THE top NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Jones, has just apologised for the death of up to 80 Afghan civilians in a series of bombing raids over 24 hours last Tuesday in an area near Kandahar City that the NATO forces had declared to be free of Taleban fighters a week earlier.
General Jones said in the course of his apology that Taleban fighters had after all been using the villagers as cover.
Excusing the action, the general said that in the heat of battle, when it was hard to differentiate between the two, decisions had to be made on the spot.
It is obvious that it was out of the question for NATO officers to decide that since there was a very great risk that villagers and their children would be killed there should be no bombing assault mounted.
It was decided that the villagers would have to take their chances – not the way to win hearts and minds.
And this was in an area that had previously been judged cleared of the Taleban, who we were told had suffered a severe defeat there.
NATO has been trying to put forward a line that the Taleban is somehow alien to Helmand and Kandahar provinces, and that they could be cleared out of the area.
In fact, the vast majority of the people in these and other provinces support the Taleban.
This is why the NATO tactic is to bomb these villages to try and weaken the Taleban by wiping out as many of its supporters as possible.
With these operations now the norm, the propaganda campaign that there is some massive reconstruction effort about to be mounted is being shown to be a lie.
In fact, NATO on Saturday mounted another air bombardment of another village in southern Uruzgan province, where it says the Taleban was attacking a military base north of Tarin Kowt.
Troops are reported to have responded to the attack with small arms fire and by calling in attack helicopters and air strikes.
No doubt large numbers of Afghan civilians have been killed and figure in the NATO tally of 55 Taleban fighters killed.
The fact however is that Taleban losses have been greatly exaggerated. They have been set by NATO at several thousands dead and presumably many more wounded in the last two months.
It is the NATO forces that are suffering heavy casualties, especially the British and Canadian forces, who have each suffered some 40 solders killed, and many more wounded.
The British command have developed a unique tactic for dealing with this situation, by withdrawing from the regional strongpoints that they thought they could lure the Taleban into attacking, so as to destroy them with airpower.
The tactic almost led to the destruction of the British forces. To extricate themselves they have had to make a deal with the local tribal elders, that both sides withdraw from the area.
The US ambassador to Afghanstan has questioned this policy, saying that in fact the British forces are negotiating with the Taleban, and the line that the tribal elders have nothing to do with the Taleban is a fiction.
Meanwhile, the British forces are demanding more helicopters and planes and even tank forces. The effect of this will be that a major part of the front line forces of the British army will sink into the Afghan quagmire.
No wonder ex-chief of the General Staff, Inge, has said that he is worried that the politicians and army chiefs have lost their way. He said: ‘I don’t believe we have a clear strategy in either Afghanistan or Iraq. I sense we’ve lost the ability to think strategically. Deep down inside me, I worry that the British army could risk operational failure if we’re not careful in Afghanistan. We need to recognise the test that I think they could face there.’
The fact is that British imperialism is heading for a big fall. The working class must take advantage of this situation by organising to go forward to socialism.