Ten months after President Obama announced he would add 31,000 more United States troops to the war in Afghanistan, his surge is showing signs of failing. The mightiest military force in the world, with more than 128,000 troops and the most advanced weaponry on the planet, is losing to a ragtag force of an estimated 28,000 Taliban fighters.
Almost nine years old, the Afghan conflict is the longest shooting war in the history of the U.S. This massive effort, costing hundreds of billions of dollars, has in no way improved the lives of Afghan people. Instead of bringing prosperity, the country remains the fifth poorest in the world. Instead of bringing democracy, Afghanistan is the second most corrupt.
Nor has the war brought peace to the wider region. Obama has escalated cross-border attacks on Taliban forces based in Pakistan, inflaming opposition there and destabilizing the country.
Obama was elected in 2008 with high hopes that he would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he escalated military involvement in Afghanistan. Deaths have surged as a result. June and July 2010 were the two deadliest months for the U.S. since the war began in 2001. “U.S. casualties this year are likely to double to between 600 and 700, more than during the entire administration of President George W. Bush” (New York Times 10 August 2010).
Afghan civilian deaths are surging, too. The United Nations recently reported civilian deaths are up 31% since the surge began, in spite of scaled-back U.S. airstrikes.
But, while violence is escalating, and while funding for the war is growing, the policy is failing to achieve any concrete objectives. The first heavily promoted offensive of the surge, in Marja, was set back by Taliban resistance. Plans have been abandoned for another key offensive to secure the second-largest city in Afghanistan, Kandahar.
Building a functional state and military apparatus in Afghanistan has been central to the U.S. strategy in the past period. But these efforts have increasingly been revealed as a failure.
The Afghanistan central government headed by Hamid Karzai is hopelessly corrupt, supported by an assortment of brutal warlords and drug traffickers. The authority of the government extends little beyond the capital of Kabul. Government officials in many areas are housed on U.S. bases.
The U.S. military has claimed that the buildup of the 130,000-strong Afghan military is ahead of schedule. But official military documents leaked by Wikileaks in July painted a picture of a completely unreliable, brutal and corrupt Afghan military and police force hated by the Afghan population and heavily infiltrated by insurgent groups.
An LA Times reporter embedded near Kandahar commented, “Afghan army and police units are housed in separate compounds next to U.S. bases. Soldiers say they fear the Afghans will steal supplies and weapons or leak information to the Taliban. Officers say they do not tell Afghan security forces of impending missions” (2 July 2010).
All this shows that the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy many military leaders presented as the last hope for the war effort is now unraveling.
“There is emerging a consensus that the policy is heading south. This consensus includes the 100 House Democrats who voted against war funding last month, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, a growing number of foreign policy elites outside the Obama administration and the President of Pakistan” (New York Times 8 August 2010).
Faced with a dead end in Afghanistan, U.S. strategists and policy makers are in disarray and have turned on each other. Tensions between the military leadership and the Obama administration over strategy came to a head this summer when a Rolling Stone article about General Stanley McChrystal featured some very candid criticisms of administration officials.
Obama relieved McChrystal of duty and replaced him with General David Petraeus, who in mid August gave a number of interviews with key media outlets indicating he may not support Obama’s withdrawal plans, scheduled to begin in July 2011.
It is widely accepted that Obama’s withdrawal deadline will not provide enough time to effectively reverse the situation. There will be no viable government to turn power over to without substantial U.S. forces propping it up.
Meanwhile, the word “victory” has virtually disappeared from all discussion on Afghanistan. Experts agree that a win would take years and the patience of the public and NATO allies is running out. The Dutch government already pulled their troops and pressure is growing on other NATO governments to do the same.
Pressure from within the U.S. population for the withdrawal is also increasing. The U.S. will undoubtedly be forced to retreat in some form, but a rapid and full withdrawal of all forces is off the table for the leaders of U.S. imperialism. Such a move would represent a devastating blow to U.S. power and prestige.
The U.S. Has Already Lost
It has become more clear in recent months that in spite of its massive military advantage, the U.S. has already lost the war. Nine years on, the U.S. has failed to achieve any concrete objectives that could result in the original war aims of a stable, pro-U.S. government that could police itself against extremists.
Many attempts will be made to explain away the defeat in Afghanistan, but the whole experience of the conflict shows that the U.S. military is incapable of bringing peace and stability to the region no matter how massive the efforts.
There is enormous opposition among Afghan people to the occupation. The WikiLeaks documents, which covered the whole war up to December 2009, revealed the steady accumulation of civilian deaths and military atrocities that has fueled Afghans’ anger. Rather than seeing U.S. soldiers as liberators, Afghans see them as occupiers and oppressors.
The deep hatred for the occupation and the consciousness of the Afghan people are the main factors guaranteeing the defeat of the strongest military power in world history in one of the poorest countries on the planet.
Troops Home Now!
Many ruling-class voices are justifying an endless war in Afghanistan by warning that a withdrawal would leave a reactionary, brutal and oppressive Taliban regime in power. For Afghan workers and peasants, a choice between the Taliban, the other tribal and ethnic-based warlords (who dominate the Afghan puppet government) and the U.S.-led occupation is a nightmare choice.
Until a movement of Afghan workers and peasants is built that can counter its forces, the Taliban will most likely retain or regain control over many areas, and coexist in a country divided into spheres of influence between the various tribal and ethnic warlords.
This is the current reality of the situation. The U.S. occupation is not defeating and cannot defeat the Taliban. The brutality of the U.S. war has strengthened resistance forces in many areas. All the Taliban have to do is sit tight and continue resisting, and they will receive a continual stream of young people – many of whom have lost friends and relatives in the war – to renew their ranks.
No amount of military effort can reverse things for the U.S. On the basis of the current U.S. policy, the only results we can expect are more deaths of soldiers and civilians and billions more tax dollars wasted. That’s why we demand an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. and foreign troops. The Afghan people should be free to decide their own fate.
It’s time to bring the troops home and redirect the massive military spending in this country to reparations for the people of Afghanistan and jobs programs and education funding at home.