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War In Afghanistan Evokes Second World War Parallels

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War In Afghanistan Evokes Second World War Parallels
Rick Rozoff

With the Pentagon and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization planning the largest military campaign of the Afghan war this summer in the south, Kandahar province, a complementary offensive in the north, Kunduz province, and increased troop strength of 150,000 in preparation for the assaults, a war that will enter its tenth calendar year this October 7 is reaching the apex of its intensity.

The length of the war if not the amount of troops deployed for it inevitably conjures up a comparison with the U.S. war in Vietnam, before now the longest in America's history. Not only protracted but intractable, with its escalation in earnest beginning in early 1965 and the end of U.S. combat operations not occurring until 1973.

Another analogy is with the Korean War, far shorter in duration - three years - and with fewer U.S. troops and deaths than in Vietnam.

In at least two manners the Korean War more closely resembles the current armed conflict in South Asia. First, foreign intervention was formally authorized by the United Nations although in effect it was a U.S.-led and -dominated military operation on the Asian mainland.

Second, Washington then, as now, recruited troops from allied nations, particularly from members of post-World War II military blocs it had formed or was in the process of establishing. In addition to South Korea, soldiers from fifteen other countries fought under U.S. (and nominal UN) command.

From NATO, formed the year before the Korean War began in 1950: Britain, Canada, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and then candidate members Greece and Turkey.

From the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS), formed during the Korean War in September of 1951: All three members.

From what in 1955 would be formalized as the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), envisioned at the time as an Asian parallel to NATO: The Philippines, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, along with the U.S., Britain and France which were also founding members.

Washington additionally dragooned between 1,800-3,000 troops each from Colombia, Ethiopia and apartheid South Africa for the war effort.

SEATO was dissolved in 1977 and ANZUS remains an active alliance, although for the expanding war in Afghanistan (and neighboring Pakistan) all foreign troops, including in the near future "virtually all American forces," [1] are or will be under NATO command, including the first contingent of troops from Colombia. Australia and New Zealand, with 1,550 and 200 troops respectively, are now identified as NATO Contact Countries.

To return to the Vietnam precedent, on July 2, 2009 the U.S. launched its largest military offensive anywhere since the second attack on Fallujah in Iraq in 2004, Operation Phantom Fury, which included a total of 10,000-15,000 American troops.

In Operation Khanjar (Strike of the Sword) conducted in Afghanistan's Helmand province, 4,000 U.S. forces and fifty aircraft participated in an assault that included "the biggest offensive airlift by the Marines since Vietnam." [2]

In February 15,000 U.S., NATO and Afghan government troops launched the largest joint military attack of the war against the town of Marjah in Helmand province, with an estimated population of 75,000-80,000 and by one account as few as 400 suspected insurgents. [3] A more than 27-1 ratio of armed belligerents. The insurgents were not only outnumbered but outgunned and unlike their opponents didn't have warplanes for air cover and bombing and strafing runs. Western troops were ferried in by helicopters and rockets were fired from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, in one case killing ten members of an Afghan family when their house was hit.

Nevertheless a U.S. officer described the fighting being as tough as that in Fallujah six years earlier. "In Fallujah, it was just as intense. But there, we started from the north and worked down to the south. In Marjah, we're coming in from different locations and working toward the centre, so we're taking fire from all angles." [4]

The offensive was initiated on February 13th and six weeks later it was reported that U.S. and NATO troops were "still coming under fire and being targeted by bomb attacks despite efforts to restore Afghan government control." [5]

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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:
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