Afghan crisis – more combat troops to be sent

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THE British government’s Defence Secretary, Des Browne, said yesterday that he would be making a statement to the House of Commons as soon as possible, and that the possibility of sending more troops to Afghanistan is being considered as a ‘matter of urgency’.

In fact, the request for more combat troops has been made by British commanders on the spot and the General Staff has already told the government that this must be done if another Afghan military disaster for Britain is to be avoided.

Browne admitted that he had received advice on additional deployments and that he was discussing it with the chiefs of staff. These additional deployments are to be announced to the House of Commons as soon as possible, Browne pledged.

Last Monday Defence Minister Watson denied to the House of Commons that the government had been unprepared for the scale and the savagery of the fighting in Helmand.

Complacent Watson said: ‘Yes, our troops have been in action against the Taleban, that is only to be expected.

‘That’s why we sent an air mobile battle group, artillery and Apache attack helicopters.’

He added for good measure: ‘We would not have sent such a formidable package if we did not think that there was a real threat to the safety of our armed forces.’

Complacent Watson denied that commanders had made requests for extra troops, and he denied that extra troops were to be sent.

In fact, the Blair government has been suckered back into Afghanistan by the US, which was desperate to withdraw its own troops, and was only too willing to report that the Taleban had been reduced to remnants and were finished as a serious force.

This is why just over two months ago, the then Defence Secretary, John Reid, felt bold enough to declare to the media that he was convinced that during their three year tour of duty in Afghanistan, British forces would not fire a shot.

Six British corpses later we know just what wise men Reid and Blair are. There is not the slightest doubt that British troops are out on a very long limb in Afghanistan.

The latest casualty was part of a patrol defending the landing zone for helicopters which is outside the small area directly controlled by British troops in the town of Sangin.

The British troops were engaged by Taleban fighters, just as helicopters were preparing to land up to 100 reinforcing troops. The soldier was shot dead and the relieving helicopters were turned back for the third time.

The Taleban have now got the base in Sangin cut off from reinforcement and supply.

The British tactic of an isolated outpost, which would attract the Taleban whose forces would then be slaughtered by Apache helicopter gunships, is proving as disastrous as the French attempt at Dien Bien Phu to lure the Vietminh into attacking their ‘impregnable base’, where they would be destroyed.

At Dien Bien Phu more than 13,000 French troops were forced to surrender.

Sending several thousands of British troops to Afghanistan will only provide the Taleban with more targets, and they will attract many more volunteers to fight to expel the invading British.

No wonder the military families movement says that they have had enough of these imperialist oil and gas wars, where the lives of their sons are sacrificed to get big business closer to the sources of oil and gas in the Caspian Sea region and the Gulf.

Blair tries to insist that this is a war for democracy. Well let him send his eldest son, Ewan to join the military in Helmand province, and the two princes Harry and William, who recently declared that they want to face the same dangers as ‘their men.’

That this will not happen is obvious. War is a continuation of politics by other means and imperialist war is fought by the working class, in the interests of the ruling class. It is the working class that does the dying.

Workers in Britain must be for the defeat of the imperialist forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The trade unions must take action to stop these wars by taking action to bring the Blair government down and bring in a workers government and socialism.