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Vol. 71/No. 7      February 19, 2007

London, Washington are sending
more troops to Afghanistan
(front page)
LONDON, February 5—The British government announced February 1 it is sending another 800 troops to southern Afghanistan by this summer. This involves a net increase of British forces in the country by 300, bringing their overall numbers in the country to 6,300. Five hundred soldiers in Kabul are being redeployed to Helmand province, where some of the fiercest battles took place last year. British forces in this southern province will now total 5,800.

At the same time, Washington is building up its own forces there. An editorial in the February 1 Washington Post said, "By extending the deployment of a brigade of the 10th Mountain Division even as the 82nd Airborne begins to arrive, the Pentagon will bring the U.S. troop level to 24,000. That's 50 percent more than at this time last year and about six times the number of American soldiers who were in Afghanistan at the time of the battle for Tora Bora, in early 2002."

On February 4, U.S. general Daniel McNeill took over control of the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan from British general David Richards. "This is a good war, this is a winnable war," said Richards at the ceremony in Kabul handing over the NATO command.

Rationalizing the escalation of the imperialist war in Afghanistan, U.S. assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher told the BBC that he expects the Taliban to intensify attacks. "I think we will face a strong offensive and will have a difficult and dangerous and bloody spring," he said. The Taliban ruled the country until their regime was toppled in 2001 by the U.S.-led invasion.

Many capitalist politicians and commentators in the big-business media complain the troop increases are not enough. The Washington Post, for example, said in its February 1 editorial that “there are still far fewer Afghan and foreign troops than are needed to secure the country.” With the latest increases, the total number of U.S., NATO, and other occupying forces will be roughly 45,000, the Post said, while the Afghan army has 40,000 troops.

"By contrast there are 146,000 coalition troops in Iraq" without the additional forces Washington announced in January it is deploying, the Post said, "and 134,000 Iraqi army troops. Yet Afghanistan is 50 percent larger than Iraq and has a larger population.”

Afghanistan has an area of 402,000 square miles and a population of 31 million, compared to Iraq's area of 271,000 square miles and 29 million people.

"The current level of 34,000 NATO soldiers in Afghanistan is only about 85 percent of what military commanders say they need," said an article in the February 6 International Herald Tribune.

Highlighting tensions among the imperialist powers occupying Afghanistan, U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice told a January 26 meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels that they “must take a hard look" at their commitments to the country.

"Though Britain, Canada, and the Netherlands carried the burden of the war in southern Afghanistan last year, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain are among the countries that have kept their soldiers away from the war zone and tied them down with restrictions," said the Post editors.

Speaking to military personnel on a warship January 11, British prime minister Anthony Blair outlined the growing importance of London's military for the ruling class. "The covenant between Armed Forces, Government and people has to be renewed,” he said. Calling for a long-term increase in military spending, Blair said, “The new frontiers for our security are global. Our Armed Forces will be deployed in the lands of other nations far from home, with no immediate threat to our territory.”

Meanwhile, as part of the U.S.-orchestrated squeeze on Iran, London now has three warships in the Arab-Persian Gulf after sending two mine hunters there in January.
Related articles:
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Imperialist fragmentation, not liberation
‘Imperialism’s spreading wars and financial disorder in face of irreversible strengthening of working class’
‘Fusion centers’ centralize spying data for federal, local cop agencies
U.S. Special Forces fighting ‘terror’ group in Philippines
Donate to cover costs of 'Militant' reporting team to Cuba  
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