US forces mass in Afghanistan

FRFI 207 February / March 2009

In his farewell speech to cadets at the US military academy, President Bush said, ‘We’ve reshaped our approach to national security [and] laid a solid foundation on which future presidents and future military leaders can build...We must stay on the offensive.’
Speaking on NBC news in December President-elect Barack Obama said, ‘Afghanistan and its border regions with Pakistan...is the central front...in the war against terrorism.’ Obama wanted ‘a new national security strategy that uses all elements of American power’. JIM CRAVEN reports.

US foreign policy depends not on the individuals in power but on what the ruling class and US imperialism demands. Obama will send an extra brigade of soldiers to Afghanistan in January, to be followed by a further 26,000 combat troops and support personnel, almost doubling the present US forces in the country to a total of 60,000. The number of mercenaries will also be significantly increased. Britain has been asked to send another 3,000 to 5,000 troops. On 25 January Vice President Biden said he expected ‘an uptick’ in US casualties. President Obama sanctioned two missile attacks on Pakistan on 23 January, resulting in the deaths of 22 people including children.

Resistance grows
The US build-up is a response to growing resistance to the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan. The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) reported in December that resistance fighters have a permanent presence in 72% of the country and are closing in on Kabul. ICOS said the resistance movement is ‘attracting sympathy beyond its traditional support base and has gained a measure of political legitimacy among many Afghans’. Attacks by the Afghan resistance increased by 51% overall last year and by 62% in the Kabul area. Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban warned, ‘If the Americans are going to send more troops we are ready for that. They will have to send more coffins as well for taking their dead bodies back.’

At the beginning of December, supporters of the Afghan resistance destroyed 200 trucks and containers of military equipment at depots in Peshawar in north-west Pakistan. The road from Peshawar to Kabul carries around 80% of US/NATO supplies. The supply route itself is under constant threat from resistance fighters. With the planned increase in numbers, supply routes for the occupying forces will become even more important. Consequently, the imperialists are planning another route from Georgia and through Central Asia; a route that could also support US bases in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, tighten the encirclement of Russia and ultimately run Caspian oil and gas.

Imperialists divided
In addition to increasing their own forces, US and NATO plan to establish tribal militias or lashkars similar to the Awakening Councils that curtailed Sunni resistance to the occupation in Iraq. The British plan to bribe tribal elders with around £800 a year to fight the Taliban. It will be funded under the ‘Afghan Social Outreach Programme’. The US will fund a similar initiative in the east. General Petraeus, head of US Central Command, described the plan in terms of buying off resistance commanders and slaughtering those who cannot be bought. Other members of NATO are not so sure. The Canadian Defence Minister Peter McKay said there was ‘no agreement round the table on it’. Critics are concerned that the plan would entrench tribal differences, bolster local warlords, create private militias, and spark sectarian differences.
Such disagreements highlight the continuing divisions within NATO. Over the past two years, most NATO nations have persistently refused pleas from the US to increase combat troops or provide more helicopters. As imperialist rivals as well as sometime allies of the US, they see nothing to be gained from aiding the US military fight a losing battle. The Netherlands has said it will pull out by June 2010 and Canada by December 2011. The Spanish, Italian and Norwegian contingents have also said they may leave soon.

The US has now agreed to seek talks with members of the resistance. However, a US spokesman described talking to the Taliban as ‘less an attempt to come up with a grand deal, and more an effort to split and demoralise the enemy’. The Taliban say they will not hold talks until all occupying forces have left Afghanistan. Mullar Omar told Afghan President Karzai, ‘Do not presume that in the presence of the occupying forces, the followers of the path of Islamic resistance will ever abandon their legitimate struggle merely on your empty, and farcical pledges, material privileges and personal immunity.’ Obama has appointed veteran US diplomat Richard Holbrooke as special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, triggering rumours that the US will replace Karzai as their local placeman; Holbrooke has previously denounced corruption in the Afghan police and government.

War threatens Pakistan and India
The imperialists claim the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan are being used as training grounds for Afghan resistance fighters. Since August there have been more than 20 US air strikes and a ground incursion by US special forces in the region. More than 100 Pakistanis, most of them civilians, have been killed and villages destroyed in the indiscriminate raids. The US has also put pressure on Pakistan to eradicate support for the Afghan resistance in the area. Both the US military action and the role imposed on the Pakistan army are intensely unpopular in Pakistan. Sections of the army, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) and the Pakistani ruling class are sympathetic to the Taliban, having traditionally regarded Afghanistan almost as a province of their country and a rearguard against aggression by India.

The US has repeatedly accused the ISI of undermining efforts to attack the Afghan resistance. It has only been able to maintain Pakistan’s reluctant assistance because of the economic and military hold it has had over successive dictators and weak civilian governments. Last summer, at a time of economic crisis in Pakistan, the US used the promise of IMF loans to demand further Pakistani action. When a Pakistan-based group, Lashkar-e-Toiba, was accused of last November’s attacks in Mumbai, Admiral Mike Mullen, chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, immediately used the opportunity to call on Pakistan ‘to take more and concerted action against militant extremists elsewhere in the country’. The US tried to get Lt-General Hamid Gul, retired head of the ISI and considered a leading Taliban supporter, blacklisted at the United Nations because of his association with Lashkar-e-Toiba.

In fact, Lashkar-e-Toiba, like the Taliban, was created and supported by the US, Pakistani and Saudi governments, the CIA and the ISI, which included General Gul, in order to fight against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Following the US attempt to blacklist him, General Gul said, ‘I was quite a darling of theirs at one time. It looks like they have a habit of betraying their friends.’

For 20 years the US has been manoeuvring India from its traditional position of non-alliance to be part of the US military net around China. The US signed an anti-ballistic missile treaty with India and an agreement to supply nuclear material that allows India’s own limited supplies of uranium to be diverted to weapons use, thus side-stepping the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. This alliance with India gives the US another means to put pressure on Pakistan, which, for most of the time since ‘independence’ has been in dispute, and sometimes at war, with India,

The US/NATO war in Afghanistan is part of US imperialism’s strategy to maintain global economic and political dominance by using its military power. British imperialism defends its global interest by riding on the back of the US military, often goading it into further action. Their cynical manipulation of nations now threatens to engulf the whole of south Asia and beyond in further death and destruction. In the aftermath of the Mumbai raids both the Indian and Pakistani governments stirred up racial hatred to bolster their weak domestic positions. The right-wing BJP and RSS parties in India demanded greater hostility to Pakistan. The BJP called for a response to the Mumbai attacks equivalent to Bush’s response to 9/11. India test-fired a supersonic Cruise missile. Pakistan claimed Indian fighter planes had made incursions into their airspace and that India was preparing to attack Pakistan and training camps in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. Elements in both countries spoke of nuclear war.

 

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