Afghanistan: Anti-occupation forces launch spring offensive

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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

Despite all the attempts by US and British government propaganda to have us believe that their troops are winning the battle in Afghanistan, Brigadier Bob Bruce, commander of the British task force in Helmand, admitted in March that: ‘We know for a fact there is no military solution to the insurgency; there is no way the military is going to win a counter-insurgency [war] because it is essentially a political issue. It is a matter of offers: the offer the government makes to the people and the offer the insurgents make to the people.’

Well, the ‘offer’ presently being made by President Karzai has little to recommend it. After ten years of acting as imperialism’s stooge, Karzai heads a country that is the second poorest in the world. Nine million people (36% of the population) live in absolute poverty and less than a quarter has regular access to safe drinking water. Life expectancy in Afghanistan averages 48.6 years. It is one of only five countries where life expectancy for women is less than for men. Maternal mortality is the second highest in the world. Four out of every five women will experience some form of domestic violence. Karzai passed a law that legalised marital rape. A spokeswoman for a women’s group in Kandahar said, ‘It is like the Taliban times for women now. We cannot come out of the house to earn extra money or get an education. The only difference is that our honour was safe then.’

Karzai’s government is thoroughly corrupt, riddled with warlords and drug dealers. Despite the imperialist governments’ protestations, they have fuelled this corruption. In April, Karzai admitted that he had received tens of millions of dollars (what he called ‘small amounts’) from the CIA and MI6. The money has been used to prop up other warlords and gangsters. The CIA also paid for the Kandahar Strike Force, operated by Karzai’s half-brother Ahmad Wali, a leading drugs baron, until he was executed by anti-occupation forces. MI6 money funded a would-be Taliban leader in talks with Karzai. He proved to be an impostor. The CIA still funds NDS, the Afghan secret service. A joint CIA/NDS operation in Kunar Province on 13 April killed 17 civilians.

No negotiations with Karzai

Yabi Torami, an Afghan anti-corruption campaigner, has pointed out that in a country known for mutilating and hanging deposed leaders, Karzai is desperate to portray himself as a patriotic and nationalist leader so as to be able to negotiate with the Taliban. This explains his occasional outbursts against the foreign invaders. However, the Taliban see Karzai as a puppet of the invaders. A report by the Royal United Services Institute last autumn, based on interviews with four Taliban leaders, claimed that some Taliban were ready to negotiate a peace settlement and even to compromise on the US presence and to break with Al Qaeda, but even they were opposed to any constitutional prop for Karzai. Michael Semple, former UN envoy, described these people as ‘the outer fringe’ of the Taliban. Initial talks between the anti-occupation forces and the US broke down over a year ago, when the US reneged on a promise to release Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo.

In March, Karzai travelled to Qatar, hoping Emir Sheikh Hamad would facilitate meetings with the Taliban, which had opened an office in the capital, Doha. However, a Taliban spokesman said the office had nothing to do with starting negotiations and repeated that the Taliban would not talk with Karzai. The US and Britain have been pushing Karzai to settle differences with Pakistan in order that Pakistan might facilitate talks. However, Pakistan is apparently setting preconditions for participation in any peace process: demanding that Afghanistan severs ties with India, that Afghan army officers be sent to Pakistan for training and that a strategic partnership deal be signed immediately. These are unacceptable to the Afghan government.

War goes on

Anti-occupation fighters have launched a spring offensive. At the beginning of April, nine fighters stormed a courthouse in Farah, western Afghanistan, to free Taliban prisoners. They and 44 others were killed in what was the deadliest attack since 2011. On 1 May, three British soldiers were killed and six others injured when their Mastiff vehicle hit a roadside bomb. The 16-ton Mastiff was thought to be impregnable to such attacks.

Occupying forces are continuing the process of ostensibly handing control to Afghan national security forces (ANSF). In March, the prison at Bagram base was handed over, though only after the US insisted that it could hold anyone it captured for 96 hours and that it retained around 50 high category prisoners. The prison has been rebuilt on a new site and renamed the Afghan National Detention Facility. UN officials believe prisoners will continue to be tortured there. The US is spending over $10 billion a year on the ANSF; equivalent to half of Afghanistan’s GDP. However, only five of 26 ANSF brigades are capable of acting independently. ANSF casualties are far greater than among all the occupying forces. 1,100 ANSF members were killed in just six months of fighting last year. In a battle at Badakhshan in late March, anti-occupation fighters were able to keep their troops supplied and the ANSF pinned down. Eventually, the ANSF was forced to call in ISAF air strikes. Major Jan Agha Mohamed of the ANSF said, ‘The dushman (rebels) knew the ground well, so they could set up traps for us. We lost many men due to this.’

British troops are due to be cut from around 8,000 to 5,200 by the end of this year. The military’s lack of confidence in the ANSF taking control is highlighted by the fact that the Quick Reaction Force and Brigade Reconnaissance Force will be on permanent standby. British commander Lt-General Nick Carter has warned that any further withdrawal that is not in line with the current plan would be ‘unforgivable’ and would damage Afghan confidence. General Dunford went further, fearing ‘capital flight, families leaving the country and lack of support for government forces in case the Taliban came back’. Acting British ambassador Nic Hawley admitted it was ‘inevitable’ that there will be parts of Afghanistan not in ANSF control in 2014.

By the end of 2014, when all combat forces are supposed to have left the country, the US hopes to have around five operating bases and a large embassy in Kabul, though as yet there is no agreement on immunity from prosecution for US personnel, the issue that caused the US to pull out most of its forces from Iraq. Some elite special forces will remain in Afghanistan, as well as a large number of mercenaries, giving a total ‘force’ as high as 20,000. At present, the US employs over 110,000 privately contracted workers in Afghanistan, including over 33,000 US citizens. In 2011, casualty rates among mercenaries were higher than among regular troops, highlighting their growing importance at a time of financial cutbacks and widening conflicts. The present US/Afghan strategic agreement has no time limit for the US presence.

By such means, the imperialists hope to salvage something of their strategic plan to use Afghanistan as a base to secure oil supplies from the Caspian basin and promote regime change throughout the region.

Jim Craven

 

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