The Spark

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

Afghanistan:
The U.S. sets up an ethnic powder keg

Jan 19, 2004

The U.S. media tell us the new Afghan constitution is an important democratic development bringing relief and a better future to the Afghan people who have suffered so much. It is put forward as proof of the beneficial results from the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks, when the U.S. army chased out Al Qaeda and the Taliban, who were running the country. The Afghan constitution is supposed to set a democratic example for the coming constitution of Iraq, where the U.S. also has to deal with a very divided country, without a democratic past.

As for democracy, we need look no further than the way the constitution was cobbled together. The people on the loya jirga or traditional council that wrote the constitution were landlords and tribal leaders the U.S. carefully approved. They were not representative of the Afghan people.

The U.S. was careful to see that the man it had already put into the "presidency," Hamid Karzai, would continue. He emerged with strong powers, while the new parliament will have only a weak ability to counter his actions. In addition, the two vice presidents are to be appointed by the president, not elected with their own base in another part of the population. This gives Karzai's ethnic group, the Pashtuns, the most important ethnic minority in the country, domination over the central government and leaves the other ethnic groups – all of whom are smaller – with little national power. Instead they will get control over the provinces where they are dominant.

This new constitution may encourage the other ethnic groups, dominated by their local warlords, to make a fight over the control of the central government, which has been set up to exclude them from power. This is not a recipe for democracy – it is a recipe for an ethnic civil war.

U.S. imperialism has plenty of experience playing on ethnic divisions, including in Afghanistan itself. During the years the USSR was there, the U.S. gave heavy financial support and arms to the various fundamentalist warlords in Afghanistan fighting against the USSR. Today the U.S. is giving armed support to some fundamentalist ethnic groups who are willing to fight against the Taliban, who still remain in Afghanistan, and against others warlords, like Gubbuldin Hekmayar, who have taken up arms against the Karzai regime. In order to minimize the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, the U.S. finances and arms these friendly ethnic groups and their local warlords, letting these strong men run their provinces as absolute dictators.

In the northeast and the south, areas where the U.S. can't find anyone to support it, 10,000 U.S. soldiers continue bombing operations against the population. Operation Avalanche just led to the deaths of 15 children. The effect of this bombing policy is to push the population to support the fundamentalist guerrillas, who seem to be gaining, judging by the increasing number of attacks in big cities like Kandahar and Kabul.

Once again imperialism has lit the fuse of an ethnic powder keg. When it explodes, it will be a disaster for the Afghan people, just as the ethnic powder keg of ex-Yugoslavia was 12 years ago.