Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Globe and Mail: The Bonn Conference and Afghanistan a Decade on.

An article in the Globe and Mail puts the War in Afghanistan in perspective by comparing the triumphalist Bonn Conference of 2001 and that of December 2011. The staggering cost and futility of this war are self evident. Yet still the public has never been told the truth about the war and why it has been deemed "worth it".

What was said about international aid and military cost?

Then: The initial international aid estimate was put at $10 billion over 10 years.

For the United States, the actual military cost at the time of the first Bonn meeting was over $30 million a day, or more than a billion dollars a month.

The Bonn agreement requested the United Nations to authorize the creation of an international protection force for Afghanistan. The first International Security Assistance Force in 2002 numbered 5,000 soldiers from around the world.

Now: Total international aid between 2002 and 2010: $29 billion

Total U.S. military spending: $443 billion spent since 2001, $118 billion in 2011 alone, and another half a trillion over the next decade where America will continue to have a presence in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Total U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan: 1,829

Total Canadian military spending: By the end of 2011, estimated cost of total Canadian mission in Afghanistan is expected to be up to $18 billion.

Total Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan: 158

Total Afghan civilian casualties: “The rising tide of violence and bloodshed in the first half of 2011 brought injury and death to Afghan civilians at levels without recorded precedent in the current armed conflict,” said the UN's mid-year report on civilian deaths, which numbered 1,462 from January to June 2011.

What was said about the Taliban?

Then: “Generally the Taliban movement or that regime has completely gone away from Afghanistan. The main terrorist bases associated with them have been removed,” Mr. Karzai said after his first meeting of the country’s new government in December 2001.

“There may be individuals hiding in parts of Afghanistan. We are looking for them. In recent days some have been arrested and we are looking for more.

“We will see to it that terrorism is completely finished in Afghanistan in all its forms.”

As US troops fought in Afghanistan, the Bush administration rejected any negotiated settlement with senior Taliban leaders.

Now: President Karzai said at the Bonn conference that he remained open to talks with the Taliban. His peace envoy, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated in September. The killing blamed on the Taliban.

“The political process will continue to be inclusive, open to Taliban and other militants who denounce violence, break ties with international terrorism, accept the Afghan constitution and defend peaceful life,” Mr. Karzai said in Bonn.

Countries like Germany are also pushing for negotiations and a political solution that includes the Taliban: “Reconciliation does not happen among friends but rather between erstwhile opponents. That is what we need to work on,” Germany’s foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said in the lead-up to the Bonn conference.

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