Afghanistan: Bush’s military nightmare

President Bush’s administration are gung-ho about taking military action against Osama bin Laden and his Taliban hosts.

War in Afghanistan

Bush’s military nightmare?

But if previous US military engagements are anything to go by, the long-suffering Afghans will pay the price of operation ’Infinite Justice’. In August 1998 president Bill Clinton retaliated against the bombings of US embassies in East Africa by firing cruise missiles at bin Laden targets, including training camps in Afghanistan (designed by the CIA in the 1980s and built by bin Laden’s construction company!) and a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan, which was supposedly manufacturing VX nerve gas. Needless to say, bin Laden was not "taken out" and the flattened pharmaceutical plant was actually producing prescription medicines and vitamins for Sudan’s people.

With bin Laden and his Al-Qaida group constantly on the move, military strategists are considering sending in US special forces to assassinate bin Laden. This would stir up massive opposition among the populations of Middle Eastern states and the wider ex-colonial world. And the possibility of casualties amongst US ground troops would also revive bad memories of the Vietnam war amongst Americans. Such action may also fail to deliver bin Laden "dead or alive" as George Bush succinctly puts it. During their ten-year occupation of Afghanistan, the Soviet army launched seven military offensives against guerrilla leader Ahmed Massoud in his Panshir Valley stronghold but failed to assassinate him. In the treacherous mountain terrain of much of Afghanistan it’s hard to see how foreign troops could ensnare and destroy bin Laden and his battle-hardened guerrillas. Even in Bosnia with K-For troops on the ground, NATO special forces failed to apprehend Bosnian Serb war criminals Mladic and Karadic.

During the last two decades of warfare in Afghanistan few military guerrilla commanders have been killed in action, most have lost their lives to a close associate, ally or relative.

Afghanistan has historically been a graveyard for invading armies as the British in the 19th century and the Russians in the 20th century found to their cost. US forces may fare no bette

This article first appeared in The Socialist

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September 2001