After several months of dithering and evasions, Barack Obama has finally opted for escalating dramatically the US-led predatory war against the Afghan people.
On 1 December 2009, speaking at the US military academy at West Point, he announced the deployment of 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan by the summer of 2010. Taking into account the 21,000 troops he dispatched to Afghanistan on taking office, the US president has doubled his bet. The latest surge will bring the total of US troops on Afghan soil to 100,000.
In bowing to the US security establishment and agreeing to the latest troop increase, Mr Obama has transformed himself into a warmonger in the mould of his predecessor, George W Bush. Perversely, just as he did so, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which only serves to emphasise the corrupt and degenerate nature of the Nobel Peace Committee.
In his West Point address, which was nationally televised, the US president announced that his goal was “to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and its allies in the future”.
The thrust of his speech was that the US-led war against, and occupation of, Afghanistan was to protect the American ‘homeland’. The deployment of an extra 30,000 US troops, he said, was in the service of a “vital national interest”, for, he went on, attacks against the US “are being planned as I speak”.
With the assertion of this bare-faced lie that the war against Afghanistan is to make the American streets safe, all earlier excuses and subterfuges deployed to justify this unjustifiable war have simply disappeared.
Earlier, it was variously claimed that the invasion of Afghanistan had as its aim the capture of Osama Bin Laden, the building of Afghan democracy, the establishment of human rights, the emancipation of Afghan women, the elimination of drugs, and so on and so forth. One by one, these claims have been proved to be what they always were – blatant lies to conceal the imperialist predatory aims underlying the invasion.
Now, the American public, and humanity at large, is invited by the US chief executive to subscribe to the absurd falsehood that the war is aimed at bringing security to the citizens of the US and its allies. The truth is just the opposite. The danger to the citizens in the centres of imperialism arises precisely because the principal imperialist countries are busy waging predatory wars against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, and are co-authors of the crimes of zionism against the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples.
The sooner the warmongering imperialist powers withdraw their troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, the sooner they stop assisting the Israeli genocidal war against the Palestinian people, the sooner will safety return to the streets of America, Britain and other countries participating in these wars.
With the latest increase in US troop numbers, the Afghan war has rightly come to be seen as what it has in truth all along been – an Anglo-American enterprise for the domination of Afghanistan and central Asia. From now on, US troops alone will account for nearly three-quarters of all foreign forces in Afghanistan.
In claiming a broad coalition of 43 countries waging this war, Mr Obama, whether he intended it or not, echoed George W Bush’s derisory list of the ‘coalition of the willing’. In place of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, US soldiers will be fighting next to troops from Finland (165), Bosnia and Herzegovina (460) and Iceland (2). Of this coalition of 43, only the US and the UK have more than 5,000 troops.
The US had requested its Nato allies to provide an extra 10,000 troops, but this request fell on deaf ears. The US had hoped that Germany (with 4,500 already in Afghanistan) would provide an extra 2,000 and France (with 3,750) an extra 1,500, but both these countries have refused to budge. At the end of the two-day meeting of Nato foreign ministers held from 3-4 December, its secretary general was able to announce an additional 5,000 troops to add to the 37,000 already in place as Poland agreed to increase by 600 its existing force of 2,000 and Italy promised an additional 1,000.
Not only will these 5,000 extra Nato troops fall well short of the numbers requested by the US, but they will include the 1,500 already sent to Afghanistan as election reinforcements last year. What is more, the new troops will be subject to the same ‘rules of engagement’ that have kept the troops of the US’s Nato allies out of the fighting areas up to now.
The response to the US request on the part of its allies speaks eloquently of the fast-diminishing power, status and influence of the US, and presents a complete contrast to the position it occupied in 2001. Then, the Bush administration inherited budget surpluses, close to full employment and a currency whose reserve status was unrivalled and unquestioned. Following 9/11, almost the entire imperialist bloc was prepared to fight for the US, perceived as a leader of the ‘free world’ – an expression which has altogether disappeared from use.
Pull-out by July 2011?
While opting for this ‘one last heave’ and announcing the latest surge, Barack Obama, fully aware of the slumping support for the war at home, also stated that the US troops would begin to withdraw in July 2011 – an illusory timeframe in which to attempt a reversal of fortunes in a war which his commanders maintain the resistance is winning. And this in a country with a thoroughly corrupt and illegitimate puppet government, which (nominally) controls less than a third of the country, and which has no credible functioning institutions.
The extra troops will not be sufficient to fight the resistance. The Obama plan relies on the implicit assumption that the US and its partners in crime can train fully functioning army units three times faster than the existing programme, which has so far been characterised only by failure.
While the Afghan National Army (ANA) can operate independently in just one of the country’s 34 provinces – the heavily guarded capital, Kabul – the resistance has established administrations in 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
Popular hostility to the foreign occupation and its Karzai puppets stands at an all-time high, while the morale of the ANA is at an all-time low. More than a third of Afghan troops go missing as soon as they are ordered to be deployed in areas of serious fighting, such as in the south and east of the country.
Increased troop levels are merely testimony to the failure thus far of imperialist forces, numbering 100,000 before the latest surge, to defeat the resistance. Further increases in the strength of the occupation forces will do no more than make them even more unpopular with the masses of the region and furnish a larger number of targets for the resistance.
No sooner had Mr Obama stated that the US troops would begin to draw down in July 2011 than the US security establishment began to contradict him with a variety of caveats, hedges and ‘explanations’.
General Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s military chief in Afghanistan, was quick to assure the quislings in Kabul that the US was not thinking of a precipitate troop pull-out. Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, backed by secretary of state Hillary Clinton, made utterances implying that the US was committed to a long-term military presence in Afghanistan and central Asia. For his part, Admiral Mike Mallen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the US Congress that the “July 2011 date is a day we start transitioning, not leaving”.
On this side of the Atlantic, General Sir David Richards, the head of the British army, poured cold water on Gordon Brown and Barack Obama’s hopes of an early exit from Afghanistan, saying that it was “slightly false” to regard the 30,000-strong troop surge as paving the way for a “withdrawal”.
He added that British troops in Afghanistan would continue to be involved in offensive operations in that country for five more years – thus undermining the timetable enunciated by the British prime minister, who had said that Britain could hand over control to the ANA in some parts of Helmand Province as early as next year by way of an exit strategy.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the chief of Britain’s armed forces, weighed in, warning that Mr Obama’s proposal to begin the withdrawal of soldiers in 2011 was “over-optimistic”, adding that it was “more realistic” to hand over control to the ANA by 2014.
General Richards told ITV News: “We’re not ever going to cut and run. This will evolve into an Afghan-led operation which we will continue to support for as long as necessary.” In the light of stiff opposition from Sir David and Sir Jock, Gordon Brown backtracked immediately, saying it may only be possible to hand over “one or two parts of a district or province” to Afghan control in 2010, as opposed to the five provinces of which he had previously spoken.
Thus it is clear that the security establishments of the two principal imperialist countries waging this predatory war – the US and Britain – have long-term plans for the occupation of Afghanistan, notwithstanding the contrary assertions of their heads of government. They are not about to leave any time soon, unless they are driven out by the strength of the Afghan resistance, which is precisely what is under way.
Surge will do no good
Previous troop surges in Afghanistan have been total failures, with each surge stoking up the resistance, inflicting defeats on the occupation, and preparing the ground for yet another surge. This is proved by the course of development of the war, which has already lasted longer than the second world war.
The US invaded Afghanistan with fewer than 10,000 soldiers. Over the eight years since then, the number of US soldiers has been periodically increased to reach the figure of 68,000, and the latest surge will bring the total to just under 100,000.
With each previous increase in troop levels, and each passing year save two, US casualties have gone up. If in 2002 and 2003 the US suffered 49 and 48 fatalities respectively, it suffered 52 in 2004, 99 in 2005, 98 in 2006, 117 in 2007, 155 in 2008 and over 300 in 2009.
The year 2009 was the worst for the imperialist forces occupying Afghanistan. With 100,000 soldiers, and another 100,000 mercenaries, not counting the ANA, they still managed to sustain 498 fatalities – 40 percent more than in 2008.
As for Britain, it has lost just over 240 soldiers in Afghanistan, with more than 100 of these in 2009 alone.
July 2009, during which Britain launched Operation Panther’s Claw, proved to be the bloodiest month for British soldiers, with 22 soldiers being killed and another 94 wounded. The following month, 19 British soldiers were killed and 59 wounded. In September, 7 soldiers were killed and 48 wounded. And in October, 13 were killed while 60 were wounded.
For each British soldier killed, at least another four were wounded, some terribly maimed, suffering loss of limbs, blindness, deafness or brain damage as a result of ambushes and use of deadly homemade bombs by the resistance. About 440 British servicemen and women were wounded in Afghanistan in 2009, up from 235 in 2008.
In view of the past record, as well as the far higher levels of resistance currently engulfing the occupation forces, it is a safe bet to say that the surge being announced by the US and its Nato allies will fare no better than all the previous surges. Nato is on course to lose the Afghan war. All that the political and military leaderships of the countries waging it can do is at best to manage failure and make for the exit with some face-saving formula, or else wait to be forced out following a humiliating military defeat of the type suffered by the US in Vietnam.
Staring at defeat
While persisting with their war against the Afghan people, Britain’s defence chiefs admit that they cannot win in Afghanistan. This admission comes in a 423-page report produced by the top brass and released on 16 November 2009.
Compiled in consultation with defence experts, the report was put together by Major General Paul Newton, assistant chief of defence staff specialising in development, concepts and doctrine. The report implicitly admits that it is almost impossible to win against a popular people’s war of the type waged by the resistance in Afghanistan, for the fighters in such a war, using weapons such as roadside bombs, and able to melt easily into the local population, are “unlikely to present themselves in sterile battlespace for precision attack”.
In other words, it is impossible to defeat an enemy who, enjoying popular support, is everywhere and yet nowhere. Understanding as they do the nature of people’s wars, the near-impossibility of defeating those fighting such wars, the fools still want to carry on with the carnage. But then, imperialism would not be imperialism if, in the quest for domination, its representatives did not behave like the fool in the Chinese folk-saying who was forever lifting a rock only to drop it on his own feet.
The outgoing UN representative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, recently reported to the Security Council that, in view of shrinking public support for the war in the US, Britain, Germany and other belligerent countries, as well as the frustration of the Afghan population at the all-pervading corruption, the fraudulent presidential election and the increasing fatal attacks by the resistance, time was running out for the Nato forces to reverse the gains of the Afghan liberation forces.
As if to underline the point, on 18 January, the resistance staged spectacular attacks in Kabul, giving battle to security forces outside the presidential palace, seizing buildings and launching suicide bombings in daring raids aimed at the heart of the government.
While one group of fighters traded fire with police in the course of attacking ministerial buildings and the central bank, another pushed its way through a shopping mall, lobbing grenades and triggering a siege that ended with the building immersed in fire. Yet another group barricaded itself inside a cinema.
The boldest assault took place near the presidential palace, with gunmen fighting police as Hamid Karzai commenced a swearing-in ceremony for new ministers.
These attacks furnished further proof of the resistance’s ability to penetrate the defences of the capital city, striking at the heart of the well-defended Kabul administration and spreading panic in the camp of the puppets of imperialism. The assault left senior Nato figures in a state of despair over the ability of the resistance to penetrate a multitude of checkpoints to launch its attack.
Infiltration by the resistance
To make life even more difficult for the occupiers, the Afghan resistance appears, as is clear from recent developments, to have penetrated both the Afghan security forces and the US intelligence service in Afghanistan.
If the attack on 4 November last year in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand, in which Gulbuddin, an Afghan policeman, shot dead five British soldiers who had been mentoring him and his fellow policemen, was not bad enough for the occupation, what was to happen on 30 December was far worse.
Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor of Palestinian origin, recruited by the Jordanian intelligence service and passed on to the CIA as a double agent to inform on the resistance, turned out actually to be working for the resistance. On 30 December, he entered unchecked into a CIA base in Khost, southern Afghanistan, and exploded the bomb he was carrying, killing himself and seven CIA staff, including the station chief and a Jordanian liaison officer – all of whom were awaiting his arrival in the belief that he was bringing back important information on different sections of the resistance on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier.
The incident has shaken the US security services severely and curtailed their ability to gather information about, and spy on, the resistance. It is clear that there is very close cooperation and coordination between various forces opposed to imperialist war and occupation, especially between the forces of the Afghan and Pakistani resistance, which makes them far more powerful and formidable foes of the imperialist occupation.
The Khost incident, while a propaganda boost for the resistance (not to mention a major morale boost for anti-imperialists worldwide), is nothing short of a disaster for imperialism.
Failure to form the puppet government
Hot on the heels of this incident came the rejection by the Afghan parliament of two-thirds of the ministerial nominations presented to it by Karzai – 17 of the 24 nominees were rejected as being unqualified, corrupt or cronies of Karzai.
Meeting again on 15 January, the Afghan parliament rejected half the nominees, though the US and UK favourites in the defence, interior, finance and agriculture in the list received approval owing to heavy pressure from these two countries.
The actions of the Afghan parliament have delayed the formation of the government and further reduced the ability of the occupying forces and their Afghan puppets to get their act together in the war against the rising tide of resistance. Thus, when Karzai attends the conference being hosted by Gordon Brown on 28 January, he will be coming without a cabinet in place.
An arc of resistance
The resistance to the US-led imperialist wars and occupation is spreading further still. There is indeed an arc of resistance stretching from Afghanistan and Pakistan, through Yemen into the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. The fluid movement of anti-imperialist fighters across the Afghan-Pakistan border is matched by a similar movement across the 1,800km border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Saudi citizens made up the bulk of the 11 September hijackers. Presently, thousands of political opponents of the Saudi regime and its US masters are languishing in Saudi jails and being tortured. Under Saudi pressure, many opponents of the regime moved across the border into Yemen, from where they are able to attack Saudi targets by crossing back. Recently, the Saudi and Yemeni opponents of their respective regimes have joined together in an organisation called Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which makes it a far more formidable enemy of the Saudi and Yemeni regimes, as well as the US, than its constituent parts ever were.
Just as the US has been launching drone attacks on its opponents in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it has been staging similar attacks on its opponents in the Yemen. The Saudi air force, too, has been bombing targets in the Yemen.
Just as in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so in Yemen, the US drone attacks, with large-scale civilian casualties, have aroused much anger and hostility among the local population towards the US, and evoked much sympathy for the resistance. Far from annihilating it, US attacks are merely serving as recruiting sergeants for the resistance.
Noose around its neck
Through its wars, occupations and hundreds of military bases in scores of countries around the world, imperialism, especially US imperialism, has created so many nooses around its neck.
In the unforgettable words of Mao Zedong, apropos US aggression against China and Lebanon, “These nooses have been fashioned by the Americans themselves and nobody else, and it is they themselves who have put these nooses round their own necks, handing the ends of the ropes to the Chinese people, the peoples of the Arab countries and all the peoples of the world who love peace and oppose aggression. The longer the US aggressors remain in those places, the tighter the nooses round their necks will become.” (Speech at the Supreme State Conference, 8 September 1958)
US aggression, and extension of the war, has brought Pakistan close to implosion; it is bringing Yemen close to implosion, with the ramifications extending to Saudi Arabia.
The eight years of imperialism’s war have claimed tens of thousands of Afghan lives for certain, and possibly very many more, while US casualties have risen to their highest levels since the allegedly anti-war Mr Obama took up residence in the White House. The Obama administration had already planned to spend $73bn on Afghanistan in the fiscal year 2010. With the extra 30,000 troops to Afghanistan consuming a further $30bn a year, the war will now cost over $100bn a year.
It is indeed a sign of a sick society, overripe for elimination, that it cannot afford to pay $100bn a year to give health cover to the 47 million of its citizens who have no such cover presently, but can somehow manage to fork out the same amount in a war of death, destruction and devastation, not to mention the hundreds of billions of dollars handed out to the gangsters from the world of finance capital.
Power of wealth
Barack Obama entered the White House with a whopping 78 percent approval rating. In April 2009, it had come down to 62 percent, with the average for the third quarter of 2009 hovering around 53 percent. At present, his approval rating stands at about 50 percent.
On coming into office, Obama promised to close down the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, but, a year later, this torture centre is still open. Bush’s abuses of power, such as extraordinary renditions and military tribunals, continue to operate. Two devastating wars started by Bush continue to be waged, with horrendous effects on their victims.
The Obama administration has refused to release 92 documents detailing CIA ‘enhanced interrogations’ – the agency having destroyed the videos – or release White House logs showing how many times executives from energy monopolies visited the Bush White House to lobby for their interests!
No wonder, then, that distinguished US historian Gary Wills should suggest that Obama is an Oval Office prisoner of the ‘National Security State’, meaning that the security establishment, ie, the US war machine, dictates to him what he can and cannot do.
Commentators with impeccable bourgeois credentials express the view that Mr Obama would not survive any attempt at defying the security establishment and what President Dwight Eisenhower described as “the military-industrial complex”. Even complying with his masters in the military-industrial complex and the robber barons of US finance capital, he is said to receive four times as many death threats than did his predecessor, George W Bush.
In a democratic republic, said Engels, “wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely”, first by means of the “direct corruption of officials” and second by means of “an alliance between the government and Stock Exchange”.
Having cited the above observation of Engels, Lenin went on to say that “imperialism and the domination of the banks have ‘developed’ both these methods of upholding and giving effect to the omnipotence of wealth in democratic republics … into an unusually fine art”, adding that a “democratic republic is the best possible shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained control of this best shell … it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that [u]no[/u] change, either of persons, or institutions, or of parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic, can shake it”. (The State and Revolution, 1917)
The victory of Obama in the 2008 presidential election, the hopes inspired among the petty bourgeoisie and the gullible masses by his victory, and the dashing of these hopes since then, furnish eloquent testimony of the truth of the above observations by Engels and Lenin. Real change can only come through the overthrow of capitalism – not through its ‘democratisation’, as dreamed of by the petty bourgeoisie.
Be that as it may; if the US military-industrial complex persists with its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it will meet its just desserts through humiliating defeats at the hands of the resistance. Like a character in a Greek tragedy, it is inexorably walking into these defeats while almost being conscious of so doing.