Mission Impossible

"Inaction is not an option," declares George W. Bush, seeking to extend the "war on terror" to Iraq. But the recent heavy fighting between US and Afghan forces and the Taliban in Afghanistan gives the lie to those who say the war is over. It is dawning on the military strategists that victory cannot be won by air power alone, and combat troops will be required on the ground for some time to come. However, using Afghan forces has proved complicated, as the warlords - newly armed by the Americans - seek to reassert their influence.

"Inaction is not an option," declares George W. Bush, seeking to extend the war on terrorism beyond Afghanistan to further military action against Iraq. The Bush Administration has not ruled out the use of tactical nuclear weapons. The Blair government, acting as America's stooge, has also not discounted the insane use of nuclear weapons, under certain circumstances.

However, not all is finished in Afghanistan - far from it! The earlier claims by Tony Blair that the Taliban were defeated in Afghanistan and that the Coalition "victory" would soon restore stability has been completely exposed as a sham. The recent heavy fighting between US and Afghan forces against Taliban forces, which have clearly regrouped, means, as we have said repeatedly, that the war in Afghanistan is far from over.

Bush and Blair boasted that everything was "done and dusted", and all that remained was a simple mopping up ("search and destroy") operation. But Afghanistan is not that simple. The Taliban were not defeated militarily, but evacuated their forces from the towns and cities to the mountains in order to wage a guerrilla war and wait for the Northern Alliance to fracture. A new phase in the Afghan war is now opening up.

Consequently, at the request of General Tommy Franks at US Command in Tampa, Florida, the Blair Government has deployed a further detachment of troops to Afghanistan. 1,700 Marines are being sent to assist US forces facing determined resistance from thousands of Taliban troops.

The imperialists, headed by American imperialism, have completely miscalculated. Bush's declared "war against terrorism" was a knee-jerk reaction to September 11, without any clear strategy or perspective. Buoyed up by military successes where air power was used, they thought air power could seal a quick victory against the Taliban.

However, events have exposed the realities and limits of US power. Operation Anaconda, in which US, Afghan and coalition troops took on hardcore al Qaeda and Taliban remnants south of Gardez, near the Pakistan border, was to last 72 hours. The battle lasted three weeks. Seven US soldiers died.

"The US 10th Mountain Division found the battle at Gardez hard," stated the Financial Times (March 21, 2002). "More troops trained in mountain fighting, as 45 Commando are, will be needed to take on al Qaeda and Taliban forces put at anything between 2,000 and 10,000. The marines will be used to cut off escape routes in further planned operations." It continues, "Even if things go well, it will be at least the middle of the year before the rebels are largely cleared from the mountains." However, if things do not go as planned it will take a lot longer. "The Russians found 20 years ago that was no easy task," commented the FT.

There has been a growing realisation that earlier claims of victory in the war against terrorism were premature to say the least. It has also dawned on military strategists that victory cannot be achieved by air power alone and that combat troops will be needed for some time to come. However, the use of Afghan and coalition forces has proved increasingly complicated, as warlords, newly armed by the Americans, seek to reassert their influence.

In the US-Afghan operation in the Shah-i-kot valley, one flank was commanded by Kamal Khan. As soon as the battle was over, he murdered another allied commander Haji Suba Khan, a long-standing enemy. With the end of the battle things are slowly returning to normal in Paktia and the neighbouring Khost province - at least for Afghan commanders: scheming, betrayal and blood feuds. Relying on local forces has allowed the US to escape heavy casualties, and to encourage the view that the war is being pursued by the Afghan government.

According to a US special forces officer known only as Lt Col Mark, the problem is that "previous to this larger effort these folks would fight each other." And this has resumed. They are reliant on the warlords and have unleashed another dimension in the Afghan war.

Zalamai Khaililzad, the US special envoy to Kabul, has described "warlordism" as the biggest challenge to US efforts to bring stability. "Our concern is that inadvertently, because of a miscalculation, or through lack of trust and a sense of insecurity, the warlords might do things which lead back to war," he said. In the meantime, the US imperialists are arming them to the teeth with weapons and cash to do their fighting for them.

Even more alarming for the US, is to be duped by these warlords by relying on them for intelligence about al Qaeda. Abdul Wali, Kamal Khan's nephew, has been trying for months to get the US airforce to bomb the city of Garez, which is controlled by the Ahmad Zeys, a rival tribe. "We have told the Americans that everyone in Gardez is al Qaeda," he said, "I don't know why the US doesn't bomb them."

The rivalry between the Zadrans and the Ahmad Zeys may have spilled over into the battle of Shah-i-kot, according to General Mateen Hassan-kheil, a commander from Gardez. He says his forces were ambushed because the Zadrans did not make a promised attack on al Qaeda defences. Abdul Wali has a different version: he confirms he did not attack, but says he was not supposed to. It was only when he saw Abdul Mateen's troops "running like schoolchildren" that the Americans begged his forces to attack. There were even unproven accusations that al Qaeda was warned about the attack.

Enmity between the Ahmad Zeys and the Zadrans runs deep. Recently, the interim government appointed a Zadran, Padshah Khan, as governor of Paktia province, but the Ahmad Zeys took exception.

When Padshah Khan showed up in January to claim his office, they shelled his troops until they retreated. Kabul was forced to appoint another interim governor, who Abdul Wali dismisses as "an impostor". He warns that "we are attempting to mediate with the interim government, but if we don't get justice, we will capture Gardez ourselves." He goes on to say that the head of the Admad Zeys, Saifullah, "is al Qaeda". He also maintains so is Zakim Khan, the US allied warlord.

In another turn of events, the US suspect that some of the guerrillas which fought in Operation Anaconda in the Shah-i-kot mountains may have slipped across the porous frontier 45 miles to the south. The commander of the US forces, Major-General Franklin Hagenbeck has threatened to pursue them across the border. But he was warned by a Pakistani official who said the presumed leader of the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in the area, Jala Uddin Haqqani, had close relations with local Pushtun tribes dating back to 1978. He warned: "You could face resistance. It would be seen as someone from outside coming in to their areas."

Coalition forces were recently attacked in Khost, eastern Afghanistan. "The escalating level of violence in the provinces has led many to fear for the future of Afghanistan's fragile peace process, begun in Bonn last year," comments the Financial Times (March 21, 2002).

The chickens have come home to roost. The turmoil in the region is not at and end. It is only just beginning. It was the West which trained, armed and sponsored Bin Laden, also the Mujahadeen, the Taliban, and even Saddam Hussein, for as long as it was deemed necessary. The West armed Saddam Hussein when they wanted him to attack Iran. Now he is deemed a "rogue state" by Bush and Blair, and a threat to Western civilisation. Everything and anything is used to justify the actions of the imperialist powers.

Last week‚ a confidential US government report revealed contingency plans for future offensive nuclear strikes against Russia, China, Libya, as well as the so-called "axis of evil" - Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Sudan.

Iraq is being singled out for an attack by the United States and Britain. The idea that Iraq represents a danger to the West is utter nonsense. It has been militarily defeated and worn down by economic sanctions. It cannot even prevent airborne incursions into its territory by the Allied forces. Iraq has been forced to accept weapons inspectors in their country. These were made up of CIA spies, as was revealed by former weapons inspector Scott Ritter. This forced his resignation, alongside two other highly respected UN inspectors.

The task of removing Saddam Hussein is the task of the Iraqi people, not American or British imperialism. They will only be interested, as in Afghanistan, in imposing a stooge government.

Imperialism, landlordism and capitalism has caused untold misery in the ex-colonial world. The actions of imperialism are creating further instability and chaos, as witnessed in the turmoil in the Middle East. They will serve only to intensify the crisis. Whatever they do will be wrong, and will push the masses on the road of revolution.

Such turmoil will provoke revolutionary conflagration across every country in the region. Not a single regime will escape. The masses have no alternative but to seek a real way forward. They have been let down by Stalinism. They have been betrayed by Fundamentalism. On the basis of events, the advanced workers will seek a way out on the basis of a return to the banner of Lenin and Trotsky. Only the revolutionary overthrow of the reactionary regimes of these areas and the creation of a socialist federation can offer a way out of this nightmare.