The Seventeenth of October

On October 7, 2001, the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan, beginning their “war on terror.” Nearly two decades later, it becomes clear how wrong this war has been, and why another superpower must pull off full of shame and shame – after tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed.

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, it became clear where the US empire would go to exact revenge. Despite the fact that not a single Afghan citizen was involved in the terrorist act in New York, Afghans were the first to believe in it. George W. Bush began his “crusade” at the Hindu Kush. When the Taliban, from now on human-eating terrorists, offered the US administration a delivery of Osama bin Laden and aligned themselves with the rule of law by simply demanding incriminating material, they were literally withdrawn. The Bush administration did not want to present any evidence against bin Laden.

Instead, the drones flew

On 7 October 2001, the very first day of the Afghanistan invasion, an armed Predator drone flew over Afghan airspace. The operators of the unmanned aerial vehicle sat at a US air base in Saudi Arabia, which, along with numerous other states, including Germany, acted as Bush’s willing war aide. Other command centers were in Washington, where the Pentagon is located, and langley, the headquarters of the CIA. The supposed target of the drone: Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, a mysterious man of whom, until then, virtually no useful image existed. However, the drone appeared to have tracked him down in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. At the touch of a button. A firing. Two Hellfire missiles hit unnamed Afghans. The very first drone attack in human history was accomplished.

But the Taliban leader survived. This scenario was repeated over and over again in the years that followed. It was regularly reported that Omar or other high-ranking militants were killed - until they resurfaced alive. At some point, they were only talking about “ghosts.” Based on the analysis of media reports and research for the period from November 2002 to November 2014, the British human rights organisation Reprieve calculates that 1,147 civilians killed by drones per 41 targets in Pakistan and Yemen. The targets include al-Qaeda leader Aiman al-Zawahiri.

Five years ago, it was announced that Omar died of natural causes in 2013. In 2019, Dutch journalist Bette Dam wrote about the final years of the Taliban leader and his hideout, which was supposedly just a few miles away from a US base in Zabul province. Dam was referring to the testimony of Omar’s bodyguard, whom she had interviewed in detail.

Considering all this, one can only conclude that the Americans have failed in all respects at the Hindu Kush. They did not fight terror, but acted terroristically themselves, killing numerous unnamed Afghans. Former US soldier Erik Edstrom, who attracted attention in the US a few months ago with a highly critical book about his deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, speaks in this context of “hundreds of 9/11s” that have occurred as a result of US aggression in Afghanistan.

The result of this war was not the decimation of militancy and extremism, but the exact opposite. At present, many Afghan provinces are controlled or threatened by the Taliban. Attentive observers usually speak of fifty, sometimes even seventy percent. This is not surprising. A twenty-minute drive from Kabul is already enough to reach Taliban territory. In addition, other extremist groups now exist and are acting far more brutally, most notably ISKP, the Afghan cell of the Islamic State. Meanwhile, kleptocratic elites “rule” in the capital, who have little to nothing in common with the Western democracy project and who, because of their privileged position, hardly leave the Green Zone – they would probably leave the country with the first-best plane after a possible Taliban incursion.

Despite the fact that that seventh October is being suppressed to this day, it is clear that without him one cannot talk about the status quo of Afghanistan. In contrast to the Iraq war, the invasion of Afghanistan was washed away and celebrated time and again. Washington and its Western allies accused the public of being a legitimate and just war. In the meantime, however, both sides seem to know what is going on. It’s not just Trump who knows that his troops have lost nothing at the Hindu Kush. Recent polls have made it clear that the majority of the US public no longer wants to support the longest war in US history. The support among veterans is even clearer.

In Afghanistan, such surveys are hardly feasible. However, I would like to quote at this point some Afghans who I have met and interviewed in person over the years. These are people from different parts of the country who do not have a privileged position. You read about them so rarely that I want to give them some space at the end of this text.

“We must stop fighting for foreign powers. This applies not only to the United States, but also to Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other actors.” – Mohammad Naseem, former Mujahideen commander and university professor, Kabul.

“Our lives are worth nothing. Our country is being used as a testing ground for American weapons.” – Mustafa, student, after dropping the “mother of all bombs” in April 2017, Nangarhar.

“Nobody wants foreign troops here. But I’ve never seen them. We are also the problem. We fight each other at their expense. Brother vs. Brother. Friend vs. Friend.” – Ali Hazara, mechanic, Baghlan.

“I treat both sides, Taliban fighters and soldiers. I hope that one day peace will come. But I can’t imagine that it works with foreign military personnel. The last forty years have proven otherwise.” – Dr. Sayed Shah, Doctor, Baghlan.