US President Barack Obama yesterday announced a further 4,000 US troops will be sent to Afghanistan this summer, in addition to the 17,000 earmarked last month to join the 38,000 already deployed.
‘The situation is increasingly perilous,’ Obama told a group of selected military and diplomatic officials.
‘It has been more than seven years since the Taleban was removed from power, yet war rages on, and insurgents control parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan,’ Obama admitted.
‘We are facing an enemy that heeds no borders,’ Obama warned, adding that ‘the single greatest threat to Pakistan is Al-Qaeda and their extremist allies’.
He continued: ‘Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment in rooting out Al Qaeda and violent extremists,’ warning ‘we will insist, one way or another, that action is taken’.
He announced: ‘Today I’m calling on Congress to pass a bill to give $1.5 billion dollars direct support to Pakistan every year for the next five years.’
He added: ‘Security of America and Pakistan is shared . . . There will be standing trilateral dialogue of America, Afghanistan and Pakistan’.
He recalled that: ‘Nearly 700 Americans have lost their lives,’ in Afghanistan, adding, ‘we must reverse the Taleban’s gains’.
Obama concluded: ‘As America does more we will expect others also to play their part.’
The head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt could not wait for Obama’s speech, or for the British parliament before expressing his view.
In an interview published yesterday, Dannatt said that part of 12 Mechanised Brigade, which had been training for deployment to Iraq, was now ‘earmarked’ for Afghanistan.
Dannatt said there are no plans to send the whole brigade of 4,000 troops, but said the new level of troops would lie ‘somewhere in between’ the current 8,000 and 12,000 if the whole brigade was sent.
Dannatt admitted that sending the whole brigade would put too much strain on Army resources.
‘If we were to send another 4,000 . . . there would be a risk of replicating the pressures on the Army that we are trying to avoid,’ he said.
Afghanistan is a ‘marathon campaign, not a sprint,’ he added.
There will be demands for the immediate withdrawal of all US and British troops from Afghanistan made at today’s TUC march through London, and at next Wednesday’s mass demonstration outside the American Embassy in London, as national leaders arrive in London for the G20 Summit.
The Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition Lindsey German said of Obama’s announcement yesterday: ‘This is a disaster for the people of Afghanistan.
‘Already the level of violence there is spiralling. It is time for all NATO forces to withdraw from that country.’
The University and College Union (UCU) called on world leaders to show their support for workers during the current economic downturn, by not cutting back on education and training.
UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt welcomed today’s march, saying: ‘If this current crisis has taught us anything, it is that we cannot rely on the market to deliver a prosperous and equal society.
‘The UK, and the world for that matter, needs a strong and accountable public sector to lift people out of poverty, and education must be at the forefront of this.
‘If our leaders are serious about beating the recession, they mustn’t withdraw money from educators.’
She added: ‘It is ironic, that at a time when we should be supporting lifelong learning, that money is being taken away from it, as can be witnessed by the government’s decision to withdraw funding for people studying equivalent or lower qualifications.
‘We are in the worst recession since the 1930s and these types of courses are vital for helping adult and part-time learners to become more employable, and to improve their skills base.
‘Now is the time to invest in public education. We simply cannot afford to lose any more knowledge.’
Unite issued a statement saying:
‘On 2nd April 2009 the leaders of 20 of the world’s biggest economies meet in London to tackle the recession and global financial crisis.
‘Even before the banking collapse caused recession, the world suffered vast poverty and inequality and faced the looming threat of climate chaos.
‘Governments, business and international institutions have followed a model of financial deregulation that has encouraged short-term profits, instability and an economy fuelled by ever-increasing debt, both financial and environmental.
‘There can be no going back to business as usual.’