Behind troop ‘surge’
Pentagon sets course for wider war in Asia
Published Dec 9, 2009 4:16 PM
Washington has already begun to send more troops to occupy Afghanistan
following President Barack Obama’s Dec. 1 speech at West Point. In
Afghanistan as in Iraq, the U.S. occupation will bring death to more Afghan
civilians and more U.S. troops. It threatens to open a civil war in Pakistan,
while the occupation of Iraq continues.
Like the war on Iraq, this war too has the support of U.S. bankers, corporate
executives and generals. It grows out of the drive to secure energy sources and
other raw materials and markets, to surround Russia and China with military
bases and to avoid exposing the weaknesses of the Pentagon. The U.S. rulers
depend on U.S. military power to overcome economic weaknesses that are
sharpened during the capitalist downturn.
Ruling-class opinion was reflected in the editorial and op-ed opinions
published in the New York Times and the Washington Post, the most influential
of the U.S. corporate media. According to a report by Fairness and Accuracy in
Media, the Times’ op-eds were 5-to-1 pro-war and the Post’s were
10-to-1 pro war. (fair.org, December)
The Republican Party establishment too has congratulated Obama for opting for a
“surge.” The more rabidly chauvinistic media like Fox and the more
militarist politicians like Dick Cheney have been aggressively pushing for a
wider war. They have chided Obama for every sign of hesitation.
Obama himself drew attention to the problem of paying for the war when he
invited his budget chief, Peter Orszag, to attend the war cabinet meeting
before the Dec. 1 speech. During this severe capitalist economic crisis the
increased costs of the war will come directly from funds that could be used to
provide jobs and services for unemployed workers at home. This is one more
reason for organizers to unite those opposing the war with those fighting for
jobs, workers’ rights and economic justice.
The war’s costs—with another $50 billion for the
“surge” next year—will narrow support for the administration
by limiting the funds it has available to provide jobs and social services for
the workers and oppressed peoples who were Obama’s strongest
Now the Democrats’ war
The new administration has taken over responsibility for the Afghan war, which
the George W. Bush administration launched in October 2001 in the wake of 9/11
before turning the Pentagon’s attention to oil-rich Iraq. The Bush
gang’s unilateral policy failed in Iraq and Afghanistan and weakened U.S.
imperialism in the rest of the world.
Now the ruling class is looking to a government that combines Democrats with
“moderate” Republicans like Defense Secretary Robert Gates to guide
the next phase of Washington’s attempt to reconquer the former colonial
world. The media have begun to call the Afghanistan occupation
This war’s execution, however, is closely following the plans laid out
last summer by General Stanley McChrystal. The Pentagon is in charge.
The president, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Gates are left with the
task of selling this criminal war to the U.S. population and to the world. This
task requires publicly spreading lies about the character of the Afghan
resistance, twisting the arms of NATO allies to get them to drag more of their
own troops into the war zone, and twisting heads in Pakistan to get the regime
there to use its army against the population of the regions bordering
The two secretaries’ first public appearances after Dec. 1 already
deflated the one statement in Obama’s speech that differed with the
Pentagon’s proposals: that the troop commitment was not open-ended and
that U.S. troops would withdraw from Afghanistan starting in July 2011.
Gates quickly put that myth to rest. “We will have 100,000 forces, troops
there,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press, “and they are not
leaving in July of 2011. Some handful or some small number, or whatever the
conditions permit, we’ll begin to withdraw at that time.”
In other words, it will be no easier for the White House to order a withdrawal
in 2011 than it was to refuse the escalation in 2009, no matter how many
Afghans are slaughtered, how many U.S. troops are killed or wounded, how
corrupt the Afghan puppet regime remains or how much the war bankrupts the U.S.
We shouldn’t forget that U.S. troops still occupy bases in Iraq and
Kosovo after a decade and Korea after 56 years, after wars led by both
Democratic and Republican administrations.
Twisting arms in Brussels and Islamabad
Clinton was in Brussels Dec. 4 explaining Obama’s plans while asking for
10,000 additional troops from other NATO countries. It is this aspect of U.S.
war policy where the new Democratic and the last Republican administration
differ most: the new administration tries to include Washington’s
imperialist allies in the military adventures in return for a share of the
Clinton said she was heartened by NATO’s promises of 7,000 troops. NATO
held back from publishing a list of which countries promised what number of
troops. A full list might have exposed weaknesses.
Washington’s junior imperialist partner in London has promised more
troops; Italy promised an additional 1,000; and France and Germany say
they’ll wait until a Jan. 28 meeting in London on Afghanistan before
committing more. Canada and the Netherlands have been planning to withdraw the
substantial contingents they have in Afghanistan.
Georgia—the former Soviet Republic that is currently a weak U.S. client
state with an unpopular regime in power—has promised 900 of those 7,000
additional troops. How many of the 7,000 troops are coming from those former
socialist countries, whose regimes are dependent on Washington and afraid of
their own populations?
In almost every European NATO country as well as in the U.S., the already
strong opposition to the Afghan adventure will expand as casualties increase in
Central Asia. The Afghan occupation is now much more a U.S. occupation than it
was under Bush, rather than a coalition effort.
Civil war in Pakistan?
The situation is even more dramatic regarding Pakistan. The Dec. 8 New York
Times reports, “The Obama administration is turning up the pressure on
Pakistan to fight the Taliban inside its borders, warning that if it does not
act more aggressively the United States will use considerably more force on the
Pakistani side of the border to shut down Taliban attacks on [U.S.] forces in
That’s easy for Washington to order, harder for Islamabad to obey.
Washington is confronting the fragile Pakistani civilian government with a
dilemma. Either it opens up a civil war against a section of its population or
the U.S. will carry out drone bombing attacks, killing many civilians in what
are called the Tribal Areas and in Baluchistan.
The major Pakistani offensive just carried out in the border provinces has
already led to daily bombings in major Pakistani cities, some directed at
police and military installations, by the anti-U.S. and anti-government forces.
Others hit the general population, and it is hard to determine who is
The U.S. demands on Pakistan are complicated by the Pakistani Army’s
earlier support for the Taliban, helping bring them to power in Afghanistan in
1996 with the goal of establishing a stable regime. Some in Pakistan’s
army and secret police would prefer a Taliban regime in Afghanistan to many
other scenarios. Thus U.S. escalation in Afghanistan—and the pressure on
Pakistan—could lead to civil war in a nuclear-armed country of 170
Taliban make an offer
U.S. propaganda on Afghanistan—including Obama’s Dec. 1
speech—lumps together the Taliban, al-Qaida, the Pakistani insurgent
forces and all Afghan resisters. The truth is more complicated.
The Afghan resistance is made up of the Taliban, of local fighting groups with
tribal loyalties and of secular Afghans whose politics date from the
revolutionary government of 1978-1991. Apparently al-Qaida also participates,
though its numbers are under 100 according to Washington’s own
Al-Qaida has no Afghan members and consists mainly of Saudis and Egyptians. It
has taken responsibility for the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. It and its leader
Osama bin Laden—who was demonized as the main enemy of the U.S. after
9/11 but is hardly heard of now—were originally supported by the U.S. In
those days al-Qaida supplied volunteer fighters against the Soviet troops that
had been aiding the progressive Afghan government in the 1980s. Al-Qaida turned
against the U.S. after U.S. troops occupied bases in Saudi Arabia.
The Taliban, which developed from a youthful group of religious
fundamentalists, ran the Afghan government beginning in 1996 with a reactionary
program that was very oppressive of women—similar to most of the groups
backing today’s puppet Afghan regime. The Taliban were ousted by the U.S.
invasion in October 2001. Although at that time extremely unsophisticated, over
eight years of occupation the Taliban have developed into the leading group in
the Afghan resistance, which controls 11 of Afghanistan’s 34
The Taliban’s first reaction to Obama’s speech was to say,
“The increased number of U.S. soldiers will not have any impact (on war),
but it will instead provide the mujahideen with a greater chance to increase
their attacks on them and on the other hand it will shake the already fragile
U.S. economy.” (South Asia News, Dec. 2)
The Taliban also promised not to “meddle in the West” if the U.S.
and NATO got out of Afghanistan. (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 5)
By all appearances, it is not the Taliban whose policies bring chaos and
slaughter to South and Central Asia, but U.S. imperialism.
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