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4,000 more troops for Afghan war
Socialist campaign: ‘Troops Out Now!’
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 73/No. 14      April 13, 2009


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(lead article)
Iraq and Afghanistan, Imperialist troops out!
U.S. Army photo/Christopher Barnhart
U.S. and Romanian troops survey location for a base in Afghanistan, March 25.

4,000 more troops for Afghan war

The White House March 27 announced what it described as its new war strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where a U.S.-led military alliance faces a more difficult fight than in Iraq. The plan involves a further escalation of their more-than-seven-year war, sending additional troops and other resources.

Two aspects of the strategy are to continue to bolster the Afghan and Pakistani militaries and win over major sections of the Taliban. In the case of the latter, Washington aims to draw on counterinsurgency lessons from the Iraq war to separate those Taliban forces with whom they believe they can reach a peace agreement and will recognize the U.S.-backed Afghan government from those that refuse to break with al-Qaeda.

In outlining the plan President Barack Obama said he would send roughly 4,000 troops to Afghanistan to accelerate the training of new Afghan soldiers. This is in addition to the 17,000 U.S. troops he authorized earlier this year. The Afghan army is projected to increase from 80,000 to 134,000 by 2011. Total U.S. forces are slated to reach about 68,000 in 2009, according to U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates.

Under a United Nations-brokered agreement in Bonn, Germany, following the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, a new Afghan army of 70,000 was to be established. This was achieved in early 2008 under the Bush administration—the force mushroomed from less than 2,000 in March 2003 to 76,000 by May 2008. In January 2008 the goal was increased to 86,000, and then revised again to 134,000 in October.

The Dutch government plans to end its mission in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan after 2010. It left open the possibility of keeping some presence in other parts of the country. Dutch development minister Bert Koenders announced the government would restart economic aid to Pakistan, which was suspended in 2007.

U.S. military spending in Afghanistan, currently at about $2 billion a month, is to increase by about 60 percent this year. Washington will combine this military escalation, Obama said, with “a dramatic increase in our civilian efforts,” as part of laying the groundwork to divide the Taliban.  
In addition to increasing their firepower with more boots on the ground, U.S. officials say they have shifted their strategy to decrease the number of civilians killed and place greater emphasis on securing the population from Taliban attacks.

The officials say the plan includes some development projects in Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan where roads are scant and the vast majority of the population lacks access to basic necessities such as clean water, adequate food, and education. Washington is pressing its allies—particularly those who provide little or no troops—to supply funding and personnel for these projects.

With this approach the U.S. director of national intelligence, David Blair, said he believes some two-thirds of Taliban fighters can be convinced to lay down their arms. The new U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, pointed out March 26 that a substantial portion of the current Afghan government had been Taliban at one time.

Washington has also increasingly relied on various wealthy “warlords” in parts of the country who employ their own militias. Washington’s relationship with these forces, many of whom amassed their fortunes in the opium trade, goes back to the war against Soviet occupation in Afghanistan in the 1980s where they fought as part of the U.S.-backed rightist Mujahideen forces.

Washington is also seeking to squeeze the Taliban’s source of funds and support by disrupting money flows from the opium trade in Afghanistan, as well as from their ruling-class patrons in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere.

Washington is set to triple economic aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year and is pressing other nations to follow suit, particularly Pakistan’s allies in China and the Gulf. The U.S. government has provided $10 billion in military aid to Pakistan since 2001.

Following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the Pakistani government turned against and went to war with elements of the Taliban on its own soil.

In addition to working to get support from China and Gulf states, Washington is seeking to work closer with the governments of India, Iran, and Russia. “In 2001, in 2002, we should not forget, Iran provided critical assistance to helping us stabilize Afghanistan,” Sen. John Kerry said March 26.

Iranian deputy foreign minister Mahdi Akhundzadeh took part in an international conference March 31 in the Netherlands on the U.S.-led Afghan war and met with Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In Pakistan the Taliban control whole swaths of the country’s northwest mountainous region. There, competing factions of the Taliban based in the southern part of the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the Afghan border have come together to combat U.S.-NATO forces and prepare for what they predict will be a “very bloody” year.

Socialist campaign: ‘Troops Out Now!’

The following statement was released March 31 by the Socialist Workers candidates in the New York City elections—Dan Fein, for mayor; Tom Baumann, for Manhattan borough president; and Maura DeLuca, for public advocate.

We join with Socialist Workers candidates in local campaigns in other cities and states in saying not one penny, not one soldier for Washington’s wars in Afghanistan or Iraq; stop the missile attacks on Pakistan now!

On March 27 President Barack Obama announced a further escalation of the war in Afghanistan. In addition to the 17,000 troops he has already ordered to Afghanistan, he is sending 4,000 more troops to train Afghan soldiers. This brings the U.S. forces in that country to 68,000, in addition to 35,000 other NATO troops. U.S. military aid to Afghanistan is jumping by 60 percent.

Meanwhile, there is no let-up in Washington’s missile attacks by pilotless drones in Pakistan, the latest of which, on March 25, killed seven people. The toll in these assaults since Obama took office rank among the highest since Washington launched its war in the region in the beginning of this decade. Washington plans to triple aid to the Pakistani government to step up the war further.

In Iraq, the announced “withdrawal” of U.S. forces over 16 months does not include tens of thousands of troops the White House says are needed to train Iraqi soldiers, provide “security,” and fight “terrorists.”

We urge supporters of the socialist campaign to join every action protesting these wars and to demand immediate, unconditional withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

These wars are an extension of the domestic policy pursued by both Democrats and Republicans. The U.S. employers face sharpening competition from their capitalist rivals. To increase their profit rates bosses are cutting our wages, increasing speedup, making us perform unsafe work, and laying us off by the hundreds of thousands each month. Here in New York, government officials are planning to cut 9,000 state jobs and raise the New York City subway fare from $2.00 to $2.50, lay off many transit workers, and sharply curtail service.

The employers are increasing protectionist measures with their “Buy American” provisions in government “stimulus” plans and tariffs on goods from other countries. These moves are not only to increase their share of the market. The capitalists are trying to get us to see foreign workers as the enemy, not the boss here at home. They want us to fight for “American jobs” for “American workers” not jobs for all workers around the world.

The socialist campaign opposes all U.S. tariffs and protectionist measures. We say cancel the debt of the semicolonial countries.

The rulers seek to present the unfolding economic catastrophe as caused by “greedy” bankers and investors on Wall Street. They want to channel our anger into protesting these individuals and take our eyes off the capitalist system itself, whose workings brought about the financial collapse and economic contraction that is wreaking havoc on the lives of workers around the world. This is the politics of resentment, dangerous demagogy aimed at destroying working-class solidarity.

The course we must fight for is one of recognizing that our interests as a class are incompatible with those of the boss. To defend our interests, workers need to make a revolution that takes political power out of the capitalists’ hands.

Until we do so, working people the world over will face more wars, unemployment, ruinous bursts of inflation, trade wars, attacks on unions, and efforts to divide us through scapegoating of immigrants, Jews, and other targets designed to take our eyes off the real source of the problem: the profit system.

By overthrowing the wages system and taking political power into our own hands we can take immediate steps to provide relief for the working class, such as extending unemployment benefits for as long as workers are out of a job and legalizing all undocumented workers without conditions. Fighting on a course that put workers’ interests first, we can enact legislation for a massive public works program to put millions to work at union-scale wages, building schools, hospitals, affordable housing, roads, and transportation; shorten the workweek with no cut in pay to spread the available work to all; provide cost-of-living increases in all wages and benefits; and bring home all the U.S. troops stationed everywhere in the world.

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