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From The Socialist newspaper, 29 July 2009

Afghanistan - Withdraw the troops

THE BRITISH government is cynically exploiting the tragic deaths of British soldiers to justify the continuing war in Afghanistan. This senseless waste of young lives has aroused new questioning about the war, about the lack of equipment which caused so many soldiers' deaths, and about why they are still fighting this war.

Paula Mitchell

A British Army brigadier recently declared the 'successful ending' of phase one of Operation Panther's Claw, an offensive in Helmund province. But 23 British soldiers have died in just over a month in this operation. Altogether 191 UK troops have died so far in this war.

A new Independent poll showed that 58% of British people think this war is unwinnable and 52% of people think that "British troops should be withdrawn immediately from Afghanistan."

Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband now speaks of a 'change of strategy' in Afghanistan that would allow talks with more 'moderate' members of the Taliban - the right-wing Islamic organisation ousted from power in 2001. Such dialogue has in fact already been tried, alongside military measures, for years.

The war on Afghanistan and the "war on terror" followed the terrible 9/11 attacks on New York in 2001. Despite declaring a rapid victory over the Taliban, the death toll continued. Over 4,000 people died in 2008 but the Taliban has been reclaiming territory.

The elected government barely holds power in the capital Kabul, never mind the rest of Afghanistan. The warlords who replaced the Taliban, and the Karzai regime, enrich themselves while most Afghans live in abject poverty.

These warlords are just as oppressive as the Taliban and women are still treated brutally and denied basic rights. Ordinary Afghans oppose the US-led foreign armies but also fear the Taliban and warlords.

The major US/British offensive, with the US sending in 21,000 more troops, will not bring stability to Afghanistan. The "war on terror" has led to a human catastrophe. Tens of thousands of innocent Afghans and Iraqis have died, with millions made refugees. Young US and UK soldiers have died needlessly.

Rather than stamping out terror, the wars have led to an increase in terrorist attacks and have made ordinary working people in the West more vulnerable to attack. These wars have not destroyed al-Qa'ida or the Taliban.

Instead, they have helped increase the hatred felt in Asia and the Middle East towards US and British imperialism. This has generated more recruits for terrorist organisations as people turn in desperation to these misguided methods.

The Socialist Party demands immediate withdrawal of the troops from Afghanistan. They are there in the interests of the ruling classes that sent them, and not in those of the people of Afghanistan.

It is only through their own mass action that the working class and oppressed people of Afghanistan can end the reign of terror inflicted upon them from all sides. To aid this, independent organisations of the working class and oppressed people need to be built across the region.

Crisis-ridden global capitalism is responsible for the profit-seeking, repression and conflict which lead to war and the blind alley of terrorism. This war only intensifies capitalism's crisis. It is only through mass action to end capitalism and replace it with a democratic socialist system that a real, lasting solution will be found.

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