What My Experience in Afghanistan Taught Me About Iraq

Ten years ago I was in Kabul, Afghanistan, documenting human rights violations. I went to Afghanistan for the same reason I supported New Zealand troops being in Afghanistan at the time, because I thought ending the violent and oppressive reign of the Taliban was an international responsibility. I believed our presence was invited by the local community, and I hoped we could make a small, but meaningful contribution to a peaceful and just resolution to one of the twenty-first century’s major conflicts.


A decade later, I still get emails from my friends in Afghanistan about the ongoing struggle for power in their country, the continued violence and oppression waged against ordinary Afghans by the Taliban, drug lords and other warlords, and the ongoing failure of the Afghan Government to protect and serve its people.

A lot of progress has been made in Afghanistan in the past decade thanks to humanitarian and development efforts and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Afghan people. New telecommunications, for example, allow my friends not only to chat with me on Skype, but to stay informed on everything from market trends to global politics. But no-one can honestly argue that the Taliban has been defeated - despite the US alone having deployed more than 830,000 service members over 13 years, at a cost of $537 billion and soldiers’ lives.

Not only have recent international military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq failed to achieve their stated goals, they have failed to do so at a very high cost. Since international forces entered Afghanistan in 2001, between 18,000 and 20,000 Afghan civilians have been killed in the fighting [1] while it an estimated 100,000 Iraqis have been killed with 2 million refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries [2].

If we have learned anything from recent military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, it must surely be that they have failed to eliminate the threat of terrorism. In fact a study by the Royal United Services Institute found that "far from reducing international terrorism ... the 2003 invasion [of Iraq] had the effect of promoting it." The same report found that Britain's role in the war served to increase the radicalisation of young Muslims in the UK. [2] In fact the biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself. An invasion would be a huge propaganda victory for jihadists everywhere who argue that the West wants to embark on a modern-day Crusade and kill Muslims. [3]

Most New Zealanders support peacekeeping over war mongering, and this government has not been given a mandate to get us into a messy war in the Middle East with unknown consequences.

Click here to tell John Key he is not acting in your name #NOTINMYNAME

Yours sincerely,


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