Georges Spriet
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Call for the withdrawal of Belgian troops from Afghanistan

March 19, 2010 the Belgian government - which resigned in the meantime - decided to prolong the presence of Belgian soldiers in Afghanistan until the end of 2011. This decision wasn't discussed but ten days later in a joint session of the Parliamentary Commissions of External Affairs and Defence.

We do wonder how it is possible that a simple meeting of some top ministers can decide on such an important issue, without previous public and parliamentary debate. We, social organisations, want to break the silence and want to utter our worries over the Belgian military participation in Afghanistan which also live in the bigger part of public opinion.

Other countries know fierce debate on this matter. In February the Dutch government even fell over Afghanistan as their was no longer an agreement to prolong the military mission, resulting in the withdrawal of Dutch troops from August 2010 onwards. In Germany, where 70% of public opinion opposes German participation in the Afhgan war, heated debates are taking place as well in political circles as in media. Canada announced to withdraw its troops by 2011. And even the US president foresees the beginning of the troops withdrawal from july 2011 onwards. The fact that the Belgian government is going the other way proofs its willigness to please the White House, and this in spite of the dangerous war situations in which our troops recently were involved.

Steven Vanackere, minister of external affairs, declared in the Commission meeting that an exit-strategy cannot be linked to a timetable, but only to results. Prime minister Yves Leterme defined the objectives in Afghanistan as a matter of security, stability, good governance, order and organisation of a lawbased state. These declarations seem to ignore the catastrophical consequences of nine years of war. Paradoxically war made the armed opposition only stronger; so strong that Washington is talking about negoctiations with the 'most moderated' Taliban. Human costs are very high. Since 2001 the war has caused almost 10.000 civilian casualties. The mere presence of the 150.000 foreign troops pushes for escalation and expansion of the conflict, not only in Afghanistan itself but also in neighbouring Pakistan. This large scale military occupation is also contributing to maintaining in power a corrupt and autoritarian regime. President Karzai was re-elected only thanks to fraudulous elections and the support of notorious warlords as Abdul Rashid Dostum, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Mohammed Fahim and Karim Khalili. This is clearly not the right alternative to the Taliban.

Isn't it definitely irresponsible under such circumstances that our government decides to keep the 626 Belgian soldiers and 6 F-16 fighterplanes in Afghanistan till at least the end of the year 2011? And all this at an expense of 110 million euro as the 2010 budget shows.

The UN Human Rights Office described in a March 2010 report the catasthophical situation in the field of poverty and furnished a strong critique for the donor countries because the development assistance is to serve above all military in stead of political objectives. Quite some money goes to the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (Prt), to safeguard the reconstruction, but essentially to realise the NATO hearts and minds strategy: humanitarian aid at the service of military aims. The choices of the Afghan people are seldom taken into account or responded to. Aid organisations often refuse to be protected by these foreign troops, because the Afghan people consider these as a occupation force. That is why the concept of civil-military cooperation cannot work.

Time has come to draw the correct lessons in order to change direction. Our Belgian government should follow a policy that aims at a political diplomatical solution of the conflict. We think that this war should be stopped and that the Belgian troops have to be withdrawn. The Afghan population should take its future into its own hands in order to work at a democratic state with a development policy that favours all Afghans. Belgium and the other donorcountries should focus on developping the country and support Afghan civil society so that the real basic needs can be met.

Therefore, in the light of the Belgian federal elections of june 13, we ask the participating political parties to clearly position themselves in favour of the withdrawal of the Belgian troops from Afhganistan.

First signatures by:

Aktie Vredesbelasting (VRAK), Artsen voor Vrede, BRussells Tribunal, CNCD -11.11.11, CODIP, Coordination Nationale d'Action pour la Paix et la Démocratie en de 48 lidorganisaties, CSOTAN, FOS – Socialistische Solidariteit, Intal, Käthe Kollwitz Vredesloop, KifKif, KP, Leef!, LEF, Mediadoc/De Groene Belg, Vaka / Hand in Hand, Uilekot, Vlaams Palestina Komitee, Vonk, Vrede vzw, Vredesactie, Vredeshuis Aalst, Vrouwen Overleg Komitee (VOK)....

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