JUST a few months ago, the then Defence Minister John Reid was telling the media – while trying to douse public concern over a large force of British troops being sent to Afghanistan – that British troops would complete their whole three-year tour of duty without firing a shot.
He said then, that their job would be to see that reconstruction was carried out, and that they would not be engaging in any military operations.
The entire 3,500-strong force of British troops has just been assembled in the country, many of them in the province of Helmand, and they have already suffered five dead, two of them elite SBS troopers, with a number of other soldiers seriously wounded.
Reid was obviously not telling the truth.
The reality of the situation was that the Blair government was desperate to get British troops back into Afghanistan in force, because it had agreed with President Bush that Britain would take charge of the Afghan operation, and that US forces would be withdrawing from Afghanistan to Iraq.
Reid told the British people what he reckoned they wanted to hear. This was that the operation in Afghanistan would be bloodless, despite the fact that British forces would be concentrating in Helmand province in the south of the country, which is dominated by the Taleban.
Reid’s statement was seen to be untrue from the first moment that British troops arrived in the province, and learnt that the Taleban had been preparing for some time for their arrival, and were confident that British intervention into Afghanistan would bring yet another major British defeat.
For the first few days and weeks, the British commanders were full of praise for their troops and reported that there had been some heavy actions against the Taleban, but that they were confident that they could hold them and even defeat them.
They had clearly not been under any illusion that they were to engage in non-combat duties only.
However, they can’t talk away the significance of five dead British soldiers, with the latest two soldiers killed by a rocket-propelled grenade in an attack on their regional headquarters in Sangin.
Clearly, if they were the hunters and the Taleban the hunted they should enjoy some security in their regional headquarters.
However, they are already the hunted, with the role of helicopter gunships and even US fighter jets becoming more and more to rescue British troops from difficult ambushes.
The reality is that British troops in Helmand province are in a worse jam than they ever were in southern Iraq, where there were at least a number of militias and political movements that up until recently supported them, and where they had trained the local police and the local units of the ‘new’ Iraqi army.
In Afghanistan they are being attacked in their headquarters from day one.
This is why the request has gone out from British commanders that they must have infantry reinforcements. Some say that the numbers of troops have to be doubled, to begin with.
With the TA ruined by the war in Iraq there is only one theatre where the required numbers of troops can come from, and that is Iraq.
It will mean British imperialism cutting and running out of the Iraqi frying pan into the fires of Afghanistan.
The Blair government is already appealing to EU NATO members to send many more planes, guns and troops to Afghanistan.
However, in the last analysis they will be on their own, doing the dirty work of their chosen strategic ally, the US, in Afghanistan.
There is only one way out of this imperialist crisis. This is for the working class to bring down the Blair government, and bring in a workers’ government that will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.
This will provide the basis for a political settlement with the Arab and Islamic peoples at the centre of which will be the establishment of the independent state of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.