Subodh Varma | TNN
- The resurgent Taliban now control more territory and population than it did in 2001, experts said
- The situation is worsening with each passing year since it started functioning in 2009, said the UN mission in Afghanistan
NEW DELHI: Fifteen years have passed since US armed forces invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, to flush out the al-Qaida backers of those who perpetrated the September 11 attacks. In the occupation that followed, the ruling Taliban were dislodged, the al-Qaida leadership fled across the border to Pakistan where it was ultimately killed, and an elected government under NATO protection was established.But resistance to foreign occupation grew afresh and the Taliban are back.
Analysts, including US officials, agree that the resurgent Taliban now control more territory and population than it did in 2001. About a third of Afghanistan is controlled by Taliban, according to various US government reports, and analysis by pro-West security experts like Stratfor and the Long War Journal.
These 15 years of war, preceded by 20 years of wars against the Soviet Union and between warlords has taken a devastating toll. A latest estimate of direct war related casualties by Neta Crawford says, professor at Boston University, some 111,000 people have died and 116,000 injured.
Meanwhile, the Afghan war has spilled over across the border into Pakistan’s volatile tribal regions, where 62,000 people have been killed and 67,000 injured in the same period. The regions are contiguous, the people – mostly Pashtuns – live on both sides, and the US is trying to turn the tide on both sides. US spending on both these wars – part of its global war on terror – has been staggering. An estimated $800 billion have been spent on both the wars put together. They have lost 2,371 troops and over 3,000 private contractors in Afghanistan.
Besides those killed by direct war related causes like bullets, airstrikes or IED explosions, at least an equal number, if not more, must have died because of causes indirectly related to the war Crawford told TOI.
“Wars are extremely destructive of infrastructure -hospitals, roads, water treatment, electricity -and this harms civilians. In addition, it is very hard to raise crops or travel. The greatest source of indirect harm is likely to be adverse health effects during the war or that continue after the conclusion of fighting,” she said.
The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan in its latest half yearly report released this September says that the situation is worsening with each passing year since it started functioning in 2009.Civilian casualty figures for the first half of 2016 stand at a record 5,166 (1,601 dead, 3,565 injured) up 4 per cent from 2015.These include 1,509 children casualties, up by a staggering 18 per cent since 2015.
Meanwhile, in a 70-country conference in Brussels on Wednesday promised aid worth $15.2 billion to Afghanistan, lasting up to 2020.
“We’re buying four more years for Afghanistan,” said EU special representative Franz-Michael Mellbin.