VIEW: Is misery Afghanistan’s destiny? —Lal Khan Tuesday, September 21, 2010\09\21\story_21-9-2010_pg3_3

The imperialist propaganda that presents the spectre of a ruthless obscurantist rule and the Talibanisation of Afghanistan as the only alternative to imperialist occupation is absolute nonsense. Thirty-two years ago Afghanistan was the only country in South Asia where landlordism and capitalism had been overthrown

“The geographical position of Afghanistan and the unique character of its people taken together confer on this country such political significance in Central Asian affairs that it is impossible to overestimate” — Fredrick Engels (1820-1895).

As in several other ‘flashpoints’ around the planet, the geo-strategic significance of Afghanistan has become a curse, rather than a blessing. A narco-economy run by treacherous warlords, brutal imperialist aggression, universal corruption and the savagery of the obscurantist Taliban: this is the reality of today’s Afghanistan.

The present war did not begin with the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. This aggression spans more than 32 years. 

On April 27, 1978, a revolutionary council and a new government was formed through a revolutionary takeover, led by Noor Muhammad Tarakai, secretary general of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA).

The Revolutionary Council totally banned the prevalent buying and selling of women. All debts to landowners and money lenders were cancelled. Over 11.5 million people — 80 percent of the rural population — were no longer held to ransom. Feudal land was expropriated and granted to more than 300,000 landless peasants. Radical steps were taken to improve healthcare, housing, education, food supply, and to wipe out unemployment. Large swathes of capital were expropriated.

The new revolutionary government was seen as a threat by the imperialists. The radical steps taken in the first months after the revolution had an enormous impact in the region. That is the real reason why the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA was unleashed against the Afghan Revolution. It is also when the present phase of the war began.

The Washington Post wrote on February 15, 1980:

“Key committees of Congress responsible for overseeing covert activities have been kept informed of the actions by the State Department and the CIA.” The ‘Islamic jihad’ was launched by none other than US President Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in the autumn of 1978 at the Khyber Pass. He was the one who recruited Osama bin Laden to this ‘holy war’.

However, the ideological inadequacies of the PDPA hindered the formulation and execution of a revolutionary internationalist class policy to defeat the insurgency. The ideology of the PDPA leaders was dominated more by nationalist tendencies rather than Marxist internationalism. 

As the pressure of the insurgency mounted, infighting broke out amongst the PDPA leadership. Tarakai was killed and the Russian tanks rolled into Afghanistan, crossing the Oxus River and moving through the Salang Pass. This transformed the whole dimension of the conflict.

The aftermath was predicted only by the Marxists. Ted Grant wrote in June 1978 just weeks after the Saur Revolution:

“If they (leaders of the PDPA) temporise, possibly under the influence of the Russian regime, they will prepare the way for a ferocious counter-revolution based on the threatened nobility and the mullahs. If successful, counter-revolution would restore the old regime on the bones of hundreds of thousands of peasants, the massacres of radical officers and near extermination of the educated elite.”

This extraordinary prediction has been carried out to the letter in the subsequent period. The Taliban took Kabul in 1996 with Pakistani and US assistance. The main person, who orchestrated the “conquest of Kabul” by the Taliban under Mullah Omer, was the former US under Secretary of State, Robert Oakley.

After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops in 1989, the Americans abandoned Afghanistan to the tender mercies of the forces of reaction they had created. But in 2001 the Frankenstein’s monster they had built turned on them with a vengeance. This was what led to the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan.

After almost nine years of direct occupation, defeat is now staring the Americans in the face. The think tank Stratfor, set up by former CIA staff, in its latest report of September 6 makes the following astonishing admission:

“(It) is particularly stark given the fundamental reality that America is not going to bring about a victory in Afghanistan in any conventional sense.”

Sensing the weakness of the US-dominated coalition, Afghanistan’s controversial President Hamid Karzai has been transformed from a puppet of Washington to an open critic of the US. He is prepared to accept Taliban control over some of its local strongholds. The Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA are bitterly divided on this projected ‘negotiated’ settlement.

The White House is seeking a graceful exit. The US commander, General Petraeus, has pressed hard to delay any serious troop withdrawal until well beyond July 2011 and Obama apparently is backing away from the deadline. The US strategists and armed forces are in a mess of their own making. As Howard Hart, a former CIA area chief, told Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times: “The very presence of our forces is the problem.”

What the western media conceals is the rising tide of mass demonstrations on social and economic issues across Afghanistan. Numerous Left tendencies are involved in the national resistance against foreign occupation.

The Loya Jirga (Grand Council) will be a farce. It is intended to provide some kind of justification for an adventure that has gone terribly wrong. The only choice before the Afghan masses in these elections was between different warring warlords who have made millions out of this war through the drug trade, kidnapping for ransom and blackmail based on changing loyalties. Reconstruction, development and prosperity are pipe dreams that bear no relation to reality. In this morass of explosive contradictions, there is no way out. The dark forces of fundamentalism and the corrupt liberal democrats have no appeal for the masses. But there are the beginnings of a significant revival of Left forces. The memories of the gains of the poor peasants, workers and youth after the 1978 Revolution have been passed on to the new generation.

The imperialist propaganda that presents the spectre of a ruthless obscurantist rule and the Talibanisation of Afghanistan as the only alternative to imperialist occupation is absolute nonsense. Thirty-two years ago Afghanistan was the only country in South Asia where landlordism and capitalism had been overthrown. 

Internationalism is the key to the success of the future Afghan Revolution. Today more than ever the fate of Afghanistan is linked to what happens in Pakistan and Iran. History has decreed that this region will either descend into the abyss of barbarism, or else leap over the different stages of capitalist development by means of a socialist revolution. That is the only way forward.

The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at

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