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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 October 2008

Afghanistan - war without end?

"WE'RE NOT going to win this war", is the frank admission by Britain's commander in Afghanistan that the Taliban insurgency is not being defeated. And brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith's gloomy assessment was supported by a draft report of US intelligence agencies which concluded that Afghanistan is in a "downward spiral" with a failing Afghan government in Kabul, accelerated by uncontrolled corruption and a booming heroin trade which now accounts for 50% of the country's economy!

None of this should come as any surprise. The US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to oust the Taliban regime, who George Bush and Tony Blair accused of being behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, was never going to bring about a pro-western 'democracy'.

The Socialist Party has consistently opposed this imperialist adventure, pointing out that the coalition forces would become bogged down in an unwinnable guerrilla war.

A western military occupation was always unlikely to win the 'hearts and minds' of ordinary Afghans, especially when these forces have regularly razed villages to the ground through 'surgical airstrikes'.

Moreover, most of the pledges of aid from western donor countries have not materialised or have been siphoned off by corrupt officials. And while an elite of warlords and officials grouped around or against Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai have enriched themselves, for the masses, poverty, unemployment, hunger, lawlessness and banditry have all increased. Little wonder then that many in rural Afghanistan are allying themselves with the resurgent Taliban forces who supply cash aid and some 'security'.

George Bush and his White House successor, whether McCain or Obama, have pledged to increase US troop numbers in Afghanistan. Similarly, Gordon Brown is dispatching more UK troops to Helmand province. All of them are sending more troops in the knowledge that they cannot win the war but at best can only contain the insurgency.

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