Afghanistan: A surge towards disaster

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by Anthony Fenton, Asia Times, March 14, 2009

As United States President Barack Obama simultaneously escalates and crafts a new strategy for the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led counter-insurgency war and occupation in Afghanistan, critics say that the “surge” will send the country toward an “unmitigated disaster”, the brunt of which will be borne by the civilian population.

Since Obama announced an increase in the US footprint by 17,000 soldiers on February 17, the debate over the escalation of the war in Afghanistan has reached a fever pitch. The topic now garners more headlines than the ongoing war in Iraq.

During his presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly pledged to escalate the war.

In a speech last July, Obama called for “at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan”, and said that “we need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones”.

Although unreported at the time, Obama’s campaign pledges were already beginning to be fulfilled by the outgoing Bush administration. While Obama has made frequent references to the US’s having “taken [its] eye off the ball” in Afghanistan, and that his administration will correct the course, he has omitted mentioning that a “quiet surge” had already begun under his predecessor, George W Bush.

Dating the surge

While the presence of foreign occupation forces have risen steadily in Afghanistan since at least 2004, when an anti-occupation resurgence became increasingly evident, the first signs of a more concerted escalation emerged in January 2008 when it was announced that 3,200 members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit would deploy to bolster NATO’s efforts in the south of the country.

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