Posts Tagged ‘more troops to Afghanistan’

Obama to extend US attacks in Pakistan

December 8, 2009

by James Cogan, wsws.org, Dec 8, 2009

President Obama’s deployment of 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan will be accompanied by increased US attacks inside Pakistan. According to the New York Times, the White House is pressuring the Pakistani government to allow US forces to assassinate alleged Taliban leaders in the province of Balochistan. The US claims that Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban, is directing the insurgency against the US-led occupation of Afghanistan from the city of Quetta, the provincial capital.

Continued >>

Why Obama’s Surge in Afghanistan?

December 3, 2009

By Shamus Cooke , Information Clearing House, Dec 2, 2009

Tuesday’s announcement that President Obama will send an additional 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan — while begging his foreign allies to send an extra 10,000 — will have dramatic effects throughout the American and world society.

The hope that Obama’s election would drastically change U.S. foreign policy has been destroyed.   The effects of his troop surge will change the minds of millions of Americans, who, until this point, were giving Obama the benefit of the doubt.

Such moments in history are capable of instantly removing piles of dust from the collective eyeball — just as the bank bailouts did.

The announcement will also send tremors throughout the military: many soldiers and their families remained silent about fighting with hopes that Obama would bring them home. They see little point in dying in a pointless war. Thus, morale is likely to continue deteriorating, while more brazen acts of defiance will surely increase.

The reasons behind the surge — Al Qaeda, “rooting out terrorism,” etc. — are unlikely to fool many people, with the exception of the media.  This “war on terror” propaganda is based on the same illogical catch-phrases that Bush’s limited intelligence tripped over.  Coming from Obama, such stupid reasoning sounds especially bizarre, akin to an evolutionary biologist forced to argue in favor of creationism.

Obama is compelled to tell the really big lie because the truth is too damning. If he remotely approached the real motives behind the war, the public would be pushed into total defiance — Obama’s new $660 billion military budget for 2010 would have caused mass demonstrations.

In reality, the war in Afghanistan was a convenient way for U.S. corporations — who dominate U.S. politics — to get a firmer hold in the resource-rich Middle East.  For example, soon after Afghanistan was invaded, we were told that Iraq was a “ticking time bomb,” while now Obama assures us that Pakistan is the real threat — and don’t forget Iran!  When considering the above military budget, these countries are threats to the U.S in the same way that a flea is a threat to an elephant.

Who really benefits from war in the Middle East? So far, U.S. weapons manufacturers have (Boeing, etc.), U.S. oil companies (Exxon, etc.), and the big banks that help move the spoils around (Citigroup, etc.) who also dominate the finances of the conquered country.  Corporations that deal with “reconstruction” contracts love war (Halliburton, etc.), while also the multitude of “private contractors” that specialize in everything from cooking (Halliburton again) to mercenary fighting (Blackwater, etc.).

The many U.S. corporations that export abroad also benefit from the war, since a dominated country offers them a monopoly market to sell their goods in, or the ability to set up shop where none existed before.  It is these collective interests that are driving Obama’s foreign policy; they would rather see the U.S. and Afghani people bled dry than allow a foreign competitor — China, Russia, etc. — to dominate Afghanistan’s resources and markets.

The U.S. is certainly not fighting terrorists in Afghanistan — the Al Qaeda bogey men and the “evil genius” Osama Bin Laden are not directing military operations from a cave.  The vast majority of people  fighting U.S. troops are not “Islamic extremists” (another catchphrase), but average citizens enraged by foreign troops rummaging around in their homes, patting them down at check points, indiscriminately detaining them at torture centers (U.S.  Bagram Air base), and killing their family members.

Yes, many Afghanis are deeply religious, but the presence of U.S. troops is the motor force behind their “radicalism,” i.e. resistance to military occupation.  Islam is not inherently violent, but a military occupation unquestionably is.

Those wishing to end these wars must end their reliance on the corporate-bought two-party system, and begin organizing independently.  The anti-war movement was strong while Bush was President, based not only on mass outrage, but the cynical maneuvering of those sitting atop of Democratic Party front groups like MoveOn and others — who helped organize and fund anti-war (Bush) demonstrations.

When Obama became President, the leaders of these groups played a thoroughly destructive role in the anti-war movement, shifting away from the effective measures used against Bush, or abandoning the struggle altogether, taking their funding with them.  This disruption in organization, plus the mass-effect of the Obama illusion, had a temporary derailing effect on organizing.

But Obama’s troop surge may very well breathe new life into the deflated movement.  Demonstrations are being organized for the spring, and there is plenty of time to join local groups/coalitions to help with the planning.

Mass demonstrations are a very effective tool, since they educate about the undemocratic nature of the state, while showing demonstration participants that there is power in collective action.  More importantly, large marches prove to U.S. soldiers that they will have public support if they collectively choose to publicly oppose the war (by marching in a demonstration), or individually opt not to fight in these illegal wars.  The Vietnam War was ended largely because so many soldiers opposed the war, demonstrated against it, or refused to fight; a courage they found by the massive public support felt at home.

Mass demonstrations do not organize themselves.  It will take ordinary people working together to make it happen, while collectively demanding:

BRING ALL THE TROOPS HOME NOW!

END THE U.S. WARS IN THE MIDDLE EAST!

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org).  He can be reached at shamuscook@yahoo.com

NATO presses for more Afghan troops

November 24, 2009
Morning Star Online, Monday 23 November 2009
US troops occupy an Afghan village as local children look on

US troops occupy an Afghan village as local children look on

NATO has called on allied nations to send more troops to Afghanistan in the run-up to President Barack Obama’s decision on whether to boost the US occupying forces.

NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen is in the midst of intense talks on getting more troops, equipment and funding for the newly established NATO training mission, spokesman James Appathurai said.

Continues >>

Afghanistan: Heads You Lose, Tails You Lose

November 2, 2009

Immanuel Wallerstein, Agence Global, November 1, 2009

The war in Afghanistan is a war in which whatever the United States does now, or that President Obama does now, both the United States and Obama will lose. The country and its president are in a situation of perfect lockjaw.

Consider the basic situation. The Afghan government in Kabul has no legitimacy with the majority of the Afghan people. It also has no army worthy of the name. It also has no financial base. There is almost no military or personal security anywhere. It is faced with a guerilla opposition, the Taliban, who control half the country and who have grown steadily stronger since the Taliban government was overthrown by a foreign (largely United States) invasion in 2002. The New York Times reports that the Taliban “are running a sophisticated financial network to pay for their insurgent operations,” which American officials are struggling, unsuccessfully, to cut off.

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United States to send ‘up to 45,000 more troops to Afghanistan’

October 16, 2009

The US is expected to announce a significant surge of up to 45,000 extra troops for Afghanistan after Gordon Brown said that 500 more British troops would be sent to the country.

By James Kirkup and Andrew Hough, Telegraph.co.uk, Oct 14, 2009

Barack Obama with his National Security Team: Barack Obama to 'send 45,000 more troops to Afghanistan', reports suggest

Barack Obama holds a briefing on Afghanistan and Pakistan with his National Security Team. It is understood he would announce a surge in troop numbers. Photo: GETTY
Robert Gibbs: Barack Obama to 'send 45,000 more troops to Afghanistan', reports suggest

But White House press secretary Robert Gibbs dismissed the claims. Photo: AP
Gordon Brown: Barack Obama to 'send 45,000 more troops to Afghanistan', reports suggest

Gordon Brown told the Commons that Britain is sending another 500 troops to Afghanistan. Photo: PA

President Barack Obama’s administration is understood to have told the British government that it could announce, as early as next week, the substantial increase to its 65,000 troops already serving there.

The decision from Mr Obama comes after he considered a request from General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, to send tens of thousands of extra American troops to the country.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said: “I don’t want to put words in the mouths of the Americans but I am fairly confident of the way it is going to come out.”

An announcement next week could coincide with a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Bratislava, Slovakia, due next Thursday and Friday.

Continues >>

Afghanistan, the Next US Quagmire?

February 20, 2009
by Thalif Deen | Antiwar.com, Feb 20, 2009

The United States is planning to send an additional 17,000 troops to one of the world’s most battle-scarred nations – Afghanistan – long described as “a graveyard of empires.”

First, it was the British Empire, and then the Soviet Union. So, will the United States be far behind?

“With his new order on Afghanistan, President (Barack) Obama has given substantial ground to what Martin Luther King Jr., in 1967 called ‘the madness of militarism,'” Norman Solomon, executive director of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy, told IPS.

“That madness should be opposed in 2009,” said Solomon, author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

The proposed surge in U.S. troops will bring the total to 60,000, while the combined forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including troops from Germany, Canada, Britain and the Netherlands, amount to over 32,000.

When in full strength, U.S.-NATO forces in Afghanistan could reach close to 100,000 by the end of this year.

Still, in a TV interview Tuesday, Obama said he was “absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban (insurgency), the spread extremism in that region solely through military means.”

“If there is no military solution, why is the administration’s first set of decisions to continue drone attacks and increase ground troops?” Marilyn B. Young, a professor of history at New York University, told IPS.

She said the uncertainty around Afghan policy seems to be spreading even while the Obama administration announces an increase in troops.

“This is one of the ways events seem to echo U.S. escalation in the Vietnam War,” said Young, author of several publications, including “Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: Or, How Not to Learn From the Past.”

On Tuesday, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a report revealing that in 2008, there were 2,118 civilian casualties in Afghanistan, an increase of almost 40 percent over 2007.

Of these casualties, 55 percent of the overall death toll was attributed to anti-government forces, including the Taliban, and 39 percent to Afghan security and international military forces.

“This is of great concern to the United Nations,” the report said, pointing out that “this disquieting pattern demands that the parties to the conflict take all necessary measures to avoid the killing of innocent civilians.”

During his presidential campaign last year, Obama said the war in Iraq was a misguided war.

The United States, he said, needs to pull out of Iraq, and at the same time, bolster its troops in Afghanistan, primarily to prevent the militant Islamic fundamentalist Taliban from regaining power and also to eliminate safe havens for terrorists.

But most political analysts point out that Afghanistan may turn out to be a bigger military quagmire for U.S. forces than Iraq.

Solomon of the Institute for Public Accuracy said Obama’s moves on Afghanistan have “the quality of a moth toward a flame.”

In the short run, Obama is likely to be unharmed in domestic political terms. But the policy trajectory appears to be unsustainable in the medium-run, he added.

“Before the end of his first term, Obama is very likely to find himself in a vise, caught between a war in Afghanistan that cannot be won and a political quandary at home that significantly erodes the enthusiasm of his electoral base while fueling Republican momentum,” Solomon argued.

Dr. Christine Fair, a senior political scientist with the RAND Corporation and a former political officer with UNAMA in Kabul, told IPS she is doubtful that more troops will secure Afghanistan.

“Perhaps several years ago more troops would have been welcomed. My fear is that more troops means more civilian losses and further erosion of good will and support for the international presence,” Fair said.

“I would personally prefer a move from kinetics and towards using this increased capacity to help build Afghan capacity,” she noted.

“I also think greater support from the international community for reconciliation is needed. Afghans need to own this process,” said Fair, a former senior research associate with the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention at the U.N. Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington.

However, she said, the international community has legitimate interests in remaining in some capacity to ensure that Afghanistan does not again emerge as a safe haven for al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups.

Fair also co-authored (along with Seth Jones) a USIP report released early this week, titled “Securing Afghanistan,” which spelled out the reasons why international stabilization efforts have not been successful in Afghanistan over the last seven years.

“Security issues in Afghanistan are extraordinarily complex, with multiple actors influencing the threat environment – among them, insurgent groups, criminal groups, local tribes, warlords, government officials and security forces,” the report said.

Afghanistan also presents a multi-front conflict that includes distinct security challenges in the northern, central and southern parts of the country, the study declared.

In Afghanistan, Solomon argued, the U.S. president is proceeding down a path that can only be too steep and not steep enough.

The basic contradiction of his current position – asserting that the situation cannot be solved by military means yet taking action to try to solve the problem by military means – signifies that Obama is bargaining for short-term wiggle room at the expense of longer-term rationality, he added.

“In a very real sense, Obama is kicking a bloody can down the road, unable to think of any other way to confront circumstances that will grow worse with time in large measure because of his actions now,” he said.

Even while disputing some thematic aspects of the “war on terrorism” at times, Obama is reinvesting his political capital – and re-dedicating the Pentagon’s mission – on behalf of a U.S. war effort that is probably doomed to fail on its own terms, Solomon said.

“Reliance on violence is a chronic temptation for a commander-in-chief with the mighty U.S. military under its command. We’ve seen the results in Iraq – or, more precisely, the people of Iraq and many American soldiers have seen and suffered the results,” he added.

(Inter Press Service)

US gears up for massive Afghan ‘surge’

February 19, 2009
(Wednesday 18 February 2009)
DANGEROUS PLANS: President Obama has vowed to intensify the "fight against terrorism" in Afghanistan.

DANGEROUS PLANS: President Obama has vowed to intensify the “fight against terrorism” in Afghanistan.

THE US military was gearing up on Wednesday for a massive new “surge” in Afghanistan after President Barack Obama announced plans to increase troop numbers by over 50 per cent.

Mr Obama has vowed to intensify the “fight against terrorism” by pouring 17,000 more soldiers into the country over coming months.

Most of the new soldiers are expected to deploy in southern Afghanistan, where occupation forces are struggling to hold territory against increasingly bold resistance forces.

A marine expeditionary brigade will arrive in Afghanistan later this spring and an army stryker brigade will deploy in summer.

The expeditionary brigade includes about 8,000 troops and the army brigade is 4,000-strong.

An additional 5,000 “support troops” are also set to be deployed before the Afghan elections on August 20.

The extra 17,000 troops will bolster the 33,000 US soldiers and 55,100 NATO troops who are already in the impoverished country.

The Afghan army and occupation troops have faced a record number of roadside bombs and suicide explosions since early 2008.

US military commanders have repeatedly complained of having too few troops, especially in central and eastern Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s office said that Mr Obama had called Mr Karzai on Tuesday to reassure him that Washington “will continue the fight against terrorism.”

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who was defeated by Mr Obama in last November’s presidential election, described the situation in Afghanistan as “dire.”

Mr McCain called on Mr Obama to spell out a clear strategy.

“There still exists no integrated civil-military plan for this war, more than seven years after we began military operations,” he said, adding: “A major change in course is long overdue.”

Both Democrats and Republicans have welcomed Mr Obama’s decision to pour more troops into Afghanistan.

A US general travelled to western Afghanistan on Wednesday to investigate claims that six women and two children were killed in a US air strike.

The Pentagon said in a statement that a strike in the Gozara district of Herat province on Monday had killed 15 militants.

But Afghan police official Ekremuddin Yawar said that six women and two children were among the dead, along with five men.

Mr Yawar said that they belonged to a nomadic tribe that lives in tents in remote areas.

Guest Columnists Warn Obama About Escalating in Afghanistan

November 24, 2008

Out of the frying pan into the fire? In today’s New York Times, three columnists — including a guy named Rumsfeld — warn that a “surge” in Afghanistan could last decades and/or not even be worth it or make matters worse, while our economy collapses.

By Greg Mitchell | Editor & Publisher

NEW YORK (November 23, 2008) — (Commentary) Out of the frying pan into the fire? In his race for the White House, Barack Obama called long and often for sending many more troops to Afghanistan (even before we withdraw quite a few from Iraq). It was a required thing to say on the campaign trail to show toughness and also to make the politically winning point that President Bush had fought the wrong war, in Iraq, when we had not yet cleaned out Afghanistan.

Did he really mean it? If so, is it really the right thing to do, especially with our chief national security threat now coming from within – in the form of our economic crisis?

The New York Times today presents a host of op-eds on Iraq and Afghanistan, including one from a guy named Rumsfeld and another from someone called Chalabi. The ones related to the Afghan conflict should raise questions for readers, and I hope, the Obama team. Just this morning, the Karzai government revealed that Obama had called the nation’s leader and pledged to increase U.S. support. The NATO commander wants to nearly double troop strength there.

This past August, I devoted a column here to this subject after a brief flurry of front-page articles on Afghanistan arrived to mark U.S. deaths there finally hitting the 500 mark. The war in Afghanistan, long overlooked, is now getting more notice, I observed, before asking: “But does that mean the U.S., finally starting (perhaps) to dig out of Iraq, should now commit to another open-ended war, even for a good cause, not so far away?”

Nearly everyone in the media, and on the political stage, still calls this the “good war.” Obama has even said “we must win” there. But it’s the same question we have faced in Iraq: What does he define as “winning”? How much are we willing to expend (in lives lost and money) at a time of a severe budget crunch and overstretched military? Shouldn’t the native forces — and NATO — be doing more? And what about Pakistan? And so on.

We’ve been fighting there even longer than in Iraq, if that seems possible. Now do want to jump out of a frying pan into that fire in an open-ended way?

Few voices in the mainstream media – and even in the liberal blogosphere – have tackled this subject, partly because of long arguing for the need to fight the “good war” as opposed to the “bad war.” But now some very respected commentators – with impeccable pro-military credentials – are starting to sound off on the dangers.

Back in August, I was reduced to quoting Thomas Friedman from a recent New York Times column: “The main reason we are losing in Afghanistan is not because there are too few American soldiers, but because there are not enough Afghans ready to fight and die for the kind of government we want….Obama needs to ask himself honestly: ‘Am I for sending more troops to Afghanistan because I really think we can win there, because I really think that that will bring an end to terrorism, or am I just doing it because to get elected in America, post-9/11, I have to be for winning some war?'”

And I reprinted at length comments from Joseph L. Galloway, the legendary war reporter, based largely on a recent paper written by Gen. Barry McCaffrey after his tour of the war zone. McCaffrey had said “we can’t shoot our way out of Afghanistan, and the two or three or more American combat brigades proposed by the two putative nominees for president are irrelevant.” Galloway noted sardonically: “We can’t afford to fail in Afghanistan, the general says, but he doesn’t address the question of whether we can afford to succeed there, either.”

Now the New York Times today presents several cautionary views. Here are three of them, hardly a group of lefty peaceniks.

Continued  >>

AFGHANISTAN: US-NATO Airstrikes Bring Higher Civilian Toll

September 9, 2008

Ali Gharib | Inter-Press Service, Sep 8, 2008


WASHINGTON, – Ramped-up U.S. and NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan are causing an increased civilian death toll, raising concerns about the fallout from civilian deaths on the war effort against the Taliban insurgency, according to a major new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) released here Monday.

The 43-page report, “Troops in Contact: Airstrikes and Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan”, warned that the cost in civilian casualties caused by the increase in bombings goes well beyond the loss of human life and could put the nearly seven-year U.S.-NATO war effort at risk.

“The harm caused by airstrikes is not limited to the immediate civilian casualties,” said the report, which also cited the destruction of homes and property and the displacement of their civilian occupants caused by the bombing.

“Civilian deaths from airstrikes act as a recruiting tool for the Taliban and risk fatally undermining the international effort to provide basic security to the people of Afghanistan,” said Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director of HRW.

Citing HRW statistics, an editorial in Saturday’s New York Times went further, asserting that civilian deaths caused by the stepped up bombing played into the hands of the Taliban and other insurgents: “America is fast losing the battle for hearts and minds, and unless the Pentagon comes up with a better strategy, the United States and its allies may well lose the war.”

Fuelling a growing controversy here, both the Times and the report said that the increase in air attacks — and the “collateral damage” they caused — was due in part to the relative lack of NATO and U.S. troops on the ground whose fire tends to be considerably more discriminating in their impact than aerial attacks.

Both the Pentagon and leading Democrats have been arguing for months for deploying at least 10,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan but have been unable to overcome resistance by military commanders in Iraq who, backed by President George W. Bush, are reluctant to draw down troop levels there below the current 144,000. U.S. ground forces are so stretched globally that deploying additional forces to Afghanistan must await further withdrawals from Iraq.

The increased level of bombing has come as a result of a stepped-up insurgency led by anti-government Taliban fighters and associated groups. Fighting in Afghanistan has intensified dramatically over the past year. At least 540 civilians have been killed in the conflict so far this year, a sharp increase over last year’s total. Casualties among the more than 60,000 U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan have also risen sharply this year.

U.S. and NATO forces, according to the report, dropped 362 tonnes of munitions in Afghanistan during the first seven months of this year, including a flurry of bombings in June and July that, by itself, nearly equaled the total amount of bombs, by weight, dropped by the coalition forces on suspected enemy positions in all of 2006.

“[…] While attacks by the Taliban and other insurgent groups continue to account for the majority of civilian casualties,” said the report, “civilian deaths from U.S. and NATO airstrikes nearly tripled from 2006 to 2007 (from 116 to 321).”

That increase prompted Afghan President Hamid Karzai to demand changes in targeting tactics, including using smaller munitions, delaying attacks where civilians might be harmed, and turning over house-to-house searches to the Afghan National Army.

Those changes were adopted by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) with the result that, despite increased bombing during the first seven months of this year, fewer civilians (119) were killed compared to the same period in 2007.

But that figure does not include a controversial air strike Aug 22 on the village of Azizabad in western Afghanistan which, according to the Afghan government and a U.N. investigating team, killed 90 people, the vast majority of whom were women and children. The U.S. military, which carried out the attack, has insisted that 42 people were killed, 35 of them insurgents.

In some incidents, according to the report, U.S.-NATO air strikes may have violated the laws of war, particularly adherence to the principles of proportionality and the requirement that parties take all feasible precautions to prevent non-combatant casualties.

The report suggested that blame for civilian deaths can be focused fairly narrowly. While most foreign troops in Afghanistan operate under the banner of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a disproportionate number of civilian casualties resulted from air strikes called in by the nearly 20,000 U.S. troops who operate exclusively under U.S. command as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Their rules of engagement, including when they can call for air support, are less strict than NATO’s.

The most problematic engagements have come when insurgents take U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) by surprise, and the SOF call in air support. The military term, “troops in contact” (TIC), gave the HRW report its name.

In TIC situations, U.S. forces have often engaged insurgents who then retreat to nearby villages, taking up positions in homes and preventing their civilian residents from leaving.

Faced with a standoff, U.S. troops have called in rapid-response air support to bomb the homes from which they were taking hostile fire. That appears to have been what took place in Azizabad.

While condemning of Taliban “shielding” — using civilian human shields or putting civilians at unnecessary risk so that when hurt, the story can be used as propaganda — the report noted that this does not excuse U.S. forces from the laws of war and considerations of civilian populations.

The report outlined several incidents where questionable rapid-response bombings caused civilian deaths. In one of them, two anti-government fighters were seen entering a compound that was then hit with an airstrike that caused nine casualties.

The U.S. claimed to have killed the two insurgents, but a local Afghan authority denied the claim, and journalists at the scene found no evidence supporting it. Moreover, U.S. troops and local villagers said that U.S. forces had visited the home the day before and should have known that civilians were present.

“The available information about the attack — in particular evidence suggesting that U.S. forces knew the house was inhabited by civilians and that only two lightly armed fighters may have been present — raises serious concerns that the airstrikes violated the international humanitarian law prohibition against disproportionate attacks,” said the report.


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