Monday, August 10, 2009

Land of Perpetual War: US Troop Levels in Afghanistan to Double from Last Year

According to a report by Paul Tait of Reuters, published at, U.S. forces in Afghanistan have expanded to near double the level of last year, with plans to expand to 68,000 troops or more by December, up from 32,000 at the end of 2008. Currently, with both U.S. and other allied troops, there are over 100,000 soldiers facing what is reported to be a more "aggressive" and "brazen" Taliban force.

Forty-one U.S. troops died in Afghanistan in the past month; 71 allied troops overall. The article gave no figures for Afghan deaths.

Commander of U.S. forces, U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal -- formerly head of Special Forces for the Pentagon, during a time when Special Operations units were implicated in torture in Iraq -- "said the resurgent Taliban have forced a change of tactics on foreign forces and warned that record casualty figures would remain high for some months" (emphasis added). No one asks why the Taliban should be stronger now, almost eight years after 9/11 -- well, no one in the mainstream U.S. press.

The war in Afghanistan continues to escalate, even as no one is really sure what the war is about anymore, or what endgame is envisioned. But things are getting clearer and clearer to Afghans themselves. Here's some testimony from Malalai Joya, from Afghanistan, published in the Guardian UK (H/T Chris Floyd):
In 2005, I was the youngest person elected to the new Afghan parliament. Women like me, running for office, were held up as an example of how the war in Afghanistan had liberated women. But this democracy was a facade, and the so-called liberation a big lie....

Almost eight years after the Taliban regime was toppled, our hopes for a truly democratic and independent Afghanistan have been betrayed by the continued domination of fundamentalists and by a brutal occupation that ultimately serves only American strategic interests in the region.

You must understand that the government headed by Hamid Karzai is full of warlords and extremists who are brothers in creed of the Taliban. Many of these men committed terrible crimes against the Afghan people during the civil war of the 1990s.

For expressing my views I have been expelled from my seat in parliament, and I have survived numerous assassination attempts. The fact that I was kicked out of office while brutal warlords enjoyed immunity from prosecution for their crimes should tell you all you need to know about the "democracy" backed by Nato troops....

So far, Obama has pursued the same policy as Bush in Afghanistan. Sending more troops and expanding the war into Pakistan will only add fuel to the fire.... Today the situation of women is as bad as ever. Victims of abuse and rape find no justice because the judiciary is dominated by fundamentalists....

This week, US vice-president Joe Biden asserted that "more loss of life [is] inevitable" in Afghanistan, and that the ongoing occupation is in the "national interests" of both the US and the UK.

I have a different message to the people of Britain. I don't believe it is in your interests to see more young people sent off to war, and to have more of your taxpayers' money going to fund an occupation that keeps a gang of corrupt warlords and drug lords in power in Kabul.
Author Tariq Ali reports in the London Review of Books (again, H/T Chris Floyd):
This is now Obama’s war. He campaigned to send more troops into Afghanistan and to extend the war, if necessary, into Pakistan. These pledges are now being fulfilled. On the day he publicly expressed his sadness at the death of a young Iranian woman caught up in the repression in Tehran, US drones killed 60 people in Pakistan. The dead included women and children, whom even the BBC would find it difficult to describe as ‘militants’. Their names mean nothing to the world; their images will not be seen on TV networks. Their deaths are in a ‘good cause’....

In May this year, Graham Fuller, a former CIA station chief in Kabul, published an assessment of the crisis in the region in the Huffington Post. Ignored by the White House.... not only did Fuller say that Obama was ‘pressing down the same path of failure in Pakistan marked out by George Bush’ and that military force would not win the day, he also explained... that the Taliban are all ethnic Pashtuns, that the Pashtuns ‘are among the most fiercely nationalist, tribalised and xenophobic peoples of the world, united only against the foreign invader’ and ‘in the end probably more Pashtun than they are Islamist’. ‘It is a fantasy,’ he said, ‘to think of ever sealing the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.’ And I don’t imagine he is the only retired CIA man to refer back to the days when Cambodia was invaded ‘to save Vietnam’....
You don't have to be a genius to see the Democrats, led by Barack Obama, sauntering down the same path as Jack Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson -- or Richard Nixon, for that matter -- and blundering into Asian war, led by the nose by the war profiteers, by the military brass and intelligence agencies that stand to get tons of money and promotions fighting the wars of their generation, oblivious that this grasping after money and glory could have some social cost. Just ask the generals of the former Red Army, or the Wehrmacht, for that matter, about the price of such empire-building, going all the way back to Ipsus and Marathon.

What's worst is the paralysis of much of the liberal left, who cannot bring themselves to call up the old antiwar chants hauled out previously in the early Bush years. Over time, the antiwar movement became subordinated to electing Democrats, and forgot how to do anything else. Now the Democrats are in power and they are pushing the war, and what's a good antiwar progressive to do but grit his or her teeth and hope things will change.

Well, that's bullshit, and if those who call themselves progressive can't bestir themselves to see they must oppose this militarist, imperialist aggression, whose legacy is only death, hatred, and more cycles of violence and war, then they deserve their ignominious fate, which is irrelevancy and a slow descent into reactionary politics, or exit from politics altogether.

The following information adds corroboration to what I am saying in the diary, and comments not only on the war cost issue, but puts into perspective the military strategy pursued by the U.S. in this new, more deadly phase of fighting in Afghanistan. Jim Maceda, who has reported from Afghanistan since 2001, had this to say, reporting from NBC news (emphasis added, H/T chrississippi in Daily Kos comments):
But [McChrystal's] plan to put troops into heavily populated areas isn't a new strategy. Thousands of Canadian forces have been doing just that for several years in Kandahar, trying to "separate the enemy from the people," with little success.

What is new (that word again) is the commitment of large numbers of U.S. forces to reinforce those Canadian units in the South.

U.S. military experts, quoted in Sunday's Washington Post, said that these security and political commitments will last at least a decade and potentially cost the U.S. more than the war in Iraq.

Mir agreed with the time line. "It could take another decade," he said, "to convince the Taliban that fighting is useless."
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