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Troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan now!

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Iraq and the US have negotiated a draft agreement setting out a timetable for US troop withdrawal. It states that combat troops must be removed from Iraqi cities by 2009 and from the rest of the country by 31 December 2011. Some are heralding the agreement as the beginning of Iraq's future as an independent state. But as the US struggles to maintain its economic and political influence in Iraq and steps up the pressure against the resistance in Afghanistan where there are 60,000 foreign troops  the need for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of US and UK troops from the region is as urgent as ever.

Iraq: end the occupation

The accord is an unexpected development, for just 10 months ago George Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed a declaration to establish a long-term relationship between the countries, paving the way for a permanent military presence to allow the US to use the country as a base from which to dominate the rest of the region.

Why is George Bush suddenly accepting this policy? It stands in sharp contradiction to General Petraeus, the commander of US forces in Iraq, who said that their role is nowhere near finished there - on the same day that the recent agreement was revealed.

The official White House explanation is that, since the success of the 30,000 US troop surge earlier this year, the Iraqi security forces are now able to defend themselves. The Iraqi army reported successes fighting the Mehdi resistance army between March and May. However, what they don't say is that more US troops are now required to hold the line in Iraq than before the surge; and although US military casualties are down, in July alone 851 Iraqi civilians and security personnel were killed.

The reality is that statistics and reports from Iraq do not reflect a more stable and secure country. The US move is not based on an assessment that the Iraqi state apparatus has control over the country; rather it wanted to secure an open-ended occupation but has been forced by mass opposition into agreeing a timetable of withdrawal.

The USA's initial plans had included building 400 permanent military bases, immunity for US troops and foreign contractors from Iraqi law and the right of the occupation forces to use deadly force. These repressive proposals sparked such opposition from the Iraqi people that even Nouri al-Maliki and his usually spineless collaborating government were forced to demand that the US troops leave.

But even with these concessions, the occupation may continue. Firstly, the US is insisting that the withdrawal is dependant on the "situation on the ground", providing them with a loophole to wriggle out of the agreement. Furthermore, plans to install permanent military bases and control border posts with Iran continue. And finally, the recent negotiations do not address who will control Iraq's oil wealth, privatised services and construction industry. After creating a five-year bloodbath in Iraq, the US intends to continue sucking its resources dry.

As Workers Power has said from day one of the US/UK invasion of Iraq, no timetable set by the imperialist nations can be the solution for Iraq. Every day the troops stay, the situation deteriorates and destabilises further. The proof that conditions have not improved is the 4.7 million refugees who have not yet been able to return to their homes; in fact, Iraqis continue to flee their homes at a rate of around 60,000 a month. US and UK imperialism went into Iraq with the intention of increasing their political influence and control of oil and economic resources, so it stands to reason that any programme that they design for withdrawal will favour these interests.

Workers and socialists should support Iraqi people who are driving out the occupiers, those who are fighting to take back control of their own country  the ones that are resisting the occupation. They are fighting for their right to self-determination as a nation  not to be dictated to by the White House or Downing Street.

Afghanistan: "the noble cause of the 21st century"?

The imperialist timetable for withdrawal is not a victory for Iraq and the anti-war movement  it is simply the imperialists reshuffling to send troops to Afghanistan. Politicians on both sides of the pond continue to label Afghanistan as the "good war": Des Browne, UK Defence Secretary, recently said it was the "noble cause of the 21st century"; while Barack Obama, having gained support for his anti-war stance on Iraq, has declared Afghanistan to be the "central front" in the war on terror. Of course, the war in Afghanistan is being pursued for exactly the same reasons as in Iraq: to further the interests of Western imperialism through their resolute pursuit of oil and domination, not democracy and freedom. The occupying forces want control of the oil pipeline to the Caspian Sea but are also interested in placing permanent bases in the country because of its strategic geopolitical importance bordering central Asia, Iran, India and Pakistan.

However, NATO forces are currently losing the ground war. Aid agencies have reported that instability and violence have now spread to previously stable areas, and civilian deaths have risen sharply accounting for nearly half of the 2,500 lives lost since January. The number of occupying troops killed in Afghanistan overtook Iraq in May. The surge of NATO troops is so far failing to dampen the resistance to the point that Zbigniew Brezinski, the former US national security adviser, warned that by increasing troops "we run the risk that our military presence will gradually turn the Afghan population entirely against us".

Victory to the resistance! Troops out now!

The last seven years of the war on terror have shown that the White House's vision of a uni-polar world will not be easily achieved because it will meet resistance every step of the way. The Project for a New American Century is fundamentally against the will and interests of the majority of people in the Middle East and in the imperialist heartlands. The US/UK anti-war movement must support all those forces fighting for their liberation against the imperialist forces and fight in our own countries to end the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.