30,000 more troops
BY SETH GALINSKY
In a speech at the West Point military academy December 1, U.S. president Barack Obama presented a plan to escalate the eight-year war in Afghanistan.
After three months of meetings and discussions with top cabinet members and military officials, Obama announced he was sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. This will bring the number of U.S. troops there to about 100,000, three times more than when Obama took office.
Obama presented the plan as a course to bring the war to a successful conclusion, a transition to handing responsibility to the Afghan government, and to begin withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011.
Along with stepping up training of the Afghan army and police, Obama said that an effective partnership with Pakistan is at the center of U.S strategy.
The U.S. government has pressed Pakistan to agree to an expanded use of drone attacks and to beefed-up CIA operations against Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Pakistan. Washington has substantially increased aid to the Pakistan military and government over the last several months.
In recent weeks, several U.S. officials, including Gen. James Jones, Obamas national security adviser, have traveled to Pakistan to obtain agreement for this course.
Obama wants up to 10,000 more troops from Washingtons NATO allies. Currently there are some 36,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan from 41 countries. In addition, there are more than 100,000 U.S. contractors, a 40 percent increase since June. They do everything from security to construction of military bases.
The debate over the U.S. war and occupation accelerated after an August 30 assessment by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who heads up U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. In that report, McChrystal said the U.S. military could lose the war unless it implemented a counterinsurgency strategy that included measures to undercut support among Afghans for Taliban and other armed groups.
He later turned in proposals for up to 40,000 more U.S. troops and doubling the size of the Afghan army and police.
The debate exposed divisions in the Obama administration and the U.S. ruling class over what course to take in the war.
Vice President Joseph Biden opposed sending more troops. Instead he put forward a competing counterterrorism strategy that would center on stepping up drone attacks on al-Qaeda bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, increasing the operations of U.S. Special Forces, and focusing more on al-Qaeda bases in Pakistan and less on Taliban groups in Afghanistan.
Conservative columnist George Will put forward a similar view.
Many Republicans, however, and some leading Democrats in Congress came out in support of McChrystals request.
Criticism for foot-dragging
Obama came under stiff criticism by conservatives for foot-dragging on making a decision. On December 1 former vice president Richard Cheney complained that the delays have consequences for forces in the field. Every time he delays, defers, debates, changes his position, it begins to raise questions: Is the commander in chief really behind what theyve been asked to do?
Much of the discussion after Obamas troop announcement focused on his timetable for beginning withdrawal.
Setting a deadlineso long as it is not set in stoneis a sound idea, the New York Times said in an editorial.
We support Mr. Obamas decision, the Wall Street Journal stated. But the conservative daily said Obamas early exit underscores our larger concern about his own war diffidence.
The assessment presented by McChrystal proposed imitating aspects of the successful tactics Washington used in Iraq that allowed it to cobble together a somewhat stable capitalist regime, win over major sections of groups that had previously supported armed insurgents, kill or arrest large numbers of those who could not be won over, and build up the Iraqi army and police as effective fighting forces.
A key element in Iraq was the surge, when former president George W. Bush sent 30,000 additional troops in just a few months that took advantage of a weakening insurgency and dealt it a series of major blows.
Legacy of imperialist domination
Afghanistan is not the same as Iraq. It does not have the same level of social development and class structure.
Although the population size is similar, 28.4 million people in Afghanistan and close to 30 million in Iraq, Iraq is much more industrialized with a modern capitalist class structure. Iraq has oil and other resources of significant interest to the U.S. and other imperialists as well as Iraqi capitalists.
About 70 percent of Iraqis live in urban areas. In Afghanistan 75 percent live in the countryside, where social relations similar to those that existed 100 years ago still prevail.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan have attempted to win some lower-ranking Taliban fighters to the U.S.-backed side. While Muhammad Akram Khapalwak, administrator for Kabuls Peace and Reconciliation Commission, claims that some 9,000 Taliban have turned in their weapons and accepted an amnesty, there have been no reports of any significant group of former insurgents taking up arms against the Taliban.
The U.S. military was able to turn the tide in Iraq when a substantial section of Sunni capitalists cut funding and combat logistics for insurgent forces and raised a militia of thousands to aid the occupying troops.
A central part of U.S. strategy already being carried out is to accelerate the training of the Afghan army and police. Since occupying Afghanistan eight years ago, Washington has succeeded in building up the Afghan forces to 82,000 soldiers and 134,000 police. But they have shown little fighting capacity.
Help from NATO?
Its unlikely that Washington will get much more help from its NATO allies. Aside from London, which has agreed to add 500 more troops to its 9,000 soldiers already stationed in Afghanistan the second largest NATO contingentonly the governments of Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, Georgia, South Korea, and Montenegro have expressed any willingness to send more troops.
The fourth largest NATO contingent is from France with some 3,000 troops. In mid-October President Nicolas Sarkozy told Le Figaro that France will not send a single soldier more.
The third-largest contingent, about 4,300 troops, is from Germany. But the German troops rarely engage in major combat operations or fight at night.
Not one penny,
not one person!
There is only one exit strategy that working people should demand in response to Washingtons wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all imperialist troops!
Conservatives and liberals alike have expressed criticism of the new course presented by President Barack Obama in the war in Afghanistansending 30,000 more troops and continuing the U.S. war there through at least July 2011. Former vice president Richard Cheney accused Obama of projecting weakness and charged that his delay in coming to a decision undermines the confidence of the troops.
Vice President Joseph Biden has opposed sending the additional troops, proposing instead increased use of bombings from aerial drones, Special Forces operations to kill al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, and pressing Pakistan to crack down on Taliban bases along its border.
Rep. John Murtha, Democrat from Pennsylvania, laments that there is not much that opponents of the war in Congress can do to stop the escalation. He has predicted that Congress would pass a $40 billion war-financing bill early next year to pay for the deployments, reported Fox News. This would be consistent with the bipartisan votes in Congress for funding the war during the George Bush administration.
Arizona senator John McCain, defeated by Obama in the 2008 presidential elections, criticized the presidents plan to begin withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011. We dont want to sound an uncertain trumpet to our friends in the region, McCain said.
Others, like Sen. Carl Levin, Democrat from Michigan, emphasized the withdrawal date, saying the goal needs to be to accelerate the transition to Afghan responsibility.
Whatever tactical differences these capitalist politicians may have with the White House on Afghanistan, they are in fundamental agreement with the war on terror, a perspective of decades of military clashes as the U.S. ruling class seeks to compete with rival capitalists abroad for markets in the midst of a sharp, worldwide economic contraction.
The U.S. capitalist rulers are facing the deepest crisis of their system in decades. This is at the root of the Obama administrations dithering and delays. It registers the awareness by the rulers of the growing vulnerability of their system and their lack of confidence in finding a decisive course forward against the worlds toilers. Accelerating war is the only course they can offer.
While Obama talks about winding down the war in Afghanistan, 115,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq. Washington is threatening Iran and North Korea with more crippling sanctions. Working people should also demand: Hands off Iran and North Korea!
Class-conscious workers should be encouraged by the protests by workers in Iran for back pay in wages and in defense of unions. These actions help stay the hands of the imperialist aggressors against Iran and are an essential step in working people winning the political space necessary to chart a road forward against the dead-end course of Irans capitalist rulers.
Obamas announcement of the escalation of the war in Afghanistan was met with protests in several cities across the country. Such actions deserve wholehearted support. But protests alone, however large and determined, will not stop imperialist wars. To do that, working people must join in a worldwide struggle to take political power and use it to overturn the dictatorship of capital root and branch.