Afghanistan and Pakistan – drones and the new doctrines of war

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012

When US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November 2011, the Pakistan government closed US/NATO supply routes into southern Afghanistan, demanding an apology for the massacre and an end to drone raids. The attacks continued relentlessly. In two weeks alone around the beginning of June 2012, eight drone strikes killed at least 56 people. More than 3,000 people have been killed by drones in Pakistan, including at least 175 children. Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, Zamir Akram, called for international action to halt the raids. China and Russia condemned the attacks at the UN Human Rights Council. On 4 July, after intense pressure from the US, the Pakistan government re-opened the supply routes. Just two days later, up to 24 people were killed in another US attack on Pakistan. JIM CRAVEN reports.

 

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Afghanistan agreement – death squads to continue

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227 June/July 2012

The Enduring Strategic Partnership (ESP) agreement between the US and Afghanistan was signed by Presidents Obama and Karzai in May. In the days that followed, dozens of Afghan civilians were killed by US air strikes. In the Fatih Mohammed Pech area of Sangin, a mother and her five children were killed when their home was bombed. In Nawboor village in Baghdis province, US helicopters killed 15 civilians, including children. There were more casualties in Logar and Kapisa provinces east of Kabul. President Karzai, compelled to token protest, exclaimed: ‘If the lives of Afghans are not safe then the strategic partnership loses its meaning.’ JIM CRAVEN reports.

The ESP agreement had been paraded as an important stage in the hand-over of security responsibility to Afghan national forces and the end of US night-time raids. In fact, it was neither. Aiming to kill or capture anti-occupation fighters, night raids by US/NATO special forces terrorise the local population, destroying homes and killing civilians. Contrary to international law, entire villages are held for questioning for prolonged periods and thousands of people have been detained without charge.

 

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Afghanistan: more imperialist atrocities

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012

On 11 March, 16 Afghan civilians were massacred in a pre-planned attack by a US sergeant. Two families, including nine children, were shot in their own homes and the bodies set on fire by the gunman before he calmly returned to base. In recent months, in addition to the ongoing slaughter of civilians and the torture of prisoners, we have seen evidence of the mutilation of Afghan corpses by US soldiers to take body parts as ‘trophies’, US marines urinating on their victims and taking videos of their celebration and the sporting of Nazi SS banners by a US sniper unit. Such behaviour is not exceptional. It is the norm for every colonialist war, where the inherent racism of imperialism leads the invading troops to consider the local population as inferior, even less than human, beings and where the contradiction between their assumed invincibility and the reality on the ground results in pathological acts of revenge. JIM CRAVEN reports.

British troops are currently on trial for abusing Afghan children. In 2011 a hungover British soldier stabbed a ten-year old in the kidneys for no reason. US Wikileaks records 21 separate incidents when British soldiers shot dead or bombed Afghan civilians.

 

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Afghanistan – failing imperialists try to divide opposition

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 225 February/March 2012

Despite escalating brutality from night time raids by special forces, drone attacks and assaults by helicopter gunships, US/NATO forces are failing to blunt anti-occupation forces in Afghanistan and to force the Pakistan military to take action against their bases over the border.

Security incidents reached record levels in 2011, up 39% on the previous year, to a monthly average of 2,108. The Institute for Strategic Studies said that the fighting had spread to the east of the country while occupation forces were concentrating on the south and that plans for a major withdrawal of US troops by 2014 were not on track. A secret report by the US military called for an extra 2,000 US and British troops to be sent. ISAF commander General John Allen said a fast pull-out would create difficulties holding ground won from the insurgents. He pointed out that, even with accelerated training, Afghan security forces would not be ready to take over by 2014. US ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker admitted that the 2014 deadline may not be met and that the US would not ‘walk away’ from Afghanistan. He said a joint security pact in the early stages of negotiation would ‘lay out the framework for strategic partnership well beyond 2014 on a wide range of areas – the economy, education as well as security’ and that ‘major weapons systems’ would be delivered after 2014. The British government, in the mire of the capitalist economic crisis, is keen to end British military involvement as soon as possible. In December, the National Security Council met to discuss a pull-out and some ministers argued for the withdrawal of half of Britain’s 9,500 troops by mid-2013.

 

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War in Afghanistan threatens whole region

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 224 December 2011/January 2012

It is ten years since imperialist forces invaded Afghanistan. As they struggle to extricate themselves from the jaws of defeat, they threaten to engulf the whole region in war. In September, Admiral Mike Mullen, former chair of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, threatened unilateral action in Pakistan, implying attacks on intelligence and military bases. Pakistan’s General Athar Abbas warned such action would have ‘grave consequences’. Reports suggested some Pakistanis were preparing for war with the US. JIM CRAVEN reports.

On 26 November, the Pakistan government condemned as ‘unprovoked and indiscriminate’ a NATO helicopter attack on a Pakistan border checkpoint that killed at least 24 Pakistani soldiers. The Pakistan government closed the border crossing for NATO supplies into Afghanistan in protest.

 

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Afghanistan: Taliban strike at will

FRFI 223 October/November 2011

The assassination of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul on 20 September underlined the failings of US and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) strategy in Afghanistan. Rabbani, who led the Mujahideen against Soviet Union forces in the 1970s, was being used by the puppet Afghan government to seek reconciliation with sections of the Taliban. A faction of the Taliban is thought to have killed him. The US says that it intends to transfer security to the Afghan forces by 2014. In order to do that it must either substantially weaken the Taliban or draw them into a political agreement with the government.

There have been 26 major Taliban attacks on Kabul since 2008. In June this year the Intercontinental Hotel, favourite conference venue for westerners, was attacked. In August the British Consulate was targeted. On 13 September the US embassy and ISAF were attacked in an operation lasting 24 hours. This could not have been mounted without the infiltration of Afghanistan government forces. The Taliban are showing that they can strike where and when they want.

 

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Afghanistan: problems mount for imperialists

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 222 August/September 2011

In June President Obama announced that 5,000 US troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan this summer and another 5,000 by the end of the year. A further 23,000 troops are expected to return home by September 2012. Obama clearly had his re-election in mind, aware that 65% of people in the US believe the war is no longer worth fighting. However, even this modest withdrawal was opposed by the US military and many in Obama’s administration. They believe the anti-occupation fighters will only negotiate a peace settlement when they have been severely weakened. Around 65,000 US troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2012 – twice the number when Obama took office – together with 100,000 Pentagon paid mercenaries. Britain is to withdraw an even smaller proportion of its 12,500 troops, just 500 by the end of 2012, and France will withdraw 1,000. Jim Craven reports.

The strategy of US commander General Petraeus has been to massively increase air strikes, death squads and night-time raids using special forces. These have resulted in rising numbers of civilians being killed, injured or detained without trial. According to the UN 961 civilians were killed or injured in May, the highest total since records began four years ago. General Petraeus (soon to become CIA director) has planned for two more fighting seasons. The Afghan people are set to suffer another bloody 18 months.

 

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Afghanistan - Imperialist strategy failing

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 220 April/May 2011

Afghanistan - Imperialist strategy failing

Government propaganda would have us believe that the US surge is turning the tide against anti-occupation fighters in Afghanistan. In reality, problems continue to mount for the imperialists and sections of their ruling classes no longer believe the strategy will bring about the political settlement they were promised. Faheen Haider of the US Foreign Policy Association reported, ‘The situation on the ground in Afghanistan is far worse than we have been led to believe; indeed, the situation is far worse than even our worst assessments for the coming three years might suggest.’ The British Foreign Affairs Select Committee recently stated, ‘We question the fundamental assumption that success in Afghanistan can be “bought” through a strategy of “clear, hold and build”. We question the Government’s logic that a full-scale counter-insurgency campaign against the Taliban is necessary to prevent Al Qaida returning or that it could ever succeed.’ The report also emphasised that the rise in civilian casualties since the start of the surge has caused ‘heightened instability and suspicion’. JIM CRAVEN reports.

The imperialists’ justification for the war – that it is necessary to prevent the Taliban sponsoring Al Qaida and terrorist attacks on the West – has been further discredited by a report from the Centre on International Co-operation at New York University. It says that Mullah Omar, leader of the Afghan Taliban, opposed Bin Laden’s plotting against the US and that it was Pakistan that encouraged the Taliban not to give in to US pressure regarding Bin Laden because Pakistan hoped resistance to the US invasion would continue. In November 2002 the Taliban offered reconciliation with the new Afghan government and to join the political process, but were dismissed by Karzai and the US because they considered the Taliban a spent force. Wakil Muttawakil, the Taliban intermediary, was arrested and imprisoned. Taliban representatives nevertheless continued trying to open talks and went to Kabul in 2003 and 2004. The report also confirmed, as previously reported in FRFI, that in 2009 the Taliban leadership stated, ‘[We have] no agenda of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and are ready to give legal guarantees if foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan.’

 

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Afghanistan: imperialists raise level of violence in advance of talks

FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011

NATO forces can neither win in Afghanistan nor can they leave, if imperialism is not to receive a serious blow. British Prime Minister Cameron repeated at November’s NATO conference in Lisbon that British combat troops would be out of Afghanistan in 2015. However, the US government said that US troops would remain until Afghan government forces take the lead. That is precisely their problem: Afghanistan’s political leadership under the Karzai government and its military and police forces are unable to take over.

Throughout the autumn, over 8,000 US and Afghan national troops attempted to clear anti-occupation fighters from districts around Kandahar. Operations by US/NATO special forces to assassinate Taliban leaders were intensified. The imperialists know they cannot win the war, but they hope to strengthen their bargaining position before entering peace talks; they have to find elements in the Taliban they can deal with.

 

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Afghanistan: imperialists losing the war

FRFI 217 October/November 2010

With the arrival in August of the final contingent of Obama’s ‘surge’, the number of imperialist troops in Afghanistan rose to over 140,000. They are supported by more than 200,000 members of the Afghan national police and army against an estimated 28,000 anti-occupation fighters. But the imperialists are losing the war. JIM CRAVEN reports.

July was the deadliest month so far for US troops in Afghanistan, with 66 soldiers killed. Almost 200 members of the occupying forces were killed during June and July. These included 38 British soldiers. The number of seriously injured soldiers losing limbs in the first six months of 2010 was five times that for the corresponding period of 2009.

 

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Afghanistan: Imperialists divided

FRFI 216 August/September 2010

The imperialists’ strategy in Afghanistan is in chaos. On 21 July British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the House of Commons: ‘Let me be absolutely clear that we will see our troops withdrawn from Afghanistan from a combat role by 2015.’ On the same day, in the US, Prime Minister Cameron said that Britain could begin to reduce troop numbers in Afghanistan from July 2011, but only on condition that Afghan forces take the lead in security operations. The day before, speaking after a conference of foreign secretaries in Kabul, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaimed the conference a ‘turning point’, and, while endorsing Afghan President Karzai’s proposal that from 2014 Afghan forces take responsibility for security, suggested that US troops might stay in the country for decades.  The divisions within and between the different ruling classes of the occupying powers result from their failure to subdue the anti-occupation forces, and the realisation that they face defeat in Afghanistan. JIM CRAVEN and TREVOR RAYNE report.

This summer is the deadliest period since the 2001 invasion for US/NATO troops, with 102 killed in June and rising numbers of casualties in July. Twenty British soldiers were killed in June and 15 killed in the first three weeks of July. The rate of occupation forces’ deaths in the first six months of 2010 is twice that for the same period in 2009. Significantly, the proportion killed by small arms fire has tripled since last year, indicating that the anti-occupation forces are strong enough to operate at close range and find protection among the local population. US intelligence estimates that 75% of anti-occupation fighters operate within five miles of their home village. A US Department of Defence survey of 121 priority districts found 50 actively support or are sympathetic to the anti-occupation fighters, compared with just 28 sympathetic to the Afghan government. The US Government Accountability Office says that the Taliban has set up a ‘widespread paramilitary shadow government... in a majority of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.’ The plan to hand over security to the Afghan government is implausible.

 

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Afghanistan – Obama’s surge threatens Kandahar

FRFI 215 June/July 2010

An Afghan businessman described the imminent attack by imperialist forces on Kandahar city – ‘The storm is coming. I try telling people. You have two options: get out now, or climb down into your bunker and hope that the storm will pass and that you’re still alive six months from now.’ 12,000 US, British and Canadian troops, together with 10,000 members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) have moved to isolate the city and surrounding area. Operation Hamkari is planned to begin in June and continue until at least the beginning of Ramadhan in August. JIM CRAVEN reports.

When General McChrystal took command of the occupying forces last year, he claimed his priority was to gain the trust of the Afghan people and prevent civilian casualties, admitting later ‘We’ve shot an amazing number of people [who did not pose a threat]’. The use of such overwhelming force in Kandahar, as with the attack on Marjah in February, however, is intended to intimidate the local population and prevent them from supporting the anti-occupation forces. In Marjah, 26,000 people had to flee their homes. In the densely populated streets of Kandahar the fighting will claim many more victims. McChrystal’s true priority is not concern for the Afghan people but dead and captured Taliban fighters and apparent (though bogus) military victories with which to persuade public and political opinion back home that US forces should stay in Afghanistan.

 

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Afghanistan – new imperialist onslaught

FRFI 214 April / May 2010

In February, when the occupying forces launched their latest onslaught in Afghanistan, US commander General McChrystal claimed that his priority was to avoid civilian casualties. Within two days of the start of Operation Moshtarak, 12 civilians (including six children) were killed by NATO missiles in the Nad-e-ali district. A week later, 27 civilians were killed when their minibuses were hit by an airstrike in Uruzgan. JIM CRAVEN reports.

 

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Afghanistan war unwinnable

FRFI 212 December 2009 / January 2010

The successes of the anti-occupation forces in Afghanistan and concern at the rise in casualties among the occupying forces are creating divisions within the ruling classes of the imperialist countries. Pressure to bring the troops home is being held in check only by a massive public relations campaign to ‘support our heroes’, which in Britain reached almost hysterical proportions around Remembrance Day. Polls indicate that 58% of US people are opposed to the war. Two-thirds of people in Britain believe the war is ‘unwinnable’ and 35% want an immediate withdrawal. Despite these conditions, the anti-war movements in both countries remain hopelessly weak because their organisers refuse to break with the governing parties that defend their privileged lifestyles. JIM CRAVEN reports.

 

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Afghanistan: Imperialist propaganda cannot mask paralysis

FRFI 211 October / November 2009

The imperialists intended the 20 August presidential elections to give a cloak of legitimacy to the Afghan government and their forces’ occupation of the country, but the outcome has further undermined the credibility of both. Ballots from over 600 polling stations have been quarantined and there are 720 major charges of electoral fraud. President Karzai is exposed as a cheat. In September US General Stanley McChrystal’s report to the Pentagon on the situation in Afghanistan was leaked; it describes a failing military endeavour, a corrupt government without popular support and time running out fast for the invaders. Despite deploying extra troops and launching intensive campaigns over the summer, the occupying forces have been fought to a standstill. On 21 September the 217th British soldier was killed in Afghanistan since 2001; more than in the Iraq war. In August 77 NATO troops were killed, and by 21 September a further 55 were dead. Many more Afghan people were killed. The US and British states are on the road to disaster in Afghanistan.  Jim Craven and Trevor Rayne report.

 

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Fighting thin air

FRFI 167 June / July 2002

Britain’s contribution to the ‘war on terrorism’ looked a sorry picture by mid-May. The Royal Marine commandos sallied forth only to find no one there. An arms cache had been located and destroyed, but it belonged to an ally and not an enemy. Eventually al-Qaida forces were located, attacked and killed but they turned to out to be celebrants at a wedding party. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon pronounced ‘every confidence’ in the officer in charge of British forces in Afghanistan. A day later Brigadier Roger Lane was being returned to a posting ‘at headquarters’. Behind this farce the tragedy of Afghan people continues and the undertow of menace threatens the world. TREVOR RAYNE reports.

Between October 2001 and April 2002 the US military claim to have dropped 22,000 bombs and missiles on Afghanistan, averaging over 100 a day. The number of civilians killed by the US and allied intervention is put by aid organisations at up to 8,000 killed directly by explosives and over 20,000 killed indirectly by disease, starvation and cold accompanying displacement from their homes. By mid-May 37 US military personnel had been killed in or around Afghanistan. British casualties in ‘peacekeeping missions’, including Afghanistan, under the Labour government since 1997 have reached approximately 60 dead.

 

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Imperialism out of Afghanistan

FRFI 164 December 2001 / January 2002

The US and British governments say they do not know when this war will end or where it will end. The retaliatory attack was launched by the US and Britain on 7 October. After one month 7,000 bombs and missiles had been dropped on Afghanistan. Reports from Pakistan said 1,500-2,000 civilians had been killed by the bombardment. Four US airmen were killed in accidents. Two million people, trapped in the central highlands, faced starvation. 115,000 Afghan refugees had been added to those previously displaced. On 9 November Northern Alliance forces took Mazar-e-Sharif from the Taliban and on 13 November they entered Kabul. Captives were killed, between 500 and 600 were massacred in Mazar. Britain and the US share responsibility for this war crime, as TREVOR RAYNE shows.

Since 1979, when the US and Britain backed the counter-revolutionary war against the Afghan government, 2.5 million Afghans, 10% of the population, have been killed. 6.3 million Afghans, 30% of the people, are refugees. The Taliban and the Northern Alliance have served imperialism in this destruction.

 

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War in Afghanistan Deeper into the mire

‘Mr President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say ... no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops ... depending on the breaks.’
General Turgidson, Dr Strangelove

The clamour for more helicopters and equipment for British forces in Afghanistan and the tears and pomp for British war dead will not reduce the rising number of Afghani and British casualties in an immoral, imperialist war. Thousands of Afghani civilians have lost their lives. More weapons will sink British forces deeper into the mire. The grief of dead soldiers’ families is exploited by the government to rally public support for the war. British imperialist forces are employed to kill and, if necessary, to be killed. ANDREW ALEXANDER reports on a war that has cost Britain over £4.5bn to date and has implications for an entire region.

 

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War in Afghanistan and Pakistan escalates

FRFI 209 June / July 2009

When Britain sent its first major contingent of 4,000 troops to Helmand, Afghanistan, in 2006 the then Labour Defence Secretary John Reid said he hoped ‘not a shot would be fired in anger’. There are now more than 8,000 British troops in the province. They have fired over six million bullets. US, British and other NATO forces are escalating the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Top British military commanders want to send up to 4,000 more British troops. Defence Secretary John Hutton and Prime Minister Gordon Brown are believed  to agree, but the Treasury is resisting the demand.

 

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Afghanistan: bowing to the empire

FRFI 165 February / March 2002

The USA-led ‘war on terrorism’ threatens the world. Divisions between the allies are opening up with European alarm at the USA. Russia and China have told the USA they do not want a permanent US military force in Central Asia. India and Pakistan confront each other armed with nuclear weapons. Repressive regimes from Israel to Zimbabwe use the ‘war on terrorism’ to attack opponents. State racism crushes civil liberties in the USA, Britain and Europe. TRE VOR RAYNE reports.

 

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A revolution betrayed

FRFI 166 April / May 2002

The 1978 Afghan Revolution was a genuine seizure of power by the oppressed from the exploiters. With few exceptions, the Left in the imperialist countries slandered the revolution as a coup d’état. Recently Clare Fermont of the SWP went as far as to say revolution in Afghanistan was impossible: ‘the lack of economic development meant there was no social basis for a “social democratic” movement, let alone a socialist one.’ (Socialist Review, October 2001).

 

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Afghanistan: a little local difficulty

FRFI 178 April / May 2004

Timed to coincide with US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s mid-March visit to Kabul and Islamabad, a US-led force of 13,500 troops launched the suitably dramatically named Operation Mountain Storm in search of Osama bin Laden, along the Afghan border with Pakistan. Across the border the Pakistan army entered the semi-autonomous province of South Waziristan. Al Qaida fighters would be caught between the ‘hammer and the anvil’, they said. Powell expressed satisfaction with the show: ‘The action yesterday suggests that Pakistan has picked up the pace. We hope they continue to do that.’

Entering into the spirit of the performance, Pakistani agents reported Bin Laden’s number two, Ayman al-Zawarhi, trapped in South Waziristan. In their enthusiasm the agents must have improvised, for next we learned that the slippery fellow had escaped down a mile-long tunnel. The capture of Bin Laden is a priority for Bush’s presidential election campaign. Task Force 121, the team that found Saddam Hussein, has been drafted in.

 

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Afghanistan: Resistance flares in face of British forces

When the then British Defence Secretary John Reid announced in April that an extra 3,200 British troops were to be sent to Afghanistan, he said he hoped they might get through their deployment without a shot being fired. This was a preposterously disingenuous statement meant to sustain the stereotypical image of British ‘Tommy Atkins’ as the friendly peacemaker risking his life to bring harmony to troublesome foreigners. The reality is that the level of violence is now greater than at any time since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Over 600 people were killed in May alone. The British force is carrying out ruthless search and destroy missions, engaging in firefights with the Taliban and other resistance fighters every day. As junior defence minister Tom Watson more truthfully admitted on 3 July, ‘That was why we sent an air-mobile battle group, artillery and Apache attack helicopters.’ Still the deceit continued. The same day the Ministry of Defence said there were no plans to increase the total force on the ground and denied reports that commanders had called for more armoured vehicles, helicopters and jets. A few days later it was announced that a further 800 British Army personnel were going to Afghanistan along with extra support ordinance. This will bring the total British presence in Afghanistan to around 6,000, approaching the 7,200 in Iraq. The total NATO force in Afghanistan is 25,000, including US troops, and came under British command in July.

 

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Resistance flares in Afghanistan

Attacks by resistance fighters in Afghanistan during the early autumn were described by one British officer as ‘the most intensive fighting British forces had seen since the Korean War’. The frequency of attacks is now more than four times what it was a year ago, running at an average of 600 attacks each month. In October, Brigadier Ed Butler, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, admitted that his troops had come close to running out of supplies and that ‘some may have underestimated the tenacity and ferocity of the Taliban’. He now suggests imperialist forces may have to be in Afghanistan for 20 years. US Ambassador Ronald Neumann agrees, saying that the US would remain ‘multiple years’ and spend ‘multiple billions’ to avoid failure.

Resistance fighters are not just Taliban
To describe all those opposing the occupation of Afghanistan as Taliban is mere propaganda on the part of the imperialists. Anyone who opposes the puppet government of Hamid Karzai or the rampant corruption of its local officials are labelled Taliban. It is part of the same terror and divide and rule tactics the British have always used in counter-insurgency operations. So, for example, local warlords are sent to patrol tribesmen with whom they have blood feuds. When the tribesmen defend themselves or fight back they too are labelled Taliban.

 

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Afghanistan – cracks open up in the imperialist front

The imperialist forces face deepening problems in Afghanistan. By the end of last year 36 British and 34 Canadian troops had been killed: a death rate for British forces greater than in Iraq. Over 100 suicide attacks took place in 2006 compared with just 17 in the previous 12 months. Taliban and other attacks on Afghan forces increased by more than 300% in 2006 and on NATO forces by over 270%. The British and Canadians continue to meet fierce resistance wherever they go in the south. In Musa Qala the British brokered a peace deal with the village elders which the Afghan resistance has respected, but the deal only applies within the town, so British forces continue to face major attacks just outside its boundaries.

When NATO forces respond they often do so in an indiscriminate manner. In Punjwayi during Operation Medusa NATO claimed to have killed more than 1,000 resistance fighters and captured huge stockpiles of weapons but air attacks killed many civilians. In October at least 30 nomadic herders were killed by NATO air strikes. At the beginning of December in Kandahar British troops opened fire indiscriminately following a bomb attack on their convoy. Witnesses said most of the 23 killed and injured civilians were the victims of the gun fire not the bomb. Such incidents only anger the local people and draw new recruits into the resistance.

 

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Resistance grows in Afghanistan

The suicide bombing at the Bagram air base in February graphically illustrated the deepening problems for the imperialist forces in Afghanistan. After five years of occupation they could not even protect the most heavily guarded base in the country when US Vice President Cheney was visiting. A report by the US Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said that the occupation was fuelling the Afghan resistance and that NATO operations were doing more harm than good. It criticised NATO for overestimating the number of resistance fighters it has killed and for blaming civilian deaths on the Taliban. The report admitted that most Afghanis were disillusioned with the occupation and that indiscriminate actions by the imperialist forces were ‘creating ten enemies out of one’.

At the end of February, a rally of 25,000 people in Kabul quickly turned into a demonstration against the occupation with chants of ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to the enemies of Afghanistan’. The CSIS report went on to criticise what it called ‘abusive elements’ in the Afghan government and police and among local commanders. It said the Afghan army ‘remains ineffective and is held in low esteem’ and that the legitimacy of the government has ‘deteriorated’. The outgoing commander of US forces, General Kark Eikenberg agreed that ‘a point could be reached at which the government of Afghanistan becomes irrelevant to its people’.

 

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Afghanistan: death toll rises

The imperialists are resorting to ever more brutal tactics to suppress resistance, in particular the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets. On 18 June seven children were killed in an attack on a religious compound in Paktika. Four days later US warplanes massacred 25 civilians in Kunjakak, including three children. At least 107 people were killed on 29 June in Hyderabad in Helmand province. Mayor Dur Ali Shah said 45 of them were civilians. Earlier a joint patrol convoy of US and Afghan puppet forces had come under fire and the resistance fighters then retreated to Hyderabad. That evening, without warning, US aircraft attacked the whole village, destroying homes, businesses and livestock. Such collective punishment is proscribed by the Geneva Convention. Its purpose was to terrorise and intimidate the Afghan people.

In the first five months of 2007 the imperialists launched over 1,000 air strikes, four times the number carried out in Iraq. A report by the International Committee of the Red Cross highlighted the ‘growing number of civilian casualties’. The number of civilians killed by the occupying forces far outnumbered those killed in operations by resistance fighters. Even puppet President Hamid Karzai said he was ‘disappointed and angry’ at the level of civilian casualties and a NATO spokesman conceded he was right to be.

 

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Afghanistan

When British troops left for Afghanistan, the then Labour Defence Secretary John Reid, suggested they might soon return without a shot being fired. Two years on and two million rounds of ammunition later and the present Defence Secretary, Des Browne, has spoken of a ‘long-term commitment’ of anything from 10 to 30 years, claiming the Labour government ‘never underestimated the degree of difficulty we face’. The number of British troops in Helmand is set to rise to 7,700 this autumn.

As in Iraq, differences are emerging between the British and US forces. British commanders have asked that US special forces be removed from their area because the number of civilian casualties is damaging their so-called ‘hearts and minds’ campaign. A senior British officer stated that the US caused ‘the lion’s share’ of the more than 300 Afghan civilian casualties so far this year. The new NATO commander in Afghanistan, US General Dan McNeil, has aborted agreements made by British forces with local leaders in Helmand Province.

 

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Imperialists under fierce attack in Afghanistan

Problems mount for the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan. A US Congressional Committee reported, ‘There is no security in Afghanistan. The central government’s grip does not extend much beyond the environs of Kabul. In the provinces there is no functioning local government.’ Violent incidents in the country are up 30% compared with last year, now averaging 550 every month. According to the US Council on Foreign Relations, 5,100 people were killed in the country in the first nine months of this year, 50% up on the same period of 2006. According to The Guardian, ‘The possibility of military failure, previously unthinkable, is now openly discussed.’

 

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Resistance in Afghanistan cannot be contained

FRFI 204 August / September 2008

At the beginning of June, British and NATO commanders in Afghanistan claimed that the ‘tipping point’ had been reached in the fight against what they call the Taliban. If true, such a claim amounts to an admission that the resistance had had the upper hand up to that time. However, guerrilla wars, such as that being waged by the Afghanis, do not amount to all-out conflict until one side overpowers the other. It is a war of intermittent surprise and harassment within which a retreat can be as much a positive tactic as an attack.

 

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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.

 

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