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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 75/No. 1      January 10, 2011


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(lead article)
Imperialists’ Afghan
progress is ‘fragile’
Washington steps up actions in Pakistan
AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool
U.S. troops in Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan near Pakistan border, December 20.

The White House’s just released “Overview of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review” says that U.S. imperialism has made progress in the region but it is “fragile and reversible.” It reaffirms that Washington plans to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

Washington has continued to escalate the war in Afghanistan, and its military operations in Pakistan since Barack Obama took office in January 2009. Boosted by 30,000 additional troops authorized by Obama, the U.S.-led forces have pushed Taliban fighters out of parts of southern Afghanistan.

U.S. officials recently told the Washington Post that U.S. Special Forces have increased their attacks sixfold over the last year on the Haqqani network, one of the main armed groups battling U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Both the Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban have key bases in Pakistan. With the tacit acceptance of Islamabad, the CIA has carried out at least 112 drone missile attacks in 2010 inside Pakistan as of December 17, double what it did in 2009.

Until recently almost all the CIA drone missiles were fired in Pakistan’s North Waziristan Province, where the Haqqani network and other al-Qaeda and Taliban groups are based. But on December 16 and 17, the CIA launched four drone strikes in Khyber Province, killing as many as 54 people. These strikes were directed at Lashkar-e-Islam, which is opposed to the Pakistani government, and other Pakistani Taliban groups.

Aside from directing the drone attacks in Pakistan, CIA agents command a thousands-strong paramilitary force in Afghanistan. According to the New York Times, the agency’s Kabul headquarters is the largest CIA station since the Vietnam War.

The White House overview says the U.S. military has made most progress against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, especially in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, including capturing or killing hundreds of Taliban leaders.

While fighting in Kandahar has reportedly quieted down since a U.S. offensive in the fall, 42 U.S. Marines have died in Helmand since taking over parts of the province from British troops on September 20.

The New York Times reported December 15 that in Kunduz Province, in northern Afghanistan, Taliban have won some support despite the more than doubling of U.S. and German troops in the north since last year.

As part of Washington’s “counterinsurgency” strategy, the U.S. military has been promoting local militias that are little more than armed thugs of one or another local landlord, drug traffickers, or gang, who impose taxes and harass peasants and merchants, much like the situation that reigned before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 1996. Michiel Hofman, a representative of Doctors Without Borders, told the Times that setting up health clinics in Kunduz has become extremely difficult. “Every five kilometers there’s a different commander with no central command structure,” he said.  
White House pressures Islamabad
A large part of the White House overview lays out continuing to pressure the Pakistani government to take more aggressive action against armed Afghan groups that operate from Pakistan, crossing mountain passes along the 1,600-mile-long shared border.

Washington has a complicated and at times tense relationship with the Pakistani government and military. The U.S. government provides $2 billion a year in military and civilian funds to Pakistan every year.

The Pakistan military has launched offensives against Taliban groups that attack Islamabad, while avoiding going after those Taliban groups that are only at war with U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, in spite of U.S. pressure to do so. It does, however, collaborate with U.S. drone attacks and assists U.S. Special Forces operating in Pakistan.

The Haqqani network and many Afghan Taliban groups have long been used by Islamabad as vehicles for maintaining Pakistani influence in Afghanistan and to counter Indian government plans for wider influence in the region.

Obama’s escalation of the Afghan war and stepped-up attacks in Pakistan have won support from conservatives in the United States.

“On Afghanistan, Obama has become a hawk in dove’s plumage,” Max Boot, the author of numerous books backing U.S. military intervention around the world, writes in the December 27 Weekly Standard. “Obama is doing more than most conservatives expected he would… . And Republicans, to their credit, are standing behind him.”

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