Now It’s Obama’s War

Orders 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan

By Kenneth J. Theisen

This week President Barack Obama once again followed in the fascist footprints of his predecessor, George W. Bush. On Tuesday, February 17, 2009 Obama made official what he had promised during his presidential campaign--he is escalating the war in Afghanistan with the announced deployment of 17,000 additional troops to that war-torn nation. The Obama administration, as the new representative of U.S. imperialism, is intent on “winning” the Afghanistan war. Obama portrays the war in this Central Asian country as the good war or the real “war on terror.” This war was begun by Bush in 2001, but will continue under a president that claims to be an agent of change. What has changed when the new president is intent on escalating the war in Afghanistan on behalf of U.S. imperialism?
 
There are currently 37,000 US troops in the country (this does not include military contractors) but Obama has determined this is not enough to “win” the war. The additional troops to be sent by the new administration will include a Marine Expeditionary Brigade to be sent this spring, and an Army Stryker Brigade to be sent later this summer. There will also be a need for additional support troops and equipment. In his announcement Obama said, "This increase is necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires.”  This is in keeping with Obama’s campaign criticism that the Bush regime was not putting in enough of an effort to win the war in Afghanistan.
 
 
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan has repeatedly requested 30,000 additional troops. While Obama is only giving him slightly more than half that number with this announcement, this does not mean he will not send additional troops to Afghanistan at a later time. An unidentified Obama official made this clear to the media. The official said the planned troop deployment does not preclude sending more forces in the future, but that others would come as part of a broader strategic review of the entire policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and not as a stand-alone troop decision. In other words, view this as an installment increase, not the total increase to be expected under the Obama administration. With this escalation this war can now be described as Obama’s war on behalf of U.S. imperialism.
 
Of course, this latest announcement only makes clear that an escalation has already occurred. Obama has also been using missile strikes against Pakistan to increase military activity in this region of the world. The Obama administration is currently undertaking a high-level review of the situation in Afghanistan to determine how best to “win” that war. Obama launched a new Afghanistan review just last week to be completed in 60 days, in addition to other ongoing reviews and studies by different government agencies and groups.
 
But Obama’s recent announcement indicates that the military situation on the ground in Afghanistan, as well as in Pakistan, will not let Obama sit back to wait for this review to be complete before deploying more troops. The deployment decision indicates the deterioration of the Afghan war from the point of view of the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence officials.
 
Top U.S. officials have urged immediate actions in Afghanistan to avoid the implosion of the Afghan puppet government of Hamid Karzai. Just last week, Obama’s new Director of National Intelligence, retired Admiral Dennis Blair, told Congress that Pakistan and Afghanistan “have to work hard to repulse” the threat from al Queda and Taliban forces to avoid a total collapse of the government. Blair testified to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that "No improvement in Afghanistan is possible without Pakistan taking control of its border areas and improving governance, creating economic and educational opportunities throughout the country," and the U.S. has recently put pressure on Pakistan to get more control of its border with Afghanistan. In much of this area, Pakistan exercises only nominal control with Islamic and tribal forces exercising real control. (Recently, the Pakistan government announced that it will enforce Islamic law in some parts of this area in order to placate Islamic forces.)
 
While Obama has clearly chosen to use the military option to accomplish U.S. goals in Afghanistan, he also intends to use other weapons as well, including diplomacy. He stated on February 17, “I am absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the spread of extremism in that region solely through military means…There is no more solemn duty as president than the decision to deploy our armed forces into harm's way. I do it today mindful that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistandemands urgent attention and swift action."
 
But diplomacy, in the eyes of this Administration, should be viewed as just another tool in the U.S. arsenal, as is clear from the recent trip to the area by Richard Holbrooke. He visited Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India to put pressure on these governments to increase their cooperation with the U.S. “war on terror.” Holbrooke told Indian leaders, “For the first time in 60 years since independence, your country, Pakistan and the US all face an enemy that poses a direct threat to our leadership, our capitals and our people."
 
The Pentagon is already training Pakistan troops to fight along the border, and is pressuring Pakistan to allow expansion of this training. In putting pressure on Pakistan to increase military cooperation with the U.S, Holbrooke also attempted to smooth over disputes such as the frequent U.S. missile strikes against alleged militants in Pakistan. These strikes have included many civilian casualties and have increased Pakistani public pressure against its government for cooperating militarily with the U.S.
 
But the Obama administration is not only pressuring governments in that region--he intends to pressure U.S. allies to increase their aid to U.S. imperialism, as well. Today Obama is visiting Canada, which currently has troops in Afghanistan. It is expected that Canadian leaders will be asked to increase their troop level as well as to provide additional economic assistance to the Afghan government. Other American allies currently have an additional 30,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan; Britain has the most, with 9,000 troops there. NATO is leading some of these allied troops. During his campaign Obama called for diplomacy with allies to increase their contributions to the country. He made clear that allies will be involved in Afghanistan when he said on February 17th, “Obviously I'm going to be continuing to ask other countries to help think through how do we approach this very difficult problem.”
 
At a press conference on February 19, 2009, U.S. General McKiernan stated that there was a military stalemate in the south of Afghanistan; U.S. coalition forces were looking down the barrel of increased insurgent attacks. He stated, “Even with these additional forces I have to tell you that 2009 is going to be a tough year. There are the baseline problems of poverty and literacy and violence that have occurred over the last three decades in that country so that's not going to turn around quickly. But we do see with these additional forces an opportunity to break this stalemate, at least in terms of security conditions in the south.” The general made clear that more coalition troops would be needed to face this increasing level of insurgency, as he went on to say: “We need to continue this to be an international effort. So there are NATO contributions and other troop contributing nations so it's not just US military capabilities, it's international military capabilities, while we are growing the Afghan army and the Afghan police.”
 
The Obama administration is working to increase NATO cooperation with the U.S. in South Asia, and this diplomacy is paying dividends as indicated by a statement made at the beginning of the current NATO meeting of defense ministers in Poland, where one of the main agenda items is the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Before beginning the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer stated to the media, “We should increase military-to-military engagement in Pakistan and deepen the political dialogue. I can say again that I believe the Pakistani government is serious about fighting extremism. What we need in NATO is to stop seeing Afghanistan in isolation and to start seeing it in a more regional approach. That is why we deepen our cooperation with Pakistan because the same people are trying to destabilize the situation in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.” This is an echo of the Obama administration view. Obama officials see the increased need to get its allies on board, and at this NATO meeting, the U.S. will urge its allies to increase their commitments in Afghanistan, just as the U.S. has done this week. This is what Obama means by diplomacy.
 
It is also increasingly clear that the Obama administration and Pentagon officials see developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan as intricately linked, which is why most of the above statements of officials mention both countries and the region as a whole. The danger is that the war in Afghanistan, which has already crossed the border with missile attacks and even limited U.S. troop incursions into Pakistan, could rapidly escalate into an open regional war.

The reason for this recent escalation by Obama is so that the U.S. can “win” in Afghanistan. But a U.S. win is a win for imperialism and it will come at great cost to the people of Afghanistan and the region. It is not in our interest to help the U.S. achieve an imperialist victory. We must demand the withdrawal of all U.S. troops in that country, as well as all the troops of U.S. allies.  We must demand that the U.S. stop expanding the war into Pakistan. The people of Afghanistan and Pakistan deserve peace, not more imperialist war.

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