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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 71/No. 47      December 17, 2007


Click here for Calendar Events

(lead article)
NATO calls for more troops in Afghanistan
Imperialist forces step up assault on Pakistan border
U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel
U.S. soldiers in combat August 20 near village of Allah Say in eastern Afghanistan

TORONTO—Canadian general Ray Henault, chairman of NATO’s military committee, said November 14 that NATO forces in Afghanistan must be beefed up in order to make progress in their war in that country. He issued his statement after a series of meetings of the imperialist military alliance designed to drum up reinforcements for NATO’s occupation force of 41,000 in Afghanistan.

Although the deployment of imperialist troops has been increased by 8,500 this year, “NATO commanders on the ground say they need more helicopters, planes, and mobile units to step up the fight against the Taliban,” the Associated Press reported.

Washington and Ottawa are pressing for other imperialist governments to increase their commitments of troops and equipment in Afghanistan in face of a barrage of attacks by Taliban and allied Islamist forces, especially the south and east, where the fighting involves mainly U.S., British, Canadian, and Dutch forces.

The largest contingents in the NATO-led force are about 15,100 U.S., 7,700 British, 3,200 German, 2,400 Italian, 1,700 Canadian, 1,500 Dutch, 1,200 Turkish, 1,100 French, and 900 Australian troops. A separate U.S.-led force, which conducts counterinsurgency and “counterterror” operations, brings the total occupation troops to about 50,000.

The NATO operation, according to its commanders, is at least “four battalions (totalling 4,000 soldiers) short of what it needs and the force lacks crucial equipment such as helicopters,” the Financial Times reported November 19. The paper noted that troops from certain countries including Germany, Italy, and Spain operate under restrictions, which among other things “prevent military assets in the relatively peaceful north of the country from being shifted south where they are most needed.”

On November 21 the Security and Development Policy Group, a European-based think tank known as the Senlis Council, issued a report stating that the only way to reclaim southern Afghan territories overrun by the Taliban would be for NATO to double the number of its troops to 80,000.

Senlis Council president Norine MacDonald of Canada told CBC News that the NATO force must begin more seriously targeting Taliban training camps in northern Pakistan. “NATO as a whole has got to follow the Taliban into the home bases in Pakistan,” she said.

Offering a glimpse of the war’s impact on the population, the Senlis report said, “The Afghan workers displaced by Taliban encroachment have spilled into Kandahar City in search of day labour, increasing tensions by driving wages down. The current rate for day labour in the area is less than 180 Afghanis, about $3.50 Canadian.”

“The Taliban is gaining grassroots political support by cleverly exploiting Afghan anger over civilian casualty counts throughout southern Afghanistan,” the report concluded.

More than 6,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan war in 2007—the deadliest year to date, according to an Associated Press count. Much of the stiffest fighting has been along the border with Pakistan.

The governor of Nuristan province, Tamim Nursitani, told the press November 28 that an air attack in that area had killed a dozen workers of a local road construction company.

To date, the nearly 750 imperialist military deaths include 469 U.S., 84 British, and 73 Canadian troops.  
Ottawa pushes Afghanistan war
Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, used the announcement of the latest two Canadian deaths to justify his government’s involvement in the war. “The actions of these brave soldiers have brought hope to the Afghan people,” he said.

Former U.S. president William Clinton recently praised Ottawa’s role in Afghanistan, urging it to remain in Afghanistan past the scheduled withdrawal date of February 2009. Clinton spoke to a gathering of 800 people from business, labor, government, and academia at the Ontario Economic Summit, sponsored by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

The U.S. Congress is currently discussing a White House request of $50 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Senator Hillary Clinton, a leading Democratic candidate in the presidential race, has been arguing for a more aggressive war in Afghanistan. Along similar lines, a November 17 editorial in the New York Times urged Democrats to keep pushing for a reduction of troops in Iraq in order to “refocus on Afghanistan.”
Related articles:
Canada labor federation debates support for war in Afghanistan

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