Commentary  The Afghan war strategy must change

The latest series of combat deaths for coalition armies confirms that the evolving American war strategy to recruit and train more Afghans for combat is a fiasco. Shocking statistics about this program recently revealed that “one out of every four or five men in the security forces quit each year” (“Reviews Raise Doubt on Training of Afghan Forces,” New York Times, November 6). Ironically, this policy may lead to the inadvertent recruitment of new Taliban army recruits. The war effort is failing in many regards. Isn’t that enough to spark deeper reflections?
The presence of armed foreign occupiers undermines the supposedly free and democratic elections in Afghanistan and Iraq. Recent news has shown these elections to be dubious, while public opinion in coalition countries remains largely unaware of this fact due to our own governments’ censored portrayal of conditions in the occupied nations, effected through either the manipulation or the tacit consent of our media. Such developments damage our national interests and undermine the foundations of a democratic tradition that we are trying to build in Afghanistan, if indeed that is our objective.

There’s clearly something fundamentally wrong with this invasion when, instead of peace, we see violence increasing after eight years of war. The Taliban’s growing resistance to coalition forces proves that they are not without support in the country. The latest killing of five British soldiers training police officers shows once more the shocking failure of efforts by the West to build democracy in Afghanistan. Our military and our politicians ignore this growing resistance; they’re organizing elections for their local supporters, instead of working to fix the problems that antagonize the majority of the population. Ironically, the Taliban were able to restore order in Afghanistan after years of corruption and lawless infighting between warlords. Currently, the country has a rapidly increasing percentage of drug addicts. It was only during Taliban rule that poppy cultivation was reduced from 12,600 acres to only 17 acres in 2001. The “liberated” Afghanistan also now sees thousands of civilians being killed in armed attacks as so-called “collateral damage.”

We must stop this senseless war immediately: it is resulting in the deaths of too many poor people from Afghanistan and deployed personnel from other countries. We need to send a group of volunteers accompanied by the Taliban, the United Nations, and governmental representatives to all of Afghanistan’s regions and survey the position of the population. So far, we only hear a redacted view of the situation from politicians and manipulated media. It is time to learn directly if the Afghan people perceive us as brutal invaders or liberators. A comprehensive, representative poll of the Afghan population would achieve this goal, would cost hundreds of times less than new elections, and could perhaps help calm down the situation. After this, and similar polling in some coalition countries (about maintaining or withdrawing an armed presence in Afghanistan), their governments will have a clearer picture of public opinion.

Let’s start organizing what I will call “Polling for Peace/Humanity” (PFPH). The group’s first mission will be to search for sponsors and volunteers ready to help a suffering Afghanistan, but in a different way. Thus far, help from the West, which has accompanied military actions, has been limited to humanitarian aid such as providing food, schools for girls, and medical assistance. Although these actions are helpful, the opinions and priorities of the Afghan people should be heard directly from the horse’s mouth. Our media and officials are expressing their willingness to ressurect this country, but they don’t translate this willingness into listening to the true opinions coming from these suffering people. We must allow for contrary opinion: we should be acting humbly and respectfully toward the people whose trust we need.

This is a credo for the PFPH: collecting, publicizing, and equally respecting randomly selected individual opinions about key topics concerning our humanity.

Slawomir Poplawski is a technician in the mining and metallurgical engineering department. If you’re interested in organizing the PFPH, contact him at