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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 225 February/March 2012
Despite escalating brutality from night time raids by special forces, drone attacks and assaults by helicopter gunships, US/NATO forces are failing to blunt anti-occupation forces in Afghanistan and to force the Pakistan military to take action against their bases over the border.
Security incidents reached record levels in 2011, up 39% on the previous year, to a monthly average of 2,108. The Institute for Strategic Studies said that the fighting had spread to the east of the country while occupation forces were concentrating on the south and that plans for a major withdrawal of US troops by 2014 were not on track. A secret report by the US military called for an extra 2,000 US and British troops to be sent. ISAF commander General John Allen said a fast pull-out would create difficulties holding ground won from the insurgents. He pointed out that, even with accelerated training, Afghan security forces would not be ready to take over by 2014. US ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker admitted that the 2014 deadline may not be met and that the US would not ‘walk away’ from Afghanistan. He said a joint security pact in the early stages of negotiation would ‘lay out the framework for strategic partnership well beyond 2014 on a wide range of areas – the economy, education as well as security’ and that ‘major weapons systems’ would be delivered after 2014. The British government, in the mire of the capitalist economic crisis, is keen to end British military involvement as soon as possible. In December, the National Security Council met to discuss a pull-out and some ministers argued for the withdrawal of half of Britain’s 9,500 troops by mid-2013.
Pakistan military resists US
The Pakistan government described the murder of 24 Pakistani soldiers by US forces in November 2011 as ‘a blatant act of aggression’. It retaliated by closing two border crossings through which the US military transfers around a third of its supplies into Afghanistan. Pakistan also gave notice for US forces to vacate the Shamsi drone base in Baluchistan within two weeks and threatened to ban US ships carrying war materials from docking at Pakistani ports. The Pakistan government then withdrew from an international conference on Afghanistan held in Bonn at the beginning of December. There were big anti-US demonstrations in several towns and cities. Predator drone attacks on Pakistan, suspended following the incident, resumed in January.
The impetus in Pakistan is with those sections of the Pakistan military and intelligence service (ISI) that back the Taliban as a means of achieving influence in Afghanistan and preventing Indian encroachment. Reports in December suggested that Pakistan’s President Zardari was being sidelined. Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, was forced to resign after secret communications with the US came to light in which he asked for US help against the military and promised in return to disband the ISI and the Haqqani network (a non-Taliban anti-occupation force with close links to ISI) and carry out US instructions. General Kayani, head of the Pakistan army, and Lt-General Shuja Pasha, head of ISI, called for a judicial inquiry into Haqqani’s possibly treasonable activities. Haqqani had to seek protection in the Prime Minister’s residence.
US manoeuvres for talks
In January, the Taliban announced it was opening a political office in Doha, Qatar’s capital, from which negotiations for a settlement might take place. The idea had been floated at the December conference in Bonn. As part of this agreement the Taliban is demanding the release of key commanders. At least five are known to be held in Guantanamo. US Vice-President Joe Biden told Newsweek the Taliban ‘per se is not our enemy’. After years of demonising the Taliban and anyone the imperialists considered associated with them, it is difficult to imagine a more hypocritical statement. Having failed in their military assault, the imperialists are using divisions among the anti-occupation forces and sidelining both Afghan President Karzai and Pakistan in pursuing a settlement that suits their own interests. The Afghan Taliban recently issued a plea for various anti-occupation groups based in Pakistan to put aside internal differences and unite behind it. The official Taliban position is that it will not negotiate a settlement until all foreign forces have left the country. The Haqqani network continues to reject any peace negotiations. Qatar’s offer is significant because it is the US’s staunchest ally in the region, having a US airbase, assisting in the invasion of Libya and now calling for foreign intervention in Syria.
President Karzai had wanted the Taliban office to be in Saudi Arabia or Turkey. As head of a corrupt and highly unpopular government, Karzai knows his position (indeed his life) will be under threat after any settlement. Since he cannot stand for a third term as president, he is trying to secure his hold on power by becoming Prime Minister and reducing the presidential role to a figurehead. He is also trying to belie his image as a US puppet by refusing to sign a new strategic partnership agreement until NATO ends the night raids that have killed so many Afghan civilians and, most recently, by demanding that all detention centres run by occupation forces should be turned over to Afghan national control.