U.S. Escalates Intervention in Nepal

Joint U.S.-Nepal Military Exercises

Revolutionary Worker #1184, January 26, 2003, posted at http://rwor.org

On January 14, the Kathmandu Post reported that soldiers from the United States and Nepal were set to begin regular joint military exercises the third week of January.

Nepalese officials said a team of soldiers from the U.S. Pacific Command had already arrived in Nepal and that the "exercises are aimed at enhancing the capability of U.S. and Nepalese forces and improving their ability to work together."

This was confirmed by Constance Colding Jones, the U.S. Embassy spokesperson in Kathmandu, who said the U.S. Pacific Command forces planned on carrying out month-long joint military exercises.

Officials from the Royal Nepalese Army announced that the joint exercises would take place somewhere in central Nepal.

According to the U.S. Embassy, the exercises have three purposes: "to enhance the operational capability of the U.S. Pacific forces; to improve their inter-operability with other forces; and also to increase the tactical efficiency of the host nation."

Jones said, "The exercise is part of our on-going military exchange program. It's a business-as- usual kind of thing." She claims the exercises are part of a "routine series"--not part of U.S. assistance to the Nepalese government's fight against Maoist rebels.

On January 19, 2003 the New Zealand Herald reported: "A team of 49 military experts from the United States is in Nepal to train soldiers to better fight Maoist rebels, say diplomats. Robert Boggs, deputy head of the U.S. embassy in Nepal's capital Kathmandu, said the team was working with the Nepalese Army in areas most affected by the six-year Maoist insurgency. 'They are really helping the Nepalese Army. But the US Army team is not here, I repeat, not here to launch a joint military operation against the Maoist rebels,' Boggs said."

Anyone who has been following the intense situation in Nepal--and the growing U.S. concern-- recognizes that these moves are a major escalation in the U.S. getting directly involved in helping the reactionary Nepalese government fight the popular Maoist insurgency.

The People's War in Nepal, which has been going on since 1996, has continued to make political and military advances--controlling base areas throughout the country and increasing its military skills and capacity.

The Royal Nepalese Army has not been very successful against the People's Liberation Army (PLA). And the Nepalese government has been in an intense state of political crisis over how to deal with a situation where they have lost control of much of the countryside. Government forces have killed thousands of people just in the last year and rounded up, tortured, raped, and imprisoned many more. But the unrestrained and vicious unleashing of the RNA has not stopped the PLA guerrillas from carrying out successful military raids, involving thousands of guerrillas and villagers in one action. And Nepal's King and ruling political leaders have been begging for money and weapons from other countries. And the United States has been in the forefront of answering this request.

Throughout 2002, the U.S. got more directly involved in supporting the counter-revolution in Nepal. Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.S. military advisors visited Nepal, and Prime Minister Deuba met with Bush at the White House.

The U.S. has not put the Maoists in Nepal on its official list of "terrorists." But many high-level U.S. officials continue to refer to the Maoists in Nepal as "terrorists" and the U.S. government has justified aid to Nepal as part of the global "war on terrorism."

The People's War in Nepal is a genuine war of liberation with widespread support among the people and has nothing in common with groups like al-Qaida. But this fact has not stopped the U.S. from trying to fabricate some kind of comparison.

A proposal by Bush for $20 million in economic and military aid to Nepal says, "We currently do not have direct evidence of an al-Qaida presence in Nepal, but weak governance has already proved inviting to terrorists, criminals and intelligence services from surrounding countries...continued instability in Nepal could create the conditions in which terrorists easily could establish operations, especially in remote areas in the far west of the country. In addition, Nepal has a substantial Muslim minority, located primarily along the Indian border. The combination of proximity, rugged terrain and a distracted government could well afford conditions that the al-Qaida would find favorable in its search for safe havens."

This is yet another example of how for the U.S., terrorism is "whatever we say it is"-- that any group that stands in the way of U.S. interests can be labeled terrorist and targeted with the preemptive logic of "what might happen, what they could do, what they might do," etc.

In December American Embassy officials announced U.S. plans to provide Nepal with $17 million in military assistance in 2003 and that U.S. military assistance would also include training of the RNA.

In early January, the U.S. Congress approved $12 million in "non-lethal" military aid to Nepal (in response to the $20 million request from Bush) and the U.S. has also pledged an additional $24 to 38 million in development funds separate from military aid.

One U.S. State Department official was quoted in the news saying, "Twelve million can't buy a hell of a lot of F-16s (fighter jets) and they don't need F-16s, it is much more basic than that."

On January 5, the Royal Nepalese Army received a shipment of 3,000 U.S. M-16 assault rifles and is expecting another 2,000 guns as part of the promised military assistance from the U.S.

The U.S. is clearly worried about the continuing success of the People's War in Nepal. One newspaper reported that "Washington has been dismayed at the growing strength of the insurgency..."

In early December U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca went to Kathmandu to discuss the security situation in the country. During her meetings with Prime Minister Chand and Nepal's Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary, Rocca expressed concerns over the escalating Maoist violence and pledged U.S. assistance to combat it. A highly placed source in the Nepalese government told the Kathmandu Post that Rocca urged the various ruling political parties--who have been fraught with in-fighting--to unite in order to fight the Maoists and to also "close the gap between them and the king." On the "Maoist problem," the source said that while some forces within the Nepalese government want to try and resolve the conflict through talks and negotiations, the U.S. is stressing the need for strong military action.

Meanwhile, a number of other reactionary governments around the world have also responded to the Nepalese government's plea for military aid. As the RW has reported, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and India have all expressed support for the Nepalese government's counter-revolution and provided military support.

In September the Belgium government announced it was selling 5,500 machine guns to Nepal. The Green Party protested the decision, citing a collective pledge of many European and Western countries not to sell arms to countries where "such delivery is likely to strengthen conflicts within or outside the country." A senior cabinet minister in the coalition government resigned in protest and the delivery of the weapons was temporarily delayed. But, on January 8, the first shipment of Minimi machine guns from the Belgian government arrived in Kathmandu. As per the 25 million Euro (about $25 million) deal, the Belgium manufacturer, Fabrique Nationale Herstal, is to deliver a total of 5,500 Minimi machine guns to the RNA in several phases.

All this international military aid is aimed at bolstering the RNA's ability to defeat the Maoists. The Kathmandu Post reported on January 1:

"The 55,000-strong RNA is being upgraded, as is the APF and the civilian police force. The security forces are being trained in launching counter insurgency tactics in various `CO-IN' schools in India, the UK and the U.S. Very soon, the military air wing of the RNA will have a fleet of one-and-a-half dozen aircraft, which will include at least six MI-17s, one M-28 Air Truck and several light aircraft."

With their newly acquired weapons, the RNA is now planning some new offensives against the People's War. The Kathmandu Post reported on January 14:

"The government is set to deploy a `united special taskforce' of army and police to the Maoist affected areas. The taskforce will comprise of 20,000 security personnel, equally divided between army and police personnel. The taskforce will be equipped with latest weapons, recently purchased from America and Belgium. The taskforce termed as `On The Job Training' is expected to be placed by next month. Both army and police personnel selected for the taskforce will be trained to handle these weapons, before deploying them to the areas. A high level police official told the Kathmandu Post , `It will be the biggest ever operation,' the source said... The taskforce will be deployed in different phases, with the first phase seeing a select band of 2,500 army and police personnel being sent to combat the Maoist rebels.

Up to this point, the RNA has been unable to effectively stop the People's Liberation Army from growing, controlling more areas of the country, and waging successful raids against government forces. Now with thousands of new, more sophisticated weapons, the Nepalese government hopes to have more success. But they must also worry that many of these new more effective weapons will end up in the hands of the People's Liberation Army.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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