The Taliban regime has been toppled. The followers of Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden have been driven from power in most of Afghanistan. We were told that the battle between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban would be long and hard, in particular for Kabul. But the Taliban have retreated without a real confrontation, crushed under American bombing, and are now under threat in their last stronghold in the region of Kandahar.
Faced with the apparently unexpected rapidity of events, the foreign ministers of the member countries of the UN met urgently in New York on the 12 November to call for the slowing down of military action and the acceleration of political action. Conversely America increased its pressure for the speeding up of the military offensive. Instead of trumpeting their satisfaction at the defeat of one the principle centres of ‘international terrorism’, and faced with a situation of growing anarchy, the imperialist powers in the security council of the UN made a worried appeal to the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban forces to “keep to their responsibilities concerning human rights” and to exercise power while “respecting people and assuring social peace”. We can only underline the sickening hypocrisy of these criminals giving lessons to the little gangsters and cliques that they supported for their own interests, when the great powers are the principle warmongers and their rivalries are directly responsible for the biggest massacres in history.
What the dramatic situation in Afghanistan shows once more is the free for all among the great powers. No consensus exists between them to eradicate international Islamic terrorism, which in any case is not the real game; nor are they interested in ‘humanitarianism’, which is only a pretext to settle their scores by bleeding populations white.
The pressure of American policy
The attack on the Twin Towers was the dreamt-for pretext for the US to apply a military policy already defined this summer by the secretary of defence Donald Rumsfield, i.e. pursuing its strategic priorities in Asia instead of Europe and the Mediterranean basin. In order to clearly affirm its authority in this part of the world, the United States has decided to crush the Taliban in Afghanistan by itself, with its own methods, only leaving a miniscule role to its best ally Britain, and excluding a country like France, which has been itching to take America’s hand in order to play its own pawns. Since September 11 Bush has constantly repeated that this war is going to be long, and that it’s not only against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The entire world is to become an ‘anti-terrorist’ hunting ground: “We have had a good beginning in Afghanistan, but much remains to be done (�) we will pursue them to the end” he declared a week after the taking of Kabul. Shortly after that he began growling menacingly towards Iraq, which many see as the next target, although a number of other candidates have been floated (Yemen, Somalia, etc).
The United States can boast today that it has won certain advantages. With the rapid victory of the ‘anti-Talibans’, it has for example silenced those European powers, headed by France, who criticised the validity of bombing and thus the whole of American strategy. By the same token it has gained a certain success with its own ‘public opinion’ by defeating the Taliban enemy with a policy of ‘zero deaths’. This has allowed Washington to better justify the dispatch of 3200 marines in addition to 500 special forces already on the spot, as well as a highly sophisticated and destructive military armada.
The imperialist free for all
However, everything is far from being a walkover for the White House. Contrary to the Gulf War where the US imposed its law on Saudi Arabia and brought to heel the western powers hostile to its intervention, the United States has clearly decided to act for itself. Looking at the different demonstrations of US force since the Gulf War, whether the spectacular defeat in Somalia in 1992, the attempt to bring American order to ex-Yugoslavia, or the massive war against Serbia in 1999 in the name of defending Kosovans, the US has been systematically opposed by their old allies of the western bloc. In such a context, in the breakthrough they have made in Afghanistan, the US policy is to ride alone. In order to block the pressure of its ‘allies’, the American government is presently supporting the Northern Alliance, until now supported more by Russia. At the same time Washington has deliberately not armed the more important but less dependable Pashtun factions closer to Pakistan.
Thus when Bush officially told the Northern Alliance on the 10 November not to enter Kabul, defence secretary Rumsfield at the same time told it to do as it wished, but “without committing exactions”. Faced with its rivals America throws oil on the fire of a chaotic situation.
The most eager bourgeoisie of all, the French, already eclipsed by the vote on the first resolution of the UN, has been able to justify its presence in Uzbekistan in the name of humanitarianism. It’s thus no accident that Paris has developed a whole press campaign on the danger of a relapse to the kind of anarchy we saw between 1992 and 1996, given the return to power of the Afghan warlords. Hubert Vedrine, French foreign minister, unblushingly addressed a threat to “those who are going to exercise power in Afghanistan”; henceforth they would be “under the vigilant gaze of the international community”. The French media, like the media in most of the western countries, who yesterday couldn’t find words bad enough to denounce the Taliban, has suddenly discovered their virtues since they at least established a state and a stable social situation. Another example of the vileness of the bourgeois class, whose truths vary according to its immediate interests.
The French army, presently isolated, rejected by the American pack leader, is thus impotent, back to square one, at the Uzbekistan border, whose head of state, supported by the United States, is dragging things out while waiting to draw profit from his part of the Afghan cake.
The consensus between the great powers is so uncertain that Great Britain itself, despite being in the first rank since the first day of the conflict, has decided “not to put its forces in place without the agreement of the United States and a clear understanding of what our troops will do in the framework of the military coalition”, and has stood down thousands of troops who were expected to be deployed. In fact, the British bourgeoisie, despite Blair’s declarations of allegiance, has been excluded by Bush from all the decisions taken about Afghanistan for the past two months (see the accompanying article in this issue).
The disappointment of France and Great Britain indicates the policy of the United States in this conflict: to elicit the ‘solidarity’ of its old cold war allies toward its own strategic vision, but to deprive them of any benefit that they might expect from this solidarity. Obviously the European powers who announced their support for operation ‘Enduring Freedom’ weren’t doing it to win Bush’s smile but because it was the only means of being there when the spoils were shared out. The little part of the cake that Blair or Chirac were hoping for was to deploy their troops on the spot. This would prevent the American godfather from enjoying the monopoly of military presence in this part of the world, which in turn would leave its hands entirely free to pursue its own exclusive interests. But Bush has apparently decided not to even grant them these crumbs. The only solidarity that the American gangster appreciates from his second strings is obedience.
Capitalism’s only perspective is chaos
The Bonn conference which began on 26 November between Europe and the different Afghan factions has the avowed aim of establishing a “multi-ethnic regime representing the diversity of the country”. In reality it is only an episode in the free for all now reigning in Afghanistan. But this conference is above all part of the wider free for all amongst the great powers who pretend to have a political solution for Afghanistan.
It is also significant that this conference is being held in Germany and not in Great Britain or in France who have been until now the most active in the military operation (even if modestly). By giving Germany the diplomatic prestige of organising this conference, the biggest power is trying to play its allies off against each other.
Not only is the Afghan powder-keg becoming one of the new zones of confrontation between the great powers, a major stake of the imperialist balance of forces in the period to come; it is also extending capitalist chaos further to the east. Afghanistan has always represented a key region between the Middle and Far East, and between three large countries, Russia, China and India, a region which has always been a stake between the eastern and western blocs during the cold war. Today the conflicts within Afghanistan are much more likely to spread to the neighbouring region. Thus the countries to the north, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, are trying to play off Russia and the United States. Pakistan’s rival factions, already wound up in the preceding period of American intervention, are going to tear into each other more than ever, while the loss of Islamabad’s Taliban ally will make it all the more vulnerable at the geo-strategic level. Meanwhile India is being caught between the pressure of the US and China, which has generously supplied its atomic capability to India’s arch-rival, Pakistan. The imperialist pretensions of India are thus pushing it to oppose the military presence of the US in a region where it wants to be one of the preponderant powers.
The future announced by the circling of all these vultures is sombre indeed. Once again they are going to sow death and chaos in the name of peace, humanity, and civilisation �in reality for the needs of a dying social system.
KW, 24 /11/01.