By Simon Assaf
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2170

Two failing strategies on offer in Afghanistan

This article is over 12 years, 3 months old
The supreme commander of occupation troops in Afghanistan has opened up a serious rift between the military top brass and Barack Obama’s administration over the direction of the war.
Issue 2170

The supreme commander of occupation troops in Afghanistan has opened up a serious rift between the military top brass and Barack Obama’s administration over the direction of the war.

General Stanley McChrystal, who was appointed in May, sent a stark warning of imminent defeat unless the US sends extra troops as part of a “super surge”.

In a widely leaked assessment of the war he said that “inadequate resources will likely result in failure” within 12 months.

McChrystal wants 30,000 extra US troops – on top of the 100,000 foreign soldiers already in the country. His demand comes with a warning of even higher casualties.

Gordon Brown is promising to send an extra 2,000 troops as part of the new surge.

The general said that the Taliban and other insurgent groups were becoming more sophisticated militarily and had created a shadow government in large parts of the country.

Under the guise of “protecting Afghan civilians” McChrystal plans to create a network of bases across the country. Part of this strategy is to temporarily abandon areas under insurgent control and pursue a “constructive engagement” with them.


McChrystal’s plan would effectively create a third government to run alongside the Afghan administration and the shadow government.

He hopes that by bypassing corrupt officials, the West can pour in aid that could eventually win over the locals.

This is in stark contrast to the so-called “Af-Pak” strategy being pursued by Obama. The US president toured TV studios at the weekend rejecting calls for the super surge.

He pointed to the “success” of the recent offensive by the Pakistani army against the Pakistani Taliban.

Part of the Af-Pak strategy is to create a stable Afghan government with a 400,000 strong security force.

But both of these strategies have run into serious trouble.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai is widely derided at home and also among his Western allies for widespread corruption and vote-rigging.

And despite a US claim that it is churning out 28,000 new Afghan soldiers a year, the army could only field 600 combat troops in recent offensives.

Behind McChrystal’s “super surge” is the realisation that, after eight years of occupation, the Afghan army barely exists as a credible force.

US journalist Ann Jones was given access to US training programmes in July.

She wrote, “I knew men who repeatedly went through [Afghan army] training to get the promised Kalashnikov and the pay.

“Then they went home for a while and often returned some weeks later to enlist again under a different name.”

Other recruits were insurgents signing up for free training by Western troops that they could later use against them.

The divisions inside the occupation, along with growing public disquiet over the war, has created deep unease inside the Nato military alliance.

A recent poll by the German Marshall Fund found that 63 percent of Europeans were “pessimistic” about the war, while similar polls in the US show a growing majority want the troops out.

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said recently that he was “alarmed” that the public debate “has started to go in the wrong direction”.

Meanwhile the CIA intelligence agency announced that it would be establishing its biggest substation in Afghanistan to run teams of spies, “analysts” and paramilitary operatives – or death squads.

These will join the 700 agents already in the country.

A similar “intelligence surge” in Iraq resulted in the “war of the corpses”, with mass killings of people suspected of supporting the resistance.

Troops Home Now – national demonstration in London, 24 October.

Troops Out Now, Scrap Trident – protest at Nato’s meeting in Edinburgh, Saturday 14 November.

Called by the Stop the War Coalition.
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