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Afghanistan: Blair’s second front

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Britain has deployed 3,000 troops in southern Afghanistan, for a three year stint, at a cost of £1 billion. Tony Blair, who famously said about Iraq that the price in British lives was “worth paying”, is again asking working class 22 year-olds to stump up the “blood price”.

Of course, the army is trying to lull the public with nonsense about how the greater professionalism and “friendly” character of the British troops will win hearts and minds and minimise casualties. But they are working not with Badr brigade allies as in Basra, but up against hardened Taliban and al-Qa’ida jihadis.

When British troops joined the serious fighting in Iraq, during the November 2004 assault on Fallujah, the Black Watch battlegroup suffered four deaths in as many days, before pulling back to the south to lick its wounds. There will be blood spilt in large quantities. Perhaps Blair might like to persuade his son Euan to quit his internship with a Republican congressman and go shed a little blood for his country.

Blair claims that it is worth all this blood to create a “democratic Afghanistan” under Mohammed Karzai. Just like the democratic Iraq that is descending into bloody chaos. In fact both invasions and occupations have nothing whatsoever to do with democracy.

The US-UK invasion of Afghanistan used the pretext of 9/11 to secure control of routes along which to extract the oil and natural gas of the Caspian basin, an area otherwise encircled by imperialist rival Russia, potential rivals, China and India, and hostile Islamist Iran. The neoconservative Bush-Cheney team also has closer ties with Big Oil than any previous administration.

But their strategy is looking increasingly ragged. Last July, the Uzbek dictator (and well known torturer and murderer) Islam Karimov renounced his alliance with the US, and closed down their airbase in the country. Subsequently, he has moved back into the orbit of Moscow, signing major contracts with Gazprom.

In Afghanistan, too, things are getting worse. In 2005, 99 GIs killed, nearly half the total (214) killed in Afghanistan since the invasion. Last year saw a record number of aid workers and civilians killed, too.

The Pentagon must reduce the mounting casualties and plummeting morale of its volunteer military, if it is to solve its recruitment crisis, and prepare for further adventures - in Iran or Syria. So Blair is now being forced to pay for strutting the world stage as the close comrade in arms of Bush, with the blood of more British soldiers - and many more Afghan villagers.