Christmas 2009: U.S., NATO To Expand New Millennium’s Longest War by Rick Rozoff

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by Rick Rozoff
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
25 November, 2009

At a joint press conference with visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on November 24, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke of the war in Afghanistan that is now in its ninth calendar year and pledged, “After eight years – some of those years in which we did not have, I think, either the resources or the strategy to get the job done – it is my intention to finish the job.”

The comments came after the previous evening’s war council as it was described in the American media, the tenth (ninth by some counts) such meeting and the culmination of a three-month strategic review process following top U.S. and NATO military commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal’s 66-page Commander’s Initial Assessment of August 30.

The latter spoke of the “criticality of time” and unequivocally emphasized a counterinsurgency rather than a counter-terrorism approach for the war’s next and deadliest stage. That is, war against all ethnic Pushtun fighters (on both side of the Afghan-Pakistani border) subsumed under the rubric of Taliban rather than a narrower campaign against alleged al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.

In fact McChrystal identified only three insurgent groups to be targeted in the upcoming round of the Pentagon’s and NATO’s South Asian war: The Quetta Shura Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin. The third is the fighting force of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the U.S.’s main ally during the first phase of the 30-year-old Afghan war from 1978-1992.

The so-called Quetta Shura Taliban are accused of being based, as the name would suggest, in the capital of the Pakistani province of Balochistan – Quetta – and that it is on the top of McChrystal’s list indicates that the war’s focus is larger than just Afghanistan.

With all the objectivity, sophistication and subtle delicacy of phrase the American press prides itself on, the nation’s newspaper of record, the New York Times, offered this choice specimen early this February:

“From Quetta, Taliban leaders including Mullah Muhammad Omar, a reclusive, one-eyed cleric, guide commanders in southern Afghanistan, raise money from wealthy Persian Gulf donors and deliver guns and fresh fighters to the battlefield, according to Obama administration and military officials.” [1]

Another sterling pillar of the American free press, the Christian Science Monitor, characterized the Haqqani Network as “a shadowy outfit that many officials consider to be the biggest threat to the American presence in the country.” [2] It is not part of Taliban, however that term is defined. The source also situates that group’s headquarters in Pakistan.

Its founder and leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, has a resume not dissimilar to that of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. “Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson, who worked closely with the anti-Soviet insurgency (inspiring the 2007 Tom Hanks film ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’), once called Haqqani ‘goodness personified.’

“In the 1980s, Haqqani quickly established himself as one of the preeminent field commanders. ‘He could kill Russians like you wouldn’t believe,’ says one US intelligence officer who knew him at the time. The Central Intelligence Agency forged close links with him, and through the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency funneled large amounts of weapons and cash his way.” [3]

Two of McChrystals’ enemies, then, are old friends and beneficiaries of current U.S. Pentagon chief Robert Gates, who as Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency armed and trained them in the 1980s.

Gates and McChrystal both participated in Obama’s war council on the evening of November 23 and were joined by, on the civilian side:

-Vice President Joseph Biden
-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
-Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg
-National Security Adviser and former European Command and NATO top military commander James Jones
-Deputy National Security Advisor Tom Donilon
-Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy
-U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke
-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice
-Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan
-U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, previously U.S. Army Lieutenant General, Commander of the Combined Forces Command in Afghanistan, and immediately before becoming a “diplomat” Deputy Chairman of the NATO Military Committee
-U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson

And in uniform:

-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen
-Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General James Cartwright
-U.S. Central Command chief General David Petraeus
-Special Assistant to the President for Afghanistan and Pakistan (formerly George W. Bush’s Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan) Lieutenant General Douglas Lute

McChrystal, Eikenberry and Patterson appeared via video conference. [4]

It is unclear why Admiral James Stavridis, current NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe and European Command chief wasn’t involved.

News reports, or more properly government leaks to the subservient press corps, indicate that Obama is to announce a new round of troops increases after the Thanksgiving holiday on November 26, a time when Americans gather for a day of family, food and football, and as such not to be spoiled by alarming or distressing news, such as deployment notices for service members currently Stateside.

For similar reasons the announcement cannot be delayed for long after that federal holiday as another one, Christmas, arrives 29 days later. American retailers estimate that between 25% and 40% of their annual sales occur in the interim and news that anywhere from 30-40,000 more of the nation’s troops are headed to the world’s largest and most protracted war zone would cast a pall over both the holiday and spending for it.

That the day celebrates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, who in the Sermon on the Mount said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” and on the night before being brutally put to death said “Put your sword back into its place, for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” will not deter Washington’s war plans.

The timing of the escalation, which may triple the amount of American forces in Afghanistan from the 36,000 at the beginning of the year, is also synchronized with the December 3-4 meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. Hillary Clinton will then present the new U.S. plan and demand complementary reinforcements from the other 27 member states.

Obama is expected to deliver a televised message on December 1, two days before the NATO meeting commences.

If he announces that as many as 40,000 more U.S. troops are to be assigned for deployment to Afghanistan, that number, added to the 68,000 currently there, would almost equal the amount of Soviet forces in the nation at the time of the beginning of their withdrawal twenty years ago. [5]

There are also an estimated 42,000 non-U.S. soldiers from almost 50 nations serving under NATO in the International Security Assistance Force. That number, part of NATO’s first ground war and first armed conflict in Asia, is also being increased.

At a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Slovakia late last month the attendees “endorsed the ambitious counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan proposed by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, giving new impetus to his recommendation to pour more troops into the eight-year-old war.” [6] McChrystal himself made an unannounced appearance to rally the bloc’s defense chiefs for a full-scale Vietnam-style counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

Since the meeting several NATO member states, particularly new ones in Eastern Europe, have pledged additional troops, even before Obama’s speech of early next week and the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting to follow it.

During a five-day session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Edinburgh, Scotland in the middle of this month, the 28-nation military bloc renewed its intention to, to quote Obama’s later expression, finish the job in South Asia against the forces of “evil” and “barbarianism.” [7]

Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen vowed “In a few weeks, I expect we will decide, in Nato, on the approach, and troop levels needed, to take our mission forward.

“I’m confident it will be a counter-insurgency approach, with substantially more forces.” [8]

The same news source quoted above added: “His announcement follows a meeting of the North Atlantic Council last week, in which the alliance’s member states broadly endorsed a strategy proposed by the US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal….” [9]

To stoke the fires of hysteria and pound the drums of war ever more deafeningly, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on November 20 told The Guardian that “The Afghan government would quickly be overthrown if NATO troops pulled out of the country now,” [10] over eight years after the invasion of the nation, thousands of civilian deaths and billions of Western dollars poured into the war. Miliband’s country has lost over 230 soldiers in the conflict, more than in any fighting since the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas war of 1982.

He specified “If international forces leave, you can choose a time – five minutes, 24 hours or seven days – but the insurgent forces will overrun those forces that are prepared to put up resistance and we would be back to square one.” [11]

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has vowed to send at least 500 more troops, bringing his nation’s total close to 10,000, the second largest contingent after that of the United States.

The Times of London wrote earlier this month that “President Obama is to ask members of Nato to provide up to 4,000 more troops to help to break the deadlock in Afghanistan” and “is expected to confirm that the campaign in Afghanistan needs another 40,000 troops, meeting the request made by General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Kabul, more than ten weeks ago, but that a proportion of the 40,000 — up to ten per cent — should be for other Nato countries to provide.” [12]

Four days ago the Wall Street Journal claimed a larger figure in an article subtitled “Americans Seek Up to 7,000 Extra NATO Troops for Ramp-Up in Afghanistan,” and stated that “The Obama administration is in advanced talks with its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies for a coordinated rollout of a new Afghan war strategy, which U.S. officials hope will include a commitment by European allies to send several thousand additional troops.” [13]

7,000 more non-U.S. troops would add up to almost 50,000 serving under NATO – from 50 nations – in addition to as many as 108,000 U.S. forces, 34,000 currently assigned to NATO and roughly the same amount with the U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom.

To further demonstrate the geographical reach of the embryonic global army [14] that the U.S. and NATO are forging in the crucible of the South Asia war, the Financial Times reported that “Georgia, which is not in Nato, has said it will send close to 1,000 extra troops. Other fresh contributions have come from Armenia, New Zealand and Sweden…..Colombia is seeking to send an infantry company….Nato officials are negotiations with Mongolia, which is aiming to send 250.” [15]

Also, “South Korea will send hundreds of troops to create a new ‘provincial reconstruction team’…” [16] Along with troops from Australia (which is the largest non-NATO contributor with 1,550 soldiers), the United Arab Emirates and two of the nations contributing the largest amount of forces, the U.S. and Canada, NATO will have a combined army of soldiers from five of six inhabited continents, the Persian Gulf, the Caucasus and the South Pacific.

On November 21 NATO took control of training for the Afghan army and police:

“The existing U.S. training mission, CSTC-A, until now responsible for most of the training, is to merge with the new NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A), under a single NATO command, commanders said on Saturday at a ceremony in Kabul.

“Deputy Commander of the new NATO mission Major General Michael Ward said he believed the move would encourage more NATO training personnel to be sent to Afghanistan, helping to speed the expansion of local forces.” [17]

In his report of three months ago the commander of all U.S. and NATO occupation forces in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, recommended increasing the size of the Afghan National Army from what he claimed is currently 92,000 troops to 420,000, as his counterinsurgency strategy requires over half a million troops in all. McChrystal, former head of the Joint Special Operations Command, was appointed to his current dual role because of his counterinsurgency background. [18]

However, efforts to build a national Afghan army with numbers in the six figures have been announced since shortly after the invasion of the nation in 2001 and that threshold has never been crossed. Nor is it ever likely to be. Afghans are in no rush to join a colonial adjunct force to assist in the subjugation of their country and its people by North American and European invaders.

Reports and formal announcements of increases in NATO and NATO partner armed forces to the war front are widespread.

Germany, which has the third largest number of troops deployed to Afghanistan (and which is engaged in its first ground combat operations since the defeat of the Third Reich in 1945) – nearly 4,500, the limit imposed by the Bundestag – may expand that figure substantially: “According to current and former U.S. officials, senior officials in the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel have signaled a willingness to press Germany’s parliament to raise its troop ceiling to as much as 7,000 from 4,500.” [19]

Poland has announced that it will deployed 600 more troops, raising the nation’s total close to 3,000. Romania and Turkey are reported to have been tapped for 600 more troops apiece. The Czech Republic will double its contingent to 600 soldiers and add a combat helicopter squadron and purchase “Raven U.S. remote-controlled miniature unmanned aerial vehicles (MUAV) for 20 million crowns that are to help protect Czech soldiers in foreign missions, mainly in Afghanistan….” [20]

Slovakia will more than its nearly 250 troops. The world’s newest nation, Montenegro, is deploying its first batch of soldiers to join those already in Afghanistan from fellow Balkans nations Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania and Slovenia.

What fresh U.S. and NATO ally forces will confront in the war zone is indicated by a brief report from the Voice of Russia eleven days ago:

“Between 7,000 and 10,000 militants of Taliban, Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have been moved from central and southeastern Afghanistan northward to cut northern supply routes for the NATO-led coalition forces.

“Interfax agency quotes a senior Russian military source as saying that almost the whole of northern Afghanistan has been under Taliban’s control since June.” [21]

Combined Western military deaths this year are approaching 500, making 2009 the deadliest year of the war.

On November 16 the head of French military forces in Afghanistan, Brigadier General Marcel Druart, barely escaped being killed in a rocket attack only 30 miles from the capital.

At the same time new German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg paid an unannounced visit to northern Afghanistan and the helicopter convoy he was travelling in came under fire.

Four days earlier five Swedish soldiers, part of a contingent of 500 troops heading up NATO ISAF operations in the north of Afghanistan also, were wounded in a bomb attack while Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt was visiting the country.

Swedish Radio reported on November 19 that the nation’s parliament authorized the extended deployment of Swedish troops and even approved as many as 855 soldiers to serve under NATO command.

Mounting attacks on NATO supply convoys have spread from northwestern Pakistan where the Khyber Pass has been blocked to Balochistan on Afghanistan’s southeastern border.

U.S. and NATO attack helicopters and fighter jets continue to violate Pakistani airspace and U.S. President Obama recently sent a letter to the nation’s government to “step up pressure on Pakistan to expand its fight against Taliban and al Qaeda militants, warning that the success of [the U.S.’s] new Afghanistan strategy depends on it….” [22]

The Pentagon is also escalating drone missile attacks inside Pakistan and intensifying bombing runs in Afghanistan.

“The US has carried out more than 40 attacks with its pilotless, missile-firing aircraft in north-west Pakistan this year….” [23]

In October U.S. and NATO airstrikes were the highest in any month since June of 2008, despite assurances from McChrystal and the White House that they have been decreased. “Coalition warplanes dropped 647 bombs during 2,359 close-air support sorties….The bomb total is the highest since July 2008, when 752 bombs were released….The airstrike numbers don’t include strafing runs, attacks by special operations AC-130 gunships, launches of small missiles or helicopter attacks.” [24]
Ten years ago much of the world was preparing to welcome the advent of a new millennium, some with eager anticipation and others with alarm.

None could have forecasted that the new century and millennium would usher in a war in Afghanistan that in a few weeks will enter its tenth calendar year.

1) New York Times, February 10, 2009
2) Christian Science Monitor, June 1, 2009
3) Ibid
4) New York Daily News, November 23, 2009
5) U.S., NATO Poised For Most Massive War In Afghanistan’s History
Stop NATO, September 24, 2009
6) New York Times, October 23, 2009
7) Press Association, November 13, 2009
8) The Guardian, November 17, 2009
9) Ibid
10) Reuters, November 21, 2009
11) Ibid
12) The Times, November 11, 2009
13) Wall Street Journal, November 21, 2009
14) Afghan War: NATO Builds History’s First Global Army
Stop NATO, August 9, 2009
15) Financial Times, November 13, 2009
16) The Guardian, November 17, 2009
17) Reuters, November 21, 2009
18) South Asia, Latin America: Pentagon’s 21st Century Counterinsurgency
Stop NATO, July 29, 2009
19) Wall Street Journal, November 21, 2009
20) Czech News Agency, November 17, 2009
21) Voice of Russia, November 13, 2009
22) Reuters, November 16, 2009
23) Financial Times, November 20, 2009
24) Army Times, November 11, 2009


Dennis Kucinich: More jobs & GET OUT of Afghanistan! + Obama plans to send 34,000 more troops

President Obama and Prime Minister Singh Press Conference [16:28 minutes into the video] and transcript: Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Singh of India in Joint Press Conference | The White House


from the archives:

U.S., NATO Poised For Most Massive War In Afghanistan’s History by Rick Rozoff

Afghanistan: West’s 21st Century War Risks Regional Conflagration by Rick Rozoff

Afghan War: NATO Builds History’s First Global Army by Rick Rozoff

South Asia, Latin America: Pentagon’s 21st Century Counterinsurgency Wars by Rick Rozoff

Afghanistan on Dandelion Salad