Revealed: the secret US air war
By James Tweedie, Dec 22, 2007, 07:56
Peace campaigners expressed shock yesterday at revelations of a massive escalation in US air attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A report by Anthony H Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies found a massive increase in the number of air attacks on the two countries from 2006 to 2007.
The centre was founded by veteran US warmonger Zbigniew Brzezinski, the mastermind of the US-funded 1979-1989 Afghan war.
Mr Cordesman’s report found 1,119 “close air support/precision” (CAS) bombing raids in Iraq in 2007, an incredible fivefold increase on 2006.
In Afghanistan, the number of CAS raids rose from an already massive 1,770 in 2006 to 2,926 this year, a 65 per cent increase over the year and 34 times as many as in 2004.
Mr Cordesman attributed the rising use of air power in Iraq and Afghanistan to the “surge” or escalation in Iraq and to an increase in “Taliban activity,” coupled with a lack of NATO and Afghan army forces, in Afghanistan.
He pointed out that most aircraft sorties do not result in the dropping of bombs but he admitted: “This does not mean that there were not civilian casualties or collateral damage to civil facilities.”
A Stop the War Coalition spokesman said that the increasing reliance of NATO on air strikes demonstrates “the poverty of its military strategy and only results in large numbers of civilian deaths.”
More than 6,000 Afghan civilians have been killed in the fighting this year alone, almost twice as many as died during the US-led invasion in 2001.
However, the figures in the report do not paint the whole picture, as they exclude attacks where only machine guns, 20mm and 30mm cannon or rockets were used.
This would exclude most attacks by helicopter gunships and the A-10 close air support aircraft.
It is unclear whether high-level raids by heavy bombers are included and no mention is made of ground-based artillery bombardments.
In addition, the figures for Afghanistan only include air forces attached to the US so-called Operation Enduring Freedom mission and not the NATO International Security Assistance Force.
The figures also show that the quantity of supplies air-dropped to troops has almost doubled, as it has become too dangerous to deliver by road in Afghanistan.
Media Workers Against the War spokesman David Crouch said: “Andrew Gilligan was right when he said that Iraq is underreported.
“As a result, we have a very limited understanding of the surge and what it means for Iraqis on the ground.
“Afghanistan really is Britain’s forgotten war,” said Mr Crouch.
“Almost all we read about it in the newspapers are Ministry of Defence press releases.
“It’s hardly surprising, then, that shocking figures like these come seemingly out of the blue.”
Labour MP John McDonnell added: “These figures give the lie to the image portrayed by the government that Iraq is being pacified and demonstrate the intensity of the conflict in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The reality is that the coalition forces have been defeated.
“They’re using air strikes rather than risk troops on the ground,” said the MP.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman refused to discuss US tactics.
But he claimed: “UK air power is used with great restraint and only when necessary.”