After 8 years in Afghanistan, the international force led by the USA is sending in more troops. Far from a blow for democracy or the ‘war on terror', this conflict is turning the region into an ever worsening hell.
Eight years after the ‘great victory' that overthrew the Taliban in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the international NATO and Enduring Freedom forces are not only still there, but due to be increased by another 30,000 US and 500 British troops with another 10,000 requested from NATO. The 100,000 international (and 200,000 Afghan) soldiers and police have already lost over 1200 dead and countless injured and maimed. In addition there have been more than 2100 civilian deaths caught in the crossfire of the Taliban, Al Qaeda terrorism and western forces, with the latter responsible for 40% of these deaths according to UNO (such as the 90 killed near water tankers in Kunduz last September). And the risk of death, from bombardment, drones and terrorist bombings has been exported across the border into Pakistan. This spread of chaos, fear and death is the first great achievement of this military adventure, which like operations in the Middle East, Iraq, or ex-Yugoslavia in the 1990s, are carried out for imperialist interests, however they may have been dressed up as ‘peace-keeping', ‘democracy' or the ‘war on terror' to disguise the build up of military tensions and sanitise the death and suffering visited on the population. To give an idea of western priorities, current US military spending is $100million a day, while international aid by all donors is $7 million a day, and half that promised has never materialised - with Robert Gate proposing that the US cut off this sort of aid to punish corruption. Similarly France spends 200 million Euro for the army and 11million on civilian aid. While the cost of the war to ‘save' the people of Afghanistan is $3.6billion a month, the population suffers. Drug barons drive about in 4x4s along with other dignitaries while only 5% of aid goes to supporting legitimate agriculture that is not only the livelihood of 70% of the population but also key to stemming the tide of drugs.
Meanwhile around 50,000 children work on the streets of Kabul, cleaning cars, shining shoes, collecting papers, and still suffer hunger, disease, violence and slavery. Conditions are worsening throughout the country. Afghanistan's maternal mortality is the second highest in the world, but in the North-East province of Badakhshan, a centre of opium traffic, it is significantly worse with 6,500 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births, the highest rate ever recorded. 75% of the newborn die from lack of food, warmth and care. Furthermore on average a pregnant woman has a one in 8 chance of dying, and half of them are under 16. This UN study showing just one aspect of the devastation of war and poverty on the population has not been publicised by the British media, which is sufficiently bare faced to imply that the war is necessary to improve the position of women. The election fiasco was well publicised, as is criticism of the corruption of Karzai and his regime by Gordon Brown, Obama, Clinton and others, but he is their man!
More oil on the fire
Despite the failure of the military intervention Obama has announced a troop surge, a second one after sending an extra 17,000 in February. He is claiming that "these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011", although NATO secretary general Rasmussen has assured us that the troops are there for as long as it takes, and the US is planning to send in a ‘high representative' to take over day to day control in Kabul. The new troops show that Obama is following exactly the same strategy as his predecessor George Bush, with the same justification: "we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear".
This is despite recent revelations that US forces had bin Laden ‘within their grasp' in 2001, but chose not to send the troops in to capture him and that Obama's national security advisor, James Jones, told Congress that Al Qaeda's presence is much reduced, with less than 100 operatives in the country, no base and no capacity to launch attacks against the ‘allies'. Even in Pakistan, the Wall Street Journal notes that Al Qaeda is pursued by US drones, short of money and having difficulty attracting young Arabs to fight in the bleak mountains of Pakistan. However, when Obama says that he will not tolerate a safe haven for terrorists, and that his policy must work for both sides of the border, this is clearly also a veiled threat against Pakistan.
So why such slaughter when the neither the threat of Al Qaeda nor the benefit to the population are in any way credible? Many of the ‘allies' are becoming more reluctant (Sarkozy has announced France will send no more troops, Germany is waiting till the New Year to decide) and even announcing the war is lost in advance. The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, told CNN that Canada does not report the war since it was not fighting with the insurgents - a US complaint about many of the ‘allies'. Obama's announcement told us that the troop surge is in "the national interest". Precisely.
For the USA the national interest is the control of this strategic region close to China, Iran and Russia, essential trade routes for primary commodities and a region that looks across to Africa from Asia. It is, therefore, a major prize for the world's greatest power, its allies and its rivals, all of whom have complete contempt for the population. We can expect imperialist forces will be fighting over and devastating this region and massacring the population for a long time to come.