“Five years ago the Americans were refusing to speak to the Taliban. Now the Taliban are refusing to speak to the Americans. That is a measure of how the balance of power has shifted in Afghanistan. The western intervention there has failed. As Nato prepares to withdrawn from the country in 2014, it is only the scale of the defeat that remains to be determined” (Gideon Rachman, ‘The west has lost in Afghanistan’, Financial Times, 27 March 2012.
Ten days earlier, Philip Stephens, a colleague of Mr Rachman’s, expressed himself thus on the same subject:
“In Washington this week a president and a prime minister declared victory even as they admitted defeat. The US and Britain are getting out of Afghanistan. The rush for the exist is becoming a race. ‘We’ve been there for 10 years and people get weary’, Barack Obama said. ‘People want an end game’. Britain’s David Cameron chipped in. What happens next n that benighted country is, well, a problem for the Afghans”.
Mr Stephens added: “The law of diminishing returns has set in: the presence of Nato troops has become the problem” (‘New friends race to end an old war,’ Financial Times, 16 March 2012).
The above-quoted observations come from the pens of political analysts with incredible bourgeois credentials, whose commitment to the cause of imperialism is beyond doubt, and whom one could not accuse, even if one were being malicious, of harbouring sympathy for the national liberation movements of the oppressed peoples or, for that matter, the struggle of the proletariat in the centres of imperialism for its social emancipation. Precisely for this reason, their sound conclusion that the imperialist predatory war against the people of Afghanistan is as good as doomed deserves to be treated seriously. Facts on the ground bear them out.
In 2001, in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 events in New York and Washington, and using these events as a convenient pretext for a predatory war long in the preparation, the principal imperialist countries and their flunkeys marched into defenceless Afghanistan with a swagger. Well pleased with their apparent success in Afghanistan, Anglo-American imperialism, deluding itself that Afghanistan had been pacified, hurried to invade Iraq. Instead of being greeted as liberators, the imperialist forces met with the fierce and heroic resistance of the Iraqi people, which over the course of 8 years turned the tables on the occupation regime, forcing the invaders humiliatingly to make for the exits at the end of 2011.
While Anglo-American imperialism was stuck in Iraq, the Afghan resistance organised itself into a formidable guerrilla force to resist the foreign forces. Ever since 2005, the Afghan resistance has intensified its attacks on the imperialist soldiery, with the result that each succeeding year has been worse than the preceding one for the imperialist armies, especially since the start of 2010, and the loss of life on the imperialist side has witnessed a marked climb. In 2010 the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) – as the imperialist coalition in Afghanistan is euphemistically called – lost 711 soldiers, as against 521 in 2009. Since the start of 2010, the US alone has lost 964 soldiers in Afghanistan, more than the 947 killed during the previous eight years of the Afghan war.
As for Britain, it has lost 404 soldiers in the Afghan war, of whom 267 have been killed since the beginning of 2009.
All in all, ISAF has lost 2,914 troops in the Afghan war, of whom 1909 were American, 404 British, 158 Canadian, 82 French, 52 German, 49 Italian, 42 Danish, 36 Polish, 34 Spanish, 32 Australian, 25 Dutch, and 91 from other countries (Source: Reuters/icasualities, reported in the Financial Times of 8 March 2012.
By the end of 2009, the Afghan resistance had grown to proportions threatening to overwhelm the imperialist armies, thus forcing US President Barack Obama to gamble with a surge of an additional 30,000 troops in a desperate attempt to salvage a war that his advisers rightly feared would be his Vietnam. Far from saving the skin of US imperialism, the surge has only served to intensify the war and provide additional targets for the resistance. Thus, if 2009 had claimed the lives of 317 US soldiers, 2010 claimed 499 and 2011 the lives of 418 of its troops.
2012 – a total disaster
The current year has been a total public relations disaster for the imperialist occupation forces. Listed below are some of the significant events of this year:
12 January: A video posted on YouTube revealed four US marines laughing and joking while urinating on three dead bodies characterised in the title as Afghan insurgents. One of the soldiers says: “Have a nice day, buddy”, while a second soldier makes an obscene joke. Even the puppet Afghan president Karzai was obliged to describe the behaviour of the US soldiers as “completely inhumane”.
21 February: Some Afghan labourers found burnt copies of the Koran on a rubbish tip at the Bagram airbase – an hour’s drive north of Kabul – sparking protests in which 30 people were killed and dozens wounded. The four days of violent protests that followed this discovery laid bare, yet again, the depth of resentment and hatred of foreign troops felt by the Afghan people. On 24 February, hundreds of protestors marched towards the presidential palace, while at the other end of Kabul, an angry crowd hoisted the white flag of the resistance, chanting “Death to America”.
25 February: Two US officers – a colonel and a major – were gunned down by an Afghan soldier in a supposedly safe command centre of the Afghan interior ministry, prompting ISAF to take the unusual step of temporarily confining advisors to their bases. These two officers were among six US soldiers shot dead by Afghan security forces during the protests following the discovery of charred copies of the Muslim holy book.
At least 16 Nato troops have been killed by Afghan soldiers since the start of the 2012 – including two British soldiers on 26 March. A number of Afghan troops have also died at the hands of members of their own units.
Neo-Nazi Nato’s secretary general, the bestial Mr Rasmussen, has unconvincingly asserted that there is no intelligence indicating that the spate of killings of Nato troops by Afghan soldiers, whom they were supposed to be training and mentoring, were part of the strategy of the Afghan resistance to disrupt Nato’s plan of handing over security to local forces by the end of 2014, when the drawdown of the occupation forces is scheduled to be completed – except for a few thousand troops who will stay until 2024 under an agreement reached on 22 April between the US and the Afghan puppet administration (more on this later). Rasmussen’s assertion is hardly credible, considering that 76 ISAF soldiers have been shot dead by Afghan soldiers and police units since 2007 – 36 of them in 2011 alone – reflecting a combination of the ease with which the resistance can infiltrate the Afghan security forces and the burning hatred of even the Afghan security forces towards the occupiers and tormentors of the Afghan people.
The truth is that Nato’s strategy is in trouble as the Afghan security forces are up to their neck in serious problems of desertion, incompetence, corruption and sectarianism. A Pentagon report to the Congress last October stated that at least 70 per cent of Afghan army units still needed American assistance in the field as of last September, while only one of the Afghan ‘national’ army’s 158 battalions had been rated as capable of fighting independently. Although 266,000-strong, the Afghan army and police are of poor quality and of doubtful loyalty. 27,000 Afghan soldiers (about a third of the total) are absent from duty on any given day, while only 2 per cent of the police force is literate. Taken together with the rising tide of the resistance and its ability to inflict serious blows on the occupation, it is clear that Nato’s strategy of handing over security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014 is in complete and absolute ruin.
7 March: Six British soldiers were killed in the worst loss of life for British troops in a single incident since 2006, when a Nimrod aircraft blew up (most likely from gunfire by the resistance), minutes after refuelling in the air above Afghanistan, killing 14 servicemen. The latest deaths took the number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan to 404. The blast, which ripped apart a Warrior armoured vehicle in Helmand province, merely served to undermine the claims made by the political and military representatives of imperialism about the alleged gains made in recent years by ISAF in the strongholds of the resistance, while at the same time emphasising the increased ability of the Afghan resistance to deliver telling blows on its enemies.
Following these six death, British prime minister David Cameron said that it was a “desperately sad day for our country” and “a reminder of the huge price that we are paying for the work we are doing in Afghanistan and the sacrifice that our troops have made and continue to make”.
Translated into ordinary language and denuded of all euphemism, what Mr Cameron said simply amounts to this: the news of the death of six British soldiers was a reminder, if indeed such a reminder was needed, of the huge price that the British working class has been manoeuvred into paying in pursuit of a predatory war waged by its ruling class against the Afghan people, tens of thousands of whom have perished. They of course do not even get a mention in Cameron’s hypocritical cant.
These six deaths came on top of the high-profile deaths of two high-ranking British military officers caused by a roadside bomb during a covert mission in Afghanistan just three days before last Christmas. The dead officers were identified as Captain Tom Jennings of the much-feared Special Boat Service and Squadron Leader Anthony Downing. Both of them are believed to have been part of a Special Forces unit engaged in gathering intelligence on the Afghan resistance.
Each time such incidents take place, they prompt renewed questioning about the hopelessness of this predatory war which has become increasingly unpopular in all the imperialist countries waging it. Opinion polls in the US show that 68 per cent of the US population is now against the Afghan war (as compared to 53 per cent four months ago). In January of this year, 56 per cent of people in the US wanted the troops to be removed as soon as possible (compared to 48 per cent in May 2011), according to Pew Research Center. As for Britain, as per the ComRes poll for ITV, while in June 2011 48 per cent of the British people wanted the British troops to be removed from Afghanistan as soon as possible, by March 2012 this figure had risen to 56 per cent.
The majority of the population in all the 49 countries that constitute the ISAF coalition are against this predatory war.
March 11: A 38-year old staff sergeant from the US army went on a rampage, killing 17 civilians, including 9 children, in southern Afghanistan. In the early hours of that day, this US army sniper is said to have left his base in Panjwai district (part of the southern Kandahar province), walked a mile in the dark and shot dead his victims. The massacre as “impossible to forgive” declared the puppet Mr Karzai. Reportedly the gunman acted alone – an unlikely story – and he is being described as crazed and under severe stress. Such a characterisation is applicable to the entire imperialist soldiery, engaged as it is in waging an unjust war against innocent people thousands of miles away, people who have given no cause for offence, whose only fault is their patriotism and fierce desire to defend their country’s independence, sovereignty and honour.
Political, military and ideological spokesmen of imperialism have attempted to whitewash innumerable massacres committed by their armies by singling out the Panjwai massacre and its perpetrator(s) as exceptional, and not representative of the values of the occupying forces. Far from it. The mercenary Panjwai killer represents well and truly the moral values of the predatory imperialist armies in Afghanistan, waging a mercenary war for domination on behalf of their ruling classes. The overwhelming majority of this soldiery are of necessity infected with racist contempt for the local population – a contempt which must accompany all imperialist wars, invasion and occupation. Faced with widespread resistance to occupation by the local population, imperialism is forced to rely on a tiny clique of traitors and criminals, whose greed and venality make them the ideal flunkeys of imperialism. Resting on such a ‘narrow’ base of support, on the one hand, and faced with the wrath of the wider population, on the other hand, imperialism is forced to rely on the brutal use of force. Besieged ring upon ring by the tide of revolutionary resistance of the masses, soldiers from the imperialist armies, sensing danger all around them, panic at the mere rustling of the leaves, and unleash their lethal weapons on innocent people. Only this psychology, the product of the unjustness of acting as a mercenary in an imperialist war, can explain the countless massacres committed by men clad in the uniforms of the imperialist armies, from Korea to Vietnam, from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Massacres of innocent people by ISAF are fairly routine. For example, on 17 February 2011, Nato ground and air strikes massacred 64 civilians in the Ghazi Abad district of Kunar province, in the process murdering 29 children and young people, among others. Two weeks later, on 1 March 2011, nine Afghan children out collecting firewood were picked off one by one and slaughtered by Nato helicopters. There are many other cases of such massacres, none of which, any more than the Panjwai massacre, is exceptional.
Wedding parties and other village celebrations have been regularly attacked, with massive loss of life on each occasion. The brutality and sadism practised by the imperialist armies of occupation was graphically captured by a photograph published a year ago on the internet of US Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock, leering into the camera while holding up the head by the hair of a murdered Afghan youth. This photograph was presented as evidence in the trial of a ‘killer team’ of four US soldiers who went on to be convicted of the murder of these Afghan civilians for sport. It won’t be the only case of its type in Afghanistan. Nor is the Afghan war the first in which imperialist soldiers have indulged in such bestiality. US forces behaved, as did the armies of other imperialist countries, just as abominably and sadistically during their predatory wars against the Korean, Vietnamese and Iraqi people. These crimes are truly reflective of the moral values of the imperialist armies and the ruling classes of the imperialist countries. So let us not hear any more of the hypocritical cant to the contrary.
This being the case, the much-trumpeted notion of the occupying powers trying to “win the hearts and minds” of the local population is nothing short of a sick joke. Under the command of General David Petraeus (now the head of the CIA, a job for which his record of brutality qualifies him only too well), the US army adopted extremely rough tactics, resorting to assassinations, night raids by special forces, and drone attacks, with the result that in the year up to March 2011, through such operations 1500 targeted members of the resistance were either killed or captured. No wonder, then, that General Petraeus succeeded no more in winning Afghan hearts and minds than did his predecessor, General Stanley McCrystal. The present Nato commander, General Allen, will succeed no more in this regard than did General Petraeus. The only way to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people is for the imperialist armies to pack up their baggage and leave Afghanistan, lock, stock and barrel. Since they are stubbornly refusing to do that just yet, the Afghan people have but one option – to intensify their resistance and oblige the occupying forces to head for the exit.
What the Panjwai massacre has done in addition to revealing yet again the brutality of the imperialist war against the Afghan people, is that it “…has cracked open every faultline wider – the divide between the Afghans and the Nato force, the divisions between the Afghans and their government, and the gulf that separates leaders in Kabul and Washington” (Matthew Green, ‘From necessity to atrocity’, Financial Times, 15 March 2012).
We might add that the latest massacre, as well as the killings of 16 Nato soldiers by Afghan security personnel, has exacerbated the contradictions among the imperialist powers, hastening as it has the desire of several European governments to withdraw their combat forces even before the deadline for the handover to the Afghan forces in 2014. France had already announced in January plans to withdraw from Afghanistan after an Afghan soldier killed four of its troops. The US caught the Afghan government, as well as its Nato allies, off guard when Leon Pancetta, US defence secretary, remarked recently that US troops would switch form a combat to a training role in 2013.
Of course, the focus on training may just be a ruse by the Obama administration, for it might make it politically easier in Washington to maintain US troop strength at the 68,000 level at which it stood in 2009. The additional surge of 30,000 that arrived in 2010 is due to have departed by September this year. The switch to an advising and training role will doubtless bolster the Afghan resistance as it witnesses clear signs of the weakening resolve of Nato and the prospect of Nato forces rushing headlong for the exit. The US and French retreat comes as presidential elections loom in htose two countries. In France, the deaths of four soldiers at the end of January have made the war a burning campaign issue, while in the US Obama is under great pressure to reduce troop levels. Political considerations, not stability in Afghanistan, are deciding the agenda. Not even his Republican opponents dare advocate staying the course in Afghanistan – apart from a motley crew of incurably unhinged diehards of the John McCain and Lindsey Graham variety. Newt Gingrich, one of the contenders (knocked out since then) for the Republican presidential nomination, captured the mood of pessimism, not to mention the utter contempt for the Afghan people, pervading Washington in this rhetorical message to the Afghans in February: “You know, you are going to have to figure out how to live your own miserable life” (quoted in Matthew Green, op.cit.).
Since the beginning of this war, US imperialism and its junior partners and satellites have tried every trick, used massive force, indulged in wholesale sadistic brutality, perpetrated industrial scale massacres, sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers and private contractors, incurred expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars, but have all the same been unable to prevail over the Afghan resistance. ISAF commanders have been boasting – a boast which has been obligingly echoed by the political spokesmen of imperialism as well as the compliant media – that they have made great advances in Kandahar since the arrival of the 30,000 extra US troops; that they have pushed the resistance into submission; that the combination of night raids by special forces, drone attacks, helicopter gunship assaults and saturation by the large number of troops have caused the resistance to be on the run. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth than these boastful assertions, whose main purpose appears to be to assuage the restive public in the centres of imperialism in an effort to counter the opposition of the majority of the population to this unjust and unpopular predatory war.
The attacks by the resistance on the occupation armies increased by 65 per cent in 2010, and by a further 40 per cent in 2011. On average the resistance launched over 2,100 attacks a month during 2011. The claims of advances made by US soldiers in Kandahar were largely attributable to the tactical temporary withdrawal by the resistance, who, while refusing to do battle on Nato’s terms, opened new fronts in the east, west and north of the country. In a sober assessment, 16 US intelligence agencies reported in December 2010 that vast areas of Afghanistan stood in danger of falling to the resistance.
According to a recent report by US Lt-Col Daniel Davis, the strength of the resistance has remained undiminished. A veteran of the Afghan war, Davis travelled widely in the country in 2011, during which time he talked to Nato troops as well as Afghan security personnel and civilians. This is the conclusion he came to:
“What I saw bore no resemblance to the rosy official statements by US military leaders about conditions on the ground.” He “witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level” and heard stories of the control by the resistance of “…virtually every piece of land beyond eyeshot of US or ISAF bases”. Davis personally observed the cooperation between the Afghan security forces and the resistance.
ISAF public statements, wholly at variance with reality, are primarily, if not solely, intended to influence public opinion in the US and Europe ahead of the 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of the bulk of Nato troops. In fact, the resistance runs a parallel government, with its own judges, courts, officials and district governors, and the Afghans prefer the governance by the resistance over the government’s corrupt and sectarian administration. The resistance has also been successful in liquidating Afghan traitors, officials and administrators who collaborate with the occupation forces.
The snow impeding mountain trains in Afghanistan has begun to melt, heralding the return of spring and the commencement of a new fighting season. On 15 April, the resistance announced the opening of its spring offensive by launching a series of most complex, sophisticated, coordinated and simultaneous attacks in four provinces. All the attacks began at 1.45 p.m. and followed a similar pattern, with the resistance managing to occupy, with their ammunition and weapons, strategically-located empty buildings or construction sites near their intended targets.
In all there were seven attacks, of which three were in Kabul, two in Jalalabad, on in Paktia province’s capital, Gardez, and one in Pul-e-Alam, capital of Logar province. The spectacle of suicide squads infiltrating layers of security around Kabul and, after penetrating some of the most sensitive political and security sectors in the heart of the Afghan capital, firing rockets at the Afghan parliament, German, British and Canadian embassies, as well as military bases, has shaken imperialism and its Afghan stooges rigid. Nato military and intelligence officials acknowledge that the scale and sophistication of the synchronized attacks was troubling, for the attacks proved the ability of the resistance to create a vast network of logistical and planning support needed to mount such an operation without information about it leaking to the intelligence agencies focused on them so tightly.
The question being asked is: how did the resistance manage to bring vast amounts of ammunition and rockets, without anybody noticing, and keep them in the vicinity of sensitive installations of Nato and the Afghan government? Neither the Afghan nor Nato intelligence agencies picked up the plans of multiple simultaneous attacks in four different provinces. Privately, Nato officials are known to have expressed grudging respect for the ability of the resistance to launch “well-coordinated and well-timed attacks”.
The attacks of 15 April are very bad news for Nato, as roughly 46 fighters taking up positions in empty buildings in strategic locations in four provinces represent merely the tip of the iceberg. The bulk of the activity that facilitated these attacks was well hidden, including the financial backers, trainers, reconnaissance personnel who located the sites, logistics experts in charge of transport, and the suppliers of weapons. If Nato, with 150,000 troops and an equal number of private mercenaries, not to speak of the 260,000 Afghan security forces, cannot pre-empt attacks by the resistance in Kabul, Jalalabad, Paktia and Logar – all areas of focus for US troops, special forces and drones – it does not say much about their security apparatus and intelligence gathering, or their boastful claims of having got the upper hand over the resistance.
The 15 April attacks have sent a clear message to the occupation forces that the resistance can stage the most spectacular and sophisticated attacks at will and at times and places of their own choice; that, therefore, the occupation is not and never will be stable; that the only sensible thing for the occupying powers is to leave Afghanistan to its people. This is the message that will resonate with increasing force with the people of the countries whose armies are presently occupying Afghanistan.
Defeated but hanging on
Although the imperialist brigands have been forced to look for a way out of the costly Afghan war, this does not mean that they will simply leave Afghanistan, or that they will not involve themselves in wars elsewhere, as, for instance, in Syria or Iran. The interests of imperialist domination and of monopolizing the mineral resources of the entire region, stretching from the Middle East to central Asia, and of avenues for investment, are too great to warrant such an outcome.
Precisely with these considerations looming large, US imperialism finalized on 22 April an agreement with the Karzai puppet government. Under this agreement, US forces will stay in Afghanistan until 2024, allegedly to reassure the Afghan public and regional powers that the US will not abandon them after 2014 – a date by which most of the imperialist occupying armies are scheduled to withdraw.
Due to be signed by Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai at a Nato summit in Chicago this May, the Strategic Partnership Agreement, as it is euphemistically called, comes as a welcome relief for US imperialism, following as it does all the disasters (listed above) that have befallen the Nato forces since the beginning of the year. The agreement will allow the US to have permanent bases in Afghanistan, from which to continue to deploy special forces, to pursue the resistance, train the Afghan security forces, and keep an eye on China and Russia – making every mischief and using any opportunity to encircle those two great countries.
With this agreement, the US also hopes to prevent the further erosion of enthusiasm for the 11-year Afghan predatory war among the countries contributing troops to it – for even after 2014, the costs of funding the Afghan military would be $8-9 billion a year. If this money is not forthcoming then, in the words of Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, spoken during the 24-25 March weekend Brussels forum: “We will have given 100,000 people training and … guns, and then made them unemployed”.
Thus it is clear that the incurable crisis of imperialism is on the one hand propelling it into endless war, and on the other hand these wars are bankrupting it and reducing its ability to carry on these wars which it cannot win nor afford to lose. Only the success of proletarian revolution and national liberation movements can put an end to this otherwise never-ceasing insanity.
It is clear that US imperialism will do everything possible to be in continued occupation of Afghanistan in one form or another well beyond 2014. In view of this, the Afghan resistance has little option other than to continue the fight until US imperialism is forced to quit.
Victory to the Afghan resistance !