On Thursday, President Obama announced the results of his administration’s latest review of our war on Afghanistan. As expected, he reported that it was “on track.”

As Paul McGeough noted:
Accounts of the mechanics of the Obama White House’s review of progress in the war – announced last week – suggest that the military swayed the debate with evidence of some tactical success in the south of the country.

Not surprisingly, Obama’s review did not ask whether the results were “on track” for the people of Afghanistan.

An ICRC report released the day before Obama’s announcement – and essentially ignored by our media – helps to correct our view:

“We are growing increasingly concerned about the conflict, which is into its ninth year. It’s spreading and intensifying and we’re [likely] to see another year of conflict with dramatic consequences for civilians,” Reto Stocker, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Afghanistan, said on 15 December.

“Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar, serving around four million people, has admitted over 2,650 weapon-related patients so far in 2010, compared with just over 2,110 in 2009,” the ICRC said.

In the first six months of 2010, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported 3,268 civilian casualties (1,271 deaths and 1,997 injuries) – up 31 percent on the same period a year ago.


Not only is medical staff at risk even traveling to the hospital each day:

We start the day in a convoy of Red Cross vehicles that travel 500 metres to the hospital from our compound, along with the team of 21 expatriate doctors, nurses and invaluable Pashto-speaking medical support staff. Security on this very short commute is never guaranteed.

Ill and injured civilians find it almost impossible to reach medical care – as can be seen in this photographic report from ICRC or in this field report from Medecins Sans Frontieres

Reda: Last night, they came to our village with their guns. They took over the mosque; they took over the roof of every house. They harassed us the next morning as we went to the mosque to pray. We have a really big family; I live with my sons, their wives and children. We all live together in the same house.

Ali: That same morning one of my brother’s children woke up sick, so he went to take him to a doctor. On the way there, they were told to turn back because the road was full of landmines. Even though the little boy was still sick, they had no choice. They had to come home.

Reda: All morning we could hear bullets flying past really close to the house. Suddenly the shooting stopped and there was complete silence. The women stayed inside, and the men and children started to move outside.

Abdul: I was sitting on the window sill outside, and my father was lying down. My little nephew, Zabiullah, was sitting next to me. The thing was impossible to see or hear. It came so quickly. I only saw an airplane flying over and then suddenly, this thing—they call it Hawan here—exploded in our garden in front of us. I remember seeing a piece of shell fly into Zabi’s head. He died instantly, blood everywhere.

Reda: Three of my grandchildren were killed: two boys, five and six years old and one girl, Haifa, who was eleven. The mothers were safe because they stayed inside. Nine other members of the family were wounded, but the children’s father was in a very bad state. He’s still in another hospital getting treatment, but we don’t have any news of him so far.

Abdul: We heard that our house wasn’t totally destroyed, but we haven’t been back yet. Every day people tell us there’s shooting, more trouble in our village. We can’t go back but we can’t stay here in Boost hospital forever either.

Ali: Landmines and fighting control our lives. If there were no mines, if they stopped fighting, it would be easier. My brother couldn’t take his son to the doctor because of landmines, but then they were both killed at home.

Perhaps President Obama would like to talk to Reda and her family and explain about all that progress.

For the past few weeks, members of the Gorillas Guides team have been posting a An Introduction to Islam over at myFDL – it’s an extremely valuable resource for anyone who wishes to learn about Islam and to ask Iraqi teachers your questions. I hope you will join me in reading and participating in these discussions each week.