Socialist Worker

Brown's bluster cannot hide the tragedy in Afghanistan

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2105

The latest British soldiers to die in Afghanistan were sent to their deaths with sickening bravado.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the commander of British paratroops in southern Afghanistan goaded insurgents into a battle telling them that they 'fought like women'.

A few days later three of his soldiers were killed. Their deaths bring the total to 100 British soldiers killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.

Gordon Brown said the soldiers died for a 'noble cause', while his ministers talked up 'progress' and hinted at an imminent victory over Afghan insurgents.

The ugly truth is that the occupation has sunk into a quagmire, an unwinnable battle where the biggest losers are the tens of thousands of Afghans who have been killed as part of the 'war on terror'.

Now Britain wants to 'withdraw' the 4,000 troops stationed in Iraq and 'redeploy' them to the killing fields of Afghanistan.

The hype emerging from Brown's government is a desperate bid to shore up an occupation that is fast unravelling.

The occupation is marked by corruption, mounting death tolls and a cycle of Western troop advances and claims of victory quickly followed by withdrawal.


As Nato troops flood into areas, the Afghan fighters withdraw, only to re-emerge later. One British officer referred to these battles as 'mowing the lawn' since the insurgency 'just grows back'.

Far from the war winding down, each year the occupation gets bloodier.

According to Nato, attacks on foreign troops and their Afghan allies in eastern Afghanistan have this year risen by 50 percent compared with 2007 – leading to a steady rise in the number of casualties.

Now a key US think-tank is urging Nato and the US to spread the war into Pakistan.

The influential Rand Corporation has warned that the occupation will face 'crippling, long term consequences' unless Western troops invade northern Pakistan.

According to their report, 'Every successful insurgency in Afghanistan since 1979 enjoyed safe haven in neighbouring countries, and the current insurgency is no different.

'Right now, the Taliban and other groups are getting help from individuals within Pakistan's government, and until that ends, the region's long term security is in jeopardy.'

The outgoing commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan echoed calls for the war to spread.

He said in his farewell speech that, 'If there are going to be sanctuaries where these terrorists, these extremists, these insurgents can train, can recruit, can regenerate, there's still going to be a challenge there.'

The push for more war is a sign of the growing desperation among supporters of the occupation.

In a recent interview, the new Australian defence minister admitted that a minimum of 10,000 extra troops were needed for the occupation of Afghanistan just to tread water.

During his current tour of Europe, George Bush will be making a final bid for more troops and equipment. But faced with the growing unpopularity and cost of the war, few European governments are willing to send more soldiers.

Hamid Karzai, the US appointed leader of Afghanistan, let slip the truth on a recent trip to the Netherlands. He said that occupation forces will be fighting for 'at least another ten years'.

'Reconstruction' cash looted by contractors

According to a recent report by Integrity Watch Afghanistan, Afghans receive only $20 out every $100 spent on reconstruction and aid.

The bulk of money pays for 'Western advisors', some of whom earn $22,000 for 'technical assistance' – enough to hire 20 Afghan teachers.

The rest of the money slushes into the private accounts of corrupt officials or Western contractors.

The author of the report said that corruption was so endemic, 'It's better to channel it through the government because even if it is being taken it will stay in the country.'

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Tue 10 Jun 2008, 18:50 BST
Issue No. 2105
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