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U.S., NATO War In Afghanistan: Antecedents And Precedents

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The U.S. (and Britain) began bombing the Afghan capital of Kabul on October 7, 2001 with Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from warships and submarines and bombs dropped from warplanes and shortly thereafter American special forces began ground operations, a task that has been conducted since by regular Army and Marine units. The bombing and the ground combat operations continue more than eight years later and both will be intensified to record levels in short order.

The combined U.S. and NATO forces would represent a staggering number, in excess of 150,000 soldiers. By way of comparison, as of September of this year there were approximately 120,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and only a small handful of other nations' personnel, those assigned to the NATO Training Mission - Iraq, remaining with them.

"Secretary Gates has made clear that the conflicts we're in should be at the very forefront of our agenda. He wants to make sure we're not giving up capabilities needed now for those needed for some unknown future conflict. He wants to make sure the Pentagon is truly on war footing....For the first time in decades, the political and economic stars are aligned for a fundamental overhaul of the way the Pentagon does business."
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Over the past ten years citizens of the United States and other Western nations, and unfortunately most of the world, have become accustomed to Washington and its military allies in Europe and those appointed as armed outposts on the periphery of the "Euro-Atlantic community" engaging in armed aggression around the world.

Wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq and lower profile military operations and surrogate campaigns in nations as diverse as Colombia, Yemen, the Philippines, Ivory Coast, Somalia, Chad, the Central African Republic, South Ossetia and elsewhere have become an unquestioned prerogative of the U.S. and its NATO partners. So much so that many have forgotten to consider how comparable actions have been or might be viewed if a non-Western nation attempted them.

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Thirty years ago this December 24 the first Soviet troops entered Afghanistan to assist a neighboring nation's government to combat an armed insurgency based in Pakistan and surreptitiously (later quite openly) supported by the United States.

In the waning days of that year, 1979, and in the early ones of the following Soviet troop strength grew to some 50,000 soldiers.

(In 1839 Britain invaded Afghanistan with 21,000 of its own and Indian colonial troops and in 1878 with twice that number to counter Russian influence in the country in what came to be called the Great Game.)

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On January 23, 1980 U.S. President James Earl (Jimmy) Carter stated in his last State of the Union Address that "The implications of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan could pose the most serious threat to the peace since the Second World War."

When the Soviet Union began withdrawing its forces from the nation - the first half from May 15 to August 16, 1988 and the last from November 15, 1988 to February 15, 1989 - their peak number had been slightly over 100,000.

On December 1 of 2009 U.S. President Barack Obama announced that he was deploying 30,000 new troops to Afghanistan in addition to the 68,000 already there and two days later "Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congress...that the surge force of 30,000 going to Afghanistan will grow to at least 33,000 when support troops are included." [1]

That is, over 100,000 troops. Along with private military and security contractors whose number is even larger.

Soviet troops were in Afghanistan barely over nine years. American troops are now involved in the ninth year of combat operations in the country and in less than four weeks will be engaged in their tenth calendar year of war there.

On November 25 White House spokesman Robert Gibbs assured the people of his nation that "We are in year nine of our efforts in Afghanistan. We are not going to be there another eight or nine years." [2] The implication is that the U.S. may wage a war in Afghanistan that could last until 2017. For sixteen years.

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The longest war in American history prior to the current one was that in Vietnam. U.S. military advisers were present in the country from the late 1950s onward and covert operations were carried on in the early 1960s, but only in the year after the contrived Gulf of Tonkin incident - 1965 - did the Pentagon begin major combat operations in the south and regular bombing raids in the north. The last American combat unit left South Vietnam in 1972, seven years later.

The U.S. (and Britain) began bombing the Afghan capital of Kabul on October 7, 2001 with Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from warships and submarines and bombs dropped from warplanes and shortly thereafter American special forces began ground operations, a task that has been conducted since by regular Army and Marine units. The bombing and the ground combat operations continue more than eight years later and both will be intensified to record levels in short order.

Since late last summer the U.S. and its NATO allies have launched regular drone missile and attack helicopter assaults inside Pakistan. Had the Soviets attempted to do likewise thirty years ago - when their own borders were threatened - Washington's response might well have triggered a third world war.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/

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