Afghanistan – cracks open up in the imperialist front

The imperialist forces face deepening problems in Afghanistan. By the end of last year 36 British and 34 Canadian troops had been killed: a death rate for British forces greater than in Iraq. Over 100 suicide attacks took place in 2006 compared with just 17 in the previous 12 months. Taliban and other attacks on Afghan forces increased by more than 300% in 2006 and on NATO forces by over 270%. The British and Canadians continue to meet fierce resistance wherever they go in the south. In Musa Qala the British brokered a peace deal with the village elders which the Afghan resistance has respected, but the deal only applies within the town, so British forces continue to face major attacks just outside its boundaries.

When NATO forces respond they often do so in an indiscriminate manner. In Punjwayi during Operation Medusa NATO claimed to have killed more than 1,000 resistance fighters and captured huge stockpiles of weapons but air attacks killed many civilians. In October at least 30 nomadic herders were killed by NATO air strikes. At the beginning of December in Kandahar British troops opened fire indiscriminately following a bomb attack on their convoy. Witnesses said most of the 23 killed and injured civilians were the victims of the gun fire not the bomb. Such incidents only anger the local people and draw new recruits into the resistance.

Imperialist rivalries create divisions
But it is not just the rising resistance that is causing the occupying forces problems. There are clear signs of growing tensions between Britain and the US over tactics in Afghanistan and between the rival imperialist powers that contribute to NATO. The US administration was not happy with the Musa Qala peace deal. The CIA told puppet Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sack Helmand’s governor Mohammed Daud and his deputy, key British allies in the region. The US also criticised the British commander of NATO forces, General David Richards, for being too political. General Jim Jones, the US Supreme Commander NATO said Richards ‘would have been sacked if he had been an American officer’.
At the NATO summit in Riga, Latvia at the end of November the US pushed the idea that NATO should re-invent itself as ‘the security core of a global club of democracies’. In other words, police imperialism, but act, of course, under US hegemony. To try and secure this US domination President Bush pushed for membership of NATO for Georgia and Ukraine, two of its allies in the Caucasus region. Bush demanded that NATO members give more support in Afghanistan. The other leading imperialist nations (Britain apart) would have none of it. They all refused to increase their troop numbers in Afghanistan and made only minor concessions to allow them to operate in more combative roles. The Belgian foreign minister even suggested NATO should consider an exit

Britain, however, continued to push the US-British partnership, which it needs to provide enough military clout to defend its global interests. Britain agreed to send an extra battalion to Afghanistan. Blair criticised reluctant NATO members saying, ‘NATO’s credibility is at stake and if we don’t succeed in Afghanistan the whole of our world (meaning British imperialism) will be less secure.’ He continued this line in a speech in January when he criticised those countries that were ‘willing to take part in peacemaking but not warmaking’.

Puppet government corrupt and incapable
The NATO summit set a deadline of 2008 for handing over elements of security to Afghan forces. As things stand this is nothing more than wishful thinking. $1 billion has been spent on the Afghan police but they are completely ineffectual. Like the army the police is riddled with drug traffickers. The Afghan government was described by Condoleezza Rice just a year ago as ‘a fully functioning sovereign government’. But it is headed by US-puppet Hamid Karzai and dominated by US-backed warlords such as Ismael Khan, Rashid Dustum and Yusuf Pashtun.
Almost all the $7.3 billion provided for development projects has disappeared into their pockets. None of the foreign troops or contractors in Afghanistan are answerable to the Afghan government or Afghan law. Afghan opium production increased by 26% this year with poppy cultivation up 132% in Helmand province where British troops are based. Top official at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonia Maria Costa, called on NATO to ‘destroy the heroin labs and bring to justice the big traders’. But NATO will not do this for it will bring other powerful forces into conflict with them.
As General Jim Jones pointed out, ‘There is a tendency to characterise all of the violence as the resurgence of the Taliban. This is inaccurate. The violence has other causes including the strong presence of the drug cartels who have their own security system.’ According to the UNODC foreign drug traffickers make $50 billion a year from this trade.

Only suffering for Afghan people
For the Afghan people it is a very different story. In Kandahar, for instance, there is a shortage of water and sewage runs openly in the streets. Electricity supplies provide less than six hours a day. Kidnapping, banditry and police corruption are rife. Overall 39% of Afghan children under five years of age are malnourished. 61% of Afghans have to rely on untreated water. Some women are treated as savagely as they were under the Taliban. Most girls cannot go to school. The Afghan human rights commission has reported women burning themselves to avoid family abuse. Malalai Joya, one of the few outspoken women in the Afghan parliament, has been attacked and threatened with rape by other MPs.
The northern warlords have threatened that if the Taliban take Kandahar then they will take over Kabul, effectively splitting the country. They must be keenly aware of the devious nature of the imperialists. They know the US wants Afghanistan for its strategic position close to the Caspian Basin and to run a pipeline from the oilfields there. Both Hamid Karzai and the first US ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, were executives of Unocal, the US company that negotiated with the previous Taliban regime for the pipeline. They know the US armed and trained Taliban fighters to overthrow the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan in the 1980s. They know it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the US would try to reach a settlement with the Taliban again if it suited its purpose.
Jim Craven

FRFI 195 February / March 2007


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