May 7, 2008
Fighting is escalating in Afghanistan as weather conditions
improve for combat operations by both the US-NATO occupation force
and the Afghan guerillas fighting to drive them from the country.
The 2,300 troops of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which
only arrived in Afghanistan seven weeks ago to reinforce the NATO-commanded
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), were hurled last
week into a major assault on insurgent strongholds near the town
of Garmser in Helmand province. The guerillas in that area are
primarily supporters of the Taliban Islamic fundamentalist movement,
which was overthrown by the 2001 US invasion.
The operation, codenamed "Azada Wosa" or "Be
Free" in Pashtun, has considerable tactical importance for
the occupation forces. Garmser is believed to be one of the main
assembly points for Taliban fighters moving from mountain bases
along the Afghan-Pakistan border to link up with insurgent units
across the rebellious ethnic Pashtun provinces of southern Afghanistan.
It is also a key transit route for the smuggling of Afghan opium
and heroin to Pakistan, one of the principal ways in which the
insurgency finances itself. British troops, who are responsible
for NATO operations in Helmand, have fought desperate battles
to hold a base in the town, but have been unable to either control
it or prevent Taliban movements.
The US marines, many of whom are veterans of fierce fighting
in the Iraqi city of Ramadi during 2006, have spent the past week
trying to dislodge Taliban fighters from positions along Garmser’s
main road using air strikes, artillery and mortar barrages and
machine gun fire. No American troops have been reported killed-in-action.
There are no confirmed reports on Afghan casualties.
According to Taliban sources cited on May 2 by Asia Times
Online, the insurgents have offered only minimal resistance
to the US operation. Their strategy is to bottle up hundreds of
the newly-arrived American troops attempting to secure Garmser,
while they concentrate on attacking occupation forces further
Taliban guerillas have had six to eight weeks of suitable weather
to prepare offensives of their own. The boldest thus far was the
April 27 attack by three guerillas on a military parade in the
Afghan capital Kabul presided over by US-backed president Hamid
Karzai. A member of parliament was killed and 11 people injured.
On Sunday, a government army officer and Kabul police captain
were arrested on suspicion of assisting the assassination attempt.
A series of other attacks have taken place over the past 10
days that have pushed total US/NATO fatalities this year to 56—21
American, 9 British, 9 Canadian and 17 from other countries that
have troops participating in the occupation.
Australian commando Jason Marks was killed and four others
wounded by small arms fire in Uruzgan province on April 27 when
Afghan fighters ambushed Australian troops as they assembled for
an attack on an alleged Taliban position. Air strikes had to be
called in to extricate the Australians. The same day, insurgents
attacked a US/Afghan army base in the eastern province of Kunar,
near the Pakistan border. They were driven off by artillery and
On April 28, clashes between Taliban and US troops took place
in Nimroz province and Ghazni province, with no reported American
casualties. Another Australian soldier was wounded during a firefight
Two American troops were killed in separate incidents on April
29. Jonathan Yelner, a 24-year-old member of an Air Force maintenance
unit, was killed by a roadside bomb planted outside the huge US
air base at Bagram, in central Afghanistan. Army sergeant David
McDowell, 30, was killed by guerilla small arms fire near Camp
Bastion, the main NATO base in northern Helmand province.
Also on April 29, a suicide bomber detonated explosives among
members of a government opium poppy eradication team in the province
of Nangarhar. Eighteen people were killed and at least 31 wounded.
On April 30, one Czech soldier was killed and four others wounded
by a roadside bomb in Logar province. Czech forces only assumed
command over ISAF’s "Provincial Reconstruction Team"
in Logar on March 28.
A Fijian-born British soldier, Ratu Babakobau, was critically
wounded on May 2 when his vehicle struck a mine in northern Helmand.
He was declared dead on arrival at the Camp Bastion hospital.
Three other British troops and one Afghan were wounded.
On May 5, a civilian helicopter contracted by the US military
was hit by small arms fire in Kunar province and forced to make
an emergency landing. There were no reported casualties. Yesterday,
one Canadian soldier was killed and another wounded during a clash
with insurgents in Kandahar province.
In virtually every engagement with Afghan guerillas, the US
and ISAF forces rely on air support from helicopter gunships or
fighter-bombers to avoid casualties. Attacks on alleged Taliban
targets are also overwhelmingly carried out by aircraft. As many
as 10 air attacks are carried out every day in Afghanistan. In
many cases, civilians are killed or maimed by these indiscriminate
bombings, fueling hatred for the occupation and creating fresh
recruits for the insurgency.
The dependency on air power underscores the fragility of the
US/NATO hold on Afghanistan. Some 64,000 foreign troops are attempting
to occupy a country the same size as Iraq but which has a far
more rugged terrain and a largely rural population. The US-funded
and equipped Afghan National Army consists of less than 70,000
personnel and has no independent air support or logistical systems.
By way of comparison, the failed Soviet occupation of Afghanistan
during the 1980s involved 108,000 troops at its peak, along with
over 300,000 pro-Moscow Afghan government troops and police.
Like the Soviet forces, the far smaller US-led occupation only
controls the main cities and selected strategic positions. The
Taliban and other insurgent groups are able to operate largely
unhindered across large parts of the countryside. The insurgents
are also assisted by divisions within the NATO-commanded International
Security Assistance Force, which has responsibility for security
in all of the country except the eastern provinces, where some
14,000 US troops operate independently of NATO.
ISAF is made up of approximately 50,000 troops from 40 different
countries, with many national contingents consisting of only a
few hundred personnel. The inevitable command and logistical difficulties
arising from its diverse composition are compounded by various
national caveats placed on the use of troops. More than a third
of the ISAF personnel, including the large contingents of German,
French, Italian, Spanish and Turkish troops, are not permitted
to deploy into southern Afghanistan, where the insurgency is most
active. American, Canadian, British, Dutch and Australian troops
are bearing the brunt of the fighting.
Demands by the US, British and Canadian governments that the
major European powers both lift these limitations and send additional
troops to Afghanistan have been largely ignored. In the wake of
the NATO summit in Bucharest during April, France announced an
extra 700 troops for the eastern provinces to free up US forces
to fight in the south. Georgia, which is seeking NATO membership,
has promised to send 500 troops. Small numbers of troops are being
sent by Croatia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania. The Bush
administration ordered an additional 3,500 US marines to Afghanistan
in January. The total reinforcements, however, fall far short
of the 7,000 to 8,000 extra troops that NATO commanders declared
that they urgently needed at the beginning of the year.
The US attempt to subjugate the Afghan people and turn the
country into a pliable client state in Central Asia has dragged
on now for over six-and-a-half years. So far, it has cost the
lives of more than 800 American and NATO troops and tens of thousands
of Afghans. The estimated financial cost of the occupation was
over $120 billion at the end of 2007. However, very little aid
has been provided to end the appalling social conditions facing
the majority of the population.
The war has no end in sight. The unstated position in Washington—one
shared by both Republicans and Democrats—is that tens of
thousands of American troops will be killing and dying in Afghanistan
for the next decade or more. The New York Times reported
over the weekend that the Bush administration is considering ordering
an additional 7,000 US soldiers to Afghanistan in 2009 due to
"growing resignation that NATO is unable or unwilling to
contribute more troops". Such a deployment would move American
troop numbers in Afghanistan to over 40,000 and further escalate
the death and destruction.
Anti-Karzai attack in Kabul
shakes US puppet government
[29 April 2008]