Afghanistan: US cannot bring itself to bow to the inevitable

As we reported in our last issue, the military commanders involved in Afghanistan have been declaring the war unwinnable on the imperialist side.

They have been joined by other eminent names. The British Ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles has shocked the imperialist world by saying:

American strategy is destined to fail” in Afghanistan, and that “The current situation is bad. The security situation is getting worse. So is corruption and the government has lost all trust.

“Our public statements should not delude us over the fact that the insurrection, while incapable of winning a military victory, nevertheless has the capacity to make life increasingly difficult, including in the capital. The presence – especially the military presence – of the coalition is part of the problem, not the solution. The foreign forces are ensuring the survival of a regime which would collapse without them.

“In doing so, they are slowing down and complicating an eventual exit from the crisis (which, moreover, will probably be dramatic).”

In other words, no less a person than the British ambassador to Afghanistan is in agreement with the article in the last issue of Lalkar which concluded that US and British imperialism can never win in Afghanistan!

Furthermore, the outgoing commander of the British army in Afghanistan has also echoed this view:

The departing commander of British forces in Afghanistan says he believes the Taleban will never be defeated.

“Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, the commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, whose troops have suffered severe casualties after six months of tough fighting, will hand over to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines this month.

“He told ‘The Times’ that in his opinion, a military victory over the Taleban was ‘neither feasible nor supportable’.

“‘What we need is sufficient troops to contain the insurgency to a level where it is not a strategic threat to the longevity of the elected Government’, he said.

“The brigadier said that his troops had ‘taken the sting out of the Taleban’ during clashes in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, but at a heavy cost. His brigade suffered 32 killed and 170 injured during its six-month tour of duty. The 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment alone lost 11 soldiers, most of them killed by roadside bombs or other explosive devices” (Tom Coghlan and Michael Evans, ‘We can’t defeat Taleban, says Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith’ The Times, 6 October 2008).

US warmongers determined to persist

Nevertheless, the US is apparently going to persist with its Afghan misadventure, with both the presidential candidates committed to increasing US troop levels in Afghanistan.

Two weeks ago, senior Bush administration officials gathered in secret with Afghanistan experts from NATO and the United Nations at an exclusive Washington club a few blocks from the White House. The group was there to deliver a grim message: the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse.

“Their audience: advisers from the presidential campaigns of John McCain and Barack Obama…

“Both Obama and McCain have promised to increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan” (Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt, ‘McCain and Obama advisers briefed on deteriorating Afghan war’, International Herald Tribune, 31 October 2008).

But who will supply the troops?

However, as we have pointed out before, it is one thing to decree that more troops will be sent to Afghanistan.  It is quite another for such troops to materialise.

President Bush announced in January 2007 that he would send up to 20,000 additional troops to Iraq for what since has become known as the ‘surge.’ But the number eventually grew to 30,000 by the time commanders added requests for all the military police, additional aviation needs and other support they wanted.

“In Afghanistan, it is far more difficult for troops to operate in the undeveloped nation, which lacks roads, runways and facilities to support troops. And commanders in Afghanistan do not consider this a short-term surge in troops but rather the number that will be needed over a longer period, one official said.

“It is unclear whether the number will win approval. …

“If that large a force is approved, it’s also unclear where the Pentagon would get that many extra troops for the Afghan campaign – and how quickly they could be sent…

“… with some 150,000 forces committed in Iraq, the U.S. has not had the available troops to send to Afghanistan.  Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has often noted that in Afghanistan ‘we do what we can, in Iraq we do what we must.’” (‘Afghanistan troop buildup could more than double’, Associated Press, 29 October, 2008).

Economic crisis puts pressure to decrease public spending

It has been reported this month that because of the heavy cost of trying to prop up the US’s failing financial system, even the arch-warmonger, Bush, has had to bow to pressure to reduce military expenditure, with cuts to secret services budgets:

The steep buildup in government spending on intelligence programs continued over the past year, according to figures made public on Tuesday, but American intelligence agencies are also bracing for a new era of austerity.

“Spending on intelligence operations increased by some 9 percent last year, to $47.5 billion, Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, said Tuesday. That figure includes most intelligence spending, including the budget for the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the operation of spy satellites, but it does not include several billions that the military services spend annually on intelligence operations” (Mark Mazzetti, ‘U.S. intelligence agencies face austerity’, International Herald Tribune, 29 October 2008)

Even if, in its desperate striving to maintain world domination, US imperialism is prepared to carry on spending limitlessly on the military, the same cannot be expected from hard-pressed allies, such as Canada, which has apparently so far spent 10.5 bn C$ (Canadian dollars) on its Afghan mission.  This amounts to 1,500 C$ for every household, which is projected almost to double in the next 2-3 years!  It is hard to believe that Canada and others will not join the mounting toll of US allies that have already pulled out of Afghanistan.

Notwithstanding these difficulties, US imperialism is pressing ahead on various fronts.  There is a diplomatic offensive in the form of encouraging the so-called Afghan government, i.e., Karzai and his fellow stooges, to talk to the Afghan resistance in the hope of dividing the latter and weakening them.  Not to put too fine a point on it, Karzai has been asked to ascertain whether there is anybody in the resistance camp amenable to being bought off.  This would seem unlikely but so desperate are the imperialists that they will try anything – and it doesn’t cost much to talk!

The British have chipped in with proposals to extend the propaganda offensive against the resistance by distributing pro-imperialist propaganda via mobile phones (to be handed out by NGOs) and the internet.  Again, it seems unlikely that this would have any effect other than further to endanger the lives of NGO personnel.

However, US warmongers still have arguments going for them:

1.        Nobody wants to admit defeat

2.        The armaments industry is one business that is still thriving, and

3.        There is a blind belief that the Taliban is dependent for its successes on the support of the Pakistan military and tribal chiefs in Waziristan.  As Pakistan is in dire economic straits as a result of the world economic crisis, hope has sprung up in the US imperialist breast that national bourgeois elements in Pakistan reflected in the Pakistan military can be forced to co-operate with US imperialism in return for economic rescue, and that the Pakistani military can be turned decisively against the tribal chiefs to deprive the Afghan resistance of its safe havens in Pakistan:

On the Pakistani side, two recent developments account for the new interest in cooperation. The first was the election of a civilian government led by secular politicians who are not tied to the Taliban, as some officers of the intelligence service and the army have been.

“A second, and perhaps more compelling, cause of the new stance is an acute economic crisis in the country. Simultaneous with the jirga, Pakistani negotiators were begging the International Monetary Fund for billions in loans to meet otherwise unpayable debts.” (‘New tack with the Taliban’, The Boston Globe, 31 October 2008).

The fact of the matter is, however, that whatever billions are made available to the Pakistani bourgeoisie, none of this money is likely to reach ordinary Pakistani masses in the future, any more than it has done in the past.  Even if the relevant elements of the Pakistani bourgeoisie can be bought off, the masses of the Pakistani people cannot be.  If US imperialism succeeds in buying off Pakistani government and army support for the Afghan resistance, what is much more likely to happen is that US imperialism will at the same time succeed in totally isolating the comprador elements in Pakistan and in drawing Pakistan in an unbridled and unfettered way into the anti-imperialist struggle.

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