As all wars are not morally objectionable, not all wars are permissible. However, even in the situation where use of force becomes permissible, there are certain essential and universally accepted principles that need to be abided. First, war must be the last resort after all other peaceful means to resolve the conflict have failed. Second, the use of force must be for just cause; for example, to evict an invading and occupying force. Third, it must have a reasonable likelihood of success; death and destruction not to be inflicted for vain cause. Lastly, one should not use tactics in a way that causes disproportionate harm.
Judging from the above principles, the eight-year-old US war against Afghanistan trampled every accepted norms and standard conduct of war; a war bereft of reason and uncalled for.
No Afghan national or Taliban rulers were involved in the fateful event of 9/11 that saw the Twin Towers tumbled, nevertheless, the indigent Afghan nation became the target of American retaliatory wrath – mighty American war machinery unleashed in the manner not seen since the Vietnam War. One may point here that the alleged mastermind of 9/11 Osama bin Laden was hiding in Afghanistan and it provided the rational for the US attack. However, the argument loses much of it force when one considers that the Taliban government twice, in 1998 and 2001, offered to hand over Osama Bin Laden to an independent tribunal instead of the United States. It was a reasonable offer, given the fact that the US did not recognize the Taliban government, and there was no extradition treaty existed.
When Osama was accused of involved in the 1998 embassy attack in Tanzania and Kenya , German and British media reported that Taliban offered to deport him. German television, ZDF, quoted the Afghanistan foreign minister, Mullah Wakil Ahmed Mutawakil, as saying: “You can have him (Osama) whenever you are ready. Name us a country and we will extradite him.” After the 9/11 attack in 2001, according to Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi foreign intelligence at the time, the Taliban government again agreed to extradite Osama to a neutral country for trial.
By offering to hand over Osama to a neutral country for trial for his alleged involvement in the embassy and 9/11 attacks, Taliban government became absolved of any breach of its state responsibility to take reasonable measure to prevent its territory from being used to launch attacks against other states.
Had the U.S. accepted Afghanistan’s offer in 1998 to extradite Osama, not only the death and misery that the war brought to Afghanistan could have been averted but the tragic incident of 9/11 itself may have not happened – presuming that Osama and his men were indeed the culprits behind that attack.
Two years later, the U.S. played the same deceitful and deadly game with Iraq. It insisted on nuclear inspection in Iraq based on fabricated accusation that it is developing nuclear and chemical arsenal. As Afghanistan agreed to extradite Osama, Iraq consented to the most invasive arms control inspection regime ever imposed on any nation and to destroy whatever was found in violation of the United Nations sanctions. Nevertheless, as Afghanistan was invaded and destroyed, Iraq met the same fate at the hands of U.S. As attack on Afghanistan was planned well before 9/11, the war against Iraq was on the blueprint long before the 2003 invasion, and it was part of a plan for U.S. domination of the Middle East and its oil.
U.S. had a regime change plan against the Taliban government months before the 9/11 incident. Niaz Naik, a former Pakistani foreign secretary, told BBC that senior American officials told him in mid-July of the pending U.S. military action to oust Taliban. The 9/11 attacks only served as a convenient excuse to do what the U.S. was already intent on doing–”attacking Afghanistan.
The prime objective of the war on Afghanistan, as declared, was to capture Osama bin Laden, the man allegedly responsible for the 9/11 attacks. A week after the attacks, President Bush said he wanted Osama "dead or alive" and described his capture as a national priority. In pursuit to capture one accused man, U.S. B-52 bombers carpet bombed Afghanistan, an impoverished country with no aerial defense, killing and maiming countless innocent people and causing untold suffering and destruction, and yet after eight years and $228 billion, the invasion failed to achieve its ostensible raison d’etre for attack – capture Osama Bin Laden. To this day, the man remains as elusive as ever, despite the billion-dollar, multi-force, multinational, state-of-the-art search – the most extensive and expensive manhunt in history. Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi fugitive, a more dangerous man with far more worse records was captured as part of a covert action without bombing and destroying a whole country.
The act of terror unleashed on September 11 was not a hostile nation’s act of war against the U.S.; no government of any country was found behind the plot. It was criminal act, pure and simple, committed by a group of individuals. Though the attackers themselves are dead, however, their financiers, backers, and other co-conspirators could have been hunted down, arrested, and brought swiftly to justice. To declare war against Afghanistan to avenge the 9/11 atrocity is not only breach of international propriety but in its character it’s a war of indiscriminate retaliation and vengeance that has created an unending cycle of terror.
The right to resist invasion and occupation is a legitimate right of an oppressed people. They are expected to take whatever measures are necessary to defeat the enemy and force it to withdraw. This is a right Afghans invoked when their country was invaded by enemy enjoying overwhelming military superiority.
As the Afghan war began, Afghanis, naturally, began to resist the American invasion. In the process, they were captured and became prisoners. As the U.S. invasion itself was immoral and criminal, the U.S. treatment of Afghans captured while resisting invasion callously betrays every norms of human rights and violates every code of laws of war protecting prisoners of war. U.S. found that according the status of prisoners of war would restrain their troops in their treatment of the Afghani prisoners. Conveniently, therefore, U.S. declared them as “illegal combatants”. Essentially, every expert of laws of war acknowledged that Afghans had a legal right to resist with arms and respond to the occupation and if captured while fighting must be given the status of prisoners of war. U.S. position that they are persons who could be prosecuted and punished for murder and other crimes under the U.S. laws for their participation in an armed conflict was rejected almost universally.
Geneva Convention relative to Treatment of Prisoners of war (Article 4) provides: “Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy: Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.” Are the Taliban soldiers and their armed volunteer supporters not members of a Party to the conflict?
Viewed from any angle, the U.S. war in Afghanistan could only be seen as a tragic exercise in futile destruction and display of naked arrogance. The eight year of bloodshed has not produced any desirable result either for the U.S. or for Afghanistan, and further continuation and intensification of the war would only bring further death and destruction.
Sir Christopher Meyer, former British envoy to Washington says, "After nearly eight years in Afghanistan there is still no clarity about why we are there.” He properly describes war in Afghanistan as “a waste of blood and treasure.”