Socialist Worker

Quagmire deepens for Britain in Afghanistan

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2160

Britain’s failed enterprise in Afghanistan has been exposed. Fifteen British soldiers have died in the past two weeks, along with countless numbers of Afghanis.

The US and British governments want us to believe the war must be fought to “a successful conclusion”. This is despite the fact that this goal was a dangerous illusion many years ago and we have just seen the bloodiest week of conflict.

They claim that the tide is turning and that they are taking the fight to the “Taliban heartlands” by pouring some 17,000 troops into Helmand province.

Even Gordon Brown knows this cannot work. On Tuesday Brown demanded the Afghan government provide more troops and police to hold areas that British and US forces have secured from the Taliban.

But many of the insurgents have gone to ground knowing that these troops will eventually be redeployed to other regions.

All the indications are that insurgents have spread out across the country, even into areas that where once considered hostile to the Taliban.

Ten Afghan policemen are being killed each day on average by fighters who move back into areas once foreign troops move on. Those left behind to police the area are targeted in hit and run attacks, roadside bombs and ambushes.

Sudden

The sudden surge in attacks this month – which has also seen 21 US and four Canadian soldiers killed and several hundred wounded – is being blamed on the nature of the operation.

However, there have been similar offensives in the past and none has proved as costly.

Insurgents have adapted their techniques and are more effective. More foreign troops have died in the first six months of this year than in the first four years of the occupation.

And this war is now being passed on to a new generation.

The three 18-year olds who were among the British troops killed over the past week were just 11-years old when George Bush and Tony Blair ordered the invasion in 2001.

The US and Britain are using promises of reconstruction to convince people at home and abroad that the occupation is worth the loss of life. But they have failed to produce any tangible results.

According to a report by the charity Oxfam, much needed aid is being “wasted on foreign contractors who make hefty profits and employ expatriate consultants who can earn salaries of over $1 million a year”.

The promised infrastructure and housing schemes have not materialised. There are constant power shortages and a high level of unemployment.

The US and its allies have made the task of “stabilising the country” more difficult by spreading the war.

In 2001 the battles were limited to areas around the capital. But the more the US pushed, the wider the insurgency has spread. It has now crossed into Pakistan where it has created conditions for long-lasting instability.

The so-called “Af-Pak” strategy has effectively doubled the number of US troops to 68,000.

There are currently 9,000 British troops in Afghanistan and the generals want a further 6,000 deployed.

But US commanders now admit they need 270,000 troops, with a similar number of Afghan police, to control the country.

The assault on Helmand province will not solve the deep problems for the occupation. It simply marks a further step into the quagmire – one that will cost yet more lives.


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