BY RÓGER CALERO
Top U.S. military and government officials are saying they need further increases in troop levels for their war in Afghanistan. It has been nearly eight years since a U.S.-led imperialist invasion overthrew the Taliban government there in 2001.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is likely to request an increase in American troops as part of a forthcoming assessment report recommending changes in strategy in the U.S.-led war in that country reported the Washington Post.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates requested the report in late June. It is being prepared by a team of about a dozen military and civilian analysts. Among them are “national security specialists” from the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
General McChrystal was instructed by his superiors—including Defense Secretary Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—to assess the war thoroughly, and not hold back in his recommendations for more troops, funds, or equipment, reported the Army Times Web site July 31. McChrystal was handpicked by Gates and confirmed unanimously by the Senate in June as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
“This war has been fought without resources, but above all without realism,” said Anthony Cordesman, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who is involved in preparing the report.
While posturing as being “concerned” about troop levels in Afghanistan, the administration of President Barack Obama is committed to pursuing the Afghanistan war. The number of U.S. troops there will nearly double by the end of this year—from 38,000 when Obama took office to 68,000.
The troop level increase is tied to a change in how the war is being conducted in Afghanistan. The new approach, a version of the strategy launched in Iraq in 2007 known as the “surge,” will concentrate on clearing and holding key population centers rather than fighting in remote mountainous areas where Taliban combatants seek sanctuary.
The assessment report also calls for expanding the Afghan army from 134,000 to 240,000, and the police force from 92,000 to 160,000, reported the Washington Post.
U.S. commanders hope that a change in the “operational culture” of U.S. and NATO forces to using more counterinsurgency methods will deepen the divisions among the Taliban and other forces fighting against the imperialist-led forces, and weaken their influence over the population. This approach is being put to the test in Helmand Province where U.S. and British troops have been engaged in major military operations since June in anticipation of the August 20 presidential and provincial elections.
Since McChrystal took command in Afghanistan the U.S. military has stopped releasing body counts of insurgents reportedly killed in operations. The death toll “distracts from the real objectives and isn’t necessary to communicate what we’re trying to achieve,” said Col. Greg Julian, a U.S. military spokesperson.
U.S. military officials have often insisted that almost all the deaths caused by U.S. and NATO military operations are Islamist fighters, and have refused to take responsibility for the killing of civilians. This has long been a source of friction and opposition to foreign military presence in the population.
As part of the military buildup in Afghanistan, Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said July 29 that his government was willing to increase Spanish troops if needed. Madrid, which currently has 800 troops in Afghanistan, recently sent an additional force of 450. A smaller contingent of 130 Mongolian soldiers will arrive in Kabul in August for training of Afghan soldiers and other operations.