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?

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.

"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 civilisation there." Pakistani Marxist Doctor Zayar explains the responsibility of US imperialism in bringing the Talibans to power, explain the current situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and makes an appeal to the American working class.

The recent Global Alliance report (February 2001) on workers' rights (mostly dealing with young girls) in 9 Nike factories in Indonesia has once more brought to the fore the ruthless character of the regime in the factories belonging to this American multinational. If the claim made by a so-called 'surprised and disturbed management' is to be believed, then the conditions in the factories reviewed would be amongst the most "progressive in the country".

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