Friday, 20 March 2009

The Taliban's war on schoolchildren

You often read about the number of civilian deaths caused by NATO forces in Afghanistan. It seems the US special forces 'have a reputation for raiding Afghan houses in the middle of the night, on the basis of intelligence that can be accurate or inaccurate, causing a disproportionate number of civilian casualties,' though many more innocent deaths are the result of air strikes. 

But I don't think anyone has ever accused the international task force of deliberately targeting non-combatants. Their Taliban opponents are very different, however, according to this account of an attack on a primary school in Asadabad. Seven children were killed and thirty-four wounded. Kristen Rouse, who served with the US Army National Guard in Afghanistan, says that it never occurred to her that the Taliban would target schoolchildren:

But we soon learned that the Taliban routinely burned school buildings, assassinated teachers, and even singled out the children themselves for maiming, dismemberment and attack. As the Taliban see it, boys should not be educated beyond rote learning of narrow theology, and girls must not be educated at all. The Asadabad atack - although one of the most severe to date - was hardly unique.

Now the news that the Pakistani government have conceded control of the Swat Valley to the Taliban, who proceeded to shut down nearly 200 schools, is giving Rouse sleepless nights. She's unhappy that American officials appear not have objected to the deal, and she reports that many of her fellow-veterans are also 'outraged' at the thought of the US negotiating with the Taliban:

as if they were just another Afghan political party and not a criminal gang that inflicts and enforces the most extreme ignorance, poverty and violence upon innocent people - upon schoolchildren.

(Via Norm).

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