The True Casualties

''Afghans living in villages where conflict is rife are having to take an impossible decision: choose sides or leave home,'' added Mr Krähenbühl. "This is the reality of Afghanistan today." (Afghanistan: Insecurity at a Critical Level for Civilians)

After so many decades of violence it is no wonder life in Afghanistan is filled with hardship.  After the terrorist attacks on New York City on 11 September 2001 (better known as September 11th), NATO forces were keen to drive out the Taliban from this Middle Eastern nation.  Did they succeed?  To an extent, yes.  But at the same time, they created many problems in their wake.

Before, society was “oppressive,” particularly towards women and children.  Now, it still is.  Women may have some more freedom than they did before, but why?  Is it because there have been changes at to the legal and political environments of Afghanistan?  Or is it because enough men have died from the fighting – one way or another – that the women now have power from their numbers?  Either way, the necessary change must come at the social level.  Until women are accepted and treated as social equals, changes to the laws and politics of the nation will not have nearly the same level of impact.

In the past decade, the level of personal security has changed dramatically as well.  The US has not experienced more terrorist attacks – which no doubt is a result of military efforts in the Middle East.  While one would assume this to be a good thing, I must challenge with the question of “for whom?”  The fighting has not stopped.  Violence is still rampant between “terrorists” and “allies;” it is the battlefields they choose that makes Americans feel safe and secure.  It is in Afghanistan where the civilian population lives in constant fear and terror.

Allow me to rephrase – it is in Afghanistan that civilians live with the constant presence of violence.  The fear and terror, while inevitably still present to some degree, has been dulled by decades of seemingly endless fighting.  What is really different now, in comparison to the Soviet occupation?  The faces and the names; the reality remains the same.  Pro-government groups oppose “terrorists” openly, fighting everywhere, bringing the violence to the people whether they like it or not.  The military forces there only exasperate this calamity – their presence is a constant reminder of life’s inevitable ending with death.  For “uniformed forces” this is simply a normal part of their everyday existence; for the Afghan civilians, it now is too.

Does the world still care?  This is my question to all who are willing to hear it.  Reports in the media are quiet and focus only on the issues that can be directly related to the nation for which they are writing.  Humanitarian organisations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent/Crystal (ICRC) have been actively involved in Afghanistan for many years and will continue to be there, trying to help the people free from bias.  But apart from the small part of the global population involved in humanitarian works, do people truly care about what is going on in Afghanistan?  About the increasing level of insecurity for the local population?  If one was to read an article about the personal tragedies suffered by civilians because of the limited access to healthcare – roadside bombs, long detours to avoid closed roads, checkpoint delays, facilities closed from lack of staff, poverty – what would the response be?  Would there be anyone held accountable?  If so, who?  Would this be considered an unfortunate fact of life for people living in a war-torn country?  Or perhaps blamed on the “terrorists?”  What about the military forces that have invaded the nation?

Consider this – would those same risks, hazards, and problems still exist for the civilian population if military forces had never gone to Afghanistan?  Are we the ones to blame for this growing level of insecurity and instability in this Middle Eastern nation?  How many truly care and want to see the situation changed, beyond the obligatory “lip service” when confronted directly with the issues?  Do you really care?

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