Washington tries to scrounge up troops
Apr 20, 2008
On the eve of the NATO summit, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, said an additional 7,500 soldiers and 3,000 military trainers
needed to be sent immediately to Afghanistan.
Some 59,000 troops from 39 countries are occupying Afghanistan at the
present, including 19,000 U.S. soldiers. Of this number, 47,500 are under NATO
As their mission has faltered and Afghan resistance has grown, internal
rifts in the NATO alliance are being aired publicly. Disagreements over burden
sharing, coordination and strategic direction are plaguing the alliance. Canada
threatened to pull out of Afghanistan if other countries did not send
substantially more troops. Germany has refused to expand its existing force of
The Bush administration had no realistic hope of getting the NATO allies to
send large additional numbers. Yet the Pentagon is so over-stretched in Iraq
that it cannot provide them itself. Bush’s message—“We expect
our NATO allies to shoulder the burden necessary to succeed”—was
hardly popular or winning.
Under pressure during the meetings, President Nicholas Sarkozy grandly said
France would deploy an additional 1,000 troops. The French Parliament
immediately cut this number down to 700. Poland agreed to send another 400
troops. Romania, Spain and Britain pledged to boost their numbers by a few
hundred each. But the immediate goal of 10,000 additional troops was not even
Shrinking coalition in Iraq
Former prime ministers Tony Blair of Britain, John Howard of Australia, Jose
Maria Aznar of Spain and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy lost their elected
positions due to the enormously unpopular commitment of troops to Iraq and
their support of the war. It is now considered political suicide in Western
Europe for politicians to increase their troop commitment in Afghanistan or
The small, dependent new members of NATO being pressed on every side to send
ever more soldiers as cannon fodder to Afghanistan, Iraq and other missions,
get confused on the command structures. Romanian President Traian Basescu
referred to his country’s troops in Iraq as NATO forces at a press
conference on April 8. He was publicly corrected with the explanation that NATO
does not have a mission in Iraq, where Romanian troops are part of the
“International Coalition.” The mission is the same–securing
an imperialist occupation. Only the name is different.
As other imperialist forces–such as Britain, Spain, Italy, Australia
and Japan—withdraw from Iraq, the shrinking “International
Coalition” is carried by ground forces from poorer countries like El
Salvador and Tonga, as well as many once part of or allied to the Soviet Union,
like Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia,
Moldova, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania, Kazakhstan and
The number of non-U.S. troops in Iraq is down from 23,000 in 2003 to less
than 10,000 today, and shrinking.
The costs incurred by 20 of the poorer countries are paid by U.S. taxpayers.
The cost of more than 160,000 U.S. troops and 100,000 private contractors in
Iraq is also paid by the taxes and budget cuts plaguing poor and working people
in the U.S.
Seeds of NATO’s defeat
NATO is first and foremost a military alliance. Therein lie the seeds of its
defeat. Every battle in both Iraq and Afghanistan confirms that while the
U.S./NATO forces may prevail over local resistance forces by the use of
overwhelming military power and indiscriminate bombing, they succeed only in
increasing the size of the resistance and recruiting more insurgents. Sending
more troops only exacerbates the problem.
U.S. imperialism is facing an unsolvable contradiction. The political
movement must be on the alert. These contradictions can make the billionaire
rulers more desperate and more dangerous. As their world economic position
slips, along with the almighty U.S. dollar, they are increasingly attracted to
military solutions. But maintaining the weapons, bases and troops sucks up an
ever-greater share of resources. Militarism is both a life-sustaining corporate
subsidy and an endless drain on the economy as a whole.
With each passing day the cost of endless wars of occupation is becoming
clearer and less acceptable to millions of poor and working people in the U.S.
and across Europe. Increasing economic hardships, budget cuts and military
casualties are undermining this grand military alliance. NATO is crumbling from
below, even as it expands numerically and geographically.