Nine and a half have passed since the US and allies invaded Afghanistan. American and European soldiers (among whom the most affected are the British) sacrificed their lives for political games, international interests and local corruption, as well as strategic failure. While an unstoppable abacus precisely tracks each soldier’s death, little is really known about the civilian fatalities, which suggests a silent confession that, in this war, human blood weighs differently between the civilizer and the (un)civilizable Afghan.The war in Afghanistan started with two main public goals: the most important to the injured and humiliated US was the capture of Enemy Number One: Osama bin-Laden. The second aim was to free women from the barbaric oppression of the Taliban’s ‘Middle Age’ and their burqu. Neither of them have been accomplished. In reality, the mineral rich Afghan soil was most likely the real reason to spill blood. This was set to be an easy war against a third world religious army that turned into a mess, and for those who know history – unsurprisingly so.
Of all involved in this disastrous, and endless, war, there is one indisputably innocent party: the children; the future generations of this tormented country. Yet reading report after report and discussing the situation with distant informants, as an anthropologist, I wonder whether Afghanistan will have a future without generations. Life in Afghanistan has not really improved. However, for Afghan children (other than some success with vaccinations and modest progress with education in Kabul), life has possibly, according to my informants, become worse. What I was told can sadly be confirmed by some, although sparse, reports and articles.
The US and European nations involved in the war love to remind us about how after the invasion Afghan children have more access to education. Nice pictures of girls and boys happily studying in simple classrooms have warmed the hearts of many who still believe that this blood thirsty war is useful to our security and their happiness. Although, little do these samaritans of the war know, an increasing number of children are forced, from a very young age, to work in awful conditions and even risk their lives to offer their services to the Taliban forces – or less known and publicized, to the coalition forces, who pay them to reveal the location of the IED that the children had left for the Taliban only days before.
The educational effort so cheerfully advertised for this war generation– who are increasingly killed, horribly injured, mutilated by the bombs, violated both physically and sexually, and psychologically damaged as few other children have been in a war zone — increasingly reminds me of the famous ‘Qu’ils mangent de la brioche’ supposedly said by Marie Antoinette. These children, before books, need the right to life, to have an uninjured and unviolated body, and the security of a family, instead of visiting the grave of relatives.
I would love to ask the politicians who suggest that this war is fought for our ‘western’ security–often based on the insecurity of the non-western others–what we might expect, in ten or fifteen years from now, from a generation which not only has faced 600 children under the age of 5 dying every day, and has suffered the level of trauma described above, but also is increasingly addicted from early childhood to opium? Never before has opium and drugs flourished at such level in Afghanistan, since the Taliban succeed in fighting the cultivation.
Do we really think that those children who survive and reach adulthood will be thankful to the western countries? Do we really think that Afghanistan will not become the greatest reserve of desperate people without a real future? And where there is no future, you need hope; hope that, as we know, radical interpretations of religion can easily offer. Our attempt to achieve security through bombs and useless killing today will be the reason for our continued insecurity tomorrow.