Fifth Afghan War (2001)

Conditioned to kill

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As the war in Afghanistan continues without an end in sight, Dave Crouch delves into the testimony of serving soldiers to reveal the full horror of an unwinnable conflict.

The shell that killed seven year old Shabia was fired by British troops. As the mortar landed, fragments of molten shrapnel sliced into her fragile body while phosphorus burned through her thick hair. The patrol called an ambulance. But Shabia was transferred to a squalid Afghan hospital. Within hours she succumbed to her wounds and died.

Afghanistan fears

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The war in Afghanistan is in crisis - the US postponed the summer offensive and the split between Hamid Karzai and the occupation forces worsens.

Afghanistan is changing fast. In the south and east the Taliban resistance controls most of the villages. In the west and north the government has begun to lose control. Crucially, the sort of divide and rule policy the US used in Iraq is not working here. The non-Pushtun militias won't fight the Taliban, and there are no ethnic riots or pogroms.

Moreover, American public opinion now opposes the war. Facing re-election, Obama has pledged to start reducing troops by the summer of 2011.

Afghanistan: the elephant in the room

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The reason British troops are in Afghanistan has nothing to do with the safety of the British people and even less to do with the security of the world.

Instead it has everything to do with paying the "blood price" for the "special relationship" with the US, an unequal relationship that obsesses politicians.

The despatch of further British troops to Afghanistan in 2006 was accompanied by defence secretary John Reid's pious hope that they might not have to fire a shot during their three-year mission. We are now in the fourth year with no end in sight and millions of shots have been fired.

US: Imperialism

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The long war that is getting longer.

It has been called Barack Obama's "LBJ" moment, where a progressive president is dragged into escalating an unpopular war in the hope that a quick success could rescue the US's reputation around the world.

Lyndon Baines Johnson, who assumed the presidency following the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1962, was praised by many progressives for his support for civil rights legislation. But his failure in Vietnam eventually destroyed his presidency.

Fort Hood: Iraq and Afghanistan - the resurgence of anti-war cafes

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In Killeen, Texas, the Under the Hood Cafe is getting military families and soldiers organised. Its founder, Cynthia Thomas, talks to Judith Orr


Why did you set up the Under the Hood Outreach Center and Cafe?

The concept of the coffee houses has been around since the 1960s during the Vietnam War. There was actually one here in Killeen during that time called the Oleo Strut. When the wars started with Afghanistan and Iraq, people were talking about setting up a coffee house again.

Fighting for soldiers

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Lance Corporal Joe Glenton has been a soldier for five years. He first went to Afghanistan in 2006, but refused to return. Next month he faces a court martial for desertion.

He wrote to Gordon Brown to explain: "The war in Afghanistan is not reducing the terrorist risk. Far from improving Afghan lives it is bringing death and devastation to their country. Britain has no business there."

I am proud to legally represent Joe. He is following his conscience. It is a sign of the mood inside the army that his stand is popular with fellow soldiers, who treat him like their shop steward.

Dissent in the ranks

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The war in Iraq left the country in ruins and the occupation in Afghanistan is being questioned on a scale not seen since the 2001 invasion.

The "good" war has gone bad. General McChrystal, the new US general appointed by Barack Obama to turn the war around, has said that without more troops the West will lose. Nato troops have been occupying Afghanistan for eight years and have largely avoided the scrutiny and opposition that the occupation of Iraq received. The warmongers have managed to hide behind the myth that Afghanistan was a just war against the Taliban, who oppressed women and provided shelter for Al Qaida. But no longer.

Interview with Tariq Ali: Occupational hazards

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Rising military casualties have stimulated public debate about the war in Afghanistan. Judith Orr asks writer, broadcaster and activist Tariq Ali about the war and the prospects for the US imperialist project.

At Marxism 2009 you spoke about how "things are not going well" for the US and British governments in Afghanistan. It seems since then things have got a good deal worse. Military leaders talk of being in Afghanistan for many years, if not decades, and some are openly admitting the war is unwinnable. Is this a situation where, even if the US know they can't succeed, to withdraw is unthinkable? As the war aims constantly shift, are they now only concerned with not being seen to be beaten?

The Afghan quagmire

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The summer of 2009 marked the time when the war in Afghanistan came back to haunt the British government.

The "good war" has now become a hotly contested conflict. The new head of the British armed forces has predicted a 40 years British presence in the country, while the US army chief has admitted that Nato forces are losing the war and that they have a year to turn the situation round.

Operation Panther's Claw, launched as the US and British attempt to finally deal with the Taliban, caused ever higher casualties among the occupying troops and was manifestly failing in its stated aim.

Pakistan on the brink

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As the protest movement in Pakistan scores a victory, the Afghanistan war threatens increasing instability along the countries' shared border. Geoff Brown assesses this key faultline of US imperialism

It is hard to exaggerate the mood in Pakistan when it was announced that the chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, was returning to office. The protest movement, led by lawyers, which threatened to overwhelm President Asif Zardari, won a real victory. People were dancing in the street.

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