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More occupation troops die as U.S. escalates Afghan war

Published Jul 30, 2009 10:50 PM

The casualties among the U.S.-led occupation forces in Afghanistan are headed toward a new high this year, reaching 67 killed in July alone. The step-up in deaths—mostly from the large U.S. and British contingents on an offensive in Helmand Province—signals the new U.S. administration’s focus on this Central Asian country of just 29 million people.

Whether the pretext-of-the-day for the Afghan occupation is the “war on terror,” “spreading democracy” or “defending women’s rights,” this is an occupation by Western imperialist powers of an oppressed, impoverished country. It is causing enormous suffering and death among the Afghan people, whose villages are routinely attacked by U.S. fighter jets and pilotless drones. And according to Afghan women’s groups, they are worse off now than before the invasion.

That the Taliban has a program which in many aspects may be reactionary doesn’t negate the legitimacy of the Afghan resistance to an imperialist takeover of their country.

Some government spokespeople and media are already worrying that the higher casualties “could erode U.S. public support for a war that is already among the longest in U.S. history.” (Washington Post, July 21) Their worry indicates the opportunity to mobilize mass opposition to the war within the U.S., as occurred with the Iraq war.

Some 90,000 foreign troops now occupy Afghanistan: 57,000 from the U.S., with another 11,000 due by the end of 2009; some 9,100 from Britain, and contingents of a few thousand each from the other major NATO countries: Germany, France, Italy and Canada. Smaller contingents have been sent by the smaller European imperialist powers such as Netherlands and Spain, as well as 2,000 troops from Poland. A few hundred more have been sent by even smaller European states and by each of the countries that were considered part of the socialist camp before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The NATO powers risk the lives of their youths to assure their capitalists a place at the table of imperialist plunder of the world. The others do it to be allowed to pick a few crumbs that fall from the table.

U.S. Marines report tough fighting

Despite the overwhelming firepower of the U.S.-British-NATO forces, escalating the occupation of Afghanistan will be no easy job. U.S. Marines, who are Iraq veterans, say the Afghan resisters are even tougher and bolder than the Iraq fighters were. This is true even though the Afghans are less well-armed.

Marine Sgt. Jacob Tambunga, a squad leader in Company C, First Battalion, Fifth Marines was part of the U.S. occupation of Iraq in battles with the Iraqi resistance in Anbar Province. His reaction after fighting the Afghan resistance during three ambushes in the Helmand Province offensive is that the Afghans were tougher and more tenacious. Each battle lasted at least as long as the longest in Iraq.

“They are two totally different worlds,” said Sergeant Tambunga. “In Iraq, they’d hit you and run,” he said. “But these guys stick around and maneuver on you.” (New York Times, July 26)

“It was straight luck that we didn’t have a lot more guys hit,” said Sgt. Brandon Tritle, also a squad leader in Company C. Tritle compared the resistance fighters’ tactics to that of the Marines. “One force will put enough fire down so you have to keep your heads down, then another force will maneuver around to your side to try to kill you,” he said. “That’s the same thing we do.” (New York Times, July 26)

What he didn’t mention is that the Afghans, while poorly armed, are fighting inside their own country to repel an invading military force and therefore are highly motivated.

The Marines said that the Afghan fighters were not as heavily armed as the Iraqis, but that they were able to make use of many roadside bombs made from fertilizer to kill and wound the occupation troops. Such bombs were responsible for the deaths of nearly all the British troops who died in Helmand in July. One Marine told the Times: “If they had better weapons, then we’d be in real trouble.”

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