The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

U.S. troops in Afghanistan:
The forgotten war

Feb 17, 2003

In Afghanistan, U.S. forces have increasingly come under fire from enemy guerrillas. In one recent incident in southern Afghanistan, U.S. Special Forces were ambushed by about 25 Afghan guerrillas. So they called in U.S. jets, which bombed a village, killing 17 Afghan civilians, including women and children. As always, the civilian population pays the highest price.

Officially, the 7,000 U.S. troops, along with several thousand more U.S.-hired mercenaries, are in Afghanistan for so-called "mopping up" exercises, rooting out the last pockets of resistance of the terrorists from the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But, in fact, the exact opposite is happening. The many sets of warlords who for 20 years have torn the country apart in endless civil war, have increasingly been contesting for control and profits from drug trafficking and other forms of smuggling. At least one powerful warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has also begun directly attacking the central government of Hamid Karzai that was installed by the U.S. government after the U.S. invasion last year.

These rivalries between the different warlords have been, in turn, fueled by the governments of the surrounding countries that are themselves competing for influence and power, making Afghanistan the center of a "circle of instability," according to the Afghan ambassador to the U.S., Ishaq Shahrayar. According to testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Services Committee, Pakistan's intelligence service, the infamous and powerful Interservices Intelligence Agency (ISS), is "once again either turning a blind eye to or cooperating with" many groups opposed to the government of Hamid Karzai. These include the very same Taliban that the ISS had originally set up and helped bring into power before it was pushed out by the U.S. invasion last year. Also included are the Arabic fundamentalists and terrorists from other countries often said to be linked to Al Qaeda. And Pakistan is not alone. India and Iran are also backing other sets of warlords and terrorists inside Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the millions of Afghan refugees from previous wars are returning to a country that remains almost completely pulverized, with most of the economy destroyed or paralyzed. The Afghan population continues to face famine, disease and abject misery.

All of this makes conditions ripe for the civil war to continue to rage, with this difference – this time U.S. troops are based in the country, playing a larger role, supporting one group of warlords against the other – and therefore contributing to the violence and misery as well.

After the U.S. had bombed and invaded Afghanistan last year, with great fanfare President Bush had promised the people of Afghanistan that the U.S. would end the civil war, make Afghanistan whole. In fact, once installed in Afghanistan, the U.S. military has simply made it into another base for its operations, another projection of U.S. imperial power over that part of the world.