Can We Spare Civilians Please?

20 فروری 2010
Afghanistan appears to have entered a new and decisive phase of conflict. The US-led coalition has launched what it claims to be the biggest offensive against the Taleban since the 2001 invasion.Unfortunately though, the more things change in the war-plagued country, the more they seem to remain the same.As both the coalition and Taleban get increasingly desperate to hold on to their existing territory and expand their control, innocent civilians are once again caught in the crossfire.
Ironically, this phase of the war was supposed to have been part of the coalition’s strategy to pave the way for peace by forcing Taleban into ceasefire and some kind of reconciliation. This offensive was launched soon after the Taleban rejected the peace overtures by President Hamid Karzai and his Western allies. At the recent international conference on Afghanistan in London, President Karzai went out of his way to woo the “Taleban brothers” urging them to give up the way of the gun and join national mainstream.
In doing so, goes without saying, Karzai had the blessings of the US and its Nato allies and the rest of the international community. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton backed the call saying Washington had no qualms if the Taleban gave up the company of Al Qaeda and a certain shaikh who heads it. This is why it is really unfortunate that this whole exercise to ostensibly end the conflict and help Afghanistan back to its feet should be messed up in this fashion.
By targeting innocent civilians — involuntarily or not — the coalition will not end but prolong this war. Whatever the explanation, the coalition cannot, just cannot, afford to involve and victimise civilian population in this conflict. Enough innocent blood has been spilt on this land. The more innocents the coalition of the willing kills, the more it will strengthen the cause of groups like Al Qaeda.
At the beginning of Operation Moshtarak, being conducted jointly by the coalition and Afghan forces, Karzai had forcefully warned against civilian casualties. That warning was crucial considering the high civilian casualties that the coalition forces have contributed to over the years. More innocent people have died in the US and Nato bombing than Taleban fighters or Al Qaeda extrimists.If the US and its allies are keen to leave Afghanistan by turning it over to the Afghans any time soon and do not want to provide more willing recruits to terror groups, they must avoid civilian deaths at all costs. There’s no other way for peace in Afghanistan.