Charity demands justice for Afghan people

By agency reporter
February 15, 2011

The British government faces new pressure for the immediate withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan and a negotiated settlement which guarantees self-determination, security and human rights for the Afghan people. It comes amid mounting evidence that Afghans are paying a terrible price for the ongoing occupation of their country.

The pressure comes from the anti-poverty charity War on Want, Afghan and British political representatives, leaders of the largest British trade unions, as well as cultural figures in a letter published by the Guardian on 11 February

Signatories include John Hilary, the charity’s executive director, Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Britain’s largest union Unite, and his counterparts Dave Prentis (UNISON), Sally Hunt (University and College Union), Jeremy Dear (National Union of Journalists), Mark Serwotka (Public and Commercial Services union), Billy Hayes (Communication Workers’ Union), and Bob Crow (Rail Maritime and Transport union).

Among others signatories are Afghan politician Malalai Joya, British MPs Marsha Singh, Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas, Martin Caton, John McDonnell, Elfyn Llwyd and Paul Flynn, former cabinet minister Tony Benn, human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield QC, film director Ken Loach, hip-hop musician Lowkey, writer Michael Rosen and peace campaigner Bruce Kent.

The letter also points to opinion polls which consistently show over 70 per cent of British people now support the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan "immediately" or "soon".

War on Want's executive director John Hilary said: "US and British forces are engaged in a dirty war, using aerial bombing, drone attacks, torture prisons and corporate mercenaries against the Afghan people. Development aid is being abused in order to pursue military goals and to privatise the Afghan economy. The government must withdraw troops now and support a political solution under UN auspices, based on Afghans’ self-determination, security and human rights."

The letter marks the 60th anniversary of a Guardian letter, which led to the charity’s foundation: it referred to Britain fighting another war in Asia, in Korea. and called for a negotiated settlement to end the conflict. The 1951 letter, from the publisher Victor Gollancz, asked readers who agreed to send him a postcard with the single word "yes". Within a month, 10,000 people had responded and War on Want was born. The letter this morning coincides with the charity launching a report The Great Game: The reality of Britain’s war in Afghanistan.

The report accuses Britain of engaging in a dirty war, using drones - unmanned aerial vehicles, equipped with 500lb laser-guided bombs, and Hellfire missiles - and direct involvement in the US’s illegal detention and torture programme. It reveals Afghanistan has become one of the most militarised countries on earth. Recent years have seen UK suppliers export arms worth £32.5 million to Afghanistan. Alongside the US and British military in Afghanistan is a 'shadow army' of private military and security companies. In the three years 2007-09, the UK government spent £62.8 million on such firms.

War on Want says Afghanistan has borne the brunt of decades of foreign intervention and conflict, and as a result, is one of the world’s poorest countries, with life expectancy at 44.6 years. The report claims that much of US and British aid to Afghanistan has been "militarised", serving military and security interests rather than the interests of the Afghan people.

Besides pressing for immediate withdrawal of British trooops from Afghanistan and a negotiated settlement which guarantees self-determination, security and human rights for the Afghan people, War on Want demands that the UK government:

- Ceases aerial bombing and the use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Stops all British involvement in the illegal US detention and torture programme, guaranteeing detainees in Afghanistan access to lawyers and full human rights.
- Introduces legally binding regulation for private military and security companies, banning their use in combat situations.
-Ends privatisation in Afghanistan in favour of an economic policy dedicated to the welfare of Afghans.

Read the report The Great Game here


Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.