Operation Enduring Failure: Ten years of war on Afghanistan

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Today is the tenth anniversary of the US war on Afghanistan. Ten years. A decade. The longest war in US history*. Nearly 1700 US troops dead and more than 1000 “coalition partners” dead. Thousands of soldiers wounded, thousands traumatized. Billions of dollars spent.

And the number of Afghans dead? No one knows. No one knows. But the estimates, most likely too low, are soul-rattling. 12,000-14,000? 40,000? Tens and tens of thousands of civilians, and the numbers just keep getting uglier, as Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress told Democracy Now! this morning. In fact this year, 2011, is on track to be the deadliest year for Afghan civilians since the war began, proving that a decade after the US invasion, life is more treacherous than ever for the men, women, and children we so altruistically went to bomb — er, save.

Meanwhile, this country’s much-vaunted nation-building efforts remain as crumbly as sand castles. The Taliban is resurgent — or “resilient” as a new White House report phrases it. The US-installed Karzai government is a corrupt sham. Civil war is a distinct possibility. And just this week, retired-fired general Stanley McChrystal told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations that the US and NATO are only “50% of the way” toward realizing their goals in Afghanistan. Whatever that means anyway.

“We didn’t know enough and we still don’t know enough,” he said, stating what had become baldly obvious to many of us civilian observers years ago. “Most of us, me included, had a very superficial understanding of the situation and history, and we had a frighteningly simplistic view of recent history, the last 50 years.”

But don’t just listen to McChrystal and the other experts who claim to know so much after knowing so little. Listen to the people on the receiving end of this country’s precision bombs, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium-laced bombs. Listen to the men, the children, and the women — especially the women who were the feel-good excuse for all the F-15s and Warthogs.

Here’s “Reena,” a 19-year-old member of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, describing post-invasion life for Afghan women:

“These claims [that the war would improve life for women] were all extremely false. If they have brought to power the misogynists, the brothers in creed of the Taliban to power, who are the exact copies of Taliban mentally and have just been physically changed, then I don’t think the women’s situation can improve.

Today there are slight improvements in women’s lives in urban areas, but again, if we look at statistics, Afghanistan remains the most dangerous place for women. Self-immolation, suicide rates are extremely high, it has never been this high before. Domestic violence is widespread. Women are poor, they don’t have health care. It has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. There are, as I said, some improvements, and in some aspects it might have gotten a little better for a handful of women, but it has definitely gotten worse for others.

There is insecurity, there is threat, they always say that there are 6 million girls in schools, or the schools have opened, but nobody looks at the dropout rates, nobody looks at the attacks or the threats that the Taliban make to girls and they don’t dare to go out again, nobody looks at the quality of the schools. I mean, there have been slight changes, and it has been very widely used, and they just highlight a few positive things. But overall the situation of women has gotten worse.”

Heck of a job, Bushie. (And Bambi.)

* There’s an important caveat to the claim that the Afghan war is the longest in US history and that is the fact that the US was unofficially mucking around in Vietnam for many years before it officially sent in ground troops. If you add all the official and unofficial years together, Vietnam is still the longer war (as were several of the American-Indian wars of the 19th Century).

About Lizzy Ratner

Lizzy Ratner is a journalist in New York City. She is a co-editor with Adam Horowitz and Philip Weiss of The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict.

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