If we’re still quietly hoping that wars would end and people all over the world would get along peacefully, the dreams and demands of the Helmand Peace Convoy would give us courage and evidence.
When Amanullah Khateb joined the Convoy, now called the People’s Peace Movement (PPM), he didn’t know that he would not see his wife again. With poor access to healthcare services, she recently died of appendicitis, leaving behind Khateb and three children.
But Khateb wants peace so intensely that he rejoined the PPM after his wife’s funeral. This desire is shared by each of the members of the PPM. They want all groups involved in the Afghan war to stop fighting, including the Taliban and the U.S./NATO/Afghan forces.
Muhammad Ahmadi from Nuristan Province, told Radio Liberty’s Pashto service that “Afghan peace is needed for Afghans like water for a thirsty man.”
These Afghans aren’t political or peace activists. They are farmers, laborers, students, teachers, fathers, mothers and siblings who have tasted the failure of war. For them, war not only doesn’t work, it results in more war, verifying a report that in the ongoing “global war against terrorism” from 2001 to 2015, terrorism increased nine fold.
This increase in terrorism is despite huge war investments in Helmand over the past 17 years, recorded under different names such as Operation Enduring Freedom, Mountain Thrust, Volcano, Kryptonite, Silver as part of Operation Achilles, Silicon, Pickaxe-Handle, Hammer, Eagles’ Eye, Red Dagger, Blue Sword, Panther’s Claw, Khanjar, Moshtarak…
Britain’s Afghan envoy between 2007 and 2010, Sherard Cowper-Coles, reviewed Investment in Blood: the True Cost of Britain’s Afghan War by Frank Ledwidge and wrote of the utter, unanswerable folly of Britain’s military intervention in Helmand.
In 2013, while on his tour of duty in Helmand, Prince Harry had said that shooting Hellfire Missiles at insurgents was like “playing video games” . In response, the Taliban said that Prince Harry had probably developed a mental problem. The Taliban themselves have mental illnesses. Afghan psychiatrist Dr. Nader Alemi treated the Taliban as human beings though he disagreed with their ideology. He described his Taliban patients as “depressed because they never knew what would happen from one minute to the next”. They were so depressed “many wanted to die”. The Taliban would weep and Dr. Nader would comfort them.
The psychological trauma and physical deprivations that war imposes on Afghan children like 15-year-old Kahar should also alert us. With his family, Kahar was displaced from Helmand to Kabul where he attended the Borderfree Street Kids School run by the Afghan Peace Volunteers. Kahar had said, “I fled from war in Helmand. I want to live in Kabul or anywhere that is good.”
But, Kabul’s security deteriorated. Kahar and his…