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.