Content Note: The following contains depictions of sexual abuse, violence, and acts of war that some might trigger.
With the Taliban quickly taking control of all major Afghan cities – including the capital, Kabul, and the presidential palace it houses – we should ask ourselves: what was the point of all this bloodshed?
Over 200,000 Afghan civilians and fighters have been killed since the American, Canadian and British invasion two decades ago. A few thousand Canadian, American, British and more soldiers have also died in the fighting.
Canada’s largest military deployment since World War II, more than 40,000 Canadian troops fought in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014. Canada spent $ 20 billion on military operations and the associated aid mission in Afghanistan. While the declared justification for the war was to neutralize members of al Qaeda and topple the Taliban regime, the Taliban has now regained control of the country and the influence of jihadist groups has increased.
In October 2001, the United States unilaterally invaded Afghanistan, launching airstrikes in support of Northern Alliance rebels fighting the Taliban government. Special forces from Canadian Joint Task Force 2 contributed to these efforts.
Depicted as a battle against the misogynist Taliban, the foreign intervention benefited an equally unsavory assortment of warlords who previously imposed the veil and prohibited the education of women, as well as the destruction of schools, museums and of movie theaters. Individuals responsible for massive human rights violations during the civil war in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s have been appointed to senior government positions.
Some members of the Canadian Forces (CF) sympathized with the Afghan warlords. In March 2006, Maclean’s noted General Rick Hillier’s “enormous respect for warlords – even making concessions for those who profit from the poppy trade.” The magazine quoted the Chief of the Defense Staff as saying:
“I saw the best leaders I have ever had the opportunity to meet. -The people of Qaeda. “
The CF purchased millions of dollars in goods and services from companies run by former warlords.
At the height of the war, more than 3,000 Canadians led a violent counterinsurgency in Kandahar. Between April 2006 and December 2007, Canadian troops fired an impressive 4.7 million bullets, including more than 1,650 tank rounds and 12,000 artillery rounds.
In A Line in the Sand: Canadians at War in Kandahar, Captain Ray Wiss praised the Canadian troops as “the best at killing people… We are killing many more than they are among us, and we have had tremendous success recently… Over the past week, we are killing people. managed to kill between 10 and 20. The Taliban every day. ”
In September 2006, the CF led NATO’s Operation Medusa targeting Taliban strongholds in the Panjwaii and Zhari districts of Kandahar. Here is how Corporal Ryan Pagnacco described the airstrikes:
“After watching bomb after bomb fall on these targets, I wondered how anything could survive. I thought to myself that when we went inside, we would go to a ghost town.” The Medusa offensive forced 80,000 civilians to flee their homes, left hundreds of enemy combatants dead and “at least 50 civilians were killed during weeks of shelling.”
On numerous occasions, the Western press has reported on Canadian soldiers killing Afghan civilians. “Canadian soldiers have repeatedly killed and injured civilians while patrolling civilian areas,” noted the New York Times in May 2007. In July 2008, Canadian soldiers killed a five-year-old girl and her two-year-old brother after their vehicle got too close to a convoy. The father later said that “if I have the chance, I will kill Canadians”. (Due to an agreement between Kabul and Ottawa, Afghans had no legal right to compensation if they were injured or their property damaged by Canadian soldiers.)
Canadian armored vehicles have regularly fired warning shots at bicycles, cars or trucks that approached too close, often causing accidents, injuring or worse Afghans. In June 2006, France 2 TV showed previously unseen footage of Canadian soldiers searching villages and homes, breaking down doors and questioning residents. According to a report in Press, Canadian soldiers were shown telling the villagers that it was not smart to join the Taliban because our soldiers are really good, they are well trained and good marksmen, “and you will die”. Later, the video shows a Canadian commander saying “Too bad for you if you don’t want to tell us where the Taliban are hiding. We will come and kill them. We will drop many bombs and shoot everywhere. Do you want ? Well, keep telling us nothing.
The actions of Canadian troops in Afghanistan belies the allegations of noble motives. The CF used white phosphorus as a weapon against “enemy occupied” vineyards in Afghanistan, while Canadian special forces participated in highly unpopular nighttime assassination raids.
The deadliest element of the war was the air strikes. While no Canadian aircraft dropped bombs in Afghanistan, Canadian troops regularly called for American airstrikes. Canadian personnel also operated NORAD systems that supported the US bombing raids and some heavily armed Canadian helicopters launched night operations.
Most of those detained by Canadians – and handed over to the Afghan army and the prison system – have likely been tortured. Under the Geneva Conventions, the military force that detains a person is responsible for their treatment and many of those detained by the CF have likely been tortured with knives, electric cables and open flames. Or raped. The second-highest-ranking member of the Canadian diplomatic service in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2007, Richard Colvin, told a parliamentary committee that “it is likely that all the Afghans we surrendered were tortured.” In addition, dozens of individuals donated to the Afghan army by the CF have gone missing, possibly lost in a prison system that did not keep good records, or possibly killed.
Many of those detained by the CF had little to do with the Taliban. According to Colvin, “it was the NDS (Afghan National Directorate of Security) that told us that many or most of our detainees had no connection with the insurgency… We have detained and surrendered many innocent people for serious torture. .
The CF routinely handed over children they suspected of having Taliban ties to the NDS, which often tortured them. the Toronto Star reported that in late 2006, a Canadian soldier heard an Afghan soldier rape a young boy and later saw the “boy’s lower intestines fall out of his body.” It appears that the Canadian military police were told by their commanders not to intervene when Afghan soldiers and police sexually assault children.
Despite attempts to portray the situation differently, the invasion of Afghanistan did not have UN approval. After the US invasion, the Security Council came under pressure to allow the use of force to defend the Afghan government in power. Non-US foreign troops in Afghanistan were effectively under US command.
Canada followed the United States in this predictable 20-year disaster. Any thoughtful person should learn a few lessons: Interference in the internal affairs of another country (be it civil war as in the case of Afghanistan or elections) is wrong; war is good only for those who profit from it; do not trust those who beat the drums of war – they are probably paid, directly or indirectly, by the military-industrial complex.
Yves Engler is the author of 11 books. His custody for whom? – A Popular History of the Canadian Army is available August 23.
Image: Graeme Smith / Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum / Flickr