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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 74/No. 6      February 15, 2010


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(lead article)
Washington prepares
for broader wars
Big increase in Special Forces, drones
U.S. Army photo
U.S. soldiers practice “riot” control in Kosova. As economic crisis deepens Washington is preparing to use U.S. troops to face working people abroad and inside the United States.

The White House is proposing a $708 billion war budget for the 2011 fiscal year. This includes $159 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It projects the largest increase in Special Forces since the Vietnam War.

President Barack Obama is also asking for $33 billion in “supplemental” funds for the Afghan war that he says are needed to pay for the 30,000 additional troops he authorized in December. This is the second time Obama has requested supplemental funds for the war, a common practice under the George W. Bush administration that Obama had promised to end.

The budget request was released simultaneously with the Pentagon’s 2010 “Quadrennial Defense Review,” which flatly states that “the United States is a nation at war.” The Pentagon reports are issued once each presidential term and present the main lines of U.S. imperialism’s strategy and priorities.

Under what the report calls “rebalancing the force,” the U.S. military projects both using U.S. troops in “major conflicts” like Afghanistan and Iraq and in “a broad range” of other operations.

According to DefenseNews, the review “calls for a force shaped for a wide swath of activities in many hotspots,” not one only designed to fight two wars simultaneously.

While not a new course, the White House budget and Defense Review deepens the shift, begun close to a decade ago, in the deployment, military strategy, and order of battle of U.S. imperialism’s armed forces. As the economic crisis continues to take a heavy toll on the toiling majority, the capitalists, their government, and their twin parties, the Democrats and Republicans, feel a more pressing need to prepare for sharpening conflicts with workers and farmers around the world and inside the United States itself.

At the top of the Pentagon’s list of “six key missions” is using the military to “Defend the United States and support civil authorities at home”—part of what it calls a break “from the past.” Number two is “Succeed in counterinsurgency, stability, and counterterrorism operations.”  
‘Future risks’
To carry out what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates calls “providing a hedge against current and future risks and contingencies,” the 2011 budget adds 2,800 commandos to special operations forces, which by 2015 will total 660 Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine teams.

The plan also includes adding two Army combat aviation brigades, each with about 2,600 troops, including 350 pilots; purchasing more helicopters; and increasing the production of armed drones so that the number of pilotless planes in the air at the same time can increase to 65 from the current limit of 37.

The Defense Review continues to single out Iran and North Korea as possible targets for U.S. operations.

The day after the military budget and Defense Review were released, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that close to 4,500, out of the 30,000 additional troops committed by Obama, are now in Afghanistan. About 14,000 more will be there by late spring, Mullen said, and the rest by early fall. This will bring U.S. troop totals there to more than 100,000.

The additional troops have allowed U.S. forces to expand their combat operations and control in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, two of the main strongholds of insurgent forces in Afghanistan.  
More U.S. ‘kill-capture’ missions
At a conference in London attended by representatives of 65 governments January 28, Washington reiterated its support for attempts to win over some Taliban fighters and lower level leaders. Although the U.S. government did not pledge any new money for the effort, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Tokyo for giving $50 million to a reintegration fund.

At the same time, Washington has been stepping up its efforts to decapitate Taliban forces and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.

According to the Washington Post, U.S. military teams and agents worked with Yemeni troops to kill scores of people, including six of 15 top leaders of an al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen over the past six weeks. The paper claims the several dozen U.S troops do not take part in the raids, but help plan the missions.

In Afghanistan “small teams of Army commandos, Navy Seals and Central Intelligence Agency operatives have intensified the pace of what the military often calls ‘kill-capture missions’,” the Wall Street Journal reported February 2. In the last six months in Zabul Province alone, the paper said, U.S. Special Forces carried out more than 100 attacks targeting Taliban commanders and leaders.

Washington has also continued to push other imperialist governments to step up their backing of the U.S. war.

German chancellor Angela Merkel announced January 26 that an additional 500 troops would be sent to Afghanistan and 350 would be held as a “flexible reserve force.” With 4,300 troops in Afghanistan, mostly in the north, Germany has the third largest contingent in the U.S.-led NATO force.

This, however, fell far short of Washington’s hope for at least 1,000 more. Merkel said that more than 1,100 German soldiers would be pulled from combat and instead focus on training Afghan security forces.

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