Socialist Worker

US and Britain fall out over Afghan occupation

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2122

It’s official – the occupation of Afghanistan is “doomed to fail”. That stark warning comes from the top British commander and the top British diplomatic envoy to Afghanistan.

Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith admitted last week, “We’re not going to win this war.” The most the occupation can hope for, he added, is an insurgency that is “contained and managed”.

This admission of defeat provoked howls of rage from the US government. Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, denounced the British commander as “defeatist” and ruled out any negotiations with the Taliban.

Carleton-Smith told the Times newspaper, “If the Taliban were prepared to sit on the other side of the table and talk about a political settlement, then that’s precisely the sort of progress that concludes insurgencies like this. That shouldn’t make people uncomfortable.”

His candid words came as Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, admitted to a senior French diplomat that, “the presence – especially the military presence – of the coalition is part of the problem, not the solution”.

Cowper-Coles’s private words found their way into Le Canard Enchaîné, the French satirical and investigative newspaper.

The ambassador said, “The foreign forces are ensuring the survival of a regime that would collapse without them. In doing so, they are slowing down and complicating an eventual exit from the crisis.”

Despite the US’s adamant refusal to talk to the Taliban, it was revealed this week that the Western-backed Afghan government had already opened negotiations with insurgents.

The talks, held in Saudi Arabia, included representatives from the government, the Taliban and other Afghan resistance organisations.

The Afghan government is said to have asked Taliban leader Mullah Omar to stand in presidential elections next year.

The mood of despair gripping the occupiers of Afghanistan comes seven years after Western troops poured into the country.

This year has turned into the bloodiest so far. Tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed. The war has also spread into neighbouring Pakistan and the death toll among Western troops continues to rise.

The global financial chaos is also compounding problems for the occupation. US officials have been flying around the world with a begging bowl.

They have asked Japan and Nato countries to pick up the bill for the reconstruction of the Afghan army. A Pentagon official declared on Monday, “At a minimum it’s going to cost $17 billion. That’s a hefty price tag and someone’s got to pay it.”

Afghanistan: Why We Should Get Out by Chris Nineham and Jane Shallis is available from the Stop the War Coalition. Go to » www.stopwar.org.uk


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Tue 7 Oct 2008, 18:07 BST
Issue No. 2122
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