Pubdate: Thu, 29 Jun 2006
Source: Independent  (UK)
Copyright: 2006 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Authors: Kim Sengupta and Gustavo Montes
Cited: The Senlis Council


The UK mission in Afghanistan is in danger of failing because of
"misguided" support for American military and drug-eradication
policies, an international think-tank has claimed.

Instead of taking part in the reconstruction of the country shattered
by decades of war, British forces find themselves "at war" with a
resurgent Taliban and alienated from an increasingly hostile population.

The report came as Tony Blair led tributes in the Commons to the two
special forces soldiers killed in Helmand on Tuesday. He said: "They
were fighting the Taliban. They were brave and committed soldiers.
This country can be very proud of the work they were doing."

The study by the Senlis Council, a drug policy think-tank, predicts
that the violence in the south will escalate. The Taliban and their
allies have been exploiting the anger felt by farmers at the
destruction of opium crops and by civilians who have suffered in
US-led operations.

Lt-Gen David Richards, the British officer who is due to take over all
Nato operations in Afghanistan with US troops under his command,
warned the crop eradication programme was driving farmers into the
hands of the Taliban and the Western forces are creating new enemies.

Last week Hamid Karzai, the President, levelled unprecedented
criticism at the US-led coalition'stactics, deploring the deaths of
hundreds of his countrymen and women while the Taliban grows in
strength. About 600 people have been killedthis year.

UK and other Nato forces in Afghanistan are supposedly on a different
mission from the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom, which is engaging
in war-fighting operations against Taliban and al-Qa'ida fighters. The
Senlis Council says villagers cannot differentiate between foreign
troops. One researcher said that when she tried to explain the
difference at a village shura (council) in Helmand, one elder said:
"You cannot tell the difference between our tribes, so how can you
expect us to tell the difference between yours. As far as we are
concerned, they are all foreign soldiers who are Christians and they
are in our country."

The Taliban and their Islamist allies have forced more than 200
schools and colleges to close. The campaign is aimed, say
educationalists and human rights groups, to terrorise families into
keeping children uneducated, unemployable, and to become a recruiting
pool for the Islamists.

Jamilai Nassi, the headmistress of a girls' school in Lashkar Gar, the
capital of Helmand province, received letters warning her to shut down
the school. One read: "In this school they are teaching infidel books
to girls and we don't want these girls to become infidels...

"I don't want you or the students to die at this young age. This is
the last warning. If you are tired of life then come and your blood
will be on your hands." Armed men also visited Ms Nassi's home at
night. When an international organisation reported what was happening
to the British base at Lashkar Gar, an officer said that it was a
matter for the Afghan authorities.

The Senlis report stated "the unbalanced approach of the international
community, which has mainly been directed towards counter-narcotics
and counter-insurgency, has not only been ineffective and indirectly
responsible for the growing state of war, it has also ignored the ...
needs of the Afghan people."

Emmanuel Reinert, the council's executive director, said: "There is no
peace to keep, there is no peace at all. It is a war mission, but it
is not a mission that can be won with a military approach or otherwise
you will be seen as invaders." 
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