Afghanistan: Aggravating misery under imperialist occupation

After three and a half years of US occupation, peace, stability, and freedom are restricted in the presidential enclave behind huge concrete blocks in Kabul. Here is where Mr. Karzai resides. American mercenaries guard him, advised or dictated to, whatever you may call it, by American diplomats and instructed by the State Department in Washington.

Occasionally the US ministers, officials, Senators, congressmen, and diplomats pay visits to Kabul to inspect the job they have assigned to this stooge. These breeds of new Afghan leaders are trying to bleed the country’s already depleted resources after decades of devastation and ravages of war. Before the overt US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 US imperialism had been trying to destabilize and destroy this tragic country through covert operations for decades.

After the 27 April 1978, Saur (spring) revolution in Afghanistan, feudalism, obscurantism, trade of women and ruthless exploitation by a minuscule capitalist elite were threatened. The new regime of the PDPA lead by Nur Mohammad Tarakai was making drastic land reforms, banning usury and flesh trade and was trying to overthrow the rotten semi-capitalist, semi-feudal system in Afghanistan. These evils were the cornerstone of US imperialist hold on Afghanistan. Hence the CIA launched its largest covert operation in modern history to overthrow the left-wing regime and destabilise Afghanistan. They used sabotage and tried to destroy the already weak and destabilised infrastructure of Afghanistan.

They set up terrorist through camps in Pakistan’s North Western region and in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. These Islamic fanatics were sent into Afghanistan to carry out acts of terrorism and cause mayhem and destruction. Massive amounts of money and arms were pushed in to prop up this reactionary insurgency. To finance this the Saudi oil revenues were also utilised to a large extent. Similarly one of the Saudis recruited by the CIA to fight this Afghan Jihad was Osama Bin Laden. As in all other operations, the CIA used drug smuggling and other criminal methods to sustain the finances of this Jihad. Hence the destruction of Afghanistan in the 1980s attributed to the PDPA governments by the western media is not only a blatant lie but it was exactly the opposite. While the left-wing regime in Afghanistan was trying to build the country, the American and the reactionary forces of Islamic fundamentalism unleashed by the imperialists were trying to devastate Afghanistan.

A sovereign country was being attacked and its government blamed for war and devastation. Such is the reality of the “freedom of the media” so sacrosanct for the western intellectuals. But even after the fall of the Najibullah government in 1992, the American intervention increased as it supported one of the warring factions against the others to keep its control and hegemony.

It is also true that the Taliban, now so much ridiculed by the western media and demonised to terrorize the workers, especially of the advanced capitalist countries, were in reality sponsored and propped up by the Americans and their multinational corporations especially the oil giant UNOCAL.

The conditions of the Afghan masses after the overthrow of the Taliban and the US invasion have further deteriorated. The melodramatic stories of the western press about the atrocious treatment of women under the Taliban may have faded away but the plight of the vast majority of women remains incredible. For the vast majority the veil (Burqa) has not gone away and they are still being subjected to heinous atrocities. On 23rd April a 29-year-old married woman Amina was dragged out of her house stoned to death for alleged adultery in Badakshan province.

Poverty, deprivation, hunger, disease, and misery stalk the land. There are constant reports of starvation, and deaths due to cold weather are rampant. The picture being painted by the NGOs is a deceptive one, as the mass of the population still has no access to clean drinking water, sanitation, hospitals, dispensaries, and schools.

The American invasion has devastated Afghanistan much more then the preceding two decades of civil strife. The ruthless carpet-bombing has killed thousands, including women, children, and the elderly. They have ravaged Afghanistan with bombs and ammunition worth $10bn while they have not even given a billion dollars for the so-called reconstruction of Afghanistan. The little development funds that do come in are eaten up by the “security concerns.” Time and again resistance not only from the Taliban escalates. Killings, clashes, and helicopter crashes have become a sort of a norm in today’s Afghanistan. And the largest section of Afghanistan’s economy comprises of the poppy and heroin trade.

Under Taliban rule Afghanistan had 4,163 acres planted with poppies. Under General John Abizaid 510,766 acres in Afghanistan are being used for poppy cultivation (both figures from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy). The Taliban produced 40 metric tons of opium, or the equivalent to five metric tons of heroine. Under the commander-in- chief of US Central Command, Afghanistan produces 5000 metric tons of opium or the equivalent of 600 metric tons of heroine.

In 2001 Afghanistan’s entire heroin stock was worth $600 million on the streets of Frankfurt and Rotterdam. Last years crop could fetch upwards of $50 billion on the same streets. This is roughly two thirds of Pakistan’s annual GDP. Afghanistan has six neighbours, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and China. Of the six the Pakistan-Afghan border –at 2,430 km—is the longest and most porous. According to Major General Nadeem Ahmed, director general of Pakistan’s Anti Narcotic Force (ANF) some “70 percent of narcotics manufactured in Afghanistan [are] either smuggled to, or transited through Pakistan”.

Poppy is cultivated across the border in Afghanistan but most labs are across the border in Pakistani territory. The “Opium Express Way” has three corridors: the southern corridor of the “Golden Crescent” is through the Pakistani cities of Islamabad, Sialkot (sports goods, etc. dry port) Sukkar, Karachi and into the Arabian sea (there is a fork that goes into India). The western corridor has its route between Tehran, Esfahan, and further west or through Turkey into Europe. The Northern corridor goes into Turkmenistan and through the Caspian Sea. After the American invasion, general Tommy Franks, general Abizaid’s predecessor, recruited every Afghan warlord he could rent – the bigger ones at up to a million dollars a month. The warlords took Tommy’s dollars, bought more guns, increased the numbers of their militants, and brought more territory under their control. They took the dollars, fought the Taliban and they then made even more dollars by growing more poppies on the territory under their control. Most CIA human assets in Afghanistan also went into the business of sowing seeds to sponsor America’s so-called war on terror.

Afghanistan’s heroin is the purest there is and it remains its alternative currency. Warlords, farmers, and traders all store heroin as others around the globe stash money in the banks. Hamid Karzai may be the ruler of Kabul but drug barons, closely allied to the American forces, are the real rulers of Afghanistan. The White House office of National Drug Policy (a component of the executive office of the president) says, “ little Afghan heroin has ended up on US streets, with most Afghan heroin marketed to neighboring countries and Europe.” Once again, as was the case during the reactionary covert war against the PDPA government, CIA assets in Afghanistan now control the Golden Crescent’s heroin trade.

In these conditions there is hardly any possibility of stability and development. The so-called “loya jirga”, the medieval congregation of pre-feudal times is far from being any semblance of democracy. It comprises of warlords, feudal landowners, tribal chieftains, drug barons, Mullahs, remnants of the monarchy and of course western trained businessmen who are there to promote the vested interests of imperialist multinationals. Most of these businessmen have come to Afghanistan on the payroll of these companies and their families still reside in Europe and America.

Those who have advocated a stable Afghanistan under UN auspices after imperialist invasion have been proved to be entirely wrong. Far from being a democratic stable and liberal society, there is a continual spate of violence. There are conflicts between different landlords, drug barons, and the Taliban. The Taliban far from being obliterated started a radio station on April 19th. Mullah Omar and Bin Ladin are still at large and the Americans are trying to negotiate with sections of the Taliban.

Karzai has little or no writ beyond central Kabul. It is not accidental that he has requested a long-term security treaty with the Americans. According to this proposed agreement the US forces are being requested by the Karzai government to stay in Afghanistan for decades. The Europeans are not very keen on it, nor are the Americans. But like in Iraq they are trapped in Afghanistan. US causalities have become a norm in this country. A US withdrawal would mean the immediate collapse of the puppet regime in Kabul and Karzai might flee with the departing American troops.

What has been decisively proved in the last three and a half years is that the imperialist occupation has brought more death and destruction to Afghanistan than the democracy and stability they had promised. The elections held earlier this year were a total sham. It was more on the CNN television screens and much less on the ground. In the refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran most of the votes cast were ghost votes. The primitiveness of Afghanistan does not allow a bourgeois democratic set up. The combined and uneven nature of the development has further exasperated the contradictions between its primitiveness and the selective modernity the imperialists are trying to impose.

Hence, under the present paralytic capitalism, the drug economy and the pre-medieval tribalism, the perspectives for Afghanistan are of more bloodshed and turmoil. There is a seething hatred against imperialist occupation that further aggravates the security situation.

The April 1978 revolution was a tacit vindication of the fact that democracy cannot be sustained and cannot flourish in the primitiveness of Afghan society and the semi-feudal and semi-capitalist forms of economy. But the PDPA leaders had a nationalist approach, rather than a Marxist internationalist approach. The soviet intervention further complicated things for the Afghan Stalinists and the internal crisis of the regime was a major factor that led to its collapse.

A couple of months after the Afghan Revolution discussing the policies and strategy of the “communist party” government, comrade Ted Grant wrote in the summer of 1978:

“The tribesmen will be influenced by the process taking place among their brothers across the borders. On the North West frontier of Pakistan and among the Baluchis there is already endemic and simmering revolt, with these peoples looking towards a unity with their brothers in Afghanistan. The effect would be in widening circles, the repercussion of which could be felt in Iran and further a field, also in India.

“This is the road that the ‘Communist Party’, which holds power together with radical officers, will take. The opposition of the old force in Afghanistan, as in Ethiopia, will in all probability impel them in this direction.

“If they temporize, possibly under the influence of the Russian ambassador and the Russian regime, they will prepare the way for a ferocious counter-revolution based on the threatened nobility and the mullahs. If successful, counter-revolution would restore the old regime on the bones of hundreds of thousands of peasants, the massacres of radical officers and near extermination of the educated elite. For the moment – until there is movement of the only advanced class which can bring a transition moving in the direction of socialism in industrially developed countries – the most progressive development in Afghanistan seems at the present time to be the installation of proletarian Bonapartism.

“While not closing our eyes to the new contradictions this will involve, on the basis of a transitional economy of a worker’s state, without worker’s democracy, Marxists, in a sober fashion, will support the emergence of such a state and further weakening not only of imperialism and capitalism but also of regimes basing themselves on the remnants of feudalism in the most backward countries.”

How intensely this perspective has been vindicated by the subsequent tragic events. Had the PDPA regime appealed on a class basis to the workers of Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere to support the revolution, the CIA sponsored insurgency could have faced a stiff resistance by the mass movements, especially in Pakistan from where it was being launched.

Today the ordeal of the Afghan masses goes on unabated. It is not just the Americans, but also the Indian. Pakistani, Russian, French, Iranian, and even the Chinese rulers, who are playing the new great games, like vultures on the brutalized body of Afghanistan. The only way out of this centuries long suffering of the Afghan masses is a revolutionary solution.

However this revolution is inextricably linked to the revolutionary perspectives in the neighbouring countries, especially Iran and Pakistan. A new generation of youth has grown up. They have seen the horrors of the Taliban regime, the civil war and the brutalities of the American invasion. They are looking for a way out.

Afghanistan historically had a strong left movement. It was not an accident that without the information, and against the will of, the Stalinist bureaucracy in Moscow the revolution took place in Afghanistan in April 1978. However distorted that revolution was, its reforms and other steps against capitalism and obscurantism have left a mark on the memories of the subsequent generations.

The youth is yearning for a change and a revolutionary upsurge of the youth in the so-called barbarous Afghanistan can surprise many. Such a movement would not only force the imperialist occupiers to abdicate Afghanistan but could link up with the revolutionary movement of the masses in Iran and Pakistan, with whom they have historical, social and cultural links.

Similarly a revolutionary upsurge and the attainment of a mass base by the Marxists in Pakistan and Iran could influence the processes in Afghanistan and stimulate a revolutionary upheaval there. Without a socialist revolution not a single problem can be solved, nor can Afghanistan be brought out of the dark ages and primitiveness, into which this system has plunged this land and peoples at the dawn of the twenty first century.