GENERAL Petraeus is now the commander of all NATO forces in Afghanistan, and has declared that he intends to organise a NATO ‘surge’ in that country, following the example of the US ‘surge’ in Iraq.
The Petraeus plan coincides with the chosen policy of President-elect, Barack Obama. Both are agreed that four thousand British troops will be shifted from Basra airport in Iraq to Helmand province, where they will be joined by other British reinforcements.
Obama’s advisors are already emphasising that when the President-elect becomes President on January 20th, the maintenance of the special US-UK relationship depends on sending the thousands of required British reinforcements.
However, the campaign of the British army in Afghanistan has been a wounding thorn in the side of the British government and military from its inception.
First of all, they went along with Bush and Cheney, when they decided in 2002, that operations in Afghanistan would be wound down, in favour of invading Iraq.
The experience of fighting the Afghan and Iraq wars at the same time left the British army convinced that it was no longer capable of fighting two wars simultaneously.
In 2006, the British army was reinforced in Afghanistan, with the British Defence Secretary of that time, John Reid, saying that they would return from several tours of duty with not a shot fired, since they would be involved in reconstruction.
Several million rounds later, British troops have been suffering the biggest casualties since the Korean War, and have been fought to a standstill by the Taleban.
All of the officer corps’ chatter that they were winning the war has long since evaporated, and the growing disillusionment and demoralisation of the army is there for all to see, with officers resigning their posts to denounce the politicians.
Now a moment of truth is fast approaching.
If they want the special relationship with the US to continue, thousands more British troops will have to be sent to Helmand. This is the message that will have to be implemented on January 20.
The military command and the political leadership are already wriggling.
According to the Defence Chief, Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, there can be no ‘one-for-one’ transfer of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.
He added: ‘I think we would all take some persuading that there would have to be a much larger British contingent there,’ and continued: ‘So we also have to get ourselves back into balance; it’s crucial that we reduce the operational tempo for our armed forces, so it cannot be, even if the situation demanded it, just a one for one transfer from Iraq to Afghanistan, we have to reduce that tempo.’
Foreign Secretary David Miliband added on the Andrew Marr BBC News programme: ‘that the UK must not be asked to shoulder an “unfair burden”.’
He was asked if Obama ‘comes knocking on the door and says, “I’d like the British troops from Iraq to be moved over to Afghanistan”, what will our answer be?’
Miliband replied: ‘I think that our answer on burden sharing is yes there should be burden sharing. We’re bearing a significant part of the burden already – 8,100 British troops there.’
When asked: ‘So we would not necessarily be wanting to put more British troops into Helmand province?’ he replied ‘Not necessarily, no’.
The British government will not be able to refuse the US. So, on top of bailing out the banks, and seeing inflation cutting wages while unemployment and hardship are soaring, workers are to be forced to finance a new round of the Afghan war.
Workers must force the trade union leaders to tell Brown that British troops must be withdrawn, not reinforced, and that the trade unions will bring the government down, to bring an end to the imperialist war in Afghanistan if they move to carry out Obama’s war plans.