By Kenneth J. Theisen
When U.S. General Stanley McChrystal took command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan earlier this year he claimed his implementation of counter-insurgency (COIN) warfare there would protect the Afghan population. His version of war would help win the “hearts and minds of the people” just as it did in Vietnam.
We have recently seen the newest U.S. strategy in action in that war ravaged country. On Monday, September 7th the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan claimed that troops of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division forced their way into the charity’s hospital in Wardak province on the night of September 2nd.
Anders Fange, the charity’s country director, asserted that American troops stormed through the hospital, broke down doors, and tied up four security guards and two hospital visitors. He also said the military forced patients out of beds during their search late Wednesday night and barged into the women’s wards. Fange claimed that such actions as entering rooms where women are in beds is a serious insult under Muslim culture.
Fange further stated that the raid was a violation of an agreement between NATO forces and aid groups that worked in Wardak province. He said, "This is a clear violation of internationally recognized rules and principles. If the international military forces are not respecting the sanctity of health facilities, then there is no reason for the Taliban to do it either. Then these clinics and hospitals would become military targets."
Lt. Commander Christine Sidenstricker, a U.S. military spokeswoman, confirmed that the hospital was searched. She also said, "We are investigating, and we take allegations like this seriously. Complaints like this are rare." But abuses and even deaths of the Afghan population are far from rare. On Friday September 4th, a NATO air strike by U.S. jets killed many Afghan civilians.
The independent human rights group, Afghan Rights Monitor, reported that its visit of the attack site indicated the strike killed as many as 70 local villagers along the Kunduz River. In the past, other such U.S. air attacks have killed massive number of civilians at wedding parties and a funeral. Almost any large gathering in Afghanistan can suddenly be attacked. This is the savage reality of the COIN strategy.
The “heart and minds strategy” will continue to kill innocent Afghans as the U.S., under Commander-in-Chief Obama, continues to escalate the war. In a short time we can expect thousands of so-called U.S. support troops in Afghanistan to be replaced by more combat troops, or “trigger pullers”, as one U.S. officer referred to them when announcing his support of the move.
McChyrstal is also very likely to request additional troops from his commander-in-chief within a few weeks as well. He laid the political groundwork for this further escalation with his recent review of Afghan operations. That review was given to Obama last week. When Obama receives the request for additional troops, it is very likely he will grant it. He has already sent thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan.
Just as in Vietnam, the rhetoric may claim the U.S. goal is winning hearts and minds, but the reality is that the U.S. war of terror is killing and terrorizing people from Iraq, to Afghanistan, to Pakistan. In Vietnam 2-3 million Vietnamese died. Already there have been a million Iraqi deaths as a result of the 2003 U.S. invasion. Thousands more have died in Afghanistan since the October 2001 invasion. When do we say enough? What will you do to stop the U.S. wars?