“As assets free up from Iraq and Syria and the successful fight against Islamic State in that theatre, we expect to see more assets come to Afghanistan.” - Army General John Nicholson, Top Commander in Afghanistan
According to Brussels, allied officials say they have sensed a shift in US priorities with less pressure on NATO to focus on the Middle East, but instead on Afghanistan. This is confirmed by the Pentagon who have just made moves to reallocate drones, other hardware and 1,000 new combat advisers to Afghanistan in time for a ‘fighting session’ which traditionally starts in spring.
Fly Kites Not Drones is a peace campaign which was launched five years ago by young non-violent peace campaigners in Kabul who have first hand experience of family members killed by drones. The campaign was created to highlight the fear and harm which armed drones inflict on children, so much so that they’re now too afraid to take part in Afghanistan’s much loved pursuit of kite flying. The Afghan youth group asked international campaigners to fly kites on the Persian New Year, 21st March, in solidarity with Afghan children.
The campaign has since gone international with kite flying becoming recognised as an act of international solidarity for all young people living under armed drones, spotlighting civilian casualties and the psychological trauma inflicted by drones.
The reallocation of US military resources back to Afghanistan seems to follow a roughly ten year cycle whereby the US and allies dash between the Middle East and Afghanistan. Currently the US, spurred on by Trump’s twitter account, are particularly preoccupied with North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and China’s trading monopoly, adding more reasons to relocate military resources in and around East Asia. This has already taken effect with an additional 4,000 US troops being redeployed to Afghanistan last August.
In Afghanistan, civilian casualties are at an all-time high. The last UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan report published July 2017 calculated 1,662 civilians killed in the first six months of the year with 3,581 injured Of those killed, 174 were women and 436 were children, a 23% and 19% increase respectively from the previous year. Now with Trump’s August pledge to stop nation-building and fight terrorists, this almost certainly translates to an increase in aerial bombing and more drone warfare, which, by default means an increase in civilian deaths.
Afghanistan was were the UK first homed its arsenal of armed drones. Afghanistan is a country Britain has already invaded four times and is now in its fourth decade of continued war and violence. It’s still one of the poorest countries in the world and one of the most dangerous in which to be a woman.
The act of flying a kite is simple but deeply symbolic. For Afghans it’s an integral part of their culture and social life. Banned under the Taliban, it now carries an additional symbolism of resistance. The underlying message of the campaign is that beautiful blue skies should be kept as a place of fun, wonder and enjoyment, not a means of reaping terror and fear with a deathly omnipresence which can last for weeks and even months.
So this Nao Roz invite some friends and go fly a kite in your local park, open space, beach or military base! Make a sign, a simple leaflet, take some photos and let us know @kitesnotdrones firstname.lastname@example.org
is an activist in Hastings CLP who has visited Afghanistan several times