International Workers’ Unity-Fourth International (IWU-FI)
The world witnessed the heartbreaking scenes at the Kabul airport, where thousands of Afghans tried to board a military plane, are the most obvious image of the debacle of US imperialism.
The US and its NATO allies are fleeing Afghanistan. The Taliban took Kabul, its capital, as well as the major cities. Almost 20 years after their invasion, they leave the country in shambles.
It is one of the most severe defeats for the United States after Vietnam. And it comes at a time of profound world crisis of US imperialist domination. A political, economic and military crisis.
President Biden blames Trump for agreeing with the Taliban to withdraw. Britain’s Defence Secretary, the main US ally in the invasion, called the US-Taliban agreement “a rotten deal”.
In February 2020, the Trump administration agreed with the Taliban to withdraw its troops in May 2021. Biden said the withdrawal was to take place in September, but he brought it forward (by pressure). On Sunday 15 August, the Taliban took Kabul.
As this statement goes to press, 6,000 US and British troops are confined, amid the chaos, to guarding the capital’s airport so their direct collaborators and puppet government officials can flee. Ashraf Ghani, the former Afghan president, fled the country.
Afghanistan shares borders with China, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. With a population of 38 million, it is one of the poorest countries in the world. The country’s principal export is opium, of which it is the world’s largest producer, with 328,000 hectares under poppy cultivation (for opium and heroin). It is precisely these crops that finance the Taliban, who export it through smuggling.
The US invasion in 2001 was to “impose order on the world”
The invasion began on 7 October 2001, less than a month after the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, which brought down the Twin Towers and left over 3,000 among dead and wounded.
The supposed aim of the Afghanistan invasion ordered by President George W Bush, was to “fight terrorism” and capture Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, considered the mastermind behind the attacks, who was a refugee in Afghanistan and protected by its government. The aims and origins of the attacks that brought down the Twin Towers were never entirely clear.
Bin Laden, born in Saudi Arabia, had been financed by the CIA and the Americans who gave him weapons and training to fight against the now-defunct Soviet Union in the 1980s. The former USSR had invaded Afghanistan to defend an allied government and to stop the advance of Islamic movements, from which the Taliban would later emerge.
With the excuse of the attack, the United States gained international support and that of its population to invade Afghanistan and then Iraq in 2003 (a country that had nothing to do with Bin Laden or Al Qaeda). The proper goal was to use the reprehensible attack to shore up its weakened dominance in Asia and increase its control of Iraqi and Middle Eastern oil.
Bush and the presidents who followed him, setting themselves up as “world gendarmes”, wanted to bring “order”. Twenty years later, it has become clear they rather encouraged “world disorder”, and shows imperialism has not recovered from its military and political failure in Vietnam.
To invade Afghanistan, Washington relied on the military support of the UK, Canada, Australia, Austria, Italy, Germany and other NATO countries. It also hired private armies of Colombian and other Latin American mercenaries. It reached a strength of over 200,000 troops supported by its powerful air force.
But the invasion, despite the bombings and massacres that produced a veritable genocide (200,000 dead and millions of wounded and refugees), could never control the entire territory. The Taliban controlled, with some popular support, part of southern Afghanistan.
The US and its NATO allies claim to have spent $1 trillion to maintain a huge occupying army. The invaders had some 8,000 dead among their troops. They spent some $88 billion on training the 300,000 Afghan soldiers, who surrendered without combat. Once again, it was shown that an invading force cannot efficiently consolidate an army at its service. The facts showed it was artificial. Hatred of the imperialist occupiers was the basis of that failure. They had no moral cause. They did not want to confront their countrymen, even if they were the Taliban.
Twenty years later, after the Bush, Obama, Trump and now Biden administrations, the imperialist forces are retreating in defeat.
The Taliban, a monster created by imperialism
The Taliban (Sunni branch) is a pro-capitalist Islamic religious-political movement, led by a federation of tribes centred on the Pashtun ethnic group.
The Taliban, or “students” in the Pashtun language, emerged in the early 1990s as a faction of the Afghan resistance to the 1980s ex-USSR invasion. They were part of the “mujahideen”, the guerrillas funded by the US Pentagon, the CIA and supported by Pakistan. US imperialism created the Taliban. But then they got out of hand. In 1994, the Taliban appeared in a civil war with other wings of the former guerrilla. In 1996, they seized power in Afghanistan and ruled it until the US invasion in 2001. They formed the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (a kind of Islamic monarchy headed by absolute political-religious authority, which they now want to rebuild).
The Taliban established a bourgeois Islamic dictatorship based on their interpretation of Sharia or Islamic law. They publicly executed murderers and adulterers, amputating the hands and feet of those guilty of theft. Men had to grow beards, and women had to wear a full-body burqa. They cannot travel unaccompanied by a man and could not study after the age of 10. The Taliban banned television, music and cinema.
Where is Afghanistan going?
Afghan people resist the Taliban because of their repressive record during their rule, and also because they are predominantly Pashtun (40% of the population), especially in the cities. Especially women and the other ethnic groups that populate the country.
The religious leader Malawi Hibatullah Akhundzada was appointed supreme commander of the Taliban on 25 May 2016. They have announced they will re-establish the dictatorial Islamic emirate. Although they clashed with the US, they have no anti-imperialist programme and have already started public negotiations with Chinese imperialism, which promised investments in lithium and copper, and gave guarantees to Russia.
Our repudiation of the crimes of US imperialism does not mean any support for the ultra-reactionary government of the Taliban. Therefore, from the IWU-FI, we confide Afghan people will resist the new government. We expect our repudiation of any repressive action against women and the Afghan people.
The Afghan working people deserve international solidarity to fight for their independence and rebuild their country without invaders and theocratic dictatorships or of any kind.
Millions of Afghan refugees who are discriminated against and exploited in Asia and Europe also need solidarity. They must become migrants from a country destroyed by imperialism, with all their labour and social rights.
17 August 2021