May 18, 2009
The U.S. war on Afghanistan has spilled into neighboring Pakistan. Since last August, the Pakistani military has been supposedly fighting a “rebellion” of insurgents in tribal areas near the Afghan-Pakistani border – supported by U.S. missile fire. Supposedly aimed at the “militants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban,” missiles fired by the U.S. military from Afghanistan into Pakistan have killed over 400 people since August, and turned many villages into ruins. Then, about two weeks ago, the Pakistani military launched another offensive against insurgents, quickly labeled “Taliban militants,” in the mountainous Swat valley.
As the current rulers of Pakistan fight their rivals for power, the Pakistani population pays the price. The Pakistani military claims to have killed 800 “Taliban militants.” Whatever the real number of casualties is, no one doubts that most of them are civilians killed in the heavy bombardment by the military.
This veritable massacre has created a tragic refugee crisis. Since August, nearly one million Pakistanis have become refugees in their own country, according to United Nations officials. NGOs (non-governmental organizations) have denounced the overcrowding in the refugee camps, the disastrous sanitary situation, the lack of electricity, of water, of food, of medicine – all aggravated by hot weather.
News reports about this refugee crisis provide a rare glimpse into what the U.S. war in Afghanistan really means for the people who live in the region. The Obama administration has aggressively expanded that war, calling on the Pakistani government to “do their part” in “fighting the Taliban.” And, for sure, the Pakistani military is now doing in its own backyard what the U.S. military has been doing in Afghanistan: bombing towns and villages – killing thousands of civilians and making hundreds of thousands of people homeless.