Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Quiet Surge in Afghanistan

George Bush has called for a "quiet surge" in Afghanistan. For years critics of his administration have been criticising him for only sending 20,000 troops to Afghanistan, an Islamic fundamentalist country where Sunni extremist Al Qaeda networks were permitted to operate. However the white house felt that the secular dictatorship of Sadam Hussein was seven times more of a priority, hence the 140,000 troops sent to occupy that country. Every reasonable person knows that this was at best a spectacular miscalculation, at worst a conscious and sinister attempt to remove a troublesome dictator and to replace him with a pro Washington regime that would be an ally and would safeguard US interests. Which ever you think it was is another debate.

A Chinook helicopter taking off in Afghanistan
Yesterday Bush announced that he was sending 8000 extra troops to Afghanistan and that a marine battalion due to be sent to Iraq in January would be redeployed to Afghanistan. This may be an attempt to make it difficult for Barack Obama to continue with his theme of criticising Bush/McCain policy of not prioritising Afghanistan. Or it may be a genuine reflection of the fact that violence is down in Iraq allowing the US to divert its military resources to Afghanistan. In any case Obama criticised it today as not being enough. And if you think Afghanistan is the priority then you pretty much have to agree. Afghanistan is an enormous country with an extremely inhospitable terrain. The US sent 20,000 there in 2001. This was completely inadequate and just shows that Bush was not really committed to defeating the Taliban and Al Qaeda as he had another country on his mind. In Order to stabilise Afghanistan today a force of at least 250,000 NATO troops would be required. Today their are approximately 60,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, half of them American. Bush has been unable to convince his NATO allies to send more than this. It will be one of the first decisions the new US president will have to make. To what extent are we going to commit to Afghanistan. A McCain presidency will probably leave troops levels as they are in Afghanistan as he is more committed to Iraq. Obama will probably drop troop levels significantly in Iraq and redeploy many of them to Afghanistan. In which case he might very well find himself in a guerrilla war with no end in sight. Afghanistan is so hostile to occupation that it may just be a case of the more troops the more targets for the Taliban without any real progress ever being achieved.

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