Read Part I: The debt Australia owes the people of Afghanistan
RASHAD SEEDEEN: Following the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban were completely routed from government and what remained of the Taliban fled to sanctuaries far away from city strongholds or across the border to Pakistan.
Much has been said over the United States supporting limited reforms that have created a number of freedoms and opportunities for Afghan civilians, most notably women. Yet these praises systematically ignore how the U.S. Government funded and armed militias who committed varied human rights violations including rape, torture and extrajudicial killings of civilians.
The continued occupation of Afghanistan following the collapse of the Taliban Government saw Australian, U.S. and NATO forces working with and funding Afghan warlords and militias to carry out attacks on villages, notably in the Pashtun region. This triggered the resurgence of the Taliban with the new rank and file members coming from people disenfranchised and victimised from the war. One incident included the mass killing of 2,000 Taliban prisoners who had surrendered to a militia close to Kunduz.
Analysts have noted that the Taliban have largely been funded and supported by the Pakistan military in the last two decades. But many fail to consider that the effects of the war itself have been a key factor in recruiting fighters for the Taliban cause and building a wider support base across Afghanistan.
Australia is not exempt from committing war crimes in Afghanistan.
The Brereton Report was unequivocal in outlining a well-defined subculture within Australian Special Forces soldiers that systematically carried out indiscriminate violence, including the murder of innocent Afghan civilians. Such violence included torture and mass killing of unarmed civilians or “squirters” as the SAS called them.
“[An SAS regiment approached] two 14-year-old boys whom they decided might be Taliban sympathisers. They stopped, searched the boys and slit their throats. The rest of the Troop then had to ‘clean up the mess’, which involved bagging the bodies and throwing them into a nearby river.”
Other incidents include men and boys tortured by special forces, sometimes for days, and another where soldiers opened fire upon fleeing civilian men, women and children falsely legitimated as a “sanctioned massacre” where weapons were planted next to dead bodies.
It is unsurprising that Afghanistan armed forces and government officials openly complained over the increased cases of Australian soldiers killing civilians.
After two decades, Afghanistan has been ravaged by war on a social, political, economic and even geographical level. Australia played a key part in the complete rupture of this country.
Many activists, politicians and NGOs have declared that Australia has a moral obligation to act. Such arguments are unintelligible to a government characterised by corruption, racism and a blatant disregard for women’s rights.
A more accurate framing would be that successive Australian governments have an immeasurable debt to the Afghan people that should be honoured. At the very least, the Government should welcome 20,000 additional Afghan refugees that prioritise at-risk women, children, reformers and minority groups like the Shia Hazara people.
Furthermore, current Afghan refugees in offshore detention and temporary visa holders should be granted a pathway to permanent residency and future citizenship status as they clearly cannot return to their home country.
The Australian Government should also make every effort to lobby, fund and provide personnel in a future joint U.N. mission to Afghanistan focused on defending human rights, providing safe passage for asylum seekers and protecting at-risk groups including women, members of the LGBTIQ community and ethnic minorities like the Hazara people.
Australian civil society will have to keep pressure on the Federal Government to act as they are clearly hoping to tread water until the public’s attention moves on to the next crisis.
This piece was originally published in Independent Australia on August 24, 2021: https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/the-debt-australia-owes-the-people-of-afghanistan,15436