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Vol. 76/No. 40      November 5, 2012

Washington discusses plans to keep
troops in Afghanistan through 2024
(front page)
In the Oct. 22 election debate, President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney both pledged to meet the Dec. 31, 2014, deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan set by the administration last year. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is drawing up plans to maintain thousands of troops well beyond that date.

In early October, writes Josh Rogin in Foreign Policy magazine, “U.S. and Afghan negotiators met in Kabul to talk about the Bilateral Security Agreement that will govern the extension of U.S. troops past 2014.”

This meeting was a prelude to the start of formal negotiations to implement the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in May. That pact promised an ongoing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan through 2024.

In a talk before a meeting of the International Stability Operations Association in Washington, D.C., Oct. 16, Marc Grossman, the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the negotiations seek to keep U.S. troops there for “counterterrorism operations and training and advising the Afghan security forces.”

U.S. special operations forces will comprise the vast majority of these troops. Though numbers have not yet been disclosed, “American military officials say that the planning figure is 25,000 troops,” stated New American.

At the same time, U.S.-led NATO forces have not been faring so well in Afghanistan, as they scale down their operations after more than 11 years of war.

Attacks by the Taliban have become more aggressive. On Sept. 14, for example, 15 Taliban soldiers disguised in U.S. army uniforms got inside Camp Bastion, a major U.S. air base in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province. They killed two Marines, wounded nine other people and destroyed six Harrier fighter jets.

U.S. soldiers and other NATO troops are being attacked by some of the very Afghan forces they’re training. Since mid-September 51 NATO troops have been killed through nearly three dozen “insider attacks,” reported ABC News. That same month U.S. special operations forces temporarily suspended the training of Afghan Local Police recruits.

The last of the 33,000 “surge” troops sent to Afghanistan by the Obama administration in 2009 were fully withdrawn in September, leaving 68,000 U.S. troops still on the ground there.

“As the American surge ends, the Taliban surge will begin,” Mohammad Naim Lalai Amirzai, an Afghan parliament member from Kandahar, told the New York Times.

Other nations fighting under the NATO banner have about 32,000 troops there, with most heading for the exits.

British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond announced a speedup in withdrawing the U.K.’s 9,500 troops from Afghanistan, all of whom are scheduled to leave by the end of 2014. He said 500 will be brought home this year and “thousands, not hundreds” would be withdrawn late in 2013.

The German military is pulling out 500 troops from a major base it constructed eight years ago in Faizabad, in northern Afghanistan. With the third largest force under NATO command, Berlin had 4,900 soldiers stationed in the country.

French President François Hollande said that 2,000 of its 3,400 troops there will be pulled out by the end of this year. Some 1,400 troops will stay longer to send equipment back to France and train Afghan forces.

Some U.S. generals are seeking stays past the 2013 summer “fighting season” before additional U.S. troops are withdrawn. This would run counter to a plan being considered by the White House “to pull 10,000 more troops out by the end of December,” reports the Atlantic, “and then 10,000 to 20,000 more by next June.”

As many as 128,000 people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including 60,000 civilians, have been directly killed by U.S., NATO and Pakistani forces since the war began, according to the project. Possibly several times that have died from destruction of infrastructure and lost access to food and health care. More than 1 million have been displaced.

As the war grinds on and imperialist governments thin out their forces the war is taking a toll on U.S. and NATO soldiers. While some 2,100 U.S. soldiers have been killed and tens of thousands wounded in combat, the psychological effects are perhaps even greater and mounting. The war experience has led to a high suicide rate among U.S. troops—an average of one a day for the first five months of this year, about 50 percent more than those killed in action in Afghanistan over this same period, reports the Associated Press.
Related articles:
Bring all US troops home now!  
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