The current war in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of thousands of civilians and injured many more.
Australia’s military involvement
Australia joined the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, following the September 11 attacks on the United States. Australia withdrew its forces in 2002 and re-deployed in 2005. Currently, about 1,500 Australian soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan.
11 Australian military personnel have died in Afghanistan. There have been a total of 1672 coalition military deaiths from Operation Enduring Freedom, according to icasualties website (to 1 March 2010). (Note that this website gives a slightly lower total figure for deaiths in and around Afghanistan)
Australia has spent $3.6 billion or more, in Afghanistan, and has budgeted $1.2 billion to spend in 2009-2010. The cost of a new school in Afghanistan would be $US128,000.
PM Kevin Rudd’s approach is that the “war on terror” remains a priority of Australia’s approach to security.
In April 2009, MAPW wrote to the PM at a time when the government was reconsidering its stance in Afghanistan, recommending that Australian troops be withdrawn.
The impacts of the war for Afghans
Estimates of the number of direct civilian deaiths vary greatly, but the figure is likely to be over 20,000 (I). The New York Times reported civilian deaiths were rising by 40% compared to the previous year (Feb 2009).
Recent wars in Afganistan have forced millions of Afghanis to leave their homes, with over 3.7 million displaced over the past two decades, including 1.5 million in Iran, 2 million in Pakistan and 235,000 within Afghanistan.
Recent studies show local people to be increasingly sceptical regarding the outcome of the military intervention. Increasing numbers believe that security is deteriorating. Most Afghanis think that warlords have retained or increased the amount of weapons in their possession. This lack of faith is seen as due to insurgent activity, corruption within the security forces, the misuse of power by local warlords and the negative influence of neighbouring states (Care International, March 2009).
Wars in Afghanistan, including the current one, have also caused major environmental destruction. A decline in safe drinking water has been reported as resulting from destruction of water infrastructure, bacterial contamination and water theft. Much of the major forests which once covered Afghanistan have been destroyed by warfare - through Taliban members illegally trading timber in Pakistan, by US bombings, and by refugees’ need for firewood. Today, less than 2 per cent of the country is forested (Agence France Presse, June 2008)
(see full list below):
- Australian Forces Abroad - Afghanistan: The Nautilus Institute documents Australia's military involvement in Afghanistan
- Rethink Afghanistan: An excellent up-to-date documentary from US director Robert Greenwald, available to view online (updated late 2009).
(I) P Dorling. “War Without an End”. The Canberra Times. 28 February, 2009.