Get out of Afghanistan …

That was the blunt message to Australia _ and the US _ on Sunday from Shazia Shakib, a member of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA).

Shazia Shakib (not her real name, to protect her) on Sunday in Hobart gave a first-hand account of the struggle for human rights, democracy and secular values in her country, a nation ravaged by war and religious fundamentalism.

She told the Hobart meeting Afghanistan’s best hope was for the US and its allies _ including Australia _ to pull their troops out and stop backing the Hamad Karzai government which she said was dominated by warlords.

A civil war would then erupt between the Islamic Fundamentalist Taliban and the Northern Alliance, made up of warlords and drug chieftans.

She believed that was better than occupation by foreign powers which led to increasing alienation of the people from any democratic possibility.

Shazia Shakib _ who lives in the Afghani capital Kabul where she works as a teacher for RAWA _ said democracy could emerge from the ashes of civil war. But it never could while the US and its allies occupied and backed factions within Afghanistan.

Shakib has been on a nationwide tour of Australia sponsored by SAWA Australia, a Support Association for the Women of Afghanistan. Support has come also from the Australian Education Union and Zonta District 23 Area 2.

She told the meeting of about 50 in Hobart that Afghani women suffered horror upon horror _ the Taliban and the warlords treating women as the property of men; forbidding education, raping, murdering, throwing acid into the faces of young girls who dared to want an education.

RAWA has existed for 30 years, through Soviet occupation, Taliban rule, the American invasion and the current reign of warlords; running health clinics, schools and adult education centres.


First published: 2009-06-03 02:00 AM. Written originally for Mercury, but unpublished …

Australian: Abbott backs off boosting Australian troops in Afghanistan:

ONY Abbott has backed away from his willingness to bolster Australia’s troop commitment in Afghanistan and welcomed parliamentary debate on the conflict.

At a media conference today on the death of another Digger, the Coalition leader said the current commitment of 1550 troops in Afghanistan was “right”, despite previously canvassing a larger role in a speech in April.

In that speech to the Lowy Institute he said “it would be a poor reflection on our defence capabilities” if Australia was unable to help replace the withdrawing Dutch.

“If satisfied that the role made strategic sense and was compatible with our other military commitments, a Coalition would be prepared to consider doing more,” he said.

He clarified that if this included replacing the Dutch as the lead coalition military force in Oruzgun, Australia should take up the opportunity if it was able.

“If we could do it, I don’t see why we shouldn’t.”

But today Mr Abbott said: “Obviously the circumstances have changed since then.

“The Americans have joined us in Oruzgan province and under the circumstances, yes, I think our commitment is the right one.”

Mr Abbott paid tribute to the as-yet unidentified 28-year-old Australian lance corporal who was killed in a firefight with the Taliban yesterday.

Mercury: Call for Afghanistan debate