THE scale of the insurgency in both Iraq and Afghanistan has got the Pentagon rattled. It fears that the US strategic requirement, to be able to fight two major wars at the same time, is being exposed as a pipedream.
Its forces are already being stretched to breaking point, and US military leaders are doubting whether the US could act against China, if it were to reclaim its province Taiwan by military action across the straits, or take action against North Korea or Iran.
In their Quadrennial Defence Review, mandated by Congress, top military planners say that maintaining forces in Afghanistan and Iraq is limiting the Pentagon’s ability to deal with other potential armed conflicts.
The Pentagon for the first time in decades is seriously questioning the current axiom that the US must be able to fight two major wars at the same time.
After years of saying US forces were sufficient for a two-war strategy, ‘we’ve come to the realisation that we’re not,’ a Defence Department official recently told the New York Times, adding: ‘We are now being forced to come to grips with reality’.
Civilian and military officials are trying to decide whether to acknowledge that operations like the war in Iraq, described as not being a full-blown conventional war, but requiring a prolonged commitment, may be such a burden that it will not be possible to also fight two full-scale campaigns elsewhere.
‘The war in Iraq requires a very large ground-force presence . . . War with China or North Korea or Iran . . . would require a much more capable Navy and Air Force,’ said Loren Thompson, an analyst at the Lexington Institute, a policy research centre in Arlington, Virginia.
‘What we need for conventional victory is different from what we need for fighting insurgents, and fighting insurgents has relatively little connection to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. We can’t afford it all,’ he added.
The Defence Review is not due to be submitted to Congress until early 2006.
However, the perceived weakness of US imperialism in Iraq and Afghanistan is already causing tremors throughout oil and gas rich Central Asia.
The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation made up of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, meeting for talks in Kazakhstan, has issued a joint statement calling on the US-UK coalition to agree a deadline for ending the temporary use of bases and air space in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, used to back up troops in Afghanistan.
The US will not give up its bases in central Asia, nor will it call it a day in oil rich Iraq, and risk losing the whole of the oil rich Arabian peninsula.
Its forces will remain stretched and vulnerable, while its allies, particularly the UK and Australia, will be ordered to supply more of the cannon fodder required to fight the insurgents in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says his government is already considering a request for its troops to return to Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah confirmed that his country had asked for a return of Australian forces. Britain has apparently volunteered to send up to 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan. However, a lot more forces will be required, and will be asked for, by the United States.
The US’ satellite states will, in fact, be asked to draw up their military plans so as to be able to supply the US with the maximum number of ground forces for the Afghan and Iraq wars, and for counter-insurgency, to allow the US to develop its naval and air forces for action against China and Iran.
The Afghan and Iraqi people can be very proud that they have exposed the weaknesses of the supposed US imperialist colossus, weaknesses that make it vulnerable to military defeat.
British workers must take action to support the Iraqi and Afghan people, and to prevent Britain becoming a supplier of cannon fodder for the US. They must bring down the Blair government and go forward to a workers’ government that will carry out socialist policies.