How to build a democratic regime in Afghanistan. Interview with Pablo Muñoz.

The current Lieutenant Colonel of the Army of Spain, Pablo Muñoz Bermudo, shared his experience about the Spanish mission to Afghanistan, enrolled in the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force of NATO), where he was Chief of the Army Helicopter Unit.

Source: MINISDEF

Source: MINISDEF

Firstly Pablo explained his job, that consisted on supporting helicopters both Afghan Security Forces (ANSF) as other allied units belonging to the ISAF. ISAF’s mission was to provide the  necessary security for the new democratic government of Afghanistan to carry out its tasks, support the reconstruction of a country devastated by war and instruct the Armed Forces and Police Afghan in modern procedures and effective counterinsurgency. Mr. Muñoz noted how difficult the mission was: “The day was hard work because we had to plan and carry out numerous flight missions. The routine does not exist, nor on Saturdays and Sundays. Rotations were six months in which we worked every day as if they were Mondays.”

Getting deeper, Lieutenant Colonel Muñoz gave a small description, the base of operations was at the airport of the city of Herat, located in the northwest of Afghanistan. It was a very dry and dusty region, almost desert, with extreme temperatures in both summer and winter. When he was there, in summer, it was usual to reach 45 or even 50°C. Then Pablo added “The people of Herat are peaceful, as the city is eminently commercial centuries not forget that it is located in the ancient Silk Road. However, there are big differences with Western culture. Many women wear the burqa and never go out alone from their homes unless accompanied by a man. All Afghans working at the base were men. My impression is that the vast majority of people are tired of so much war and destruction and they want to live in peace and try to progress. So they were aware that our presence there was beneficial, because it kept at bay insurgents and their indiscriminate attacks.”

Spanish intervention in Afghanistan has been polemic and critized. Pablo’s perspective regarding this issue is answered with a short and clear background telling that the origin of the deployment in Afghanistan was directly related to the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, in which nearly 3,000 civilians died. Back then the Taliban regime ruled in Afghanistan, which came to power in 1996, following the withdrawal of former Soviet Union. This regime protected Bin Laden, mastermind of the attack, and refused to surrender for it to be judged in the US. The refusal of the Taliban regime, coupled with the barbarism that prevailed in the country, led the United Nations to authorize military intervention ISAF to overthrow the government and restore democracy. United Nations asked NATO ISAF mission to lead, because it was the only organization capable of leading a multinational force in a real war environment. All NATO countries, including Spain, joined the coalition. But many others who did not belong to NATO also participated. In total, the 28 NATO countries and 23 other foreign countries deployed in the field.

“Since the deployment began in 2001 until the disappearance of ISAF in late 2014, the preparation of the Afghan security forces improved dramatically.” With these words Pablo did not hesitate to evaluate positively the intervention. He also said that in the early years, all military operations were carried out by coalition forces. Gradually, the participation of Afghan was becoming more and more important, to the point that, in recent years, rushed autonomously with little support from the multinational coalition. The reality is that Afghans have worked hard to become a solvent and able to ensure security on their own strength. That was an achievement of the multinational coalition. As for the Spanish participation, it is clear that nations must live up to what is expected of them. It is a matter of international solidarity. Spain belongs to the most exclusive clubs in the world, and that gives us enormous commercial and political advantages, but also requires us to rise to the occasion when we are asked to cooperate with our partners and allies.

Comparing the Afghan situation with the taliban with the currently one in Syria and Iran with the Islamic State, Mr. Muñoz gives us his skeptical point of view “We will have to see how the situation evolves, but always hoping that the defense mechanisms we have in western nations will be sufficient to maintain our freedom and way of life.” And he also valued how similar both operations are saying that the current operation arises from the letter sent by the Iraqi government to the United Nations in mid 2014. The United Nations issued a resolution authorizing the use of force in support of the Iraqi government to eradicate the so-called Islamic State. Today there are over sixty countries integrating the coalition. The big difference from Afghanistan, deployed forces is limited, for the moment, to improve the readiness of Iraqi armed forces, and not used in autonomous military operations to end the IS.

Finally when Pablo was asked about his personal opinion and his time spent in Afghanistan he concluded “If my stay there has served to improve the future of the Afghan people, of course I well spent long years of my life I spent in that distant country. In the Army we are prepared to go where we ordered our government, in defending the interests of Spain and its citizens.”

Santiago Tabuenca. Middle East and Maghreb

Unmanned, Unethical, Unconcerned.

People in the Middle East are living under drones since October 2001, when U.S. deployed the first ones in Afghanistan. A recent report of Amnesty International have brought to light this topic, condemning situations of civilian killed by drones. How could a government explain an act like this?

MQ-9_Reaper_in_flight_(2007)

Drones are aircrafts without a human pilot inside but controlled by computers. The government of the U.S. kept the drones program in secret until less than a year and after that its use has been increased.

The U.S. is defending as this is a situation of war, but even in the condition of war, governments and countries should have ethical and moral concerns. They should not attack innocent people. While war is a bad situation in itself already, a government shouldn’t use unbalanced force against weaker countries just because it’s economically profitable.

Not only US is increasing the number of drones, but also another countries like Israel are developing it. The question is if US will still defend drones when North Corea, for example, deploy them -if they aren’t doing it already-. And what does the population think about it?

Most experts in international relationships and journalists -specially in Europe-condemn this situation; but in the U.S. some voices say that this program continues and justifies the methods used by George W. Bush against terrorism. It seems that everything is all right when it is about “national security”. And the most population doesn’t know even what a drone is, so there is a part of the Occidental world that is completely unconcerned.

“Killing a civilian who is not directly involved in hostile action is an arbitrary deprivation of life.”Amnesty International’s report “Will I be next?”

An independent study from New American Foundation has revealed, that, during Obama’s administration, between 1507 and 2438 people has died, of which between 148 and 309 were civilians. And apart from the property damage, people in Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan is living day-by-day looking at the skies and wondering if the person who has next to them could be a target.

Is it really ethical for a government which has the economical power of destroying and damaging to use all their sources and supplies to damage a weaker country? As we all know, war is always between governments not between citizens although they’re the main affected. It’s impossible to conceive that in some part of the planet, right know, a civilian family can be terrified, hearing the sound of a drone above their heads. Even during war, Humanity should have morality issues.

Military Intervention: Acceptable or not?

The death of Lee Rigby a week ago brought attention to a highly controversial area of international relations, namely: the legitimacy of outside intervention in a country’s internal affairs. Officially, the International Community does not support intervention, unless there are some international interests. This leads to highly controversial decisions taken by some governments.

 

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Courtesy of The Daily Mirror

 

When referring to the international community, the United Nations stands as the beacon of international cooperation. The UN Charter acts as a set of rules for state behavior when engaging other states. However, when it comes to armed intervention, it fails to specifically enunciate an exact principle of non-intervention. It only implies a principle through its Article 2(1) which brings forth the “principle of sovereign equality of all the Member states”. It then goes on to say about peaceful settlement of international disputes in Article 2(3). Article 2(4) stresses out the importance of not using force “against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state or in any manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the U.N.”. Finally Article 2(7) draws boundaries for UN intervention altogether. If we take into account the politics involved in high level negotiations related to the international community, then the controversial nature of these principles is perfectly justified because of the interests of the dominating powers. The UN Security Council has been criticized for a long time for its non-democratic nature.

 

 

One of the murderers, in a short statement, said: “I apologize that women had to witness this today but in our lands, our women have to see the same”. His statement can be easily interpreted in many ways but at first sight, it would seem that he believes that the situation in his country is a justification for his actions in London. This points out the “one sided” nature of Foreign Intervention because developed states have not experienced in their modern histories such events yet they have been involved. Becoming the noble armed actors that fight for the good of the innocents has only created a strong feeling of resentment towards them. They use their military force to impose and dictate standards of living of an alien nature to the populations involved. The armed interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the situation with Syria are proof of how the politics of the “Carrot and Stick” are applied on an international level. However, what governments don’t seem to understand is that sticks generate negative feelings which, directed back at you, can have serious repercussions.

 

The stabbing in France and the decapitation in London which both happened this past week can be considered the result of a long chain of events that culminated in a feeling of general injustice among the people that the International Community was supposed to help. 9/11 seemed to be the first event to show the resentment of populations in poor or developing states towards the rich and powerful. As such, the Interventionist policies have been revised and the question of: “whether or not an intervention is worth the costs” has been gaining more and more popularity among the academics, analysts and politicians. A good example is the conflict in Mali where it was speculated that intervention could worsen the situation. As such, if an intervention increases resentment against a country, should that country proceed to use force or should it struggle to find a diplomatic approach?

To leave or not to leave Afghanistan – that is the question

Last weekend the Taliban stroke again when Australia announced, together with other countries, that they are starting to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan. This Tuesday, just a few days after the attacks in Kabul, Reuters reported that 170 Afghan schoolgirls were poisoned by the Taliban. Is it really the right time to withdraw the foreign troops in Afghanistan?

First we had Iraq, now Afghanistan. Military forces established in Afghanistan to restore peace and protect the civilians from the Taliban terrorist group have been sent from countries around the world, from Australia to Sweden. National debates have been held periodically, discussing the actual utility the foreign military troops have in Afghanistan. Is the present of the forces causing the troops themselves more damage than it does good to the Afghan people?

In an article from Nick Kristoff in the New York Times last week he discussed the fact that the suicidal rate of young war veterans is higher than the actual number of soldiers killed in combat. The after-care of those returning from areas like Iraq and Afghanistan seems much more costly, money-wise as well as emotionally, than the actual good the troops do in the conflict areas. Is it really up to the outside world to protect people from each other within a sovereign state? Did the Kosovo Albanians receive any support from the outside world when the Serbs attacked in the 90’s? Or the Tutsis when slaughtered by the Hutus? Why would USA, Denmark, Australia, Sweden and Spain etc. care about helping the Afghan population against the Taliban rebels today?

The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai seems to agree with the Chairman of Afghanistan High Peace Council, Salahuddin Rabbani when he earlier this week stated that the Afghan peace process has to be led by the nation itself. Even the general public opinion of Afghanistan is pro withdraw of the foreign forces which makes the execution of this pullout in 2014 nothing but fair to all parts involved.

However, after the recent Taliban rebels stroke last weekend and due to the 170 poisoned schoolgirls the worldwide public opinion exploded in the social media. Tweets pitying the Afghan civilians while questioning the withdrawing of foreign troops were sent from the U.K to Iran. Will Afghanistan manage to fight the rebels by themselves fast enough, before more children get hurt, women being raped and houses burned to the ground? And the social media does have a great impact on the government and the soldiers. Public arguments like these could make national defence department change their minds, for populist reasons, and decide to keep the foreign troops in Afghanistan after 2014. In owe to keep women and children of Afghanistan safe our young soldiers would take the bullets and the question of if a child’s life is more valuable than a soldier’s arise. Of course these crimes towards civilians are horrible and in a perfect world should never be accepted but this isn’t really a burden to put upon the 800 Swedish soldiers from the Nordic Battle Group for example, or on the American troops that already suffered enough by sending their young boys into misery in Iraq for that matter. This is for the Afghan people to solve, as they argue themselves. And if they can’t, then this matter should be handled by UN military forces that are specialized in these kind of complex conflicts. It’s of no concern of countries all over the world to play the Good Samaritan hence of pity sending young men directly from the basic military service out to open war. The result will foremost affect the countries of which the soldiers come from when parents, friends and the national health care institutions become the ones responsible to patch up the physically and psychologically damaged young soldiers after they’ve returned home.

by Linn Andersson, Danira Milosevic, Angela Gutierrez Moreno and Jesus Alcantara Landa

Soldiers suffering from the Afghanistan war

There is a recent discussion in the Canadian country about soldiers suffering from their war experiences after their Afghanistan mission. The problem exists across the military communities. A non-published police document, which has been obtained by the CBC News shows a five-fold jump in domestic violence after Canada started to contribute in Afghanistan and troops experienced ongoing casualties.

Affected families are complaining about the missing aid from the army and feel abandoned by them. They stress on the opinion of psychologists which believe the rise in domestic violence is directly linked to physical and emotional trauma suffered by Afghanistan soldiers. A Warrant Officer interviewed by the CNN says: “Ever since I’ve come back, I feel like I’ve lost everything, employment, life as a whole”. PTSD is a common mental health problem among soldiers. American studies show a four-fold higher risk of violent among soldiers, but Canada does not trust American studies unless they have been proofed by themselves. There have been some programs to help affected families, but not sufficient as families reported earlier.

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Australia in prima linea per il futuro dell’Afghanistan

Julia Gillard, Primo Ministro Australiano, accingendosi a partecipare al summit della NATO riguardante la questione afghana, in una lettera alla nazione comunica l’intenzione di Canberra di restare in Afghanistan per lo meno fino al 2014.

‘L’Australia è con l’Afghanistan e resterà al suo fianco fino a quando la situazione politica nel paese non si sarà stabilizzata.’

Queste parole confermano appieno la convinzione e la fermezza di Julia Gillard nel continuare ad inviare truppe in terra afghana nella missione di pace condotta dalla NATO in quanto sente che è dovere dell’Australia portare la democrazia nel paese asiatico impedendogli di tornare ad essere il paradiso dorato del terrorismo e dell’integralismo islamico. Leer más de esta entrada