Afghanistan & the Taliban – The Return of America’s Frankenstein as another failed state beckons

 If the plight of Afghanistan’s women was of concern to the US & NATO then it would have backed the PDPA from 1978-1992 instead of the Mojahedeen

There is only one conclusion to be drawn from the United States’s humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan and it is one that the pundits and imperialists are reluctant to draw. The NATO occupation of Afghanistan and its puppet regime had virtually no support from Afghans. 

Lindisfarne and Neale describe how the Taliban in 2001 were overwhelmingly Pashtuns and their politics was Pashtun chauvinists. In 2021 Taliban fighters of many ethnicities have taken power in Uzbek and Tajik dominated areas. They also describe a situation in 2001 in which

‘for two years there was no resistance to the American occupation. None, in any village. Many thousands of former Taliban remained in those villages.’

In 2001 the US invasion was conducted in concert with the Northern Alliance of warlords operating from Mazar-i-Sharif. Today Mazar-i-Sharif has also fallen. The Northern Alliance is no more.

The United States had no opposition in the first two years and yet it failed in its declared aim to rebuild Afghan society. Instead it preferred to wage a drone war against the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Waziristan in Pakistan.

Another Scuttle

However according to the BBC and media the only conclusion to draw would be that the United States and NATO spent over $2 trillion trying to introduce democracy, women’s rights and civilisation to Afghanistan.  Unfortunately the Afghans, primitive savages that they are, prefer medieval Islam, cutting off hands and stoning of women. There are also some at home, like 5 Pillars, who are quite happy to echo this nonsense by singing the praise of sharia law and theocracy.

We should be under no illusions that an Islamic state under Sharia law will be a repressive and corrupt state. Those who rule will use religion to legitimise the oppression of Afghani workers and peasants. Such a regime will inevitably be a racist regime.

The purpose of the Western invasion was not to introduce democracy nor was it about the ‘war against terror’. The United States and its friend Saudi Arabia proved that when it backed jihadists in Syria and Libya, arming them to the teeth. It was about imperial control of the vast mineral resources of Afghanistan, (to which they look like losing out to the Chinese), an oil pipeline crossing it and above all about controlling a country occupying a strategic place between the Middle East and Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Iran, Pakistan, China as well as 3 former Russian republics.

A Brief History of Afghanistan

Imperialism has never managed to control and occupy Afghanistan. The British fought 3 wars – 1839-42, 1878-1880 and finally 1919 when they finally gave up. Amanullah,  who became King, was a liberal reformer influenced by the emerging nationalist and modernist movements of the day. However with British subversion of southern tribes he was exiled in 1928 and there followed a period of stagnation.

In 1973 Amir Zahir Shah was overthrown by his cousin, Mohammed Daoud, with the support of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA]. Afghanistan became a republic. This led to the growth of a small Islamic movement led by figures such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Ahmad Shah Massoud. As Jane Challice wrote:

In 1978, Iranian followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini moved into Herat. Marxist army officers used this as an opportunity to overthrew Daud and installed a communist regime, which immediately moved to speed up the process of modernisation, demanding secular co-education and land reform. As part of the cold war strategy to weaken the Soviet Union, Jimmy Carter’s administration began covertly funding the Islamic opposition with the help of the Pakistani secret services, the ISI.

You would never guess from the coverage in the media that when the PDPA came to power in a coup in April 1978 the US supported the Mujahideen, the precursors of the Taliban.  The PDPA attempted to

replace religious and traditional laws with secular and Marxist–Leninist ones. Men were obliged to cut their beards, women could not wear a chador, and mosques were placed off limits. The PDPA made a number of reforms on women’s rights, banning forced marriages and giving state recognition of women’s right to vote. A prominent example was Anahita Ratebzad, .. a member of the Revolutionary Council (who) wrote the famous New Kabul Times editorial (May 28, 1978) which declared: “Privileges which women, by right, must have are equal education, job security, health services, and free time to rear a healthy generation for building the future of the country … Educating and enlightening women is now the subject of close government attention.” The PDPA also carried out socialist land reforms and moved to promote state atheism. They also prohibited usury.

Unfortunately the PDPA employed mass terror itself. The base of the PDPA was in the cities and amongst the military and middling peasants. A reaction set in led by the war lords and landowners. Who did the West back? The Islamic fundamentalists.

The Taliban leaders

It was United States ally, Pakistan’s ISI which, from 1994 onwards, created the Taliban from the madrassah (religious schools) on the border with Afghanistan. Up to a third of their fighters were Pakistani themselves as well as thousands of Arabs and other Islamic fighters.

The US sponsored war against the Russians and the PDPA in Afghanistan was an integral part of the cold war against the USSR. The same had happened in Iran. As the BBC reported although in the official Iranian narrative of the revolution Ayatollah Khomeini defied the United States and defeated “the Great Satan” in reality, as newly declassified US government documents revealed,

Khomeini was far more engaged with the US than either government has ever admitted. Far from defying America, the ayatollah courted the Carter administration, sending quiet signals that he wanted a dialogue and then portraying a potential Islamic Republic as amenable to US interests.

The US tried, unsuccessfully, to engineer an international boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980 in retaliation for the Russian decision to invade Afghanistan in support the PDPA the previous year.

Timothy Dalton as James Bond (left) with the West’s Islamic heroes

That bell weather of imperialist politics, James Bond, even put out a film Living Daylights in which Timothy Dalton plays the role of a latter day Lawrence of Arabia.  The Mujahideen were noble savages. Strangely enough this is the one Bond film that the BBC never shows in repeats!

Timothy Dalton as a Lawrence of Arabia figure in James Bond

For the next 10 years the CIA funded thousands of Mujahideen fighters waging war against the Soviet occupation. In 1989 the USSR which was itself collapsing withdrew. The PDPA government lasted, unlike the United States’s puppet regime today, for a further 3 years. As Nick Wright observed in the Morning Star:

The present Taliban leadership have learned from their predecessors. During the 1989 fighting, when a mojahedin offensive which initially seized Jalalabad airport saw the insurgents defeated by fighting between the contending jihadi factions, the Afghan army proved its operational efficiency.

The Hezb-e Islami faction led by the CIA’s most favoured commander, the murderous and perennially treacherous Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, infamous for throwing acid in women’s faces, had slaughtered fleeing civilians and surrendered Afghan soldiers which stiffened resistance and saw a strategic defeat for the mojahedin. Three years earlier Hekmatyar took tea with Thatcher at Number 10.

By the time that the USSR withdrew there had been 1.5 million deaths and an estimated 2 million refugees. In April 1992 rebel commander General Dostum and his Uzbek militias entered Kabul, arrested and executed Najibullah, the then ruler. Rabbani was installed as president, with Ahmed Shah Massoud as defence minister. However the Afghan war lords began waging war on each other. In November 1994 the Taliban captured Khandahar and in 1996 they captured Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan bar the Northern Alliance areas.

Within 10 days of 9/11 George Bush announced Operation Enduring Freedom the US began funding the Northern Alliance. Within 3 months the Taliban were ousted and John Simpson from the BBC was the first to enter Kabul in a British tank.

During their rule the Taliban massacred at least 15,000 Hazaris, a Shi’ite Iranian minority in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif. That is the answer to those idiots who claim that all will be well under Sharia Law. Sharia is the excuse used by the war lords to legitimise the plunder, pillage and rape of whole communities.

Australian SAS executes unarmed Afghan civilian

The last 20 years of US occupation have been a time of hundreds of thousands of deaths, and a corrupt US imposed regime notorious for its torture and murder. There were advances for women in cities such as Kabul but in the rest of Afghanistan there was little improvement other than in girls’ education and even that was minimal.

That didn’t stop the obscene spectacle of western feminists supporting the Afghan occupation in the name of Afghani women. Presumably the drones blowing them to pieces or the American massacres of Afghanis, women included, didn’t come under the rubric of feminism. Those women who did participate in NGO schemes to support women are now being abandoned

The most infamous example of feminist imperialism was when Amnesty International – USA, under former State Department official and Clinton supporter Susan Nossel, issued a poster ‘NATO – Keep the Progress Going’. Nossell was forced to resign six months later after coming under criticism from anti-imperialist feminists. See Amnesty International USA’s Support for Afghanistan War.

That the US/NATO invasion was bound to fail is a given. There was no prospect that the United States could ‘nation build’ in Afghanistan. That is not the job of imperialism. The American occupation rested on the same warlords that the Taliban have recruited to their cause. The US was incapable of supporting a genuinely progressive regime because US imperialism is, by its very nature, exploitative and repressive. Corruption is in its DNA. That is capitalism.

The US spent over $2 trillion in Afghanistan yet very little of that went to Afghanis. It was used to line the pockets of US contractors, the military and the regime itself. Ashraf Ghani, the President, was quoted as having fled with

“Four cars (were) full of money, they tried to stuff another part of the money into a helicopter, but not all of it fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac,”

The US having retreated with its tail between its legs the BBC, the Establishment’s faithful lapdog, is reporting on Taliban atrocities, such as that in Jalalabad where 3 demonstrators are said to have been killed. What the BBC hasn’t done is to put this in the context of the atrocities committed by the NATO forces in the past 20 years. Little matters such as the CIA Black Prison at Bagram Airbase where prisoners were ‘disappeared’ are not considered newsworthy.

The 4 Palestinians killed last week by Israel in Jenin went unreported by the BBC. That was left to Al Jazeera. Nor did the BBC report the murder of an 11 year old boy, Mohammad Abu Sara, sitting in his father’s car. If he had been Israeli it would have been considered newsworthy.

It remains to be seen, as Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale argue, whether the Taliban have seriously changed in 20 years. Whether or not they do now represent a national movement of all Afghanistan’s ethnic minorities. What does seem clear is that their attitude to the Hazaris has not changed. Last month the Taliban murdered nine ethnic Hazara men in the village of Mundarakht.

The present scenes of chaos at Kabul Airport are testimony to the abandonment of thousands of Afghan interpreters and security for the US and British forces. British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab couldn’t even be bothered to telephone his Afghan counterpart whilst on holiday.

Neo-Liberal Criticism of the Withdrawal

Already delusion neo-cons are arguing that the United States should have stayed in Afghanistan and that the blow to US credibility will destroy its reputation elsewhere. Dan Crenshaw in the Wall Street Journal argued that

‘There are many options between nation building and giving up, and we had found a good one in Afghanistan before President Biden abandoned it.’ … The “no more endless wars” crowd … prefer to live in a dream world rather than face the reality that our enemies are ideologically opposed to Western civilization and will gladly stage another 9/11 if they have the opportunity and means. They are at war with us whether or not we are at war with them.

In other words we are in a clash of civilisations. The United States should stay in Afghanistan despite there being no popular support for them doing so. Afghani views are considered irrelevant.

A good representative of these die-hard imperialists is Tom Tugendhat, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and a former Afghan veteran, who told the House of Commons to:

stop talking about ‘forever wars’, let’s recognise that forever peace is not bought cheaply — it is hard. It is bought through determination and the will to endure. The tragedy of Afghanistan is that we are swapping that patient achievement for a second fire and a second war.

There will of course always be those who are not reconciled to the loss of Empire. Tughendhat is just the latest version of John Bull. However what is emerging is an imperialist consensus to add Afghanistan to the list of failed and war torn states. Presumably Syria, Libya and Yemen are not sufficient.

What other explanation can there be for the decision of the United States to steal (or ‘freeze’ in the robber’s jargon) $9.5 billion of Afghan money, in addition to the IMF doing the same.

Racist politicians like Priti Patel will rail at the refugees who come as a consequences of their wars

There is no doubt that compared to the US regime under Ashraf Ghani the Taliban is relatively honest.  At least for now. That is why they have gained support in Afghanistan. Why pretend that the Taliban is not a legitimate regime? Because the US is now following a second strategy of destabilising Afghanistan. No doubt it will soon start funding rebel warlords as part of an attempted subversion of the Taliban regime. Indeed this may have already started. This will undoubtedly cause a further refugee crisis but keeping Afghanistan unstable serves the interests of Western imperialism.

Tony Greenstein

For further reading see:

Looking back over the ruins,

Jack Conrad

Another Forced Scuttle, Daniel Lazare

Afghanistan: a brief history 

Jane Challice

Reasons for Afghan debacles – Daniel Lazarre


Afghanistan: The end of the occupation – 

Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale

Neoconservatives seize on Afghan debacle to celebrate military force and ‘war on terror –  

Phillip Weiss

Killing Field – Australian troops in Afghanistan

The war on terror is, was and will be a veil for imperialist expansion 

Kevin Ovenden

US intervention in Afghanistan: Justifying the Unjustifiable? 

Leoni Connah