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Afghanistan: ending the unwinnable war.

The U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan -"Operation Enduring Freedom" - began on 7th October 2001. Launched by George Bush and supported by Tony Blair, it was the knee-jerk response to the September 11 attacks barely a month earlier - and the beginning of the "War on Terror". The stated purposes of the invasion were to capture Osama bin Laden, to destroy al-Qaeda and to remove the Taliban regime which had provided support to al-Qaeda. Although the initial invasion removed the Taliban from office, recent years have seen a resurgent Taliban regrouping and making territorial gains. Despite many US claims of small scale victories along the way, al-Qaeda has not been destroyed and, of course, Osama bin Laden has not been captured.

Far from achieving its stated aims, the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan has made matters worse. Since 2006, Afghanistan has seen increased Taliban-led insurgent activity and record-high levels of opium production. The puppet Karzai government has been shown to be powerless outside the capital of Kabul, and all efforts to bring stability and defeat a fierce insurgency have so far failed. The Taliban are increasingly successful against the Karzai government: they are edging closer to Kabul and now virtually surrounding the beleaguered capital. While US and NATO forces remain in the country, the Taliban are unlikely to take the capital, but they have begun to show their strength by individual acts of terror inside the capital. The response of the US and NATO forces has been an increase in air strikes, resulting in a steep rise in the death toll of innocent Afghan civilians.

As the first flakes of snow settle in the high passes along Afghanistan's eastern border, only a few weeks remain before the routes from Pakistan are blocked to the Taliban and the upland areas of Afghanistan become unsuited to guerrilla warfare until the spring thaw - when the whole bloody cycle will begin again.

How are we to bring this spiral of death and destruction to an end? The Labour government is committed to the ongoing occupation and the Tories (the only other party likely to form a UK government in the foreseeable future) have no alternative policy. Public opinion on its own is, again for the foreseeable future, unlikely to shake either Party from its course. The best hope we have is to mobilise the labour movement in a campaign to make the Labour Government's policy untenable and to force a UK troop withdrawal. How do we do this?

First, we do need to get the issue of Afghanistan - and the horrors of the ongoing occupation - back into public view. Within that, there are many areas in which we must interest the trade unions in mounting specific campaigns (worker international solidarity, UK civil liberties) which stop short of calling for immediate withdrawal of troops but which will help to educate the public generally and trade union members specifically on the occupation of Afghanistan. Where the failed "war aims" are indefensible, we must bring together anti-war demands into a set of "peace aims". These should include licensing opium production for diamorphine; campaigning against indescriminate ariel bommbing; support for the emerging Afghan trade union movement; highlighting the cost of war. These interim campaigns can help establish a momentum against the occupation itself.

Labour Against the War is preparing materials for a new campaign against the occupation of Afghanistan. This campaign will provide plenty for anti-war campaigners to do, whether inside or outside the Labour Party. Coming soon to this website: LAtW's "peace aims" .

A BBC poll has found of 1,013 people polled, 68% - 59% men and 75% women - said troops should withdraw within 12 months.

BBC News website, Thursday 13 November 2008


British death toll in Afghanistan and Iraq reaches 300.


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