The Gloves Are Off

Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK Newsletter January 2018

Today Kabul endured another Taliban attack, current reports say at least 95 were killed and 185 injured after an ambulance packed with explosives was driven past a police checkpoint and into a street of government workers. Just in this week alone attacks have included the Intercontinental Hotel where 22 people were killed, and Save the Children in Jalalabad which killed 3 and injured 25.

Our friends in the Afghan Peace Volunteers are all fine, narrowly missing the attack today while attending an exhibition of peace photography.

Meanwhile last month US military officials announced in regards to Afghanistan “the gloves are off”. In the coming year the US intends to double its Afghan Special Operations and triple Afghan Air Force.

In December US and Afghan forces conducted 455 airstrikes, an average of 15 per day, compared with just 65 for the previous year. Between August and December 2017 there were 2,000 airstrikes which is nearly as many as 2015 and 2016 combined.

The blitz is set to intensify as the US withdraws from Iraq and Syria, redeploying assets such as jets, field advisers and drones to Afghanistan. 

The US Air Force says there are now nearly three squadrons worth of Reaper Drones in Kandahar, these include the new bigger Block 5 version which can carry an external fuel tank allowing the drone to fly further and stay in the air for even longer. US military say this drone fleet might only be the start of a larger drone mission both in size and scope. 

Today my Facebook feed was full of disturbing photos from Kabul, posted by my young friends, comments included “We are alive but Kabul is dead”.

Other Afghans in Kabul ask “Why do EU countries still deport Afghan refugees back to Kabul despite deadly attacks now being weekly to daily”. Three quarters of families forced to flee their homes are not receiving any aid assistance, one in two are highly food insecure, often skipping meals and reducing food intake, trapped in an endemic cycle of poverty. There are now 1.3 million internally displaced within the country. Germany was the last European country to deport 19 Afghan Asylum seekers just 5 days ago, they arrived early in the morning, some would have never been to Kabul, and yet they are expected to make their lives in a city already massively overpopulated.

In the last year foreign NGOs and workers, including the Red Cross, have pulled out of the country. Foreign diplomats cross Kabul by helicopter when visiting.

Overall the country appears to be in a stalemate situation, the Taliban controls or at least has influence over 50% of the country, US military officials commented last August that they hope to engage the Taliban in ‘peace talks’,possibly allowing them to join with the current government or to hand over various provinces for the Taliban to run.

The Taliban psychology is that they were a legitimate government which was toppled by the US and a puppet government installed. The recent intensity of US attacks has likely made the Taliban even more determined to ‘wait it out’, confident that the US can not maintain its intense presence in the country indefinitely, reasoning that they have nowhere else to go.We at Voices UK continue to visit our friends in Kabul, steadfast in our conviction to support the non violent grassroots activities of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, resolute to show solidarity to our long term friends who are trapped in an imploding bubble. Maya Evans sets to depart imminently, she takes with her the good wishes of UK peace activists, messages of love and support. While in Kabul she will update our friends with the news that the UK peace movement is growing in strength and activity, that the mainstream British public are awake to the fact that global wars are just making everyone more unsafe. 

Fly Kites Not Drones 2018

17th – 25th MarchWhy fly kites not drones?

Killer drones have fast become the preferred weapon of choice for politicians who use them daily to conduct assassinations, execution without trial. A drone pilot is thousands of miles away, at the touch of a button and without judge or jury people are executed. No right to a fair trial, no opportunity for legal defence or a chance to present evidence. Nearly 90% of people killed in recent drone strikes were not the target. 

Fly Kites Not Drones was launched 5 years ago by the Afghan Peace Volunteers who had personal experience of innocent family members killed by drones. The threat of armed drones now means that children in Afghanistan are too afraid to fly their kites and blue skies are a sight of fear. The campaign is now international and an act of solidarity towards all children who live under the threat and psychological trauma of weaponised drones. 

Who we need:
Peace groups, youth groups, community centres, schools, universities, mosques, churches, woodcraft folk and anyone who wants to show
solidarity in the face of the extremely concerning issue of armed drones. 

What & When:
This year’s activities are to, make, buy, find, borrow, and
decorate a kite, do it Afghan style and make a wish to send into the sky
 for Now Roz – Persian New Year 21st March (or around that date). Kite flying is fun wherever you try it, in a park, on the beach, an
open space or next to a military base, just try to stay clear of trees,
lamp posts and overhead power lines! 

Contact us:
Let us know the date, time and place of your action and we’ll make a Facebook page on Fly Kites Not Drones, please email: kitesnotdrones@gmail.com
Tweet your photos @kitesnotdrones #FlyKitesNotDrones

For resources:
T Shirts, Badges, Briefings, Leaflets emails info@dronecampaignnetwork@riseup.net 

Read more: https://theintercept.com/drone-papers/ 

See the launch videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8hlqfDGoAI&t=1s
Kite flying in Kabul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWNXWgzpAls
Peace group fly kites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyNM8bXw-qY 

Educational workshop
The campaign was made into a peace education pack which is free to download and easy to use: www.flykitesnotdrones.orgLosing Sight – The Intercept

Read incredible investigative journalism by The Intercept – Losing Sight – how a 4 year old girl was the sole survivor of a US drone strike in Afghanistan, and then mysteriously disappeared.

3…2…1

3 years since ‘Mission Complete’,
38 years since the Russian invasion,
Afghanistan today 

THREE YEARS AGO TODAY Voices UK were in Kabul with the delegation of Mary Dobbing, Henrietta Cullinan and Maya Evans. We rolled our eyes at the British Government and its media narrative of ‘Afghanistan Mission Complete’, we sat with your young Afghan friends full of love and admiration for them, while also empty of pride for what our country had done to theirs.Last week saw yet another deadly attack by ISKP (ISIS in Afghanistan), claiming 41 lives and injuring 80 civilians. It is now recognised that within the last 2 years ISKP have now overtaken the Taliban for fatal attacks against civilians, normally drawn upon sectarian lines.

Unusually, here in the UK, the BBC, whom rarely to never headline attacks against Afghan civilians, lead with the story all day. Cynical but experienced members of Voices UK hypothesised the possibility of the British public being softened up for further deployment of UK troops (in addition to the 85 redeployed last Summer).

For Afghans, 2017 saw the US drop ‘the mother of all bombs’, Trump announcing an “end to nation building” and a massive ramping up of bombs and missiles with 3,900 being dropped in 2017 alone, 3 times as many as last year, true identities of victims are totally unknown.

Afghanistan is now experienced 4 decades of war and violence, we hold our breaths for what the next year will bring, and we continue to place our faith in our brave young Afghan friends who campaign for peace and non violence.

Read the latest inspiring activities of the Afghan Peace Volunteers who, on international volunteer day 20th December, carried out a litter pick on the streets of Kabul!



Welcome to Kabul
by Ken Hannaford-Ricardi

(Report from Kabul) December 31, 2017 It is a dream come true being back among friends in Kabul! Streams of dented Toyotas (They are all Toyotas!) with windscreens cracked like bolts of lightning still jockey for position on roads where traffic lights and common sense hold little sway. Carts of vegetables drawn by donkeys or dragged by men without dreams continue clotting the already stuttering traffic, forcing it almost to a standstill. Stucco houses remain stapled to mountainsides, one tripping over the other as they race to the top. And smog, as thick and foul-smelling as only winter in Kabul can conjure up. It felt wonderful being home! 

As a team-building exercise, three of us chose this afternoon to clean the chimney of one of our wood stoves. Four lengths of sooty pipe and two elbow joints later, the stove was ready to refire and all three of us needed a good bath. We laughed (mostly young ones) and swore (mostly me) in almost equal proportions.   

As we got ready for bed last night, we heard a sustained series of what most of us thought was gunfire. The wail of a siren followed shortly thereafter and caused us to wonder if we should head to the basement for a bit. We waited it out on the second floor. We were brave, or not. 

This morning brought rumors of three explosions nearby. We scrambled for information, but little was forthcoming. Later, we were forwarded an email from a friend working near us. The attack, it appeared, had centered on a Shia mosque. “It is more than sad,” our friend said. “Latest update showed 45 people killed and 85 wounded. Going to the scene, there is nothing more than blood, flesh, meat, dust, and fear. We again see Afghans die for nothing and families lose their loved ones because of ongoing US-backed war.” My young co-workers are physically okay. 

Tonight, after dinner, I had the chance to talk with a young Afghan friend about his family. Married for just a brief period, his wife conceived. They were happy. Their families rejoiced. One night during their son’s fourth month, he woke up sick enough to be taken to the doctor’s. After an examination, the doctor gave the boy a number of injections, and the family was sent home. Later that same evening, the child’s condition worsened, and the parents took him to a hospital, where he died. My friend and his wife still do not know what claimed their son’s life. 

Welcome to Kabul. 

Ken Hannaford-Ricardi is in Kabul representing Voices for Creative Nonviolence. While there, he is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. 

VCNV (US) Brian Terrell on
Sputnik Radio:


“Our presence in Afghanistan is making it more dangerous,” Brian Terrell told show hosts..”[The war is] in the interest of the multinational corporations that are cashing in on this… [it’s not in the interest] of the American people or the Afghan people.”
Read & Listen to more.


 
photo credit Pajhwok

Recent News from Afghanistan

NEW FILM RELEASE ‘Prince of Nothingwood’ is highly recommended by VCNV, please recommend your independent cinema to show it, very true to Afghan life.