As the global financial markets went into meltdown on Monday, US general David Petraeus came knocking at Gordon Brown’s door.
Petraeus was demanding that Brown beef up the number of British troops in Afghanistan.
It is not known what the response was, but his visit confirmed that problems for the US are stacking up across the world.
The commitment of Canadian and Dutch governments to the military coalition in Afghanistan is now in question.
The British commander is being told that he has to do without the extra 4,000 troops he needs to secure the Helmand province.
Petraeus has warned that the planned transfer of troops from Iraq has only been partially met. While commanders on the ground were demanding a minimum of 10,000 extra troops, he can only deliver 4,000.
The Pentagon’s National Intelligence Estimate has described the Afghan war as “grim”.
The Taliban and other resistance organisations have a stranglehold over the capital and seem to be able to strike at will in different parts of the country.
The consensus in countries in the Nato alliance is that the occupation is heading for defeat.
Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress recently that “we’re running out of time. I’m not convinced we’re winning.”
He said that he has commissioned “a new, more comprehensive military strategy for the region that covers both sides of the [Afghanistan-Pakistan] border”.
The first elements of this strategy are now being played out. The Pakistani army has launched a massive offensive in the tribal regions along Pakistan’s northern border.
According to the United Nations over 20,000 refugees are now pouring into Afghanistan.
The heightened tension has led to several armed confrontations between Pakistani and US troops.
The highly influential Rand Corporation, a right wing think-tank, summed it up:
“We are now at a tipping point, with about half of the country now penetrated by a range of Sunni militant groups including the Taliban and Al Qaida.”
Part of the problem lies in the “fragility” of the occupation in Iraq. The US military is divided about how quickly they can transfer troops from there to Afghanistan.
Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, warned, “I believe we have now entered that endgame and our decisions today and in the months ahead will be critical to regional stability and our national security interests for the years to come.”
US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker is calling for “strategic patience” – which means don’t give up Iraq to save Afghanistan. He fears the growing influence of Iran in Iraq.
Crocker claims that the Iranians have a “fundamental desire to oppose the development of a fully secure and stable Iraq. I think they would like to keep Iraq off balance as a way of being able to control events here to the satisfaction of Tehran.”
Short of introducing the draft, the US military does not have enough troops to prosecute two wars. It can stabilise one occupation, but not both at the same time.
This dilemma is expressed by the different strategies presented by rival presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.
Obama wants the US to focus on the Afghainstan-Pakistan war. McCain wants to move on Iran.
To add to US woes, Russia is now dragging its feet over reining back Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
It withdrew from a critical meeting with Western governments last week that was set to tighten economic sanctions on the Iranian regime.
Russia has also gone cold over opening up a key supply route for Nato through northern Afghanistan.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov announced on Monday, “The agreement that was signed with Nato at the April summit in Bucharest is still formally in effect, but there is no chance of putting it into practice.”
This deal would have allowed Nato to resupply its troops without passing through treacherous regions of northern Pakistan.
Russia is throwing its weight around the former soviet states in central Asia as it is confident following its recent victory over Georgia.
To add to US nervousness, Russian warships have established control over the Black Sea and docked in their old base in Syria – marking the return of its fleet to the Mediterranean.
Another flotilla is conducting exercises with the Venezuelan navy in Caribbean.
The credibility of US power is also under question in Africa – the so called “third front on the war on terror”.
The US encouraged Ethiopia to invade Somalia in its battle against “Islamist extremism”.
This occupation is rapidly unravelling, threatening US plans to control the strategically important Horn of Africa.
Over the past eight years George Bush has unleashed a series of wars he hoped would increase US power. Instead these wars’ failures has proved its limits.
The recent economic meltdown, although not directly affecting its ability to fight, makes this struggle even more desperate.
The spread of war to Pakistan, and possibly Iran, remains a warning that its desperate attempts to manage defeat means the US is making the world a more dangerous place.
Afghanistan: Why we should get out, a new Stop the War Coalition pamphlet by Chris Nineham and Jane Shallice, with an introduction by John Pilger, is out now for £1. To order copies phone 020 7278 6694 or go to » www.stopwar.org.uk
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