US Defence Secretary Gates has condemned as ‘defeatist’ a comment by the British commander in Afghanistan that the war there cannot be won.
Speaking on board a flight to Budapest to meet Nato defence ministers, Gates rejected the assertion made by Brigadier Carleton-Smith that a ‘decisive military victory’ should not be expected.
Gates said that: ‘While we face significant challenges in Afghanistan, there certainly is no reason to be defeatist or to under-estimate the opportunities to be successful in the long run.’
This open dispute between the US government and the British military is a first, and follows complaints by the US military chiefs that British troops in Basra airport could not be got to support their US opposite numbers in the fight that took place against the Mahdi Army in the early summer.
The US military attributed this to the claim that the British army had made a ceasefire deal with the Mahdi army under which it was allowed to leave Basra city and retreat to the airport without having to face hostile automatic and rocket fire.
Gates’ remarks are significant and point to a situation where the special relationship between the US and the UK, of master and willing servant, is coming to an end, because of the weakness of British imperialism.
Other NATO commanders have spoken up to say that they also support opening talks with the Taleban.
Brigadier Richard Blanchette, the spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said there could be no military solution, while the UN Special Representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, said: ‘We all know that we cannot win it militarily. It has to be won through political means. That means political engagement.’
They supported the position of Brigadier Mark Carlton-Smith that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won and that ‘if the Taleban were prepared to sit on the other side of the table and talk about a political settlement, then that’s precisely the sort of progress that concludes insurgencies like this.’
Gates in his criticism of the ‘defeatists’ said he would again press Nato members to send more troops to Afghanistan during the meeting in Hungary.
‘I want to make sure that everybody understands that the increase in US forces is not seen as replacements for Nato contributions, but as reinforcement,’ he said.
The response to his request will be cool to say the least.
The position of the new US commander in Afghanistan, General Petraeus, is that the US armed forces are going to be drawn down in Iraq, after an agreement for ending the US occupation is reached with the Iraqi puppet government. These forces will then be committed to Afghanistan, which is the war that the US has to win as far as Petraeus, Gates and the US government is concerned.
This is also the position of the two US presidential contenders Obama and McCain.
The position of the British government is similar, except for the fact that they are not carrying their military along with them.
Brown maintains that all British troops will be withdrawn from Iraq and that the war in Afghanistan will be the major battleground for the British army, in a war that it is absolutely vital to win if the war against terror is to be won.
It is the British army that has learnt by harsh experience, on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, that this is a pipe-dream, and that a protracted war by the too small and over stretched British armed forces is out of the question.
Already the casualty rate amongst the highly trained soldiers has been very high, to the point where the British officer corps is becoming demoralised and cynical, blaming the political leadership in the UK for the fix that it finds itself in.
The fact is that the US and UK cannot win the Afghan war, but the Taleban can and will, in the same way as the Afghans defeated former UK invasions of their country.
The trade unions in the UK must fight for the immediate withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan and for the victory of the Taleban.
By weakening the British capitalist state the Afghan fighters are in fact assisting the struggle of the British workers to get rid of capitalism, and go forward to socialism.