Use of U.S. ground forces = new dangers

Although U.S. and British “special forces” have been rumored to be on the ground in Afghanistan since the beginning of the bombing on Oct. 7, it wasn’t until last week that the Pentagon and Bush administration acknowledged the deployment of U.S. ground troops to Afghanistan.

About 1,000 U.S. troops, reportedly “heavy weather specialists,” are in Uzbekistan from the 10th Mountain Division. The Pentagon’s spin on the ground forces is that they are there to help the bombing campaign with better intelligence and to advise and assist the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance forces.

American servicemen will be brought to areas controlled by the anti-Taliban coalition, military sources told Interfax News Agency. “Therefore, the American military contingent in Afghanistan will reach 400 men within the next few days,” an expert said.

Attempts to get additional special forces teams into the country reportedly have failed because their helicopters have been unable to cope with the freezing rain of the Afghan mountains.

Asked if the new deployments represented a “significant increase” in the U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan, General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, affirmed, “It is. It’s an increase.”

But with the introduction of U.S. ground troops, many fear a dangerous escalation of the war with unforseen consequences, including in the neighboring countries of Uzbekistan and Pakistan.

With the U.S. attempting to set up bases both inside Afghanistan and in neighboring Uzbekistan, political problems are emerging for the Bush-driven war on terrorism coaltion, domestically and internationally. Uzbek President Islam Karimov, a notorious human rights abuser, is publically stating Uzbek bases will be strictly for “search and rescue and humanitarian missions,” because of the political pressures he would face with open support for U.S. military actions.

Pakistan has urged the U.S. to “pause the bombing” during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a proposal that has been rejected so far by the Bush administration, and has given cautionary support to the military actions.

While U.S. opinion polls still run in favor of the military actions and the use of ground troops, many political activists have expressed that this might change. Information on Afghan civilian casualities, including children, and the humanitarian and refugee crises caused by the bombing – along with the brutal Bush assault on working families and civil liberties at home could cause shifts against the war policy.

Norman Ospina, director of immigration programs for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Chicago said ground troops and the war policy is a “waste of human potential and a waste of humanity.”

Ospina said the U.S. ground forces sent to fight and kill in Afghanistan are majority young working-class kids, mainly Black and Latino, who need money for college. Ospina said the first casualty of war is truth and access to information without it being “certified by the government.” The American Patriot Act and the 1,100 detainees are cause for worry, Ospina said. “They are more like the disappeared than detainees,” he said, “That’s what happened in Chile and Argentina. Where are these 1,100 individuals?”

The AFSC is part of a nationwide coalition for peace. They are sponsoring a vigil for civil liberties and access to information on the detainees.