The Spark

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

Five years of U.S. war in Afghanistan

Nov 13, 2006

Today, the U.S. has 20,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan and NATO has another 20,000 troops. Together, they have not been able to stop the Taliban from winning control over at least half of the country, and gaining. Whether this new opposition to the U.S. and NATO occupation of Afghanistan is actually the Taliban, or a combination of other forces, is not clear. But what is clear is that over the last year the war in Afghanistan has gotten much, much worse than even in 2001.

Barely five years ago, in October 2001, the U.S. military with the aid of the British and the Afghan Northern Alliance had gone to war, and within two months had routed the ruling Taliban Alliance. If the Taliban has recently gained so much ground back in Afghanistan, it is not because it is particularly popular among most of the population. When it ruled Afghanistan, the Taliban used religion as a justification to carry out the worst oppression and terror. Today the Taliban continues to threaten the most brutal violence against anyone who dares oppose them.

Yet more and more people are turning to the Taliban because what the U.S. has brought to Afghanistan is worse.

The Terror of the U.S. Military Machine

First of all, the U.S. military has brought Afghanistan death and destruction. In many regions of the country, the U.S. military has systematically bombed and destroyed whole villages, as it recently did with a village in Kandahar province, reportedly killing at least 60 civilians. U.S. and NATO troops also regularly invade peoples’ homes and round up the young men to send them to the notorious and secret U.S.-run prison system.

The U.S. operates at least 19 prisons in Afghanistan, with the biggest being at Bagram. According to John Sifton, the Human Rights Watch representative in Afghanistan, conditions in these prisons are worse than at Guantanamo Bay or the infamous Abu Ghraib in Iraq. “Detainees were severely beaten, exposed to cold and deprived of sleep and water,” says Sifton. Most never leave these prisons alive.

Impoverishment on a Grand Scale

At the same time, impoverishment in Afghanistan is worse than ever.

After the U.S.-led forces kicked out the Taliban, the U.S. hosted a series of international conferences in which governments of countries big and small pledged tens of billions of dollars to supposedly provide the resources and assistance necessary for the country’s reconstruction and development needs. Needless to say, little of that money ever made it to Afghanistan, nor to the people who needed it most. Outside of the construction of a few roads that connect the bigger cities together, which was done for military reasons, there was no reconstruction nor development. Almost none of the people in the country have access to electricity, water, health care or education. And the country is dotted by refugee camps, to which people have fled to get away from the war. There is no international aid whatsoever.

The Afghan people are literally starving to death. By all indicators, poverty in Afghanistan is worse than almost anywhere else in the world, with the situation of women and children particularly grave. For women, the act of giving birth can be a “forecast of death.” According to the United Nations Development Programs Afghanistan Human Development Report, “one woman dies approximately every 30 minutes from pregnancy-related causes.” And one in four children born in Afghanistan cannot expect to live beyond the age of five. Almost no one lives longer than age 45.

Drug Eradication: A U.S. Tool for Control

This impoverishment is made worse by the U.S.-led drug eradication program. Poppy cultivation represents a survival strategy for millions of Afghans. Without the money they get from selling poppies, most families cannot feed their children. Of course, the U.S. could encourage farmers to grow other crops by giving them some aid. Instead, the U.S. carries out an eradication program, destroying crops, and literally adding to the starvation of the population.

Of course, no one should believe that the U.S. has stopped the cultivation of poppies. Afghanistan grows 90% of all the poppies that go into the production of illegal opium or heroin in the entire world. One important reason for this is that the U.S. allows the cultivation of poppies when it benefits its allies, such as many of the top officials of its puppet government, who are notoriously linked to the drug trade.

In other words, the U.S. uses drug eradication as one more weapon in its war, in order to reward its allies, while terrorizing everyone else.

Republican and Democratic Lies

After the U.S. drove the Taliban from power, the U.S. media almost completely stopped covering the war in Afghanistan. Their excuse has been that the war in Afghanistan has been eclipsed by the war in Iraq – which they have barely covered either. As late as 2003, President Bush could get away with declaring Afghanistan a major victory, and his generals regularly declared the Taliban to be “a force in decline” without being publicly challenged.

Even today, when they mention Afghanistan, most Republicans make it sound like the war in Afghanistan is the first stop in the war on terror, their big success story. As for the Democrats, particularly Senator Kerry and Bill Clinton, they talk about how the “real fight against terror is in Afghanistan.” Afghanistan, in other words, is supposed to be the “good fight,” as opposed to the highly unpopular war in Iraq.

This is pure propaganda. The war in Afghanistan is another imperialist war by the U.S. to impose its control – not just on oil – but on the entire region of the Middle East and Central Asia, with all of those resources and peoples. It is a war that is not opposed to terror, but instead is state-supported terror on a grand scale against the people of Afghanistan.

It is a disgusting, barbaric war that all workers should oppose.