Afghanistan

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baboon
Afghanistan
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There is now an Islamic Caliphate established in a major crossroad between the Middle East and Asia. You can no more call Afghanistan a "nation" as you can Kabul "a capital city". The former is a patchwork of tribal divisions deliberately created by the British in the 1800's in order to serve their own imperialist interests and the latter a state-of-the-art military encampment that doesn't even have a railway station. Neither the speed nor the strength of the Taliban advance can be a surprise. When Trump did the deal with them a year ago they began to prepare in earnest - victory was attained then and they used the time up to the US withdrawal, originally May of this year, to prepare their assault. Our politicians and generals, wittingly or unwittingly, looked the other way as Taliban forces advanced. When American B-52's started high-altitude bombing about ten days ago - a tactic used by the Russians in this "theatre" that signalled its failure in the 1980's war - it was obvious to everyone who had the slightest knowledge of events that Taliban forces were making the sort of swift and significant advances that would quickly overwhelm NATO and Afghan forces.

At the same time as these same politicians and generals were all guaranteeing at least a "stalemate" with the Taliban a couple of months ago, more and more elements of the rural political establishment, including some former anti-Taliban mujaheddin, tribal chiefs and Afghan National Army regulars were either joining the Taliban, refusing to fight them or fleeing to other countries. The political "elite" in Kabul have been leaving for weeks in order to be with their money in Doha; money that's been lavished on them by the planeload in a war that's been corrupt, irrational and rotten from the very beginning.

In the search to deflect from this unmitigated disaster the British state, politicians, generals, etc., have, along with their media apologists, been talking about how their actions in this 20-year old war has resulted in what they call "the fragile progress" in Afghan society. What this refers to is the small number of women going to work or being unveiled and the small number of young girls going to school. It is just propaganda but it is based on an element of greatly exaggerated truth.

The "soul-searching" among the bourgeoisie in the west now, enveloped in the rankest hypocrisy, is about what the Taliban will act like; are they a "moderated" force prepared to act from the point of view of Realpolitik? Will they continue the work towards women and girls - work that was nothing but a useful ideological cover for the most sordid imperialist machinations? You can immediately understand the fears of parents, brothers and sisters and already there are reports of the abductions and forced marriage of young females that seem to be a hallmark of jihadi forces in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. There are also reports of summary executions, beatings of women and government workers and the menace of terror that these forces carry. The Taliban leadership has undoubtedly learnt some political lessons - it has been dealing with the masters of lies and deceit for years now - but these are hard-line supporters of Sharia law and its younger, newer members appear from reports to be more al-Qaida inclined. In the provinces these forces have been genuinely welcomed by non-Taliban tribal elements that share the same fundamentalist ideology particularly about women.  And of course there is al-Qaida fighting alongside them; Isis too and about a dozen other jihadi elements that are not going to be told what to do. There are reports of significant numbers of Uzbek, Tajik, Chechen and Uighur fighters from Xinjiang, with potential problems spreading towards and into Russia and China.

In its pivot to China, and thus its pivot towards India, America has been unable or unwilling to exert very much influence over Islamabad. The Pakistani's have thus struck back and this is a major point in the slide downwards of the United States and its fractured bloc. What is being expressed in Afghanistan is part of the process and acceleration of the development of capitalist decomposition; the appearance of such a reactionary force coming out of a completely irrational war is a sure sign of the times. NATO has been weakened, China, Iran and Russia will take advantage but there are significant problems here for them. The whole region is destabilised to a greater extent.

The Taliban were created almost from scratch by the CIA, MI6 and the Pakistani intelligence agency the ISI (Inter-Service Intelligence) in order to fight the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980's. Osama Bin Laden was their designated road-builder through the strategic mountains of the country as they out-manoeuvred and out-fought the Soviet forces. Bin Laden wasn't paid by the CIA but by the ISI which was receiving enormous amounts of cash from it. There has always been a "transnational" force of Talibs going backwards and forwards across the Pakistani/Afghan border depending on conditions. Today the Pakistani ISI, or very significant elements of it, is much intertwined with the Taliban and it could be that the latter is being used in order to give the US and its "allies" a bloody-nose in their pro-Indian anti-Chinese pivots. But this could well rebound on Pakistan as the development of a total Taliban victory leaves Pakistan, like many neighbouring states, prone to extremism, terrorism and the instability that they bring.

In Britain there has been a great deal of criticism by the state and its media about the role of the Americans. It's important for the British to play this card all the way down to ministers representing the military crying on radio programmes. It is an exercise in deflecting any blame away from them in the same way that we've seen in wars in Iraq and elsewhere. Britain is totally complicit in this whole fiasco despite its "concerns" and crocodile tears but all it can do now is blame the Americans as the allies once again fall out in the face of advancing decomposition and chaos. When, under the Labour government (that supported this and the Iraq wars in Tony Blair's "crusade"), British troops in Helmand oversaw the biggest ever increase in opium production (that still forms an essential part of Taliban income), the government was reporting the "progress" that was being made. It was only a few months later that the British army had to be rescued by the Americans from attacks in Helmand. The lies continue to this day with a Home Secretary epitomising the "hostile environment" to refugees now suddenly concerned about them and those that worked "for Britain and British-values". They will mostly be abandoned along with the rest.

There's continuity in American policy here from Trump to Biden and the "America First" programmee promoted by the USA; a sign of its particular weakening along with a significant development of decomposition in a major part of the world.

KT
Not the same old same old

I agree with many of the points made by Baboon, particularly within this framework: "What is being expressed in Afghanistan is part of the process and acceleration of the development of capitalist decomposition; the appearance of such a reactionary force coming out of a completely irrational war is a sure sign of the times. NATO has been weakened, China, Iran and Russia will take advantage but there are significant problems here for them. The whole region is destabilised to a greater extent."

It appears to me ironic that at time when elements in the proletarian political milieu  are calling into question the ICC's analysis of decomposition and even decadence, are fixated on the 'growth' of capitalism over the past 30 or 40 years, that the bourgeoisie and it's media enablers are waking up to the reality (30 years after the event) of America's declining power, the 'end of the world cop' and the consequences of a world wracked by 'everyman for himself' in which no nation state will draw long-term beneift.

I think Baboon is correct in pointing out the continuity between Trump and Biden's 'America First' policy vis-a-vis Afghanistan and that the western (and other) ruling classes knew full well the consequences of a withdrawal of troops. I do not believe however they bargained for the speed of events, nor the degree of humiliation endured and engendered in and by the scramble and chaos of their exit. I do not believe the US planned to withdraw the last 3,000 troops only to fly in 5,000 to aid the exodus of personel. 

The media has made much of the similarity of the 'fall' of Kabul and the ignominious exit by the US from Saigon and the Vietnam War. Certainly there are striking visual parallels. But the world has changed. And whereas the US quit Vietnam in 1975 in order to secure the far greater prize of 'opening up China', today there is no such consolation for world capital, nor the prospect of any meaningful accumulation to be had from the ruins and further destabilsation of the region around Afghanistan.

d-man
Kabul population

Baboon wrote: "You can no more call Afghanistan a "nation" as you can Kabul "a capital city" [... the latter is a] state-of-the-art military encampment that doesn't even have a railway station"

^ Well according to wiki: "The city's population grew from about 500,000 in 2001 to over 3 million in recent years." And 4,4 million as of 2020 (according to a google search).

Defending, or effectively managing security, for such a multi-million size city (and the city, iirc, was about the extent of US real control) with a few thousand soldiers, even if they are commanders/trainers (and have a dozen Afghan subordinates), would seem difficult.

By comparison if London (9 million population, 32,900 police officers) were occupied by US army, it would supposedely then, by Afghan-analogy, suffice to have 6,000 US soldiers. At present there are apparently 9,400 US troops stationed in Britain, so could such a small number already suffice to forestall a revolution?

 

 

baboon
It's the result of slanted

It's the result of slanted thinking to suggest that Afghanistan has been "the graveyard of empires". On the contrary, historically the region has been the birthplace of great empires and while Afghan fighters were annihilating British forces in Afghanistan in the 1800's, the British Empire - essentially capitalism - was spreading all over the globe. The real analogy with events today is not some western myth about Afghanistan and graveyards that deliberately obscures the question, but the defeat of Russia in its war in Afghanistan in the 1980's, a defeat that was the result of its war economy unable to keep up with the crises and burden of militarism and thus suffered a stinging defeat that eventually became part of and contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989. These tendencies of the increasingly unbearable weight of the war economy are still very much at work today and are now pressing on the "victorious" USA and its increasingly fracturing bloc. The consequences and the longer-term perspectives of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan will need some time to be assessed in depth but these can only proceed in the framework of the analysis of capitalist decomposition and the way that this development is hitting the world's biggest power and its bloc just as it did the Russian republic. Just as it was a major setback for the Russians this is a very serious undermining of the control of the United States over the global stage and marks a distinct step in the weakening of its grip and, in common with the general effects of decomposition, a staggering loss of control. Developments in Afghanistan have seen Illusions around Biden's cuddly "new world leadership" shattered much more rapidly than thought as his administration acts in continuity with Trump's "America First". Its allies and bloc structures, particularly NATO, are now under severe strain as a result of imperialism in decomposition.

Taliban rule in Afghanistan is not quite a "Caliphate" - it is first and foremost an expression of imperialism in its phase of decomposition -but it will be a point of attraction for jihadi's everywhere and a boost to Islamic fundamentalism everywhere - particularly Africa where it is spreading and becoming more organised across the whole continent. Whether the Taliban can or even wants to control these jihadi elements in Afghanistan is open to question - there are credible reports that they were invited in by them - but we can see that they are putting on a "responsible" face to the west at the moment talking about stopping the "terrorist threat". The bourgeoisie of the west have been talking a lot about the "gains" of the 20-year old Afghan war particularly the "advance of women's rights". We can plainly see where they are today and what direction they are going in. The other great excuse for the war used by British politicians, among others, is that it stopped terrorist attacks being launched from Afghanistan. It did reduce such specific activity but terrorist attacks on the west - another significant element of capitalism's decomposition - have only increased in the last two decades of Afghanistan's occupation, showing that the whole premise of invading Afghanistan to stop terrorist attacks was a lie from the beginning.

The bourgeoisie have talked about their "surprise" at the speed of the Taliban advance but these are just more lies and the latter has been in total control of areas closely surrounding Kabul for at least a couple of years now. When NATO - the Americans in this case - decided to withdraw from combat missions in 2014 and go into training mode for the Afghan army it was necessitated by what was effectively a military defeat on the battlefield. The real advance of the Taliban started after this decision and in the following years they won all the major battles against a weakened and demoralised Afghan army. A couple of years ago most of Afghanistan was under Taliban control, a fact registered by western NGO's on the ground who worked with Taliban forces in areas of education and so on that were being run under strict Sharia law. Western forces were already complicit in the Islamic state and it laws and in return the Taliban got it hands on some western "aid". Once Trump declared a year ago, with no quid pro quo whatsoever from the Taliban, that US forces would be pulling out the seal was put on the victory that it had already won on the battlefield. It's not that the western bourgeoisie was "surprised" by the Taliban advance, it's just that they and their media stooges never reported on the reality of the country. The recent "assault" on Kabul by the Taliban was in effect a victory parade of a battle already won several years ago.

The west now has a major dilemma in respect of the Afghan economy. It has already confiscated around nine billion dollars of Afghan aid with other withdrawals of funds from the IMF and proposed "sanctions" which will do nothing to affect the Taliban while inflicting much greater misery on the population as the flow of cash dries up. The west has to talk to the Taliban particularly as the "Northern Alliance fight-back" looks extremely weak and has failed to materialise. For its part the Taliban holds the blackmail card of unleashing more terrorism on the west or against the latter's interests elsewhere and can thus use this threat to trade for aid. While the west has been exaggerating the "gains" in Afghanistan, women's rights and so on, it has not been keen to publicise - in fact they deliberately play it down - the fact that Afghanistan is now the world's biggest narco-state and that record has been achieved during the 20 year occupation. According to the UN, Afghanistan produces 85% of the world's opium and first of all, like all imports and exports, the Taliban taxed this business worth billions of dollars a year. But, being good capitalists, they moved into the business themselves taking control of production and distribution networks. The country also produces most of the world's hashish according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and, under the Taliban, is now moving into the production and distribution of methamphetamines whose raw material, the native herb ephedra, grows everywhere in abundance. It is very likely that the Chinese Triads already have strong connections with the Taliban drug networks along the Silk Road.

These are just a few points on recent developments in Afghanistan but this is a major event that has the same underlying tendencies as the collapse of the Russian bloc expressing the decomposition of capitalism and, as such, need squarely putting in to that perspective.

 

 

 

d-man
Somalia withdrawal

A withdrawal of US troops from Somalia was completed in January 2021: "The number of U.S. military personnel in Somalia ranged from 650 to 800 people." https://www.voanews.com/africa/us-military-pulls-last-troops-out-somalia

Apparently in the 1990s Clinton withdrew US forces from Somalia (I'd have to check the details), so Trump's withdrawal in 2021 was a repeat.

The Afganistan story is dominating news headlines, but, excuse my philistine attitude, maybe there's nothing definitive or significantly extraordinary really. 

 

MH
KT wrote: It appears to me

KT wrote:
It appears to me ironic that at time when elements in the proletarian political milieu  are calling into question the ICC's analysis of decomposition and even decadence, are fixated on the 'growth' of capitalism over the past 30 or 40 years...

Who are you referring to?

 

baboon
I hadn't read KT's point when

I hadn't read KT's point when I made the post above so a quick point on the "surprise/speed" element of the Taliban takeover.

There is no doubt that some elements of the bourgeoisie were surprised by the speed of the Taliban advance but other elements, the military and intelligence parts of the state knew what the position on the ground was and how the Taliban had been advancing for several years. The military were aware of this because of the great increase in air-strikes against Taliban positions from 2017 on, until they became unsustainable. The intelligence services knew because apart from all their other assets, their eyes and ears on the ground, the western NGO's, were increasingly coming under Taliban control as they delivered aid, worked in clinics, schools (under Sharia law) and hospitals as more and more regions fell under it aegis.

Over the last few years there have been reports in outlets like al-Jazeera about the growing strength and spread of the Taliban but generally nothing in the western media that raised any significant concern. A report from Reuters in May 2018 said that numbers of the Afghan security forces had shrunk by nearly 11% over the previous year. A US intelligence officer told the outlet at the time, on condition of anonymity, that the "Afghan army is incapable of preventing the Taliban retaking much of the territory". And here's the rub; it's not so much the "surprise" of the ruling class in the face of the situation that was obviously becoming more and more critical, but its complete loss of control, it utter incompetence, negligence and lack of preparation for the looming outcome, becoming more stark over the recent years. There's another analogy here and it corresponds to the approach and the loss of control of the bourgeoisie to the Covid-19 pandemic. When you see the contradiction between "anonymous briefings" that have an air of reality about them against the public statements of NATO in Afghanistan about how well it's all going there is an echo of the Stalinist regimes which do not want to hear bad news. The western states were like rabbits in an oncoming headlight; frozen as they pretended that everything was going fine. The incompetence and incoherence of the NATO forces in Kabul is an indication of the degree of weakening of this bloc. This event hasn't unfolded over days, weeks or months but years and its denouement over the last couple was looking increasingly obvious.

 

Kamerling
Baboon on Afghanistan

I want to welcome the very serious post of Baboon on the events in Afghanistan and I would invite other comrades to reply and to develop the points he has put forward in his posts, in particular to the role of British imperialism regarding this war in the past, the present and the future