The escalating insurgency in Afghanistan is raising the spectre of another humiliating defeat for western imperialism in this region. The imperialist stooges, Musharraf and Karzai, are involved in an unprecedented mudslinging and diplomatic row, in the blame game for this defeat on the horizon. Musharraf accused Hamid Karzai of being like an ostrich at a bad tempered summit in Washington on September 27.
The imperialists are facing the worst crisis diplomatically and militarily since the US invasion of Iraq in 2001. The Americans are trying to pull out their forces from Afghanistan and pressuring other NATO countries to fight this ferocious war. In the last eight months NATO forces have suffered more causalities than in all those preceding years of imperialist occupation. In the shadows of imperialist bayonets the social, political and economic situation has rapidly deteriorated. The social fabric is in pieces and criminal warlords rule in their fiefdoms. The writ of the Karzai puppet regime is limited to some parts of Kabul. In the border tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Pakistani army has lost more than 500 personnel. The imperialists are pressuring the Musharraf regime to "do more" to curb the insurgency, but the more he tries "to do it" the more military causalities he suffers and the greater become the pressure and backlash within the Army against Musharraf's policies of implementing the imperialist dictates.
In spite of Musharraf's denials, the western accusations of the ISI's clandestine and logistical support for the Taliban are not unfounded. In a recent Interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now the veteran journalist Robert Fisk gave the following analysis of this nexus:
"...you see, from my point of view, I think there is a Muslim nation, which is extremely dangerous to the West, which is packed with Taliban and al-Qaeda supporters and which does have a bomb, and it's called Pakistan. And that's the real crisis (...)And I think Pakistan is the story. I think Pakistan is a very dangerous place. I think Pervez Musharraf is playing this balancing game between the military and the ISI, the Intelligence Services, and the Taliban supporters and the large number of extreme Sunni groups in Balujistan and other parts of the Northwest Territories. (...)
"But the fact is, he knows that the Pakistani ISI, the Inter-Services Intelligence, is giving intelligence and money to the Taliban. I mean, the Taliban, around Kandahar Province now, are rich with cash. (...)
"But, of course, this is a subject which is not going to be discussed upfront between the Americans and Musharraf, because he's our friend in the war on terror. That's part of the scenery, and you mustn't sort of strip any wallpaper off, because you might not know -- you don't know what you're going to find behind it, do you?"
Although Mr. Fisk has exaggerated the support for the Taliban and Al Qaeda within Pakistani society, the connection is very much there between sections of the Pakistani army and these Islamic fundamentalist elements. The reactionary insurgency against the left wing PDPA government in Afghanistan was launched in the late 1970s and was sustained throughout the 1980s by the ISI at the behest of US imperialism. The ISI and the CIA organized a whole network of opium production, refinement into heroin and smuggling operations to finance this counter-revolutionary insurgency.
Financing such insurgencies and other operations through the drug trade and other criminal activities are not a new policy of imperialist aggression. During the opium wars of the nineteenth century in China, Marx had written the following about the opium trade of British Imperialism: "British cannons [forcing] opium upon China is the grossest marriage of violence with Free Trade." It behoves the policymakers and strategists of imperialist domination to overcome the historical amnesia about how this began.
Both the colonial French before 1954 and the Americans who followed them paid mercenary tribesmen in the wars in Vietnam and Laos with profits from drugs. The drugs were cultivated, often under official protection, and moved to markets by aircrafts chartered by the American CIA in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Former French intelligence boss Alexander de Marenches recounted in his memoirs how he suggested to President Ronald Regan and CIA chief William Casey in 1980 that the US led coalition should plant drugs amongst Soviet forces in Afghanistan to weaken them. Mr. De Marenches said both liked the idea. This happened while Mrs. Nancy Regan was leading a "just say no to drugs" campaign in the US.
But the dominant factor of this drug trade was to finance the Islamic "Jihad" against the "infidel" communist government in Kabul. We have seen similar examples in US operations throughout Latin America, the most prominent episode being the Contra scandal in Nicaragua in 1980. Here money from the smuggling of cocaine was being used to finance the Contra guerrillas by the CIA to fight a similar counter-revolutionary insurgency against the left-wing Sandinista government in Managua.
During the 1979-89 war in Afghanistan drug addiction soared among Afghans and Pakistanis who were exposed to the wartime growth in drug production which had been encouraged by the CIA to pay for weapons and wages of the Mujahideen.
During these almost three decades the network of drug production developed and now it dominates the state and political superstructures of Afghanistan and Pakistan. After the West abandoned the Afghans to ethnic and tribal warfare and eventual Taliban rule, this mafia network was not dismantled and continued to flourish under different regimes and in different forms.
The massive profits from this drug trading were creamed off by some of the institutions of the state involved in this racket. In reality they have consolidated their network. As opium and heroin amounts to about 80% of Afghanistan's economy most feuds and conflicts, both political and tribal, are over this booty.
Antonio Maria Costa, who directs the UN anti-crime and anti-narcotics agency UNDOC, has just provided stark details of a new UN report. Opium poppy cultivation processing and transport has become Afghanistan's top employer, its main source of capital and the principal base of its economy.
NATO forces are taking heavy losses fighting the insurgence in the South, especially in Helmand province, the source of the lion's share of opium. The report says, the drug culture fostered by Afghan authorities is turning Afghanistan into a narco-state.
Opium production has grown in 2006 by 49% over 2005, areas under poppy cultivation by 59%. The predicted 2006 crop is 6,100 tons. Afghanistan now supplies 92% of the world's heroin.
Who is responsible for all this? The US and NATO are. After all, they own the narco-state of Afghanistan. Most of the so-called elected parliamentarians are warlords and they owe their military might and political clout to this very drugs trade which western bourgeois organizations are wailing about. The fact is, the Americans need the support of these warlords. And as they can buy them, they hire them for certain periods and operations. In doing this the Americans have to turn a blind eye to their warlord allies' drugs business.
However, the insurgency being mounted also bases itself on this drugs income. As they have been on the ground, even when the Americans had abandoned them, their cartels and networks are more organized and profitable. For example a soldier in the Afghan Army gets about $5 a day in wages while the insurgent soldiers get $12 a day.
Even according to the western think tanks the imperialists are losing to resistance in Afghanistan. The European think tank, Seulis Council has just reported that the "Taliban" movement is taking back Afghanistan and now controls the country's southern half. This is an amazing departure from claims by the US and its NATO allies that they are steadily winning the war.
According to Seulis, southern Afghanistan is suffering a humanitarian crisis of starvation and poverty caused by the "US-British military policies." Flatly contradicting rosy Western reports, Seulis investigators found, "US policies in Afghanistan have re-created the safe haven for terrorism that the 2001 invasion aimed to destroy."
The US and NATO have been insisting that the withdrawal of their armed forces from Afghanistan and Iraq would leave a void certain to be filled by extremists. These claims are nonsense, given that half of Afghanistan and a third of Iraq is already largely controlled by anti western resistance forces. Were it not for the massive US air power, American and NATO forces would be quickly driven from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Blair, oblivious to his own country's history of military catastrophes in Afghanistan, has hurled his soldiers into the most unforgiving terrain, against a ferocious and growing military resistance.
What the West calls the "Taliban" is actually a growing coalition of various political groups including nationalists, communists, socialists, Pashtun tribal warriors and Taliban factions. This is becoming a national resistance against a foreign occupation and not, as the western media is trying to portray, a fundamentalist Taliban obscurantist movement. This is the vengeance of a people who are being introduced to the niceties of so-called "democracy", "enlightenment" and "liberal value" through the ruthless bombing of Afghanistan into the Stone Age and through the barrels of imperialist guns.
There is an ancient Hindu prayer, "Oh Lord Shiva, save us from the claw of the tiger, the fang of the cobra and the vengeance of the Afghan." Imperialist troops are not fighting, "terrorism" in Afghanistan, as western leaders claim. They are fighting the Afghan people. Every civilian killed and every village bombed, every child and every women desecrated will breed new enemies for Imperialism.
Afghanistan has a strong left tradition. After all the 1978 Saur (spring) revolution, in spite of its shortcomings and mistakes, was a sudden leap forward in Afghanistan's history. The most radical reforms in healthcare, education, agriculture and other areas of society were introduced. This revolution did not just shake the foundations of the old rotten society but it also endangered imperialist interests in the region. Hence, the counter- revolutionary Jihad.
Marxists had soberly and critically supported the attempt to overthrow landlordism and capitalism and had given a clear perspective for the revolution. Just a few weeks after the revolution Ted Grant wrote in the summer of 1978:
"This is the road which the 'Communist Party', which holds power together with the radical officers, will take. The opposition of the old forces in Afghanistan, as in Ethiopia, will in all probability impel them in this direction.
"If they temporise, 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 the radical officers and the near extermination of the educated elite. For the moment - until there is a movement of the only advanced class which can bring a transition moving in the direction of socialism in the 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 workers' state, without workers' democracy, Marxists, in a sober fashion, will support the emergence of such a state and the further weakening not only of imperialism and capitalism but also of regimes basing themselves on the remnants of feudalism in the most backward countries." [See The Colonial Revolution and the Deformed Workers' States, July 1978]
These lessons have to be relearned to develop a revolutionary strategy for the struggles of the Afghan masses ahead. Today the revolution and counter-revolution in Afghanistan and Pakistan are in inextricably linked. The revolutionary traditions of Afghanistan will pass on to the new generation of workers and youth. The 1978 revolution proved one point at least, that the stage of capitalist development could be skipped in Afghanistan.
This is even truer today. Under this rotting capitalist system the only future for Afghanistan is barbarism. There are strong elements of barbarism even now in that society. It can only be averted by a socialist revolution led by a Marxist leadership and party. This would pave the way for a socialist federation of South Asia.
Afghanistan is perhaps the most striking example of a society at the crossroads between barbarism and socialism. The defeat of imperialism would not necessarily bring about fundamentalist reaction. A revolutionary movement in Pakistan and other countries of the region is also very possible and this in turn would give rise to a revolutionary wave in Afghanistan.
- Rioting in Afghanistan highlights contradictions facing US imperialism by Fred Weston (May 31, 2006)
- Troops Out of Afghanistan! - Canadian Imperialism comes of age by Alex Grant (April 24, 2006)
- Afghanistan: Loya Jirga - Adding insult to injury (July 2002)
- Afghan weddings and American "sensitivity": Imperialist double standards exposed by Alan Woods (July 2002)
- Tony Blair's Great Afghan Adventure by Alan Woods (June 2002)
- Mission Impossible by Rob Sewell (March 2002)
- Afghanistan: "Fools rush in..." by Ted Grant and Alan Woods (December 2001)
- Afghanistan: "The Marines have landed" by Alan Woods (November 2001)