In the first week of October, a British commander declared that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won. This statement, made by Brigadier Carleton-Smith, finally tells us that the NATO forces are experiencing many problems in fighting the Taliban. Up to now, the media has been reporting that the situation in Afghanistan is improving and that the Taliban are being defeated. The truth is, however, that NATO has not been able to dislodge the Taliban from key areas in the country. While the Taliban has been pushed out of certain areas, losing some key towns and localities, they have merely abandoned any attempt to defend fixed locations, where they are weak, and retreat into the countryside where they can step up guerilla attacks – one of their key strengths.
The high civilian casualties that come as a result of the attacks by the coalition forces lead the Afghan population to despair. As a result, many civilians increasingly either join the Taliban forces or are sympathetic towards them, as they are looking for ways to improve their situation. So much for winning hearts and minds. The actions of imperialism drives the population into the welcoming arms of the fundamentalists. Moreover, the Taliban have been able to stabilize some regions in the country by setting up local police forces, mayors and even courts. Largely by means of the drug trade, which supplies approximately US$68 million to the Taliban each year, the Taliban have been able to sustain themselves militarily and politically. Corruption within the Karzai government also aids in strengthening the objectives of the Taliban guerilla-forces and in defeating the Western imperialist forces. All this contributes to the difficulties the NATO forces are faced with in Afghanistan.
The initial success of the NATO forces has now turned into its opposite. The “war on terror”, far from achieving any of its objectives, has had precisely the opposite effect. The actions of the imperialists have created a powerful impetus to terrorism, fuelled the flames of fundamentalism, and they have now become the best recruiters for the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Despite the statement made by Brigadier Carleton-Smith, the war in Afghanistan was not an issue during the Canadian election campaign. To be sure, the party leaders decided to ignore the Canadian mission in Afghanistan and focus on issues like the Canadian economy and the environment instead. It is also peculiar that the war in Afghanistan was largely disregarded given that in the first week of October a new estimate of the costs of the Canadian mission was announced. A report released by the parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, stated that the mission will likely amount to at least $18 billion dollars by 2011. Expressed differently, this is $1,500 for every Canadian household. It also needs to be pointed out that the Canadian mission is more expensive than any other mission of the coalition forces.
This new estimate stands in stark contrast to Harper’s initial calculation of $8 billion. Following the announcement of the new estimate, Prime Minister Harper had the following to say to the Canadian people: “Look, we’ve been clear the cost is high. We are doing important work there as part of the international effort. We’re certainly not alone in spending money.” It is clear that the Canadian mission in Afghanistan does not represent the interests of the working class, which would certainly prefer to see the $18 billion of tax money being spent on social services, education and the creation of new jobs; instead, however, the mission is directed in the interests of the Canadian capitalist class – in the interests of imperialism.
The war in Afghanistan is an imperialist war; it is ultimately tied to the workings of capitalism. The war never really had anything to do with “terrorism”, “democracy” or “human rights” and had everything to do with protecting and furthering the interests of imperialism. One of Britain’s top commanders has finally admitted that NATO forces cannot win the war in Afghanistan as the Taliban are strong and their support among the population is increasing; we need to demand our governments bring the troops home and end this imperialist war.
In the end, the Coalition forces will be forced to withdraw from Afghanistan. The only lasting effect that will remain after their attempt at occupation will be a trail of death and destruction, and a volatile mixture of hatred and bitterness. Afghanistan has been wrecked by imperialism for centuries, and this latest attempt has brought nothing but instability. Coalition forces must be withdrawn from the country, and the Afghan people must decide their own fate – and no longer simply be the pawns in the grand designs of imperialism. Imperialism has brought nothing but death and destruction to Afghanistan. Only in unity with their working class brothers and sisters in Pakistan and Iran can the people of Afghanistan fight for freedom, peace and prosperity.