By Deirdre Griswold
Published Feb 17, 2010 5:12 PM
Feb. 16 — It is now four days since U.S. Marines stormed into the town of Marjah in Afghanistan, backed up by helicopter gunships, fighter jets and drones. Some 9,000 U.S. troops are taking part in Operation Moshtarak, which means “together” in the Dari dialect — a bright idea from some psyops genius meant to beguile the local population.
These U.S. troops, part of the Obama administration’s “surge” of 30,000 additional forces sent to Afghanistan, are supplemented by 4,000 British soldiers and a few thousand Afghans. So altogether you have some 15,000 troops, equipped with the most modern weapons, pitted against what the Pentagon estimated to be about 400 Taliban fighters with only handheld guns and mortars and dug-in improvised explosive devices to slow the advancing forces.
The types who thrilled to Hitler’s tank battalions rolling across the farmlands of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union would undoubtedly find this display of raw imperialist military power in Afghanistan equally stimulating. For ordinary working people around the world who are not turned on by the latest death machines, it is appalling.
In what has become a monotonous Pentagon mantra, the media repeat that everything is being done to prevent civilian casualties. In this well-publicized-in-advance campaign, the U.S. generals told the people to stay home and not risk being hurt. So why did their fighter jets bomb a building in Marjah with people inside, killing 12, half of them children?
The NATO commanders in charge also admit to another eight civilian deaths so far in the offensive in Helmand province, but shrug it off as an acceptable cost of war.
How Afghans view the ‘surge’
What kind of war is it where one side has all the tactical advantages? Where only the determination of the population to resist the invaders keeps the outsiders from completely taking over the country?
No matter what cozy labels U.S. and British military planners attach to their hideous offensives in order to “win the hearts and minds” of the Afghan people, it isn’t working.
A well-informed article in the British newspaper Guardian on Feb. 16, called “How Afghans see Operation Moshtarak,” says international coverage of this military push “is in sharp contrast to the way it is regarded on the ground in Afghanistan.”
The writer, Nushin Arbabzadah, is an Afghan woman who grew up in Kabul. She reports that the opposition newspapers, which regard the government of Hamid Karzai as illegitimate after an election riddled with fraud, have “belittled the operation, casting doubt over the strategic importance of Marjah and Nade Ali, and highlighting the issue of civilian casualties there.”
Her article also summarizes the main points in an interview with Mullah Abdul Rezaq Akhund, identified as the Taliban commander in Marjah. It was conducted in Pashto and posted on the Cheragh Daily website.
Mullah Akhund put forward four reasons why the NATO forces considered Helmand province of geostrategic importance and therefore had chosen it for their well-publicized offensive. Reporter Arbabzadah characterizes these as “conspiracy theories,” but adds that “Mullah Akhund’s views reflect those of a majority in Afghanistan.”
According to the Guardian reporter, “The Taliban commander alleged that the U.S. and the U.K. intend to set up surveillance centers along the border to collect Iranian military and intelligence data. Akhund further alleged that since Helmand is also close to Gwadar, a Pakistani port which is of economic significance to China, controlling Helmand allows Washington to curb the influence of its main economic rival in the region.
“He then went on to allege that the U.S. and the U.K. were also interested in taking control of the drug production laboratories located in Helmand in a bid to profit from the international heroin business. The fourth reason, as alleged by Akhund, is Helmand’s uranium resources. In the Taliban commander’s own words: ‘According to eyewitnesses, British forces are bringing a large amount of equipment to the area and have started extracting uranium there and British transport planes land and take off from this area several times every day.’”
What this shows is that, while the imperialist militaries may enjoy enormous technological advantages, the resistance in Afghanistan is neither insular nor ignorant of what is going on in the world. While U.S. politicians have used semi-religious terms, like “evil-doers,” to provide some rationale for the war, this Taliban commander is pointing out material reasons why the imperialists are trying to control the region.
Workers in the U.S. and Britain — and Afghanistan too — are being forced to cough up the money for this war. Unlike the resistance fighters, who seem invisible because they dress and look like the people, the troops “surging” around Marjah look like they are landing on the moon, so swaddled are they in protective armor and encumbered with all the things that soldiers from an alien country need to survive — from water and food to night vision equipment, not to speak of weapons and ammunition.
And it all costs — big time. At a time when bridges are falling down in the U.S., the Pentagon is buying portable ones strong enough to hold armored vehicles as they cross the canals that crisscross Helmand province. It’s another piece of equipment the grunts have to carry with them as they “surge.”
How many school buses can be bought for the price of a light armored vehicle? The Army has signed a contract for 2,131 LAVs, adding up to $4 billion. That’s almost $2 million apiece, or the equivalent of nearly 30 school buses every time one of these wheeled tanks gets blown up in Afghanistan.
Congress added $160 billion to the fiscal year 2010 Pentagon budget for Overseas Contingency Operations — about half of it for the war in Afghanistan. The drain of imperialist wars on the economy is bleeding all social programs in the U.S. — which is especially painful in this period of high unemployment and low wages, when tens of millions of workers and their families need every bit of help they can get.
Several opportunities are coming up for the anti-war, pro-people movement in the U.S. to carry out its own “surge”: the March 4 demonstrations of students and youth against cutbacks and tuition hikes; the March 20 anti-war protests; and the April 10 March for Jobs in Washington. Be there! Stop the wars and occupations!
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