On June 25, ABC News Radio reported 79 occupation soldiers had been killed so far that month, the highest number in any month since the October 2001 US-led invasion.
On June 23, US President Barack Obama sacked the commander of US-led occupation forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal — but not for the rising body count.
The sacking was in response to a July Rolling Stone article in which McChrystal and his aides regularly refer to civilian leaders of the occupying powers (including Obama) using terms such as “clown” and “fucking gay”.
Obama has pledged no change in military strategy, but has hinted his previous pledge to withdraw troops by mid-2011 may be abandoned.
The US has the highest casualty rate among the occupying powers, with more than 1100 killed. In June, British military casualties reached 300.
Australia, which has 1500 soldiers deployed, has suffered fewer casualties. However, the death of five soldiers between June 7 and June 21 increased the toll to 16: a rise of almost 50% in a fortnight.
Amid the platitudes about noble and patriotic sacrifice, the Australian government has said the troops will stay.
Defence minister John Faulkner told the June 24 Australian: “Defence now estimates that within two to four years we will be able to transition the main security responsibility to the Afghan National Army in Oruzgan province.”
Not only does this leave the timeframe elastic, it makes withdrawal contingent on having created an Afghan puppet force capable of ruling in Oruzgan province in the occupiers’ absence.
The occupation forces have been trying to create such a puppet state throughout Afghanistan since 2001 without success.
The Rolling Stone article paints a disturbing picture of McChrystal and his entourage. Their contempt towards their civilian “superiors” is just part of it.
“The general’s staff is a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs”, the article said.
Seemingly modelling himself on action movie cliches, McChrystal displayed a narcissistic belief in his own military abilities, and in the military’s ability to “fix” Afghanistan.
A Special Forces veteran himself, McChrystal increased the number of Special Forces units in Afghanistan from four to 19. The Special Forces operate with less accountability than other troops and have been responsible for many atrocities against civilians.
In essence, McChrystal’s grievances amounted to the government not being sufficiently committed to the military adventure. Despite Obama doubling the number of occupation soldiers in 2009 to 68,000, and the announcement in December of a further increase of 30,000, McChrystal wanted more.
However, the much-heralded February offensive in Helmand province only achieved a surge in occupation force casualties and, the United Nations said, a 76% surge in Afghan civilian casualties.
Rawa.org said the occupiers are responsible for most civilian deaths (mostly through air strikes and night raids). The Taliban’s use of improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers also takes a high civilian toll.
Far from weakening the Taliban, the civilian deaths and large-scale displacement in Helmand increased the insurgents’ support.
The sacking of McChrystal also revealed a lack of coherence in the occupation’s leadership. Various political, diplomatic leaders of the occupying powers, as well as Afghan puppet president, Hamid Karzai, blaming each other for the failure to achieve the occupation’s stated goals.
In the Rolling Stone article, McChrystal continually spouted the jargon of “counterinsurgency doctrine”. The contradictions in a doctrine based on using ultra-violence to “win hearts and minds” are self-evident.
US politicians have condemned Afghan puppet President Hamid Karzai’s blatantly fraudulent 2009 re-election, as well as the corruption of his administration and the security forces.
These are factors in Karzai’s unpopularity with Afghans. However, it is his association with the occupation forces that put him in office that he is most hated for.
Yet the occupiers military strategy is based on the assumption that the Karzai regime can become a stable state power accepted by the population.
Since the 2001 invasion, the two main justifications for the war have been chasing terrorists and bringing liberal democracy, especially women’s rights. However, the warlord armies and drug gangs who form the basis of the Karzai regime have the same attitudes to democracy and women’s rights as the Taliban — differing only in their higher level of corruption.
Explaining an increase in female suicides in the north-western Herat province, lawyer Mohammad Dawud Monir told IWPR on June 10: “Large numbers of people left Herat for Iran over the past 30 years and enjoyed a comparatively better life there ... The women saw the prosperity and rights enjoyed by Iranian women.
“When they returned, they faced unemployment, poverty and traditional societal restrictions.”
The justification of hunting terrorists is also losing credibility. This justification always ignored the fact that none of the terrorists responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US were Afghan, that the Taliban offered to hand over al-Qaeda leaders to the US before the invasion and that the al-Qaeda leadership left Afghanistan when the US attacked.
In the absence of al-Qaeda, the Taliban became the terrorists to hunt. However, the US-approved “peace jirga” (tribal council) in May, at which the Karzai government offered to bring the Taliban into his government, showed that eliminating the Taliban is a negotiable war aim.
The Taliban responded to the offer by firing rockets at the gathering.
The invasion of Afghanistan was always about projecting Western military power in the oil and mineral rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia. However, the military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq failed to remake these regions along US-dictated lines.
Obama may not have wished to inherit this situation, but is unwilling to end the war because of the political cost to the US of a perceived defeat.
The result is McChrystal’s musings that the occupation forces need to stay in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future and a war that is looking for a justification.
Such is the desperation of the Western establishment to justify the occupation that they are even raising Afghanistan’s mineral wealth: a reason cited by the anti-war movement but previously hotly denied by the war’s supporters.
On June 14 the New York Times “revealed” that Afghanistan had mineral resources worth US$1 trillion. However, this was not new information and exploiting these resources is unlikely to be cost effective while the chaos and violence of the occupation persists.
One mineral-related factor raised by some as a possible reason for the war was the US ambition to build a pipeline to Turkmenistan, the world’s fourth largest natural gas producer. At the time, Turkmenistan’s natural gas was piped through Russia, a strategic rival of the US.
If this was a war aim it has failed. The May 1 CCPA Monitor revealed that pipelines were opened linking Turkmenistan with China in December and Iran in January. This means all of Turkmenistan’s natural gas reserves are contracted for sale to Russia, China and Iran.
The US-led coalition has lost the war in Afghanistan. However, the Obama administration and its allies, including Australia, are prolonging the brutal occupation because the alternative is a visible military defeat.
The occupiers have been unable to create a viable puppet state, but the military opposition, led by the unpopular, backward-looking Taliban, have not been able to drive the foreign troops out of the country.
In the case of the Vietnam War, the US had largely failed in its military objectives by 1968. However, the generals kept asking for more troops and the politicians remained fearful of admitting defeat by withdrawing — dragging the conflict out until 1975. The US’s hand was eventually forced by the social explosion created by the anti-war movement.
In all the occupying nations, a majority oppose the Afghan war, but this opposition is mainly passive. Until it transforms into a mass-based, militant anti-war movement, Afghanistan’s nightmare will continue.