By: James Cogan
The Nation | January 6, 2011
2010 was the bloodiest year of the now nine-year conflict in Afghanistan and the tribal border regions of Pakistan. Under the command of Gen David Petraeus, a massively expanded US and Nato force is waging a campaign of extermination against various ethnic Pashtun and Taliban-linked movements that have not accepted the foreign invasion of their country.
Still justified with threadbare rhetoric about fighting terrorism, the occupation is in fact a neo-colonial and criminal enterprise. Its motive is to crush resistance and transform Afghanistan into a US client state in the oil and gas-rich Central Asian region. It is part of a geopolitical struggle for dominance over territory and lucrative resources, both in Afghanistan itself and in surrounding states, against US rivals such as China, Russia and Iran.
Obama had made the so-called “AfPak War” a cornerstone of his administration’s foreign policy. Since he took office in January 2009, American troop numbers in Afghanistan have been doubled to close to 100,000. Thousands of additional troops have also been sent by various Nato states, pushing the overall US-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) to more than 150,000. By contrast, the Soviet force that occupied the country in the 1980s never exceeded 110,000.
The escalation of the war led to unprecedented violence and brutality in 2010. Thousands of US marines were sent into major offensives against Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan. In areas of Kandahar province, entire villages were razed to the ground, ostensibly to remove insurgent booby-traps. Kandahar itself, a city of 500,000, was turned into a maze of concrete blast walls and checkpoints. Residents are subjected to constant intimidation, searches and biometric eye scans. Supplementing the offensives, there was a major intensification in US airstrikes. In October, over 1,000 missions were flown, compared with 640 the year before. Every several days, Isaf is issuing a new press release hailing the slaughter from the air of another group of alleged insurgents.
Special forces death squads, tasked with assassinating or detaining alleged insurgents, have increased their operations by 600 per cent under Obama. The US military claimed that between mid-September and mid-December alone, such squads carried out 1,785 raids, killed or captured 880 “insurgent leaders”, killed a further 384 rank-and-file fighters and captured another 2,361 alleged insurgents.
The statistics only convey something of the reign of terror that such a scale of Special Forces’ operations represents. Villagers across Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan live in daily fear that their family will be the next targeted. Homes are smashed into in the dead of night, women and children bailed up with guns and the men blindfolded, bound and dragged away. If any resistance is shown, deadly force is used.