Socialist Worker

Pakistan: Nato's war escalates

by Chris Bambery
Issue No. 2145

US president Barack Obama was meeting with representatives of 70 countries in the Hague on Tuesday as Socialist Worker went to press.

He was asking them to commit further troops and resources to the ongoing US and Nato war in Afghanistan. The war is now increasingly spreading into the interior of neighbouring Pakistan.

The growing instability in the region was highlighted by the eight-hour gun battle in Pakistan's second largest city Lahore on Monday, which followed a siege at a police academy.

Up to 12 people died and 95 were injured as security forces fought to regain the building that had been occupied by armed militants.

Baitullah Mehsud, a leader of the Pakistan Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

He said the attack was 'in retaliation for the continued drone strikes by the US in collaboration with Pakistan on our people'.

Some 36 US missile strikes on Pakistan have killed more than 340 people since August of last year.

Capacity

The US military does not admit responsibility for all these attacks but it is the only force with the capacity to carry them out from its bases in Afghanistan.

A missile fired from an unmanned drone killed four 'militants' in Pakistan last Wednesday. It was the seventh such strike since Obama took office at the end of January.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the regions bordering Afghanistan have been driven from their homes by US and Pakistani armed forces in the past few years as the US-led 'war on terror' has intensified.

This has fuelled support for those who fight back. Obama has made tackling the growing instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan a central priority for his administration.

The Lahore attack followed Obama's pledge to put Pakistan, along with Afghanistan, at the heart of his fight against Al Qaida.

He said that 'Al Qaida and its extremist allies' were 'a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within'.

Describing the war in Afghanistan as 'increasingly perilous' he announced that a further 4,000 US troops would be sent there.

This takes the total number of extra troops he has pledged to send to Afghanistan to 21,000. These are part of a 'surge' designed to drive back resistance to the US-Nato occupation.

Obama plans to combine his military surge in Afghanistan with increased Western aid to build up the Afghan police and military – permitting them to take over the country's security in six years time.

World leaders at the Hague conference will discuss the shortfall in funds for Afghanistan's expanding military and police service.

Nato countries currently fund the Afghan military to the tune of $250 million a year – around $2.5 billion short of the amount needed to pay for the country's burgeoning forces.

Nato secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned, 'It is difficult to see how Nato allies, given the enormous amount they are spending keeping forces there, can bring in $2 billion a year.'

Obama is also calling on the US congress to provide $1.5 billion a year for the next five years in aid for Pakistan – as well as $2.8 billion for Pakistan's military alone.

Compromised

Tensions are rising between the US and its official allies in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai is increasingly seen as too corrupt and compromised to carry out the US's plans for the country.

There is also a growing feeling in the US administration that the Pakistani military and the country's president, Asif Ali Zardari, are not playing a strong enough role in opposing the insurgents.

The head of the US military in the region, General David Petraeus, told Fox News on Monday that the US reserves the 'right of last resort' to take out so-called threats inside Pakistan.

He added that it would prefer to enable the Pakistani military to do the job itself.

In the US, the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is becoming known as 'Obama's war'. It is a war that is widely seen as unwinnable.

As events of the last week have shown, the acceleration of the war into Pakistan threatens a further, dangerous escalation of the conflict.

For details of the Stop the War demonstrations at the G20 meeting in London and the Nato summit in Strasbourg, go to » www.stopwar.org.uk


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