journalists were also killed. A total of 8,161 needless deaths.

How could a mostly unpaid guerrilla band of fighters, armed mostly with AK-47s, RPG rocket launchers, homemade bombs and riding pickups and motorbikes with walkie-talkie radios, defeat the greatest, most powerful sophisticated well-paid army, air force and navy in the world, and the best-funded and most expensive?

According to Brown University’s calculation, Washington spent US$2.26 trillion in Afghanistan, or $300 million a day. The 29,950 US troops with 300,000 Afghan military and police were beaten to a standstill by a much smaller force. The US under Donald Trump gave up and sued for peace.

Besides, death in a holy war would bring them their instant reward in paradise. That is what they fought for, not a paycheck

It seems that the Taliban had a few things going for them more than guns and bombs — religion for one. They were defeated in 2001 and driven out of Afghanistan but they hid in the mountains and regrouped. Their deep radical Islamic faith, some may call it fanatical, kept them going.

Their unshakable belief that Allah was truly on their side and their hope of establishing in their native land a strict even cruel, misogynist Islamic state, under Allah, was their unshakable dream.

Besides, death in a holy war would bring them their instant reward in paradise. That is what they fought for, not a paycheck.

Their medieval, harsh religious faith motivated them and they became ferocious fighters, taking risks that made them a formidable enemy against a foreign invader on the battlefield with all the odds of weaponry and manpower against them.

Crucial for victory were their positive negotiations with tribal leaders to win the hearts and minds of the local population. This they did by infiltrating their sleepers into villages and municipalities.

As their fighters drew near a village, town or provincial capital and surrounded it, their sleepers had already prepared the way and emerged. They had influenced tribal leaders to support them without resistance by making deals and giving cash handouts. It worked.

They allowed poppy cultivation and heroin production and earned millions of dollars to finance their war. They captured border points and collected tax on everything imported or exported.

The Taliban had a clear tactic to negotiate with government troops and police to persuade them not to kill fellow Afghans but save themselves and their families. They left them little choice — desert to us or die with their wives and children.

The Taliban are back with promises of a less harsh regime than 20 years ago. But will they keep them?

Thousands of unpaid soldiers changed sides and they delivered their US-supplied weapons to the Taliban, too.

Many Afghan army commanders were corrupt and brutal to their troops, so the deserters didn’t need much encouragement to switch sides. About $85 billion was spent on training them to fight, according to Brown University.

A negotiated surrender seems to explain how the Taliban took provincial capitals quickly and Kabul without firing a shot.

It was pre-arranged and the United States seems to have been caught by surprise unless they had agreed to a secret surrender that came all too quickly for most.

The human cost is immense. The financial cost to the US is gigantic. It is obliged to pay health and disability costs for almost 4 million war veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars totaling almost $2 trillion. These wars have already cost the US $2.6 trillion to wage and most of it was borrowed with interest.

By 2050, it is estimated that interest will cost the American taxpayer $6.5 trillion. The banks and lenders are thrilled; they love lending to finance wars.

Where did most of the $2 trillion in war costs go? Where else but to the industrial-military complex and companies therein, and they are very happy about it.

They love wars, too.  What was achieved from these wars? Nothing but human suffering, devastation and misery. The Taliban are back with promises of a less harsh regime than 20 years ago. But will they keep them? That remains to be seen.

Irish missionary Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in the Philippines in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sexual abuse. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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