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Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Land mines threaten ‘4 million Afghans’

January 19, 2010 Leave a comment

A pile of land mines

“Since 1979 an estimated 640,000 mines have been laid,” according to a video clip by the UK’s Guardian showing a de-mining program in rural Afghanistan.  The country is one of the most mined in the world, with farms, orchards, water sources, towns, and cities covered by this dangerous and indiscriminate killer. The mining of the country has been persistent since the the 1979 Soviet invasion of the country, running through the civil war and the current war. Resources for de-mining resources are hard to come by in the already strained country, and, since mines are hidden, it is never clear to locals what patch of earth may be deadly often until they suffer the serious consequences of an explosion. The capital city of Kabul has been no exception, mines are found even there.  Doctors Without Borders explains this: “The capital, Kabul, was mined heavily by mujaheddin commanders after the Soviet withdrawal. Between 1992 – 95, Kabul became the focus for severe fighting between rival mujaheddin factions battling over control of the city. Large parts of the city – particularly western Kabul – were mined as a result of house-to-house fighting.”

Most of the landmines in Afghanistan were emplaced during the Soviet occupation and the subsequent communist regime between 1980 and 1992. Landmines were also used in the internal fighting among various armed groups after 1992, particularly in Kabul city and its outskirts. The Taliban claimed to have stopped use in 1998, though some allegations persisted. The Northern Alliance admitted to use in 1999 and 2000, but said it stopped in 2001, despite evidence to the contrary.” (Landmine Monitor Report 2001, pp. 497-500)

The use of cluster bombs has exasperated the problem, with unexploded munitions adding another layer of danger. “One particularly deadly unexploded munition was the BLU-97 bomblet, which was dispensed from the U.S. CBU-87 and CBU-103 cluster bombs.

According to Doctors Without Borders, “Minefields have been laid by both Soviet and Afghan forces, and mines have been used in all phases of the Afghan conflict: in vast quantities during the Soviet occupation, during the power struggle between mujaheddin commanders after the Soviet withdrawal, and now during fighting between Taliban forces and other Afghan commanders.”

158 countries have signed on to a Mine Ban Treaty. Russia, US, China, and India have refused to sign the treaty. “Landmines are known to have caused 5197 casualties last year, a third of them children, according to the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which links some 1000 activist groups.” (The Daily Telegraph)

“The United States has not used antipersonnel mines since 1991, has not exported them since 1992, has not produced them since 1997, and has no plans for future procurement,” according to Human Rights Watch. Despite this they have refused to sign on to the treaty, sometimes mentioning that doing so would undermine their efforts in the  DMZ line between North and South Korea, an area that is heavily mined.  Every other NATO member has endorsed the treaty.

A representative of the permanent mission of Afghanistan to the UN made the following statement on October 30, 2009:

Since 1979, it has been estimated that over 640,000 mines have been laid in Afghanistan; and that as recently as 2008, 4,924 hazardous mine areas remained in the country. These areas comprise an estimated 720 kilometers of land, threatening over 2,220 communities and 4 million Afghans. Further, 75% of these impacted communities are found in 12 of the country’s 34 provinces. Many Afghan farmers have also lost their farms and so their livelihoods, as 75.6% of this mine territory is used for agriculture. Afghanistan remains one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world, and there are still over 700 kilometers of land contaminated by an estimated 56 different types of land mines.

Afghanistan continues to experience daily reminders of the mines’ lethality: from January to July 2008, in a mere six months, 1445 victims of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) were reported, and 50% of these were children. 2.7% of Afghanistan’s population has been labeled as “severely disabled” and 9% of these disabilities have been attributed to landmines.

Known Landmine Problem in Afghanistan (as of December 2001) [MAPA Monthly Progress Report, December 2001]

Area (sq meters)
Agriculture
Residential
Irrigation
Road
Grazing
Total Area
(Square meters)
Total mined area cleared
(All high priority)
98,022,000
29,185,000
8,414,000
29,820,000
74,175,000
239,618,000
High priority area remaining to be cleared
162,618,000
16,058,000
3,090,000
34,538,000
143,699,000
360,011,000
Low priority area remaining to be cleared
26,029,000
126,000
582,000
7,135,000
343,416,000
377,288,000
Total mined area remaining to be cleared
188,647,000
16,184,000
3,672,000
41,673,000
487,115,000
737,299,000
Categories: Politics Tags: , , ,

Zbigniew Brzezinski: US or Israeli war on Iran ‘would be a disaster’ and Eurasia’s importance for global power

January 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Zbigniew Brzezinski has been influential in US foreign policy since his role as US president Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor. He continues to maintain formal and informal influence to this day. He is also well known as the Author of the book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives, in which he famously stated that “America’s global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effectively its preponderance on the Eurasian continent is sustained.” In the videos included in this post, he speaks regarding the geostrategic importance of Eurasia in (US) global dominance.

Excerpts from the above video:

“If the conflict spreads, we’re going to be alone… The Russians aren’t going to be with us, the Europeans aren’t going to be with us…”

“The Chinese are getting more involved in the Iranian economy because they need energy.”

“Don’t trifle with the silly notion ‘we’ll just bomb them and the problem is solved.’ It’s a false analogy.

The Real News interview with Brzezinski also includes the following on the war in Afghanistan. Highly recommended viewing.

The dead rising: Afghanistan

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Afghans are dying in record numbers. The number of dead civilians has increased in 2009 over the previous year. According to a UN report, at least 5,978 were injured or killed in 2009. Afghans have endured some three decades of warfare, and millions of them live a difficult existence as refugees in Pakistan and Iran. This is a terrible toll on a country that has an estimated population of 28.4 million (2009, CIA Factbook). It is no surprise that under such hardship and faced with such ongoing tragedy, people would demand better and would seek a minimum of peace by decrying the current situation and system that has enabled, maintained, and deepened such atrocity, by blaming all sides involved, the Taliban, the government, and foreign occupation forces. The issue comes to a boil when it seems that no one is taking very serious and immediate steps to eliminate deaths caused by their actions, and that the killing of civilians would constantly remain the subject of ‘investigation’ rather than a concerted effort to halt one’s own party from being a cause of casualties. This issue has persisted now since the 2001 invasion of the country, and it appears that the discourse on the subject is one of investigation (tied to the very act of denial of one’s own responsibility), followed by (when caught literally red-handed by video evidence or accounts of casualties) promises of reductions in the number killed. That anyone can speak of reductions over a very serious attempt to bring the number down to nothing seems to me evidence of detachment from those suffering from violence, as if some cold calculus has been conducted that judges a certain number of children and adult dead in pursuit of a political-military goal as arbitrarily acceptable: this of course defined by those who hold the guns.  The people, then, must indeed be glad that their superiors in power can make such efficient decisions and are technically-minded enough to be able to act upon them. If the people cannot realize or appreciate this, well, then that must be evidence simply of the correctness of their not being in charge — what a privilege indeed to have the aid, and rule, of men with guns.

Civilian casualties of war (deaths only)

Month

2007

2008

2009

January

50

56

141

February

45

168

149

March

104

122

129

April

85

136

128

May

147

164

271

June

253

172

236

July

218

323

198

August

138

341

33

September

155

162

336

October

80

194

162

November

160

176

165

December

88

104

164

TOTAL

1523

2118

2412

Source: UNAMA

Excerpt from IRNA:

At least 5,978 civilians were killed or injured in 2009, UNAMA said in a report entitled Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict 2009. “UNAMA Human Rights [unit] recorded a total of 2,412 civilian deaths between 1 January and 31 December 2009. This figure represents an increase of 14 percent on the 2,118 civilian deaths recorded in 2008,” said the report released on 13 January 2010.

…UNAMA blamed Taliban insurgents for 1,630 civilian deaths (67 percent of the total recorded deaths) in 2009.

…Civilian casualties resulting from military operations by pro-government Afghan and foreign forces dropped by 28 percent in 2009 compared to 2008, according to UNAMA. In total 596 civilian deaths (25 percent of total) were attributed to Afghan and foreign forces.

Over 180 deaths could not be attributed to any of the conflicting parties and resulted from cross-fire or unexploded ordnance.

Civilian casualties of war (deaths only)

Month

2007

2008

2009

January

50

56

141

February

45

168

149

March

104

122

129

April

85

136

128

May

147

164

271

June

253

172

236

July

218

323

198

August

138

341

33

September

155

162

336

October

80

194

162

November

160

176

165

December

88

104

164

TOTAL

1523

2118

2412

Source: UNAMA

Categories: Politics Tags: , ,