Seventh ASEAN Summit next week  should be the first international or regional grouping to make a collective call for a halt to the US-led  air-strikes in Afghanistan to avert a humanitarian catastrophe

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Thursday): On Tuesday, during the  visit of the Iranian  Foreign Minister Kamal Kharaz, Malaysia and Iran issued a joint call  for an immediate end to the US-led bombing in Afghanistan.

The two countries reached the common position in hour-long talks between Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar and his visiting Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharazi.

With the US-led airstrikes in Afghanistan  coming to the end of  its fourth week of relentless  bombardment with  a mounting toll of innocent civilian casualties, the  time has come  to go beyond calls by individual countries or even joint calls by two countries and  for a collective joint stand by the international community to halt the US-led airstrikes in  Afghanistan.

Although the latest Taliban claim of 1,500 civilian casualties from the US airstrikes since October 7 has been dismissed by the Americans, what cannot be denied is the accumulation of civilian casualties which has hardened Muslim and international opinion against the bombing, eroded efforts to stir up rebellion against the Taliban inside Afghanistan and sap support among Islamic nations in the anti-terrorism coalition.

In the United Kingdom, the Guardian has reported that " British public support for the war against the Taliban has dropped by 12 points in the past fortnight and a majority now believe there should be a pause in the bombing to allow aid convoys into Afghanistan”.

The latest example of the catalogue of “collateral damages”, or the accidental hitting of civilians, despite US assurances that the airstrikes would be targetted, precise and proportionate was the bombing of the Afghan Red Crescent Society hospital in Kandahar killing  13 civilians, including five women and children.

The mounting toll of civilian casualties from  the US air campaign has  evoked world-wide calls for a halt of the US bombing, including the Amnesty International appeal to the US military to strengthen measures to ensure that civilians are not killed as a result of their military action, to investigate thoroughly reports of such incidents and make public their findings as well as a  moratorium on the use of cluster bombs.

Even the CNN Chairman Walter Isaacson had to acknowledge the rising human cost  of the US air campaign by issuing a directive to his international correspondents  to “balance” images of civilian devastation in Afghan cities with reminders that the Taliban harbours murderous terrorists, claiming that it "seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan."

Claiming that CNN did not want to be used as a “propaganda platform”, Walter told his staff to “make sure people understand that when they see civilian suffering there, it's in the context of a terrorist attack that caused enormous suffering in the United States"  - as if the terrorist attacks against innocent civilians in the United States can justify the killing of innocent civilians in Afghanistan!

Those who oppose the bombing in Afghanistan do not advocate inaction against Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and the Taliban, but less spectacular and more discriminate action.

There is also  the looming human catastrophe of 7.5 million Afghans facing starvation with the onset of winter. UNICEF had warned last week that as compared to last winter when at least 300,000 Afghan children died,  100,000 more children will die in Afghanistan during this winter if aid - both food and medical - does not reach them in sufficient quantities.

The seventh ASEAN Summit in Brunei  next week  should be the first international or regional grouping to make a collective call for a halt to the US-led  airstrikes in Afghanistan to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and should not just  issue another declaration which is a pale shadow of the Shanghai APEC Summit Declaration  which dared not advert to the mounting  civilian casualties of the US aerial bombardment and the looming humanitarian crisis and disaster.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman