THE fact that six RAF Harrier GR7 jets are to remain in Afghanistan to support the 4,000 British troops who are being assembled in Helmand province disproves the remarks made by Defence Minister Reid that the troops are there to engage in reconstruction work.
Even Reid did not stick to this story, and admitted that the troops would be used in offensive operations against the Taleban movement and its supporters, and any Al Qaeda fighters in the area.
The Harriers had been due to end their deployment in June, but will now continue until the end of March 2007, after calls from NATO and coalition chiefs, including British military leaders, that they should stay in Afghanistan.
In fact, the British troops have already been exposed to at least two suicide attacks which succeeded in wounding a number of soldiers.
Evidently, they have not been the only forces that have been preparing to fight in that province.
Taleban fighters have been training in Iraq learning how to master the assembly and placement of IEDs, the improvised explosive devices, that have caused such heavy losses to US troops, who up till their appearance had felt secure in their heavily armoured vehicles.
Now, in Iraq even the heaviest US tanks are being blown up and destroyed by IEDs, and their helicopters are also proving vulnerable to missile attack.
Taleban spokesmen have stressed that they are looking forward to meeting up with the British forces as they regard the British army as a ‘historic enemy’.
They have not been slow to relate how Afghanistan has been the graveyard for a number of British armies that sought to invade and conquer the country in the 19th century, with disastrous consequences for the invading forces.
Reid has stressed that British troops, who are taking over from American forces retreating to Iraq, are there to prevent the Taleban returning to power in Afghanistan.
British officers in Helmand have already said that they are facing a ‘rocky period ahead’. The closest that any officer has got to optimism are the remarks of Brigadier Butler, commander of British forces in Afghanistan, to the effect that there was a ‘chance’ of bringing lasting security to the country.
He however cautioned: ‘We need to expect some setbacks and we need to prepare ourselves and the public.’
The fact that the British Defence Secretary is admitting that withdrawing British troops means that the Taleban will return to power, shows just how grave the situation is in southern Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is now the principal producer of opium and the main exporter of heroin into Europe.
Opium production was illegal under the Taleban, but is now the main industry under the rule of the US and the UK, and their puppet regime led by Karzai.
The only part of Afghanistan that is relatively secure is Kabul, and even there, the president’s rule ends at the door of his palace.
The British mission is to eradicate opium production and prevent the Taleban from returning to power.
The first target is for the record, since the principal opium producers are in the Afghan government.
Even British military forces are admitting that British troops will take heavier casualties than in Iraq, in an area that is one of the most hostile to British troops anywhere in the world.
The province itself borders Iran and could be used to launch an attack on that country, which is at the top of the US hit list – another reason why British forces will be kept there by the Blair government.
The British workers and their trade unions must demand the withdrawal of all British troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, and oppose any attack on Iran. Action however speaks much louder than words.
The British trade unions must launch a massive campaign of demonstrations, rallies and political strikes to achieve this objective, by bringing down the Blair government.