For years, NATO governments, the corporate press and an army of “experts” have been repeating, over and over again, this chorus: “Afghanistan is improving.” For quite some time, this has been the only thing reported on Afghanistan. It is almost impossible to get a clear overview of the situation in Afghanistan from mainstream news sources, who have attempted to push the war out of the limelight and safely onto the back pages. But, as is often the case, events have forced the truth to the surface.
On June 13th, in one of the largest guerrilla incursions of the conflict so far, Taliban fighters launched a large-scale raid on Kandahar prison. Nearly 1,200 prisoners, including 400 Taliban insurgents, were freed. In the ensuing days, Taliban forces captured 7 towns and villages in the Arghandab region of Kandahar province. This was a major victory for the Taliban, who have been declared dead or nearly dead several times by coalition spokespeople and the “independent” media.
The offensive took NATO and the Karzai government by surprise, forcing them into a hastily prepared counter-attack. The ground was eventually retaken, with the corporate media falling over itself to declare the incident a victory, a claim which rings more than hollow in the ears of most people.
The Taliban’s goal is not to force NATO into a stand up fight, which would be a disaster, due to the Taliban’s lack of tanks, jets, guided missiles and the other advanced weapons that NATO has in abundance. The Taliban have always been a guerrilla army. Since it was the CIA and the US State Department that trained them in these tactics during the Mujahedeen in the 1980s, NATO should be aware of this. The goal of a guerrilla army is to chip away at the credibility of the Karzai government and of NATO, and to erode their support amongst the Afghan people – a goal which, despite the constant claims of victory from the West, the Taliban is achieving.
This latest battle is merely more proof of an already established truth: the war in Afghanistan is an unwinnable one. The facts depicting the general situation of this country speak for themselves: 200,000 internally displaced persons; a further 2 million forced into exile in Iran and Pakistan; a massive proliferation of the opium trade; mass corruption and desertion amongst the police force, the army, and the government; and, most of all, the unswaying resilience of the insurgency. It is little wonder why news of the war only makes headlines when a western solider is killed, as the bourgeoisie are afraid to talk about the real situation in any depth. Debate over the war is stifled in the media and the government by the same tired jingoism of “support the troops.”
However, this line, used often by Bush, Brown and Canadian PM Harper, is now itself being shown to be an utter falsehood. Recently, an army Chaplain, Jean Johns, came forward with stories of a Canadian soldier he had counselled who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The soldier developed the disorder when he witnessed an Afghan army soldier raping a small boy, but had received a standing order not to intervene. It was later revealed that this type of incident is a regular occurrence in Afghanistan, with more and more soldiers suffering from debilitating PTSD episodes.
The government’s “support the troops” rhetoric is shown by these incidents to be utter hypocrisy. Through a political mandate of NATO governments, soldiers are being knowingly exposed to extremely hazardous conditions on the ground in Afghanistan. This has lasting effects on the lives of soldiers long after they have returned home. What kind of government defines “support” as sending working class men and women into a war which is unpopular and unwinnable, and unnecessarily exposing them to extreme psychological harm? And for what purpose are these young soldiers being sacrificed?
Recently, CTV News published a story about the Trans-Afghan Oil Pipeline, which is due to enter the Canadian-controlled Kandahar province in the very near future. The article discussed the urgent need to assign troops to protect this important business venture. We explained several years ago that the real motivation behind the Afghan war is the constant drive for profit and power amongst the Western ruling class. Imperialism is the real cause for which western soldiers and Afghan civilians are being sacrificed. The Afghan pipeline, which is meant to pump oil from the Caspian Sea through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea, is being pushed through as fast as possible to prevent a similar Iranian pipeline from performing the same ends. It would be a major blow to the West if Iran gained access and control of Caspian oil as it would give the ruling classes of Iran, China, and Russia a serious economic and political advantage in the region. Afghanistan’s important strategic location makes it vital to Western imperialism. The CTV article nicknamed this particular fight between the imperialist powers “The Great Game,” a name borrowed from the series of economic wars fought for control of Afghanistan between Britain and Russia at the end of the 19th century. It seems little has changed since then: the international working class is still being used like pawns on a chess board to satisfy the greed of this or that imperialist clique.
This war is an imperialist war. It is a war fought simply for the profits of the bosses and for the political power and influence needed to protect them. The increasing strength of the Taliban is not a mystery. It is a reflection of the political situation on the ground. The growing frustration of the Afghan people with the Karzai government and with the West is having its reflection in increasing recruitment for the Taliban. The NATO occupation is acting as one of the best recruiting sergeants for the insurgency. The military philosopher, Carl Von Clausewitz, said that war is the extension of politics by other means. It cannot be otherwise. The economic policies of capitalism, with all its inherent exploitation, violence and instability, are being brought into Afghanistan at the point of a bayonet. There is no solution to the problems of the Afghan people on this basis, and the military occupation there is only exacerbating the problems. We must fight to bring all the troops home so the Afghan people can free themselves of imperialist oppression. These wars are a product of capitalism and in the last analysis the only way to free ourselves from war is to free ourselves of capitalism.