Afghanistan: the Union flag is lowered

On 26 October the Union flag was lowered over Camp Bastion, in Helmand province, Afghanistan. 453 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, 615 have been seriously or very seriously wounded and 2,187 wounded in action. The US military death toll stands at 2,349 soldiers. The war has cost British governments about £40bn. The number of Afghan civilians killed in the first half of 2014 was almost 5,000 people, a rise of 25% on 2013 levels. We were told that British forces were leaving Afghanistan after 13 years, and that the US combat mission would end on 31 December 2014, but things are not like that at all.

After six months of wrangling, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadai was sworn in as successor to President Hamid Karzai on 29 September 2014. Ghani received a Master’s degree from Columbia University, New York, then taught at a US university before joining the World Bank in 1991. Karzai had refused to sign a Security and Defence Cooperation Agreement with the US. The day after Ghani’s inauguration the Agreement was signed, giving US forces total immunity from prosecution in Afghanistan and permitting 10,000 US troops to remain there until 2024 and beyond. The US will keep over a dozen military bases in the country, from which it can threaten Iran, Russia and China and continue operations in Afghanistan. In exchange the Afghan government is to receive $4bn annually, which will disappear in to assorted pockets of politicians, generals and drug lords. NATO then signed a Status of Forces Agreement with the new president allowing up to 5,000 mainly British, German, Italian and Turkish soldiers to stay in Afghanistan.

In 2001 Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair said that a significant reason for invading Afghanistan was to end the heroin trade, ‘The arms the Taliban are buying today are paid for by the lives of young British people buying their drugs on British streets. This is another part of their regime we should seek to destroy.’ A United Nations’ survey published in November 2014 states that Afghanistan’s opium production is at record levels, up nearly 50% since 2012. Opium eradication was cut by 63% from 2013 to 2014 as politicians demanded election campaign cash. From Vietnam in the 1960s to Colombia and Nicaragua in the 1980s to Afghanistan today, the imperialists’ intelligence agencies have used the drug trade to buy allies and wage war.

Trevor Rayne

US to stay in Afghanistan

US forces will continue to occupy Afghanistan until at least the end of 2016. In June, President Obama announced that around 9,800 troops will remain after the end of this year when combat forces are supposed to be withdrawn. That number is intended to be halved by the end of 2015. In an agreement with the Afghan government, the US will retain without trial around 50 prisoners at Bagram air base and be able to incarcerate anyone else they regard as ‘enduring security threats’.

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Afghanistan elections offer little change /FRFI! 239 Jun/Jul 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 239 June/July 2014

Predictably, the April presidential elections in Afghanistan were hailed as a successful display of democracy by the imperialists and the Afghan government. In reality, there were over 900 serious complaints of corruption to the Independent Complaints Commission; even more than in the 2009 election, when at least a quarter of the votes were considered fraudulent. Over half the present complaints are about the Electoral Commission itself, which was meant to ensure a ‘free and fair’ election. Initial results suggest just 6.6 million people voted out of an estimated electorate (there are no precise figures) of 12 million. In six provinces fewer than 10,000 people voted. Mohamed Younas, an unemployed young man in Kabul, told ABC News that he didn’t vote because ‘All our candidates’ hands are dirty with the blood of the people’. JIM CRAVEN reports.

One of the leading candidates, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, has close links to the Northern Warlords and has a former warlord as one of his nominated vice-presidents. Another, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former World Bank economist, has the notorious Uzbek warlord General Abdul Dostum as running mate. Candidate Abdul Rasul Sayyaf is the man who invited Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan and was mentor to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre. Former President Hamid Karzai is thought to have funded the third main candidate, former Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul. After Karzai had persuaded his brother Qayum to withdraw from the election, Qayum publicly backed Rassoul. There were complaints that Rassoul had used government officials to aid his candidacy. Both Rassoul and Ghani had promised Hamid Karzai an advisory role in any future government.

In the first round of the election, Abdullah Abdullah took 45% of the vote and Ashraf Ghani 31.6%. These two will face a second vote on 14 June. Rassoul, who took around 12% of the vote, has thrown his support behind Abdullah. The result, however, will make very little difference to the plight of the Afghan people. All the leading candidates supported a security agreement with the US that will allow up to 10,000 US troops to remain in the country together with large numbers of CIA operatives and mercenaries. The Taliban and other anti-occupation forces will remain in control of large parts of the country. The Afghan army and police, who are now supposed to have control of security operations, lack training, heavy weaponry and an effective air force. They were unable to prevent attacks during the election, even on the Electoral Commission itself. More than 10% of polling stations had to remain closed.

Grim prospects for Afghan people

As its strategy centres increasingly on the Pacific, and operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East focus on ‘fire fighting’ rather than occupation, the US has little reason to bolster military campaigns with ‘hearts and minds’ work. Aid funding for Afghanistan fell by 40% between 2011 and 2013. By April this year, less than 20% of the UN humanitarian aid plan had been funded. The US Inspector-General for Afghan Reconstruction, John Sopko, has refused to fund the completion of the Kajaki hydro scheme on the Helmand River. More than half the Afghan national budget depends on foreign donations. Much of the foreign aid is stolen by the Afghan ruling elite. Consequently, there will be still greater rivalry among these gangsters for the spoils, possibly even armed conflict, particularly as the two remaining candidates have a strong ethnic bias. The situation invites greater interference by Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran, all funding various factions to pursue their own interests.

The prospects for the Afghan people remain grim. A million children under the age of five are acutely malnourished and 60% of all children have stunted growth due to malnutrition. Only 27% of the population has access to safe drinking water. With falling aid budgets, even the modest improvements in child mortality rates and education are under threat. As Mohamed Younas told ABC ‘I am without hope. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. There are no jobs; no proper health care. I won’t vote in the second round. It doesn’t make any sense to me.’

British failure

More than a million people in Afghanistan are addicted to heroin. Opium poppy eradication had been the responsibility of British troops but production reached record levels of more than 200,000 hectares in 2013. Around the main British base at Camp Bastion production increased four-fold between 2011 and 2013. A report by the Royal United Services Institute concluded that the decision to send thousands of British troops to Helmand in 2006 was ‘a strategic failure’. Dr Mike Martin, a former TA captain who served for 15 months in Afghanistan, explains in his book An Intimate War that the British did not understand the nature of Helmand’s tribal society, the Taliban nor the conflict they were engaged in. They killed many citizens using heavy air power between 2006 and 2009 (mostly unreported), scoffed at local demands for adequate water supply and attempted to stop poppy production by aggressive means. The British army, Martin writes, were completely unaware of the historical animosity felt by the local population towards their former colonial masters. This imperialist arrogance chimes with a recent report by Anand Gopal on TomDispatch.com, which shows how offers of a deal by Jalauddin Haqqani following the 2001 invasion were contemptuously ignored by the US. The Haqqani network has since become one of the most determined sections of the anti-occupation forces. A former US intelligence officer said that the prevailing ethos was a simplistic ‘either for us or against us’. For those making policy he said ‘It was just “screw these little brown people”’.

Afghanistan: ‘mission accomplished’?

Among Prime Minister David Cameron’s most crass utterances must be his December declaration that the British campaign in Afghanistan was ‘mission accomplished’ – the same ill-fated phrase used by President Bush after the invasion of Iraq! Even the most deluded apologist for imperialism would concede that the Taliban are poised to re-take large parts of the country; that Al Qaeda (never a significant presence in Afghanistan) is now expanding exponentially in parts of the Middle East and Africa and that Afghanistan is governed by a non-democratic bunch of gangsters. Labour Defence Secretary John Reid launched Britain’s present phase of the invasion, hoping ‘not a shot would be fired in anger’. Some 26 million rounds of ammunition later 447 British service personnel have been killed, together with over 3,000 from other occupying forces and tens of thousands of the Afghan people. Almost three-quarters of the Afghan people have no access to safe water, half of them do not have enough to eat and, of those children that survive to the age of five, 60% suffer from malnourishment. Meanwhile, according to one estimate, 90% of development aid is siphoned off by the rich elite, putting Afghanistan equal top of Transparency International’s league of corruption. As for Britain’s campaign to eradicate opium production, poppy harvests have reached record levels.

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British atrocities in Afghanistan

In November 2013, a British marine, known only as Sergeant A, was found guilty of murder by a military tribunal. Together with two other marines, he had been charged with shooting an injured Taliban fighter in September 2011. The three marines dragged the badly wounded fighter out of sight of an observation balloon, scoffed at any idea of administering first aid and killed the fighter with a shot to the stomach. Sergeant A said, ‘There you are, shuffle off this mortal coil you cunt. It’s nothing you wouldn’t have done to us. Obviously, this don’t go anywhere fellas. I’ve just broken the Geneva Convention.’ Marine B said ‘Yep, rog: if it ever comes to light, it’ll have been a warning shot.’

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  1. Imperialist shambles in Afghanistan/FRFI 235 Oct/Nov 2013
  2. Afghanistan Karzai scuppers peace talks/FRFI 234 Aug/Sep 2013
  3. Afghanistan: Anti-occupation forces launch spring offensive/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013
  4. Imperialists struggle to avoid defeat in Afghanistan /FRFI 231 Feb/Mar 2013
  5. Afghanistan: murder and mayhem/ FRFI 230 Dec 2012/Jan 2013
  6. Afghanistan and Pakistan – drones and the new doctrines of war / FRFI 228 Aug/Sep 2012
  7. Afghanistan agreement – death squads to continue / FRFI 227 June/July 2012
  8. Afghanistan: more imperialist atrocities /FRFI 226 Apr/May 2012
  9. Afghanistan – failing imperialists try to divide opposition/FRFI 225 Feb/Mar 2012
  10. War in Afghanistan threatens whole region / FRFI 224 Decr 2011/Jan 2012
  11. Afghanistan: Taliban strike at will / FRFI 223 Oct / Nov 2011
  12. Afghanistan: problems mount for imperialists / FRFI 222 Aug / Sep 2011
  13. Afghanistan - Imperialist strategy failing / FRFI 220 April/May 2011
  14. Afghanistan: imperialists raise level of violence in advance of talks / FRFI 218 Dec 2010 / Jan 2011
  15. Afghanistan: imperialists losing the war / FRFI 217 Oct/Nov 2010
  16. Afghanistan: Imperialists divided / FRFI 216 Aug/Sep 2010
  17. Afghanistan – Obama’s surge threatens Kandahar / FRFI 215 Jun/Jul 2010
  18. Afghanistan – new imperialist onslaught / FRFI 214 Apr / May 2010
  19. Afghanistan war unwinnable / FRFI 212 Dec 2009 / Jan 2010
  20. Afghanistan: Imperialist propaganda cannot mask paralysis / FRFI 211 Oct / Nov 2009
  21. Fighting thin air
  22. Imperialism out of Afghanistan
  23. WAR IN AFGHANISTAN Deeper into the mire / FRFI 210 Aug / Sep 2009
  24. War in Afghanistan and Pakistan escalates / FRFI 209 Jun / Jul 2009
  25. AFGHANISTAN: bowing to the empire