LACK OF LOCAL KNOWLEDGE AND RESPECT
The US soldiers that were part of the “Operation Enduring Freedom” entered Afghanistan as victors and as a good force that is bound to fight the evil forces of Taliban/Al Qaeda and liberate the oppressed Afghan people. Ten years on, an overwhelming majority of Afghans want the US forces out of their country with many of them consider the occupation forces as ‘terrorists’.
According to retired General Stanley McChrystal, the US began the war with a “frighteningly simplistic” view of Afghanistan and even now, after the lapse of 10 atrocious years, the military lacks sufficient local knowledge to bring the conflict to an end.
“We didn’t know enough and we still don’t know enough. Most of us, me included, had a very superficial understanding of the situation and history, and we had a frighteningly simplistic view of recent history, the last 50 years,” he told the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent think-tank based in New York.
“The United States of America is a friend to the Afghan people, and we are the friends of almost a billion worldwide who practice the Islamic faith.”
“The oppressed people of Afghanistan will know the generosity of America and our allies. As we strike military targets, we’ll also drop food, medicine and supplies to the starving and suffering men and women and children of Afghanistan.”
Former US President George W Bush speech to the nation on 7 October, 2001
Trigger-happy behaviour is widespread among the US occupation forces and are known for their “shoot first, ask questions later” approach. Many Afghans, especially the rural folk, are shot on mere suspicion. In many cases, the suspect would be either going to or coming from work or tending his fields.
The most serious of all the violations of the US military is their complete disregard for the dignity and privacy of the Afghan people. The behavior of the US occupation forces is reminiscent of the European colonialists of the “New World” era who invaded and occupied the lands of Native Americans, destroyed their settlements, killed their men and captured their women, children and cattle.
Human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have recorded and reported numerous incidents of theft and sexual misconduct committed by US troops in Afghan villages. American Soldiers entered homes without any prior notice and invaded the privacy and dignity of poor Afghans. Most incidents take place during night time when the villagers are asleep. The raiding parties blow up the entrances to peoples’ houses with explosives. After barging into the house, men and boys are dragged from their bed in full view of their children and wives, while women are made to stand in the open often without their headscarves, an act considered as utter humiliation in the Afghan society.
It is also part of the routine to carry sniffer dogs during raids on villages. The dogs, along with their handlers, ransack homes and sniff everything out. Copies of Holy Quran, a matter of pride and respect for Afghans, are manhandled by the US troops who often throw it on the ground or let the dogs come in contact with it. For deeply religious Afghan people, the sanctity of Quran and other Islamic symbols is more valuable than their own lives and are willing to sacrifice it in the event of any violation.
Among several other failures to understand the culture and traditions of their subjects, the complete lack of Afghan culture is the most unforgiving mistake committed by the American occupation forces.
The blatant disregard and complete ignorance of the fact that Afghanistan comprises of a tribal structure and the tribes are united in matters of self-defense. When a member of a tribe or sub-tribe is killed, the killer is not only the enemy of the family whose member has been killed, but also the enemy of the entire tribe.
While heavily relying on superior firepower and out of sheer arrogance, the US occupation forces turned tribes, sub-tribes and villages against them by slaughtering thousands of innocent people and suspected insurgents. Instead of apologising and making amends, American troops also killed, injured or abused tribal elders who sought explanation from the occupation authorities. In many cases, entire villages were flattened by aerial bombardment.
The US occupation forces operating in Pashtun-dominated areas of southeastern and southern Afghanistan flagrantly disrespected the main tenet of the Pashtun people – Pashtunwali, the Pashtun code of honour and justice. Under this tenet, a Pashtun father, brother, son and tribesmen have to avenge the death of their relative killed unlawfully. So deep is the attachment to this code that descendants inherit revenge from their family members and are urged to never forget or forgive the murderers.