September 25, 2009

The McChrystal Ball predicts more troops and more war.

Canadian Peace Alliance

On October 7, organize in your community to bring the troops home now.

Join us on October 7, the eighth anniversary of the start of the war, to organize in your community to bring the troops home now.

What can you do on October 7:

1) Organize a mass leafleting and distribute Afghanistan factsheets and postcards, available for download on the CPA website: Don’t forget to download some petitions, fill them with signatures, and return them to the CPA office. Please fax completed petitions to 416-588-5556.

2) Organize a public forum to discuss the issue of the war. Host it in your neighbourhood, during a lunch break at work, or on campus.

3) Organize a banner drop. Help make the public’s opposition to the war more visible.

4) Organize a street poll in your area. Ask people on the street, “Should we bring Canadian troops home from Afghanistan Now!” This is a great visual to accompany your outreach.

5) Meet with your local Member of Parliament, or organize a “phone-in” day to keep the pressure on the politicians.

6) Write a letter to the editor. The newspapers are full of articles about the war, and anti-war voices are getting a bigger hearing. Let us know you’ve sent a letter, and cc

The McChrystal Assessment

The top US soldier in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has delivered a bleak assessment of the war in a strategic document leaked to the Washington Post. His document contains little news about the war, but it is nevertheless significant. Coming from the highest levels of the US military, McChrystal’s document is an explicit call for the US and its NATO partners to send more troops to Afghanistan.

The main thrust of his argument is that, while the war is going badly for the West, there is still time to turn it around—but with another surge in troops. It is expected that McChrystal will ask for between 10,000 and 45,000 new troops.

Most observers have known for some years now that the war is being lost, that the resistance to NATO’s occupation is growing, and that widespread corruption in the Afghan government leaves most Afghans with little hope for the future. We also know that, with each new deployment of troops, violence in Afghanistan increases. In fact, it is the presence of foreign soldiers that keeps giving the Taliban a new lease on life.

NATO is now in damage-control mode. The recent presidential election in Afghanistan has been a disaster, and has led one-time supporters in the West to question the purpose of the mission. In every NATO country, including the US, there is now a clear majority of public opinion in opposition to the occupation. McChrystal’s document is a desperate attempt to win back public support for the war.

But McChrystal doesn’t provide any brilliant new insights. Instead, he rehashes the same old arguments about “staying the course” and issues a call to pursue tactics that will “win the hearts and minds” of the Afghan people.

His main argument is that NATO should maintain a presence in regions that it has conquered—to “connect with the people” and to stop the resistance from re-capturing the territory once NATO forces leave. Media reports in Canada suggest that McChrystal’s document is a vindication of the so-called “model village” strategy adopted by Canadian Forces in Deh-e-Bagh.

But this is essentially a call for a larger and deeper occupation.

Once again, the assessment misses the mark. There is no new tactical approach that will win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, as long as it extends control of a corrupt government dominated by drug lords and warlords. The Afghan people don’t want their land occupied by foreign troops. The fact that only one “model village” has been created in eight years of war renders any triumphalism about this strategy a little premature.

The second major argument is that NATO needs to train more Afghan police and soldiers, but offers no new plans to overcome the obstacles that have made such training impossible. The Afghan police and army have been unable to retain recruits. After their training, police recruits are sent to remote outposts, where they become target practice for the resistance. As a result, more than 60 per cent of them are addicted to heroin.

In the Afghan army, desertion is commonplace. In a country where 40 per cent of the men are unemployed, the short-term job of becoming a soldier provides some stable employment. But after receiving their training, most soldiers desert and join the resistance.

The Canadian government has yet to announce any plan to extend Canada’s mission—as the McChrystal document asks. But we know that Prime Minister Stephen Harper supports continuing the occupation. Defence Minister Peter McKay has already hinted at a new role for Canada after 2011, which would include training members of the Afghan National Army and police. But that would require a significant military commitment past 2011.

In Canada, the threat of a federal election has shifted the debate about the war. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives share the blame for extending the war in Afghanistan to 2011. Not surprisingly, neither party wants an election in which the war is an issue. It is up to us in the peace movement to build that opposition, and to keep the question of the war front-and-centre for the Canadian public and politicians alike.

Join us on October 7, the eighth anniversary of the start of the war, to organize in your community to bring the troops home now.

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