During the month of November, a further seven British soldiers—including two Ghurkhas—were killed in fighting resulting from the US-led military occupation of Afghanistan.
On November 27, Tony Evans aged 20 and Georgie Sparks aged 19, both of J Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, were on foot patrol north-west of Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province, when they came under attack from insurgent fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades. Both marines died later from their injuries.
Their deaths brought the number of UK fatalities in Afghanistan to 128 since the British military joined the US-led invasion of the country in November 2001. Of these, 43 have been killed during 2008.
Over 1,000 service personnel in the occupation forces have now been killed in Afghanistan (the majority of these being US soldiers), according to the icasualties.org website. Significantly, more foreign troops have died in Afghanistan since May than in Iraq.
November also saw a continued rise in the numbers of Afghan civilians killed and injured as a result of US airstrikes. This year has seen the biggest rise in civilian casualties since the occupation began. Conservative estimates put the numbers of Afghans killed in violence related to the occupation in 2008 at around 4,000. At least one-third of these were civilians.
The deaths of civilians and the high-profile presence of occupying troops are bringing social and political resentments to a boiling point.
On November 28, protesters in the Afghan capital of Kabul pelted police with stones after British troops shot dead a local civilian and injured three others. An eyewitness told Reuters that British soldiers opened fire on a minibus. Kabul’s police chief, Mohammad Ayoub Salangi, stated blithely that “A convoy of British Isaf troops were passing here and they had a misunderstanding with a civilian vehicle.”
The body was wrapped in white cloth and put into the back of a taxi and driven away from the scene as the crowd chanted, “Death to Bush, death to America.”
People then threw stones at local police before being dispersed.
In a separate protest the day before, a crowd of Afghans gathered outside the United Nations headquarters in Kabul to demonstrate against civilian deaths in air strikes.
Such is the anger over the mounting civilian causalities from the air-strikes that Afghan President Hamid Karzai felt compelled to denounce the actions of the occupation forces. On November 26, he told a news conference that he would bring down US planes bombing villages if it were in his power.
“We have no other choice, we have no power to stop the planes, if we could, if I could … we would stop them and bring them down,” he said. “We have no radar to stop them in the sky, we have no planes… I wish I could intercept the planes that are going to bomb Afghan villages, but that’s not in my hands.”