Afghanistan bound or out of the frying pan into the fire

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YESTERDAY the Italian Prime Minister, Prodi in his first speech to the Senate as Prime Minister said that the war in Iraq had been a ‘grave error that hasn’t solved, but has complicated the problem of security.’ He announced: ‘It is the intention of this government to propose to parliament the return of our troops from Iraq.’

Since the former premier Berlusconi had been forced by popular pressure to decide to withdraw Italy’s troops from Iraq by the end of 2006, Prodi’s speech means a withdrawal from Iraq by the end of the summer.

Again in contradistinction to Blair and Bush, Prodi announced that: ‘The fight against terrorism must be conducted with political and intelligence tools and opposition to terrorist organisations – without ever restricting either our freedoms or our rights’.

Italy now joins Spain in dumping a right wing government and quitting the imperialist war in Iraq, while in the US and the UK the war becomes more and more unpopular.

There could be an additional turn of the screw in Italy, with Blair’s friend Berlusconi facing criminal charges, and the husband of a British cabinet member being called to give evidence, or allegedly even face charges.

All in all, the Iraqi insurgency and its brave resistance to the occupation has undermined the imperialist governments, and after the overthrow of the Spanish and Italian governments it will be the turn of the Blair government to face overturn from the left.

However, the dependency of British governments on US imperialism is much greater than even that of Italy and Spain.

The Blair government is still clinging like a leech to Bush. It is keeping its troops in Iraq, and they are now increasingly coming under fire, following the US-UK fall out with Iran.

An Italian withdrawal will mean that more British troops will be required in Iraq. They will be going there at a time when escalating British casualties per 1,000 troops are approaching US levels, and when thousands of British troops are being sent to Helmand province in south west Afghanistan, again on the border with Iran.

The mass of the expected 3,200 British troops have now arrived in Helmand and are bunkered down in their strong points, just as the Taleban has decided to launch a major offensive.

Yesterday southern Afghanistan was hit by some of the heaviest fighting since the US-led invasion in 2001.

Over 200 Taleban fighters attacked the town of Musa Qala and its police station in Helmand province and killed 13 policemen.

‘It was the biggest attack in Helmand since the fall of the Taleban,’ provincial governor Amir Mohammad Akhundzada reported.

Fighting was continuing on Thursday in the village of Sar Besha, about 20km (12 miles) north of the town, a spokesman for Helmand’s governor said.

Coalition air forces have attacked targets near the town, and have even attacked targets near the city of Kandahar.

There is every reason for thinking that they are seeking to attract British soldiers out into the open where they can be attacked by suicide bombers and with the Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) that have caused so much havoc to the US-UK occupiers of Iraq.

The truth of the matter is that British troops are set to take heavy casualties in both southern Iraq and south western Afghanistan, all so that Blair can be seen to be supporting Bush and the US ruling class.

The trade union leaders have played a treacherous role in the struggle over the invasion of Iraq, rescuing the Labour government more than once at the TUC and Labour Party conferences.

Now the time has come when trade union members must force the TUC to take action to bring down the Blair government and secure the withdrawal of all British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.