Afghanistan

In the bourgeois media today, Afghanistan is portrayed only in relation to Islamic fundamentalism, jihad, warlords and drug cartels. While these ills are a sad fact of life in Afghanistan today, that was not always the case. 40 years ago, a revolution almost shook the country out of its backwardness, only to be thrown back after the imperialist-backed, fundamentalist counter-revolution. To understand the current situation in the Middle East, as well as the rise of the reactionary forces, it is necessary to understand the rise and fall of the Saur revolution in Afghanistan in 1978.

The last reports on Tuesday evening suggested that the Afghan government had suffered a serious setback after a Taliban offensive succeeded in taking control of much of Sangin, a strategic town in the Helmand province.

The recent visit of Pakistan’s military chief previous Sunday has been shrouded in mystery and marked by controversies ever since it was announced.  Apparently instigated by General Raheel Sharif, it comes just weeks after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with US President Barack Obama at the Oval Office to discuss many of the same issues said to be on his army chief's agenda, including Afghan peace talks and Pakistan's nuclear ambitions.

In the past couple of weeks, unprecedented events had been unfolding in Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in the streets of Kabul to protest against the gruesome beheading of 7 people, all whom were ethnically Hazara.

The final round of the presidential elections in Afghanistan, and the “deal” between the two “front runners”, on September 21, was so feeble, and the outcome so rotten, that even bourgeois analysts and reporters had to designate them as pathetic and repulsive.

Just hours before the beginning of the peace talks between the Taliban and the US delegation in Qatar the mercurial Afghan President Karzai suspended talks on a long-term security deal to keep US troops in Afghanistan after NATO leaves in 2014.

The recent atrocities in Afghanistan have once again thrown the Afghan war into the headlines. The latest murders in Kandahar province, where 16 innocent Afghans, including nine children, were shot dead by a rampaging US staff sergeant, have further added to the turmoil and agony of the region. It has served to intensify the mass opposition to foreign occupation, which while promising “democracy”, has drought catastrophe in its wake.

The massacre of sixteen civilians, including children, by a 38-year old US sergeant, reportedly taking part in a “village stabilisation” operation in Kandahar, Afghanistan, exposes the real nature of this so-called “good war”. As with other imperialist wars, this is a blatant aggression for profit and plunder on the part of the imperialist elites.

As the confrontation between the “allies” – US and Pakistan – in the “War on Terror” worsens, the prospect of any fruitful outcome to this war of attrition fades further away. The bloody conflict in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan rages on. The colossal collateral damage caused by imperialist bombings and drone attacks, in reality means the brutal extermination of thousands of innocent souls. The fundamentalist terror doesn’t spare the ordinary people either.

The split between the US generals and politicians could not have come at a worse time. The sacking of McChrystal just at the beginning of the fighting season could disrupt the entire counter-insurgency campaign, which was already going badly. The fact is that a military victory is out of the question. The greatest military power in the world is now overstretched in the region.

After eight years of war in Afghanistan, the inability of Western imperialism to quell the insurgency has entered into a period of crisis. Cracks and divisions within the central government are becoming more and more critical as the military and political situation becomes ever more unstable. Major conflicts within Afghanistan’s Western-backed ruling clique were first brought to a head in August during the presidential elections. The accusations of fraud have left Karzai’s grip on power extremely strained and have left Karzai wondering whether the NATO mission is more hindrance than help.

The western military presence in Afghanistan is presented as a means of pushing the country towards “democracy” and “progress”. Nothing could be further from the truth! The elections earlier this year were a sham. The system being propped up by western troops is utterly corrupt. Here an Afghan reader of our site comments on the situation.

With the latest news of the 100th death this year of a British soldier in Afghanistan, this imperialist adventure is getting more and more unpopular. In an article published in the current issue of Socialist Appeal published at the end of November, Rob Sewell looks at the latest situation and its background of a war that can never deliver social and economic progress to the Afghan people.

The US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan are fighting an unwinnable war. This fact is seeping into the consciousness of millions of people in the west who are now opposed to the war. But also in Afghanistan there are signs that the ordinary people are tired of both the imperialist occupation forces and the Taliban. The only alternative to the present barbarism is the struggle for a socialist federation of South Asia, which would include a socialist Afghanistan.

On Thursday, August 20, 2009, Afghanistan held its provincial and presidential elections. This is the second presidential election since the occupation of the country began in 2001. While a winner has yet to be declared, many predicted that incumbent Hamid Karzai would win outright in the first round of the election, although recent reports suggest a second round of voting is possible. Regardless of who is elected, they will be backed by the US-led NATO occupation forces, who aren’t planning on leaving any time soon.

Afghanistan is entering a period of acute crisis that could put the final nail in the coffin of the imperialist intervention there. Contradictions in the military and political situation have been building beneath the surface for years. The inability of NATO to defeat the Taliban is a direct reflection of the corruption, nepotism, and incompetence of the Karzai regime.

The war in Afghanistan has re-emerged in the headlines as casualty rates for American and British forces have now reached their highest since the invasion of Afghanistan. Already more than one hundred American troops have been killed since the beginning of this year alone, whilst in Britain the news has been dominated by the deaths of eight soldiers who were killed in twenty four hours over the weekend.

A British Army brigadier recently admitted what we said long ago on the pages of this website: a military victory over the Taliban was “neither feasible nor supportable”. Neither side is winning and this is pushing the more realistic and serious minded strategists of capital to look at other solutions, a deal of some kind. Meanwhile the ordinary people continue to suffer.

On June 13th, Taliban fighters launched a large-scale raid on Kandahar prison. Nearly 1,200 prisoners, including 400 Taliban insurgents, were freed. Taliban forces then captured 7 towns and villages in the Arghandab region of Kandahar province. Although NATO forces subsequently regained control, these events highlight the real situation in Afghanistan, one where the Taliban are getting stronger, not weaker.

We are making available to our readers an article written by Engels on Afghanistan 150 years ago. In spite of the years that have passed the article is still relevant today. The imperialists did not understand the situation in Afghanistan then as they continue not to understand it today.

Up until recently, while Iraq was viewed as a quagmire, Afghanistan was seen as a relatively successful part of George Bush’s “War on Terror.” Now, even this silver lining is beginning to disappear.

The media in the West insist that the war in Afghanistan is against "terrorists", but a closer look shows a people resisting imperialist aggression. The country has been brought close to barbarism, but there is still potential for revolutionary developments.

Recent rioting in Kabul after a US military vehicle collided with civilian vehicles killing dozens has highlighted once again the dilemma facing the imperialists. Resentment at the presence of foreign troops is growing among the people as Taliban activities also spread.

With Iraq as the focus of world opinion, Canada, Germany, France and Italy are quietly conducting an imperialist war in Afghanistan. The recent deaths of four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan highlight the need to oppose the intervention.

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.

A number of activists of the Iranian Revolutionary Socialists’ League and the Jed-o Jahd organisation of Pakistan, as well as a section of the revolutionary socialists of Afghanistan, have come together to publish a new joint Marxist paper, an essential tool in the task of spreading the ideas of genuine Marxism in the region. The Farsi text is available in pdf format, with an English version of the articles also available for non Farsi readers.

This is an article from the current Asian Marxist Review on the Loya Jirga, an ancient pre-feudal tradition that is being resurrected by the imperialists to give an illusion of democracy in Afghanistan and to justify their aggression and the rule of their puppets.

The US and coalition forces have been chasing their own shadows for the last few months in Afghanistan without achieving any tangible results. Increasingly frustrated, the US forces are lashing out in all directions, in the vain hope of killing "the enemy". So far the only people killed have been civilians and US allies.

Alan Woods takes a look at the unsuccessful military exploits of the British expeditionary force that Tony Blair so enthusiastically sent to Afghanistan, hoping to take on Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

"Inaction is not an option," declares George W. Bush, seeking to extend the "war on terror" to Iraq. But the recent heavy fighting between US and Afghan forces and the Taliban in Afghanistan gives the lie to those who say the war is over. It is dawning on the military strategists that victory cannot be won by air power alone, and combat troops will be required on the ground for some time to come. However, using Afghan forces has proved complicated, as the warlords - newly armed by the Americans - seek to reassert their influence.

This well researched book was written (by Ahmed Rashid) before the events of September 11th 2001. The author is a journalist who has worked in Afghanistan since 1979. It has been described by The Guardian as the book which is being read by Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell, who allegedly have been heavily influenced by the book. Do not let that deter you from reading this book! It remains to be seen if they have really been influenced by it.

It was quite amusing to hear the reports on the radio that a column of American tanks was advancing on Kandahar. Since this glorious advance only took place after Kandahar had surrendered, this must have been the most painless "triumphal advance" in the history of warfare! This little incident is a good example of the kind of surrealism that has characterised this campaign from the beginning. Predictably, the Americans are shouting victory as loud as they can. Despite all the triumphalism, the real situation becomes clear if we ask ourselves concretely what has been achieved?

"The Marines have landed and the situation is under control." This kind of headline was very common in the 1930s, when the USA had a habit of intervening with tedious regularity in the territory of small states in Central America. Now history seems to be repeating itself - but with a difference. The marines referred to here are, of course, American. While the US marine corps is grabbing the headlines of the world press, a couple of hundred British marines are kicking their heels on the outskirts of Bagram airstrip, while a couple of thousand of their comrades are kept hanging around on army bases in Britain, unloved and unwanted, while Tony Blair fumes in impotent humiliation.

The situation in Afghanistan after the dramatic fall of Kabul continues to give the British and Americans a headache. Washington is still trying to improvise a coherent strategy, making up its policy as it goes along. Bush's lackey, Tony Blair is having trouble keeping step. An update on the war by Alan Woods.

In the Saturday (November 17) issue of the Jang - the biggest daily paper in Pakistan, the well-known columnist Munnoo Bhai published extensive extracts from Alan's article The fall of Kabul with the comment that this is the "best analysis one can find anywhere". The Jang newspaper is read by up to 20 million people every day, and Munnoo Bhai's column is widely read.

Afghanistan is full of surprises. And what surprise could be bigger than the lightening advance of the Northern Alliance over the last seven days? In less than a week, Taliban forces have been swept from most of northern Afghanistan, including the key cities of Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Kunduz, Taloqan, Bamiyan, Jalalabad and the capital Kabul. The question is: How did a force that only two months ago controlled most of Afghanistan get swept from the battlefield so quickly, and is the battle over?

In less than a week, Taliban forces have been swept from most of northern Afghanistan, including the key cities of Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Kunduz, Taloqan, Bamiyan, Jalalabad and the capital Kabul. The question is: How did a force that only two months ago controlled most of Afghanistan get swept from the battlefield so quickly, and is the battle over?

Events inside Afghanistan are moving quickly. So quickly that it is difficult to keep up with the lightening changes in the situation. The fall of Kabul came more quickly than anyone could forsee. Washington hoped that it would be able to hold back the Northern Alliance's advance until it had succeeded in putting together a coalition of non-Taliban forces (read: American stooges) to take over the country. However, in war, events cannot be directed like an orchestra under the conductor's baton. Alan Woods explains how this affects the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.

As the autumn haze sets in, Pakistan seems to be engulfed in an environment of gloom, confusion, apathy and sorrow. The masses are bewildered at what is going on and what is about to happen. It is a country not directly at war and yet all the social and economic implications of a war are very much present. Pakistan society seems to be in a state of war - a war nobody wants to wage, since not even the ruling junta is prepared to commit Pakistani troops to this most peculiar conflict.

To understand the present war that is taking place in Afghanistan, one must take into consideration the factors that have shaped the history of this tragic land. Doctor Zayar gives an overview of the history of Afghanistan from the middle ages to the present day.

Alan Woods reports from Russia on the developments during the first week of the war on Afghanistan and particularly the way in which Russia is advancing her interests in the whole of Central Asia and the Caucasus on the back of the 'war on terrorism'. Woods also outlines the difficulties which the US will increasingly find in this campaign.

"The bombing of Afghanistan has now begun. The most powerful and richest country in the world, the USA, is bombing one of the poorest countries on this planet. And Britain, as usual, is behaving as an obedient lapdog to US imperialism. However they may try to disguise it, this war is not about “justice” or “fighting terrorism”. The aim is to terrorise the peoples of the former colonial countries, to bully them into submitting to the will of the rich and powerful. It is a warning: 'either you do as we say, or you get bombed!'". A first emergency analysis by Fred Weston.

Everything on a world scale is now subordinated to the perspective of war. The fact that the attack on Afghanistan (and other countries) has been delayed does not mean at all that the risk of hostilities has diminished. Alan Woods looks at the world situation as the build up towards war unfolds.

"Many people have been shocked at the media pictures of the unfolding tragedy in Afghanistan. The Taliban regime has carried out a reign of terror, with ethnic cleansing... severe repression against oppressed nationalities and members of other religions, the smashing of statues of Buddha, the public execution of women in Kandhar the whipping... The howling of the oppressed women of Afghanistan reverberates throughout Asia. The question is: who is responsible for this bloody civil war, all these deaths, the hunger, ethnic cleansing and sheer barbarism? The answer is very simple. It was American imperialism which reduced Afghanistan to the level of the Dark Ages and completely destroyed

...

"The dark clouds of war and destruction loom large over Afghanistan and Pakistan. As time clicks away the atmosphere of speculation, uncertainty, confusion and deep fear grips these impoverished societies. The threat of Imperialist aggression in the aftermath of the attacks in New York and Washington is dangling like a sword over the heads of the people." Lal Khan, editor of the Marxist paper Jeddo Judh (Class Struggle) in Pakistan, explains the background to the coming to power of the Taliban, their relationship with the Western oil companies, who is Osama Bin laden and finally reports on the mood in Pakistan...

"Pluto Press have recently published a new book, Reaping the Whirlwind, The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan, by Michael Griffin. He has done a service in providing some quite detailed information about the origins of the Taliban and the background that led to their emerging as a force capable of taking control of most of modern-day Afghanistan."