The failure of the American project in Afghanistan is brought to life in the dramatic scenes at the airport in Kabul where thousands of foreigners and Afghans have gathered to try to leave the country since August 14.
By Fabio Bosco – August 27, 2021
To make matters worse, on the 26th, a small Salafist organization dissident from the Taliban itself with no social roots, ISIS-K (Islamic State of Khorasan Province – former denomination of part of Central and South Asia), known for carrying out terrorist attacks against Hazara civilians, staged criminal explosions outside the Kabul airport that caused more than 180 deaths – the vast majority of Afghans and 13 U.S. military personnel, the first Americans killed since the agreement with the Taliban in February 2020.
The US government warned that new attacks could take place until the end of August, when the deadline for the removal of foreign and Afghan citizens who want to leave the country expires, according to the agreement negotiated between the US government and the Taliban.
The International Workers League (Fourth International) repudiates this attack that goes against the struggle of the masses and targets the civilian population.
A first and brief assessment shows that this attack exposes, on the one hand, the collaboration between U.S. forces and the Taliban since February 2020, which tends to get stronger at this moment. On the other hand, it reaffirms what is already a consensus among political analysts: the reality of the American defeat, which may have as consequences the strengthening of anti-imperialist movements and the expansion of anti-war sentiment among the American population, something like a “syndrome of Kabul” in reference to the same effects arising from the defeat in Vietnam.
Against the tide of history and reality, the mainstream press laments that this defeat will lead to human rights abuses in Afghanistan, fueling the illusion that human rights were somehow guaranteed during the 20-year U.S. occupation regime.
The myth of humanitarian imperialism
The United States and its imperialist allies played no humanitarian role in Afghanistan. On the contrary, they imposed an occupation regime in the country guaranteed by troops that reached more than 100,000 soldiers. These occupation forces carried out bombings of villages and towns as well as massacres against Afghan civilians. An estimated 47,000 civilians were killed as a direct result of the American occupation. In addition to these, another 66,000 Afghan soldiers and police and 51,000 (supposed) Taliban fighters and other organizations lost their lives. Among Americans, casualties exceeded 6,000 among soldiers (2400) and contractors (3600). (I)
In 20 years, US$ 2.3 trillion were spent, which is equivalent to about US$ 300 million per day. These large resources were not invested in schools, hospitals, housing or public works to generate jobs. They were spent mainly on soldiers and war materiel and later on training the puppet government’s armed and police forces. The few resources destined for the country’s development ended up in the pockets of the corrupt ruling elite.
Furthermore, the situation of Afghan women has not changed meaningfully during the 20 years of occupation. Only 25% of women are literate. Half of them marry before the age of 18 years. Bride-price payments and the imposition of the wearing of the burka are widespread, particularly in rural areas where 75% of the Afghan population lives. The occupation regime never bothered to actually enforce the law against domestic violence. Another law, the one that guarantees the inclusion of the mother’s name on the children’s identity documents, was only passed in late 2020. In fact, imperialism did not occupy Afghanistan to “save” women from oppression. On the contrary, it essentially accommodated itself to the current sexist social practices with some cosmetic changes (some resources for NGOs, the presence of women in the puppet regime’s parliament, among others).
Finally, the “war on drugs” did not get off the ground. The cultivation of poppy, from which opium and heroin are produced, has grown 200% since 2001, according to the latest U.N. report, and its local processing has expanded, mainly benefiting warlords, part of the rural oligarchy as well as the Taliban itself. Afghanistan accounts for more than 80% of the world’s opium and heroin supply. (II)
In short, covering up the imperialist occupation with some humanitarian role hides its real terrorist violence against the population and its alliance with the rural oligarchy and the warlords.
The “Emancipating” Soviet Invasion
The American civilizing myth has its Stalinist counterpart. Neo-Stalinist sectors argue that the 1979 Soviet invasion and the regime that followed were meant at providing important modernizing reforms such as agrarian reform and the abolition of bride-price payments given by a groom’s family for the bride’s hand, which is a means of commodification of women.
The truth of the facts is far from that. In 1973, Mohammed Daoud Khan launches a military coup, removes his cousin, King Mohammed Zahir Shah, eliminates the monarchy and assumes power backed by the Soviet Union and local Communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) who are organized into two wings : the Parcham (The Flag) and the Khalk (The People). Despite employing left-wing rhetoric, nothing has changed in relation to the power of the rural oligarchy. This fact did not prevent Parcham from supporting the new republican regime.
In April 1978, Daoud Khan orders the assassination of a communist leader – Mir Akbar Khyber – and the two communist wings and unite and promote a military coup. Daoud Khan is executed and the communists take power. This movement is called the April Revolution (Saur Revolution) and two progressive decrees are signed: the agrarian reform and the abolition of bride-price payments.
Without popular support in the countryside, the new regime faces opposition led by landowners and local religious leaders, the ultra-conservative mullahs.
With the advent of the Iranian revolution in February 1979, opposition to the new regime strengthened despite intense repression, and threatened to influence the masses within the Soviet republics whose populations live under the oppression of the Stalinist regime in Moscow.
Faced with this scenario, the Soviet regime directs the Afghan communists to abandon the policy of agrarian reform and the abolition of bride-price payments. The more moderate wing, the Parcham led by Babrak Karmal, accepted Soviet directives, but were driven from power by the Khalk led by Nur Mohammed Taraki and Hafizullah Amin. Karmal goes into exile and several of the Parcham members are arrested, a notorious practice of Stalinist organizations treating their dissidents. (III)
The Soviet regime approaches Taraki and the KGB works to eliminate Amin, but it is Amin who eliminates Taraki and assumes power. Contrary to the Soviet invasion, this one takes place in December 1979 in which Amin is executed and Babrak Karmal returns to power aboard Soviet tanks.
The Soviet invasion qualitatively increased popular opposition despite concessions to agrarian elites and ultra-conservative mullahs by withdrawing the bills for agrarian reform and the abolition of bride-price payments. The Soviet occupation resorted to brutal repression that led to the loss of around a million lives. Among those killed is Martire Meena, founder of RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Afghan Women), murdered by the regime’s secret service in 1987 for her opposition to both Soviet occupation and concessions to rural elites. (IV)
Finally, several groups of Islamic guerrillas collectively known as Mujahiddin led by warlords supported by the Pakistani regime, the CIA, the Saudi regime, China and the United Kingdom start a guerrilla war that will lead to the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989 and the overthrow of the regime led by the communists in 1992. Later the Taliban was formed in 1994 with the support of the Pakistani regime, the CIA and Saudi Arabia, came to power in 1996 but was overthrown by the American occupation five years later.
Contrary to what these Stalinist sectors say, the Soviet invasion was meant to prevent the winds of Iranian revolution from reaching the oppressed Soviet republics and not to promote agrarian reform nor the abolition of bride-price payments, policies which the Moscow Stalinists sacrificed in order to remain in power.
Taliban peace and love?
In their first public statements, Taliban representatives said they will respect private property, women’s rights within Islamic norms, the integrity of foreigners, diplomatic representations and journalists, in addition to announcing the amnesty for officials and employees of the former occupation regime.
It is interesting to note that the President of the United States himself exempted the Taliban from the bombing at the airport and that U.S. forces are working directly with the Taliban to ensure airport security.
However, some of these statements are at odds with the five years the Taliban has been at the head of the Afghan state and with the allies that the Taliban has bonded with since then. Let’s address some issues.
The first issue is land ownership. In Afghanistan, 75% of the population lives in rural areas. Agriculture and grazing are the main economic activities in the country, with opium and its derivatives being the main export product. On the one side are the large landowners. And on the other are the peasants (small landowners) and a mass of landless workers (sharecroppers and seasonal workers for planting and harvesting seasons). According to the World Bank about 12% of the land is arable. Therefore, the question of agrarian reform or agrarian revolution is a key question. The Taliban’s policy was never to promote any agrarian reform, whether when it was at the head of the government (1996-2001) or in the process of struggle against the old occupation regime. On the contrary, the Taliban sought an accommodation with the rural oligarchies and everything indicates that it will keep this orientation. This relationship explains how the Taliban managed to take over the country in just 11 days. In addition, there is the issue of land grabbing from peasant families, particularly when they are led by women (there are 2 million widows in the country). By allying itself with the oligarchy, it is reasonable to assume that the Taliban regime will turn a blind eye to land grabbing as previous regimes did. Furthermore, facing the struggles and revolts of peasants and landless workers that sooner or later will occur, the Taliban will resort to brutal repression as it did when it ruled the country for 5 years.
Another important issue is related to multinational companies operating in the country. There are studies that show that the exploration of mineral wealth can generate US$ 1 trillion. Today, a Chinese company mines copper and an Indian company mines iron ore. If the end of the war brings some stability, there will certainly be new mining corporations as well as oil companies interested in building pipelines and exploring gas reserves. Everything indicates that the Taliban regime will put itself at the service of these companies. It is not by chance that China was the first country to recognize de facto the Taliban regime and its agenda revolves around economic activities (including the new silk road) and the repression of groups fighting for Uighur rights in Xinjiang.
In addition to China, the issue of repression of dissident organizations is of interest to all neighboring regimes (Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan), and nearby Russia and India. Some of these regimes have supported the Taliban prior to its rise to power and all signs are of integration into the regional capitalist order even though the conflict between Pakistan and India may somehow hamper understanding with the Indian regime.
As for women’s rights of access to education, work, maintenance of their property, to come and go without any male guardian, to decide their dressing without impositions, an end to cruel punishments such as lashes and stoning, an end to child marriage and the bride-price payments, the Taliban’s trajectory has always been to limit or deny these rights. Even though Afghanistan being a conservative society, the Taliban’s rise to power in 1996 represented a setback for women’s rights. One example is the wearing of the burqa, which was optional and very minority before 1996 but became mandatory under the Taliban regime. For this reason, it is unlikely that the new regime will recognize these rights, although some cosmetic changes could be made. In fact, it will be in the hands of the working class, peasants, youth and women to conquer each of these rights challenging the Taliban regime and its allies: the landowners and the ultra-conservative mullahs.
There is also the issue of oppressed ethnic minorities, particularly the Hazaras, among others that the new regime will have to deal with.
What is clear is that the trend of the Taliban regime is “peace and love” only with the landowner elite, neighboring capitalist regimes and multinational corporations. And perhaps it extends to the United States itself. As for the suffering rural and urban working class, the peasants, women and oppressed nationalities, the tendency is not towards peace or love, but towards exploitation, oppression and much repression.
The majority of the Afghan working class supported the struggle against the occupation and this support was decisive for the defeat of imperialism. Now the working class will have to ally itself with the exploited and oppressed at home and abroad to wrest democratic freedoms, agrarian reform, the right to a decent life, a struggle that will only end with the overthrow of the Taliban regime and the entire capitalist order in the country and in the world.