Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Tale of Two Armies in Afghanistan

A tale of two armies

By John Catalinotto
Published Jan 17, 2010 8:32 PM

Despite the Pentagon’s unmatched high-tech weapons and firepower, the U.S. military is bogged down by glaring weaknesses rooted in the capitalist system it operates to defend. The resistance fighters, with far less firepower, have shown the ability to innovate and adapt their tactics to the needs of their war to liberate Afghanistan.

The Pentagon’s difficulties in creating a special program to carry out colonial interventions in Afghanistan and Pakistan have exposed its weakness.

Before Gen. Stanley McChrystal took charge of the Afghanistan occupation last year, he had chaired a special group of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that came up with the “Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands Program.” In November the Pentagon announced the program, saying it would create three units of 304 people each, 912 in total, to form the new corps.

The program’s main innovation is that instead of the customary one-year rotation in the region, officers who volunteer or are assigned to it would expect to spend three to five years on duty there. They would start with 16-week training courses in Urdu, Pashtu or Dari, the three major languages in the region, and would become expert in the history and culture of the peoples living there.

The order was that the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps appoint a proportional number of their “best people” to this program. These personnel would be involved as trainers, military planners and advisers to Afghan ministries. In other words, they would be the backbone of a colonial takeover of the countries and peoples.

In theory, such a corps might become a weapon against any resistance or liberation movement. But so far, the Armed Forces have only come up with 172 officers ready to take on the assignment. In addition, according to a Jan. 6 New York Times article, Joint Chiefs chair Adm. Mike Mullen chewed out the heads of the four armed services in mid-December for failing to pick the most suitable people among the too few they sent.

When a military force is serving the cause of building an empire, and the basic goal of the empire is to increase the profits of the banks and corporations, the military too adapts to these pressures. What is the major goal of the officers? It’s advancing their careers.

Since advancement has always come through a succession of one-year assignments, the officers preferred to avoid the Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands Program.

In turn, the top brass in each service were also reluctant to send their “best people” to this special unit. That meant giving up their most capable subordinates, the ones who would help the careers of the top officers. This too became an obstacle.

In an attempt to redress this failure, Mullen criticized the top brass on the one hand and on the other hand promised that the careers of those in the special unit would advance. Whether this combination of stick-and-carrot will create the desired colonial corps is yet to be determined.

The resistance army

The resistance army can tell a completely different story. Resistance fighters already know the local languages and customs: They are part of the people. Even by the Pentagon’s reports they are growing in strength and influence, and the population sees them as the local fighters while it sees the U.S.-NATO forces as the invaders.

The resistance has also been flexible in adapting its tactics. Perhaps nothing showed that more than the bombing strike on the CIA’s Forward Operating Base Chapman on Dec. 30, which killed seven CIA operatives, including some top officers, and a Jordanian officer along with the resistance agent. According to the latest version of the events, the resistance forces operating in Khost province decided it was necessary to strike back after unpiloted airplanes — drones — killed some of their leaders along with a lot of other people.

They took the decision to sacrifice a skilled double agent, himself a Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship, who was serving the resistance out of idealism and hatred of imperialism. He didn’t hesitate. His choice was the complete opposite of worrying about a career move.

There is no doubt the Pentagon can bring much destruction to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and its people. There is plenty of reason to doubt it can vanquish the resistance.


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