Afghanistan and the struggle against imperialism

Oct 17, 2012

For 10 long years, the people of Afghanistan have been living under a brutal U.S./NATO occupation. Is the brutality and destruction of the last decade really in response to the September 2001 attack, or about killing “terrorists,” or about “democracy,” or some other humanitarian reason? No. How could any of those spins by Washington and the corporate news outlets be the real reasons for bombing, invading, occupying and terrorizing the people of a country for over 10 years—a people who clearly want foreign troops out of their country? After all, no Afghans took part in the attacks and a recent survey conducted among males of fighting age in southern Afghanistan showed that 92 percent of them had never even heard of the September 11 attack. Do the people of Afghanistan, a poor landlocked country 7,000 miles away from the U.S., where the average life expectancy is 43 years, pose any military danger to the people of the U.S.? To this day, no one in Washington or the Pentagon has ever been honest about the continuation of the war. Leon Panetta, the recent director of the Central Intelligence Agency, testified before Congress that there were less than 100 Al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan today. So why does the United States maintain 100,000 occupation troops there? One reason is that the U.S. government intends to incorporate Afghanistan into a U.S. sphere of influence in Central Asia, including several former Soviet republics. Secondly, the U.S. military is continuing to fight to avoid the perception of having been defeated by an armed insurgency in a poor Third World country. One thing is clear. The war has not made the lives of regular people in Afghanistan or the United States any better. Maybe it has helped make the Wall Street rich richer, but that’s it. Here, unemployment, homelessness, gas and food prices and the cost of education have all skyrocketed, while social services and labor rights are under attack by the capitalist billionaires. Racism and the war on immigrants have spiked. In fact, it is no coincidence that the wars on Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and the war on workers at home are happening at the same time. They are part of the same class conflict of the tiny number of super-rich against the workers and poor of the world. In 2001, the armies of the most powerful countries on the planet, led by the United States, invaded Afghanistan on a fraudulent pretext, overthrew the central government, installed a puppet leader and began building permanent military bases all over the country. In the ongoing effort to maintain this geographic advance into the heart of Eurasia, the Pentagon and CIA have mercilessly bombed and razed whole villages and have killed tens of thousands of civilians. Afghanistan is the scene of the most gruesome brutalities committed against women, children and all civilians by foreign militaries, private mercenaries, and CIA and U.S. military death squads. Torture is routinely used by all hostile foreign forces and the U.S.-run Afghan security services. The Pentagon’s terror campaign has also been extended to neighboring Pakistan. Yet despite its vastly superior killing machines, U.S. imperialism has not won the war. On the tenth anniversary, forces opposed to the re-colonization of their country control most of Afghanistan. Though they are seldom reported, attacks by the over 40 resistance organizations in Afghanistan often involve hundreds of fighters and have been successful in driving U.S. and NATO forces from their positions in several areas of the country. In 2011, Afghan civilian deaths are the highest they have ever been. The same goes for U.S. military fatalities and catastrophic injuries. Many U.S. and NATO troops run out of ammunition every day in what continues to be fierce fighting. Up to 80 percent of soldiers suffer from some kind of psychological disorder or emotional trauma. Suicide and suicide attempts in the military are at an all-time high.

Washington scrambles to avoid defeat

Make no mistake—Washington and the Pentagon would do almost anything to stop the fighting and “pacify” Afghanistan under their control. For two years, the Pentagon has attempted to adapt to the reality that they cannot militarily defeat the resistance. With their NATO allies, they have embarked on a two-pronged campaign very similar to the “surge” strategy that was implemented in Iraq in 2007. The “surge” employed a “carrot” and “fist.” The fist consists of escalating military terror on both resistance forces and the civilian population with increased airstrikes and the liberal use of unmanned drones and Joint Special Forces assassination squads. The carrot consists of billions of dollars authorized by Congress to make large payments and give jobs to Taliban fighters willing to lay down their arms. At the same time, the Pentagon and the State Department are feverishly working behind the scenes to negotiate a deal with the Taliban, a group that was on friendly terms with Washington in the years before the war. So far, this strategy has failed. The military position of the Afghan resistance is strong and appears to be insurmountable. The Taliban and other resistance forces have largely fought off and outmaneuvered the “fist” part of the campaign and have refused to accept anything less than a full withdrawal of all foreign troops. For the Pentagon, the just demand for self-determination is entirely unacceptable, even though it is the only real solution to ending the war. How long will the Pentagon keep occupation troops in Afghanistan? The following quote from February 2005 is revealing: Speaking at a joint press conference with Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Afghanistan, Senator John McCain said that the United States needs permanent military bases in Afghanistan to protect its “vital national security interests.” Reuters reports that the United States and the puppet Afghanistan government plan to sign a “status of forces” agreement for U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan until 2024. The fact that the Pentagon is even considering staying in the country for 23 years speaks volumes about their intentions. When the U.S. occupies a country for geopolitical reasons, it intends to stay. How could it be otherwise? Complete withdrawal from Afghanistan would be an important victory for an armed resistance movement in a strategically important area of the world. Washington will go to great lengths to prevent that from happening. On the other hand, workers in the United States would lose nothing from a defeat of U.S. imperialism in Afghanistan. The futures of the people of Afghanistan and the people of the world are tied together. The string of wars on Panama, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya; the proxy wars on Somalia, Yemen and Palestine; and the threats against Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and others are part of a “grand strategy” of overthrowing every independent government on the globe.

Afghanistan: a geostrategic imperative for imperialism

Washington’s bloody invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, overseen by the leaders of the twin capitalist parties—the Democrats and the Republicans—is driven by capitalism’s intrinsic drive for profits and expansion and the following geostrategic facts:

  1. Afghanistan and Central Asia are literally at the crossroads of the world. Geographically, Central Asia is at the center of both Eurasia and Afro-Eurasia, which is really one big land mass. Eighty-five percent of the world’s population lives in Africa, Asia and Europe.
  2. Afghanistan itself is positioned on or very close to vital trade routes between the Middle East and Asia; between Central Asia and China, Pakistan and India; between Iran and Asia; and between Russia and parts of Asia.
  3. The vast majority of oil and natural gas in the world is in a large region comprised of the Middle East, Central Asia and the entire Caspian Region. Around 70 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves are located in this wider region.

U.S. imperialism’s fantasy would be to install puppet regimes and permanent bases in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. In the minds of Pentagon generals, this would give the United States a virtually unassailable geostrategic position in Eurasia. It would place it on the doorsteps of China and Russia, and between the energy region on one hand and Europe, China, Russia and India on the other. Zbigniew Brzezinski is a rabid anti-communist, son of a Polish aristocrat, former U.S. national security advisor, energy company consultant, one of the architects of the CIA’s counter-revolutionary operations in Afghanistan from 1978 to 1992, and a high-level advisor to Wall Street and Washington since the Kennedy administration. He summed up the U.S. orientation to the wider region in his 1997 book, “>The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives”: “For America the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia. . . . Most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil,” and “America is now Eurasia’s arbitrator, with no major Eurasian issue soluble without America’s participation or contrary to America’s interests.” Besides being at a central crossroads of world trade, Afghanistan and Central Asia have considerable newfound oil and mineral wealth. In addition to the area’s oil and natural gas fields, Afghanistan itself has large copper deposits, and massive quantities of lithium have been recently discovered.

The great imperialist prize: the energy-producing region

Preceding the war on Afghanistan, Unocal executive John J. Maresca told a congressional panel in February 1998: “The Central Asia and Caspian region is blessed with abundant oil and gas that can enhance the lives of the region’s residents, and provide energy for growth in both Europe and Asia. The impact of these resources on U.S. commercial interests and U.S. foreign policy is also significant. … Unocal and other American companies like it are fully prepared to undertake the job and to make Central Asia once again into the crossroads it has been in the past.” Richard Boucher, when he was U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, put it more bluntly in September 2007: “One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan, so it can become a conduit and a hub between South and Central Asia so that energy can flow to the south . . . and so that the countries of Central Asia are no longer bottled up between two enormous powers of China and Russia, but rather they have outlets to the south as well as to the north and the east and the west.” Central Asia, located between Russia, China and Afghanistan is made up of the following countries: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. According to the International Energy Statistics Administration, Kazakhstan has 30 billion barrels in oil reserves, the 12th highest in the world. Chevron owns the rights to Kazakhstan’s oil until 2033. Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have immense natural gas reserves. Turkmenistan ranks fourth in the world with 265 trillion cubic feet in natural gas reserves. In order for the oil and natural gas to be exported from the landlocked regions of Central Asia and the entire Caspian Region, pipelines are needed. Currently, the main pipelines from Central Asia run through Russia. In 2009, China completed its first two Central Asian pipelines that import oil and gas from the region directly to China. Pipelines from Azerbaijan to Turkey, partially owned by Chevron and British Petroleum and engineered by Bechtel, transport oil and gas out of Azerbaijan, which has seven billion barrels of proven oil reserves. Proposed Turkmenistan-Iran-Pakistan-India and Iran-Pakistan-India pipelines are aggressively opposed by Washington, as is the construction of more Central Asia pipelines to Russia. For decades, Washington’s goal has been the construction of the “TAPI” pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan with a branch to India. The invasion of Afghanistan has not led to the construction of the TAPI pipeline. Afghan resistance forces control nearly all of Southern and Eastern Afghanistan—areas that the pipeline would have to traverse. In 2008 and 2010, the leaders of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India convened to ratify cooperation on the construction of the pipeline. The project is financed by the Development Bank of Asia, a U.S.-supported financial institution. 

An effort to modernize and end feudalism in Afghanistan: 1978–1992

From 1929 until 1973, Afghanistan was ruled by a monarchy under the family of King Zahir Khan. In 1973, Mohammed Daoud—a member of the royal family—took power, declared himself president and established a republic. Although the monarchy was formally abolished, his reign was increasingly repressive against both Islamic militants and the small but growing communist movement. A communist party, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, was formed in 1965. In 1978, as Daoud moved closer to the U.S. orbit, a revolutionary coup, led by the PDPA with the help of portions of the Afghan military, overthrew the government, established the People’s Republic of Afghanistan and began a transition to socialism. Upon seizing power, the PDPA announced a democratic program that included land reform, growth in public services, price controls, separation of church and state, full equality for women, legalization of trade unions and a sweeping literacy campaign. The new government canceled the enormous debts of peasants and started training teachers and building schools and hospitals all over the country. Women could no longer be sold into marriage or executed for so-called “infidelities.” Literacy campaigns were undertaken in the many different languages of the country. Despite violent resistance from rich landowners, 200,000 peasants in a country of 20 million people received land from the PRA government. From 1978 to 1981, public school enrollment went from 5,000 to 600,000. Nineteen thousand teachers were trained. Immediately, the United States launched a counter-revolutionary offensive that lasted 14 years and became the largest CIA operation in history, costing an estimated $6 billion. The PRA government was beset by several internal factional struggles, exacerbated by the massive covert CIA operation that armed and financed pro-feudalist elements in the countryside. Under these pressures, it appeared that the PRA might be overwhelmed. After repeated requests for assistance by the PRA government, Soviet troops entered Afghanistan in December 1979 to help beat back the U.S.-trained anti-communist fighters. The “mujahideen,” the Afghan and foreign forces backed by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in the 14-year civil war, were feudal landlords, warlords and drug traders. They destroyed health clinics and thousands of schools and routinely tortured and killed peasants who had been given land by the revolutionary government, as well as schoolteachers, medical workers, women and children—all in the name of holding onto the old feudal system and defeating the progressive program of the PRA government. Osama Bin Laden was in charge of the operation to recruit and train foreign elements of the mujahideen. Al Qaeda is descended from those same fighters who fought against the progressive government and Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The Soviet intervention was not based on the kinds of predatory interests that were the root of U.S. wars in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan. After the complete withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989, the PRA held out for another three years, primarily because the so-called “freedom fighters” lacked widespread popular support, and the only thing that kept them together was billions of dollars in U.S. aid. It is very unlikely that the mujahideen would have been successful without this aid. The PRA fell in 1992, shortly after the overthrow and dissolution of the Soviet Union. For the next four years, the “freedom fighters” fought each other for control. In 1996, the Taliban, an Islamist group supported by Pakistan and given support from the United States, took power in Kabul. They unleashed a murderous attack on socialists who had worked with the PRA, and made it illegal for girls and women to attend school. After a few years of maintaining economic relations with the Taliban, Washington began to employ sanctions as a consequence of the Taliban providing sanctuary for Al-Qaeda. The U.S. government also intensified its arms sales to the Northern Alliance, an entity that opposed the Taliban but was also rooted in the anti-communist mujahideen movement. Less than a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States and Britain launched all-out war on Oct. 7, 2001. 

What will end the war on Afghanistan?

Because of its geographic importance, the U.S. capitalist establishment would like to stay in Afghanistan permanently and will go to great lengths to keep Afghanistan from once again achieving its independence. Their problem is that, even against great odds, the people of Afghanistan will never stop fighting for their independence. This is the irreconcilable conflict at the heart of the war. The United States and the Karzai client government in Kabul are trying to find a way to negotiate an end to the war on terms that would protect imperialist interests in the country. They are attempting “Afghanization” of the fighting, along the lines of the U.S. “Vietnamization” plan in the early 1970s. This means that Afghan soldiers should bear the burden of counterinsurgency so that more U.S. troops can be withdrawn. There is an increased use of U.S. airpower, particularly drone attacks. These are the same essential elements of the failed U.S. strategy in Vietnam during the Nixon-Kissinger era. Just as in Vietnam, only the complete withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces can end the war in Afghanistan. Ending the wars and occupations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Haiti and elsewhere is a key demand of the rising people’s movements from the Middle East to the United States. On Oct. 6-8, the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and many other organizations will be in the streets under the banner “End the war NOW—money for people’s needs, not the Pentagon.”

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