WHILE THOUSANDS of people march in London this Saturday demanding British and US forces leave Afghanistan, leaders of the Nato military alliance will meet in Portugal to review “progress” in the war.
They are expected to set out a plan for four more years of slaughter.
The war would be wrong in any circumstances, but it is particularly disgusting that billions of pounds are used to keep the war machine going while vital services and hundreds of jobs are destroyed due to a supposed “lack of money”.
Plans to extend the war make a mockery of president Barack Obama’s pledge to start withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan from July 2011.
And it is confirmation that David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband are serious when they talk of continuing the war to 2015 and beyond.
The Nato Lisbon summit will receive a report from General David Petraeus, the senior US commander in Afghanistan.
He will offer a “transition plan” that proposes “a gradual four-year shifting of security responsibility to the Afghans”.
US-led NATO forces will remain in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand for a minimum of two more years—and probably more.
If that sounds a terrible timetable, consider what the new head of Britain’s armed forces, General Sir David Richards, has said. He claims the threat posed by “Al Qaida and its affiliates” means Britain’s national security will be at risk for at least 30 years.
He added that defeating Islamist militancy was “unnecessary and would never be achieved”.
Any Nato officials who believe the war in Afghanistan is winnable should read a recent report from a group organised by the US Council on Foreign Relations.
It admits that “the Taliban insurgency is more violent than at any point since the US invasion after 9/11.
“Nato forces are paying a heavy toll. Afghan public enthusiasm for the government is waning after years of unmet expectations.
“The economy, devastated by more than 30 years of war, has not recovered sufficiently to provide for the people, while the government remains largely ineffective and riven by corruption.”
This analysis is coming from deep inside the US ruling class.
Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state under president George Bush junior, and Sandy Berger, president Bill Clinton’s national security advisor, led the Council on Foreign Relations panel.
It also includes John Negroponte, the man at the centre of the US’s bloody war against Nicaragua in the 1980s and who later became Bush’s ambassador to Iraq.
It reflects a division in US ruling circles. This is between those who believe that the economic crisis means that the US must increase its military might to bully the rest of the world, and those who think the enterprise is too costly.
“It is not clear that US interests warrant such an investment,” the report says, “Nor is it clear that the effort will succeed.”
It says there is some strength in the argument that the US should “downsize its ambitions and reduce its military presence in Afghanistan”.
This would not mean withdrawal, but keeping 10,000 to 20,000 soldiers headed by special forces. What that means can be seen in recent despatches from the frontline.
Reporter Ben Gilbert says that US troops are systematically destroying Afghan civilians’ property as they carry out the latest phase of the Kandahar campaign, called Operation Dragon Strike.
“I’ve never seen so many explosives being used,” said 1st Sgt. Larry Breland, a 17-year veteran of the army with two tours in Iraq under his belt.
In an effort to clear paths heavily mined by the Taliban, soldiers employed a weapon called a MICLIC, an acronym for Mine Clearing Line Charge.
Gilbert says, “In one thunderous, ground-shaking boom, the weapon clears a path 300 feet long and wide enough for a tank. Breland said his company commander, Cpt. Mike Gold, had used 16 MICLICs in one day.”
A report in the Los Angeles Times newspaper says, “US Marines have also been suffering significant casualties in recent weeks as they stage an aggressive push in Helmand province, which neighbours Kandahar.
“This has been the deadliest year of the nine-year war for Western soldiers and Afghan civilians alike.
“Until about a year ago, the north was relatively calm, but the Taliban and other groups have made major inroads in a swath of provinces, threatening a major Nato supply route and taxing Western resources amid the military push in the south.”
Meanwhile, US air force figures show its planes have flown 2,600 attack sorties since General Petraeus took over command of the occupation last June.
In October they fired their weapons on 1,000 such flights—over 30 deadly assaults a day.
The war in Afghanistan has entered its tenth year. The brutal occupation has seen the deaths of tens of thousands of Afghans and over 2,000 Western troops.
As it continues, thousands more civilians and soldiers will be killed in a pointless and unwinnable war.
This comes at a time when 70 percent of the British public want all British troops withdrawn now.
Join the protest this Saturday to get the troops out and for welfare not warfare.