With the news this week of the100th death this year of a British soldier in Afghanistan, this imperialist adventure will once again dominate the news. In a 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.
Every time you turn on the news there seems to
be one more British casualty in Afghanistan.
By the time you read this article the death toll of British troops will have
exceeded 100 this year.
This war has gone on now for 8 years, longer
than the Second World War and the Vietnam War. It has been overshadowed by the
war in neighbouring Iraq,
but has now become the centre of attention. Nothing quite captures the
attention like the prospect of a humiliating defeat.
Kim Howells, a leading government supporter, has
broken ranks to call for British troops to be brought home. This reflects the
growing public anger against the war. In Britain, more than 70% believe the
troops should be withdrawn within a year. 35% believe the soldiers should be
In March, Obama declared the fight a ‘war of
necessity’ and dispatched an extra 20,000 troops. This has been followed by a
‘rethink’ and a further ‘review’. The shambles over the Afghan elections has served
to compound the problem. Rather than ‘democracy’, we have corruption, bribery
and staggering levels of fraud. The farce of the second round, which failed to
take place, followed by the inauguration of Karzai for another presidential
term, has piled added pressure on the imperialists.
The American stooge, Karzai, had invited a group
of warlords, drug dealers and other mafia undesirables into his government to
help ‘win’ his election. One of these, General Dostum, the Uzbek commander, is
accused by human rights groups of allowing 2,000 Taliban suspects to suffocate
to death in cargo containers. Karzai was favoured by the Americans because of
his links with the CIA in the struggle against the Russians. In one of the
poorest countries in the world, Esquire, the style magazine, once rated him as
among the world’s best-dressed men. His power was based on nepotism and
patronage, backed up by Western cash.
Karzai’s brothers, exploiting their links to
government, have amassed fortunes while the Afghan people are left to live in
misery and hunger. His younger brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, wields so much power
province that he has earned the nickname “the King of the South”. He is also on
the pay roll of the CIA. However, drug money, based on the biggest crop of
opium in the world, serves to fuel corruption as well as the Taliban.
This situation explains the millions of
abstentions in the first presidential vote. This was not simply due to the
activities of the Taliban, but the widespread disillusionment with government
corruption and paralysis. The Karzai government, holed up in a tight security
compound, has little support outside of Kabul
as the Taliban gain ever more adherents.
With the growing violence in Pakistan, there
is a serious prospect of ‘Talibanisation’ of the entire region. Neighbouring Tajikistan, Uzbekistan,
Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan
face desolation, turmoil and calamity. The intervention of the imperialists has
not brought stability to the region, let alone ‘democracy’, but has created a
whirlwind. They are propping up corrupt, but ‘friendly’ regimes, beginning with
Karzai in Kabul,
as part of their neo-colonialist policy. However, since major NATO military
operations started in Afghanistan
in 2006, support for the insurgency has grown. They are engaged in a war that
they can never win.
The situation is becoming worse and worse by the
day. General Stanley McChrystal has requested 40,000 extra US troops, scaled
down from an original 80,000, representing ‘one last desperate heave’. The US
ambassador to Afghanistan, however, has urged the Administration to maintain
troop levels at their current level. Obama is still dithering, a consequence of
the deep mess they are in. The recent speeches by Brown and Miliband are a
desperate attempt to shore up waning public opinion for this deeply unpopular
It is a war that can never deliver social and
economic progress to the Afghan people. That was never the intention. The war
was originally intended to extend the might and influence of US imperialism
throughout the region based on military “shock and awe”. While NATO provides
the cover, the war is conducted by the Americans and to a lesser extent by the
British. However, they have reached a complete impasse. That explains their
splits and paralysis.
The labour movement must demand the immediate
withdrawal of imperialist troops from Afghanistan. The imperialist powers, who
invaded Afghanistan for their own interests, can never solve the problems of
the Afghan people. They must be free to decide their own future.
However, the barbarism that has been unleashed
through the region will never find a solution on the basis of capitalism,
feudalism or fundamentalism. Only on the basis of a Socialist Federation of
South Asia, including a Socialist Afghanistan, can the horrors of war, hunger,
disease and poverty be swept away.