12 December 2011. A World to Win News Service. After a decade of occupation and war by the US-led coalition, the people are looking back to assess the results.
But the reactionary forces on an international scale have prepared themselves for that too. By organizing various international and internal conferences and meetings, they have sought to impose their own conclusions and prepare public opinion for the continuation of their reactionary plans in Afghanistan and the region for at least another decade.
In fact US policy on Afghanistan is entering a new phase. The US is pretending that its mission in Afghanistan is almost over and that stability and prosperity there is within reach, with some minor shortcomings of course. Consequently they have started to draw down their soldiers and gradually hand over security responsibilities to the Afghan government. By the end of 2014 only a small number of foreign troops will remain to "protect the country" against its neighbours because the Afghanistan army is not strong enough to defend itself.
Just as the story told by the US and its allies when they invaded Afghanistan was a lie, so is this one.
Among the meetings recently held on Afghanistan have been the October Istanbul conference involving the Nato countries and Afghanistan's neighbours, and the traditional grand Loya Jirga with participation of 2,000 members called by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in mid-November to discuss two important issues, the long-term strategic accord with the US and negotiations with the Taliban.
The most decisive conference for the imperialists was held in Bonn, Germany on 5 December, a follow-up on the first Bonn conference 10 years ago. The first Bonn conference, held two months after the invasion started and the Taliban were ousted from power, established the framework for imperialist plans for Afghanistan over the last decade. In that conference Karzai was appointed head of the provisional government and the cabinet was given to his allies and other Islamic fundamentalists known as Jihadis who opposed the Taliban.
The second Bonn conference on Afghanistan was tasked with approving the framework for the imperialists' plans for Afghanistan for the next decade or so. Unlike the guardedly optimistic impression that the imperialists want to give, the real picture is gloomy. The majority of Afghanistan's people have been increasingly disappointed with the situation and the broken promises, and many are joining the reactionary opposition forces. Moreover the occupiers are acting with severe brutality against the population.
Air strikes and bombardment continue to victimize civilians who have nothing to do with the Taliban. A recent incident highlights the pattern of Nato and US bombardments. On 23 November an airstrike in Zhare district in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan killed seven civilians, including six children belonging to two families. "Mohammad Rahim, 50, had his two sons and three daughters with him. They were between 4 and 12 years old and all were killed, except an 8-year-old daughter who was badly wounded."
While Nato and government forces repeated their stereotyped story that they were chasing a group of insurgents who in this case were "planting a mine", the uncle of the killed children challenged this account, saying,
"There were no Taliban in the field; this is a baseless allegation that the Taliban were planting mines… I have been to the scene and haven't found a single bit of evidence of bombs or any other weapons. The Americans did a serious crime against innocent children, they will never ever be forgiven." (CBS News, 24 November 2011)
The occupiers' night raids meant to terrorize the Afghani people have become so widely and deeply hated that Karzai has had to address this issue. In his speech in the opening of the Loya Jirga he said, "Afghanistan believes that the war on terrorism is not in the people's houses, their nest is somewhere else. The corruption in offices is incredible. There is still government harassment of the people, people's houses are still not immune, both governmental institutions and foreigners can harass the people. So what should we do about these problems?" (BBC Persian website, 16 November 2011)
Women continue to be the victims of fundamentalism, both by the Nato-installed Karzai government and the opposition. There are numerous reports indicating intense and painful discrimination against women. The story of a young woman named Golnaz who was raped by a relative is particularly shocking. Golnaz, who became pregnant, was arrested and convicted of sex outside of marriage (Zina). She was given three years in prison. When she appealed, a higher court increased her sentence to 12 years imprisonment. After her story found its way to the world's media, Karzai ordered her released on the condition that she marry her rapist, though she did not want to. This is the supposed liberation of women under the occupation. There is no need to mention that there are thousands of Golnaz in Afghanistan.
No aspect of the country's reconstruction has been seriously pursued except for building up its armed forces and bureaucratic apparatus. The cultivation and production of drugs continues to rise and shape the economic structure of the country. Corruption, poverty and suffering have engulfed the people. The US and Nato forces are hated. These are some of the reasons why people who despised the Taliban are increasingly drawn to their side.
No real success in fighting the Taliban but seeking to make peace with them
While the people have suffered most from the occupation, the occupiers are now trying to make peace with the Taliban who were supposedly their target. As previously mentioned, this has been a core issue at most of the recent international and local meetings.
The government and the US are doing everything they can to draw the Taliban to the negotiating table. They have been compromising on many issues, especially women's rights. The Karzai regime's increasing application of Sharia (Koranic law) is meant to win over Taliban supporters. They have offered immunity to many Taliban leaders and suggested that the organization open an office in Doha (Qatar) or Turkey to facilitate negotiations.
Whether most or some of the Taliban forces would go to the negotiating table is another question, one that depends on their own assessment of the situation. The point is that the occupiers and the Karzai government are working hard to get the Taliban to accept some sort of power-sharing arrangement.
All this shows that the US and other imperialists did not invade Afghanistan to liberate the people or women. They did not invade Afghanistan to fight terrorists or to bring peace and reconstruct the country. Contrary to these claims, they invaded Afghanistan for their global and strategic interests. In this sense, the US-led invasion is little different than the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet social-imperialism (the imperialist USSR before its fake socialism was dropped). The difference is that the Soviets allied with the local revisionist forces who called themselves democrats or communists, while the US and other Western imperialists have allied mainly with Islamic forces and various sections of Islamic fundamentalism.
The long-term strategic treaty between Afghanistan and the US
The US and its allies still will continue to pursue their global interests in Afghanistan no matter what changes they might bring to their policies there. In fact, the new policies on the agenda, including drawing down their forces, negotiations with the Taliban and the long-term strategic accord, all are in the service of those imperialist interests.
There have been many meetings between the US and Afghanistan governments to complete the drafting of this accord. It seems the latest round of bilateral talks took place September 2011 in Washington. The draft document is said to cover military, economic, political, cultural and educational relations between the two countries.
Many observers have suggested that the most important issue under discussion over the last couple of years has been the proposed building of US military bases to facilitate the permanent or at least long-term presence of tens of thousands of US soldiers in Afghanistan. Despite initial denials by Afghan and US officials, Karzai confirmed this in his speech at the recent Loya Jirga, which was to discuss the accord, whose details remain secret. Even the Loya Jirga were not informed of the full contents of the US demands and conditions.
In his opening speech Karzai argued that Afghanistan would benefit from such military bases.
"The US wants military bases that would have some effects on us and on the region and on our neighbours. We can use this to our benefit. But we have our conditions: the US must stop the night raids. And stop the parallel offices in Afghanistan [American financial and political structures meant to substitute or oversee Afghan government organs]. While we and the US and the West, are friends, we are also friends with Russia, China and our neighbours. We would give them [our neighbours] our word that no matter what the price we will not allow any country to be attacked from our soil.
"These are our conditions. Afghanistan is prepared to sign the long-term treaty and this is in our interest. Their money comes to Afghanistan, they train our soldiers and our police force, and they ensure the general stability of the region." (BBC Persian website, 16 November 2011)
This is all that has been revealed about the contents of the proposed strategic treaty. Even some of the Loya Jirga members protested that they were not aware of what they were going to approve. Later, Safia Sedighi, the speaker for the Loya Jirga, told reporters,"The Americans have demanded that their conditions remain secret."
While it has not been confirmed, some sources believe that the US intends to maintain permanent military bases in at least five locations (Shinden in Herat near the Iranian border, Shoor Abak, Kandahar, Khost and Bagram).
Even as the American and Afghan governments have been trying to create public opinion to justify long-term foreign military bases in Afghanistan they have also been trying to cover up the US's real neo-colonial intentions in the country and the region.
For example, whenever the issue of ending the war has come up, Washington adds that "this time" they will not leave Afghanistan "alone", as if the mess that Afghanistan fell into during the 1990s was because the Western powers "neglected" Afghanistan after the defeat of the Soviets. They argue that if the US leaves completely the mess would re-emerge. They talk as if it was not imperialist interference that led to the civil war of the 1990s and as if Afghanistan were not a total mess today – a mess they created.
First of all, the imperialists have never left Afghanistan people alone to get on with their life. In fact the mess created in Afghanistan has been the result of decades of meddling in Afghan affairs, especially by the imperialists and their regional allies. The Jihadis came to power as a result of more than a decade of military, financial, political and propaganda support from the West. Later, in fact, it was Pakistan, with US approval, that brought in the Taliban. Pakistan was then the main American ally in the region. It is important to emphasize that during that period Pakistan and US had strong common interests in the region and were mainly united on achieving them.
As a recent New York Times opinion piece recalled, "during the Clinton administration, Mr Putin proposed United States-Russian cooperation against the Taliban; Washington turned down the offer for political reasons." (Dov S. Zakheim and Paul J. Saunders, 1 December 2011) What were those political reasons? When we know that the US was one of the Taliban's main financial supporters and that the countries that recognized the Taliban regime were the main US clients in the region, the political reasons start to become clearer: the US was – and still is – seeking regional hegemony as part of hanging on to its global domination.
The US's part in turning Afghanistan into a mess is such common knowledge that even those who want to justify the present and future US occupation have to take that into account. They argue that this history is why the US must continue to run Afghanistan. "The political, moral and partly legal responsibilities of the US for helping Afghanistan is one of the expectations of the bilateral strategic relations. The US has had an obvious role in creating the present problems of Afghanistan, including provoking the ex-Soviet Union to interfere militarily, supporting the extremist groups during the [Soviet] occupation, handing over the key to Kabul to Islamabad after that occupation and entrusting Pakistan with Afghanistan after 2001,” writes Davoud Moradian, currently teaching in American University in Kabul. He concludes that "US support for Afghanistan is not only what Kabul is requesting but also Afghanistan's right and the responsibility of the US and other Western countries." (BBC Persian service, 14 October 2011)
The US wants continued control of Afghanistan for the same reasons why the USSR occupied the country and wanted to stay there – and the same reasons why the British wanted Afghanistan in the nineteenth century. In fact Afghanistan was coveted by a long list of empires, including Mongols, Persians and Indians.
Because of its strategic importance Afghanistan has long been a battlefield of contention between powerful countries. However, the recent occupations have taken place in a new era in which capitalism has developed into imperialism and military and economic global control has become qualitatively more important. And to force their way in and prolong their stay these imperialists have become more brutal, with an effect on the life of the people that has been disastrous in many dimensions.
This is what the strategic accord between the US and Afghanistan and the second Bonn Conference on Afghanistan was all about – the contention between powers.
In arguing for a continued US presence, Senator John Kerry, a former Democrat US presidential candidate and currently chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote an article expressing some of the concerns of the US imperialists about what would happen if they left Afghanistan:
"Russia, for example, is looking to reassert its authority in the region and could use our departure as a pretext to redeploy Russian troops on the Tajik-Afghan border. The Chinese are expanding their economic footprint but have chosen not to engage politically or militarily, in part because they’re fearful of stirring separatist sentiments in the volatile Xinjiang region bordering Afghanistan. Iran, too, has strengthened economic and trade cooperation with Kabul, building on its cultural ties to reassert its role in the region. And the Indians recently signed a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan, cementing their long-term ties." (The New York Times, 1 December 2011)
The gateway to Central Asia from the north, to the Indian peninsula from the south and east and to Iran and Middle East in the west, and also close to two powerful countries like Russia and China, Afghanistan's location makes it strategically extremely important when regional and even global contention is taken into account.
US occupation: a regional and global danger
The US occupation of Afghanistan and its plan to stay for decades to come are not in the interests of Afghanistan’s people and do not serve that country's security nor the region's stability. On the contrary this occupation is a source of insecurity for Afghanistan and the region and a provocation for contention.
It is bitterly ironic that when Karzai stated that the US must have military bases in the country to protect Afghanistan's interests, he gave his word that no neighbour will be threatened or attacked from Afghan soil. Shortly after, that is exactly what happened.
Not long after he made this pledge a Nato airstrike against two Pakistani military outposts along the north-western border with Afghanistan killed at least 25 Pakistani soldiers. This act created so much outrage that the Pakistani government had to respond by ordering the CIA to cease the drone operations it runs from the Shamsi Air Base in western Pakistan, and closing the two main NATO supply routes into Afghanistan. Pakistan also boycotted the Bonn Conference in protest. Predictably US and Nato officials are investigating to see what went "wrong".
Pakistan has been an important ally of the US for years, but its strategic importance has diminished and contradictions with US regional interests have come more to the fore. This US "mistake" could have been meant to put pressure on Pakistan to accept a new US approach to the region in which Pakistan's role would be dramatically curtailed while India's role in Afghanistan and the region would increase.
Not long after that, a CIA drone that had taken off from Afghanistan was brought down deep inside Iran near the city of Kashmar, about 140 kilometres from the border. This brought attention to the covert operations inside Iran being launched from US facilities in Afghanistan.
These incidents show that the US wants to stay in Afghanistan not to protect it from its neighbours but to threaten its neighbours.
Obviously Karzai's words are worth nothing – they are only a justification for a continued betrayal of the people of Afghanistan and the region. In the same light, the US is lying to try and conceal its goals and deceive the people.
The statement that the US is leaving Afghanistan is a lie. The statement that the US is building military bases to secure the stability of the region is also a vicious lie. In fact, the US's efforts in this region may hold even more dangerous consequences on a world scale unless they are disrupted by the struggle of the people not only in Afghanistan but also in the region and globally.