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Proletarian issue 33 (December 2009)
Afghanistan: occupation not corruption is the real problem
Afghan election and its aftermath.
In addition to being held under the shadow of the guns of the occupation forces, the 20 August Afghan presidential election, accompanied by a massive boycott on the part of the Afghan electorate, was totally discredited through massive vote-rigging by the supporters of Hamid Karzai, the puppet president of Afghanistan.

The scale and blatancy of this fraud caused a furore among Karzai’s opponents in Afghan puppet circles. With Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai’s main rival in the farcical exercise, refusing to accept the legitimacy of the result, the main imperialist powers, under pressure from their own sceptical electorates, were brought round to the view that the first round of the election was far too tainted and must, therefore, make way for a run-off.

Attempted second round

Karzai was left in no doubt that, unless he agreed to a second round, he would lose the support of imperialism. Finding the argument of his masters very persuasive indeed, on 20 October Karzai agreed to the run-off, which was scheduled for 7 November.

Having forced Karzai to accept the re-run, the political and diplomatic representatives of the imperialist occupying powers, especially those of the US and Britain, were mightily relieved, for they believed that the second round might, at long last, produce a government with just enough legitimacy to act as a façade in the fight against the increasingly powerful resistance of the Afghan people against the occupation of their motherland.

Little did this gentry realise at the time that their hopes in this regard would be frustrated from a rather unexpected quarter. Just a few days before the planned second round was due to take place (2 November), Mr Abdullah tore up the imperialist script by announcing his decision to pull out of the race, for he feared the second round would be a repeat of the rigged first round and, therefore, be neither fair nor free.

Following Mr Abdullah’s decision, and a nod and a wink from the occupying powers, the chairman of the so-called ‘Independent Election Commission’, Azizullah Lodin, declared Karzai the winner, saying:

“His Excellency Hamid Karzai, who has won the majority of votes in the first round and is the only candidate for the second round, is declared by the Independent Election Commission as the elected president of Afghanistan.”

What was supposed to have been an exercise in legitimising the puppet government has delivered a government with not a shred of electoral legitimacy. If the first round of the election was invalidated by a low turnout and stuffed ballot boxes, the attempted second round has left in place Karzai and his clique of corrupt warlords, drug barons and criminal racketeers, commanding neither authority nor respect, who are treated with total loathing and contempt by the Afghan people as well as by the masses in the imperialist countries. Nothing, not even congratulatory messages of the type sent by the US and UK governments and by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, can detract from this unpleasant truth.

Political spokespersons in the US and Europe have attempted to justify the rising casualties among the 100,000-strong occupying troops by alluding to the alleged democratic progress in an effort to placate public opinion at home. All that now lies in ruins. The fact is that the electoral charade always was, and has been conclusively shown to be, an irrelevant sideshow, while the fate of Afghanistan is being settled in the field of battle in a life-and-death struggle between the forces of occupation and the Afghan national resistance.

Afghan policy in trouble

On every front, from whichever way one looks at it, this predatory war is going badly. Neither the old nor the new tactics of imperialism are working.

Faced with the near-impossibility of assembling large enough numbers of their own troops to take on the Afghan resistance, the imperialist powers are banking on a policy of Afghanising the war through the training of hundreds of thousands of Afghan army and police recruits.

That this tactic is in deep trouble is proven by the deadly incident of 4 November in the Nad-e’Ali district of Helmand province, in which Gulbuddin, an Afghan policeman, shot dead five British soldiers in a hail of machine-gun fire as they drank tea. Another six British soldiers and two Afghan police officers were wounded at the same time. As the troops scrambled to return fire, the assailant fled on a motorbike with his machine gun.

Soon after the shooting, the Taliban claimed that the attacker had been working for them. Qari Mohammad Yousuf, speaking for the Taliban, stated that Gulbuddin had got in touch with them in the southern Helmand province two months earlier and offered to kill British soldiers who were mentoring the Afghan police, for he regarded them as “occupiers” and “infidels” guilty of killing civilians.

“Our fighters told him that he would have a bright future with us and we would all respect the feelings which he has against the infidels,” Mr Yousuf told the Financial Times, adding “Now, Gulbuddin is with the Taliban.” (‘Taliban claims link to rogue officer’ by Matthew Green, 6 November 2009)

It is difficult to believe that Gulbuddin was a solitary ‘rogue’ officer acting on his own. More likely, there are in the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the police force hundreds of such officers who have strong bonds with the resistance and are fired by feelings of patriotism for their country, with a longing to free it from the jackboots of foreign occupiers.

The infiltration of the Afghan puppet security forces by the resistance through officers like Gulbuddin would appear to drive a coach and horses through the occupation’s tactic of training Afghans to fight the resistance.

Although the British military campaign in Helmand has witnessed many reverses in the three years since the British troops were first sent there, the week beginning 2 November must go down as the lowest point so far in the British predatory war against Afghanistan.

On the same day as the five British soldiers were killed by Gulbuddin, Kim Howells, a former government minister, and currently the chairman of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, breaking ranks with the government, called for the troops to be brought home – a call which has rattled senior Labour figures.

“Kim’s declaration is significant”, said a former cabinet minister, adding: “This is not one of the usual suspects talking. What we will start seeing now is a queue of significant political figures on both sides of the Commons, preparing to wipe their hands of the whole mission. Frankly, support for that mission across the House has never been weaker than it has been today.” (‘Lawmakers fear shift in public opinion’ by James Blitz, Financial Times, 5 November 2009)

The increasing unpopularity of the war, and the consequent shift in public opinion, is unnerving the British political establishment. In the words of a former minister: “The killings of those five soldiers will really dismay the public. Many will ask themselves how on earth our boys can possibly end up getting killed by the very people they are trying to help”. (Ibid)

If the Afghan recruits whom the foreign troops are mentoring cannot be trusted not to take a pot shot at them, who else in Afghan society can be relied upon not to harbour similar sentiments?

As more and more bodies of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan are paraded through the streets of Wootton Bassett, Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, keeps repeating the dreary and meaningless mantra that the aim of the British war against the Afghan people is to keep British streets safe from terrorism.

Every rational and thinking person knows, however, that it is the continuation of imperialist carnage in Afghanistan that is endangering the tranquillity of the streets of the imperialist countries, especially those of the US and Britain.

The terror unleashed by the imperialist soldiery on the Afghan people cannot fail to find its reflection in the heartlands of imperialism. While the ordinary innocent Afghans are the direct victims of imperialist barbarity and terror, the ordinary people in the centres of imperialism are the indirect victims of the selfsame imperialist savagery and terror.

Gordon Brown must know this as he is an intelligent person. But, like all representatives of imperialism, he is obliged to cover up the truth and utter blatant lies in its service. The plain truth is that the various imperialist powers, most notably the US and Britain, are not fighting in Afghanistan, any more than in Iraq or anywhere else, in the interests of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Nor are they waging war to make their own citizens safe. Far from it. They are fighting for domination as a means of grabbing other people’s natural resources, and in order to capture markets and avenues for investment – all in the interests of their respective countries’ finance capital.

This is not a truth with which any of the political, diplomatic or ideological representatives of monopoly capitalism can afford to enlighten the masses, for on the basis of such truth even the dullest worker would not be prepared to lend the least of support to the bloody wars being waged by imperialism in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places. Hence the necessity for the likes of Gordon Brown moronically to keep repeating meaningless absurdities.

Fort Hood killing spree

Just one day after the above incident in Helmand came yet another piece of horrible news for imperialism – this time from the other side of the Atlantic.

On 5 November, a US medical officer of Palestinian origin, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, shot dead 13 fellow soldiers and wounded another 31 in a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, the day before he was due to be deployed to Iraq. Fort Hood is home to the US armoured corps and the largest military base in the country.

Although no-one is certain as to the motivation behind the killings at Fort Hood, the army and federal investigators are probing the question of anti-muslim bias in the US army, which may have been, at the very least, a contributing factor leading Major Hasan to adopt the extreme measure that he did.

According to James Yee, a West Point graduate, a muslim convert, and the former muslim chaplain at the Guantánamo Bay detention centre, ethnic slurs such as ‘camel jockey’ and ‘raghead’ are routinely used in simple army training scenarios to identify the enemy.

A former military lawyer and White House counsel, Mikey Weinstein, who campaigns against fundamentalist christian proselytisers in the military, says: “Fort Hood is one of our worst hot spots of the nearly 1,000 US military installations scattered around the world.” He stated that his organisation was dealing with 18 cases at Ford Hood concerning soldiers who claimed they had been the targets of fundamentalist christian proselytisation by elements in the military who have attempted to present the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a crusade against Islam.

The investigators are also trying to find out whether Major Hasan acted on his own or in concert with others in attacking his fellow soldiers. The answer is of significance to the 2.5 million muslims in the US who have been under suspicion ever since the 11 September 2001 attacks and the launch of the US ‘War on Terror’, which has metamorphosed in all but name into a war on Islam.

According to Hasan’s cousin, however, it was not the bullying that engendered Major Hasan’s opposition to the war, but rather “the stories he heard while interning as a psychiatric counsellor to veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Hasan had even hired an attorney to try to come to a settlement with the government and leave the service, but it wouldn’t settle and instead forced him to deploy. He apparently fought it up to the day before his deployment – and instead of going to the war, he brought the war to the US military.

... Fort Hood, the largest military base in America, has seen its share of violence as well. For one thing, it holds the record for most soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan – 685 so far – and although we don’t know the figures, it’s reasonable to assume that Fort Hood is responsible for a sizeable percentage of the thousands killed in those countries since America invaded them.

Over the same period, 75 soldiers have committed suicide at Fort Hood, 10 in 2009 – the highest of any base. In one weekend in 2005, two soldiers, who had returned from Iraq, killed themselves in separate incidents. Last year, in something right out of Full Metal Jacket, Spc Jody Michael Wirawan, 21, of the 1st Cavalry Division, shot and killed his lieutenant, and then killed himself when police arrived.

On the subject of Major Hasan’s alleged terrorist motivations, the article quoted above points out that “... if he was an al-Qaeda sleeper-cell suicide bomber, it makes no sense why he would, a) argue with fellow soldiers that the wars are wrong and we should withdraw; and b) that he tried to get out of being deployed to Iraq. The 9/11 terrorists did their best to ‘blend in’ and pretend they were as American as apple pie, because the point is not to draw any attention to yourself if you’re a terrorist planning to suicide bomb a military base.

Moreover, the timing of his shooting, the day before he was to be sent off, shows that his desperation had reached the limit. What this suggests is that the massacre could have been avoided if Hasan’s objections were taken into account.

Hasan’s opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars puts him where the majority of Americans are today. And he's not the first soldier at Fort Hood to protest the war. Desertion rates have soared since the Iraq invasion, and Fort Hood has had some high-profile objectors making the news this year, such as Spc Victor Agosto, who was court-martialled in August after he refused to go to Afghanistan, and Sgt Travis Bishop, who filed for conscientious objector status after serving in Iraq for 14 months.” (‘Focusing on Fort Hood killer’s beliefs is an easy out to avoid the deeper reasons for the massacre’ by Mark Ames, alternet.org, 6 November 2009)

Although he had not yet been on active service in a war zone, Major Hasan was clearly traumatised by the experience of looking after soldiers wounded physically and mentally in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, the violence produced by war trauma is not a question merely confined to the issue of religion or ethnicity, if we take into account other instances, such as a murder spree in Fort Carson, Colorado, in which Iraq war veterans were accused of 11 murders, and the unconnected murders of four army wives by their husbands near Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

If the ruling classes of the imperialist countries send their soldiers abroad in wars of conquest and domination, to rampage around other countries terrorising and brutalising their innocent victims, it is only natural that in the process the imperialist soldiers themselves become brutalised. This being the case, no one, least of all the imperialist bourgeoisie, should be surprised that on return home many of these soldiers become mentally ill and, in extreme cases, resort to shooting and murder sprees, for that is precisely their experience as mercenaries on behalf of finance capital of their respective countries.

The real cause of their crimes, the real culprits behind their misdeeds, are the bloodthirsty ruling classes, who in their never-ceasing quest for domination and the extraction of maximum profit are forever sending the working-class youth of their countries to wage wars of pillage and spoliation.

Nato air strike

Two days after the Fort Hood incident, four Afghan soldiers and three policemen were killed in a Nato air strike launched in the course of an operation to locate two missing American soldiers. By the same ‘friendly fire’ another 17 members of the Afghan security forces and five US soldiers were injured.

The incident is bound to aggravate tensions between the occupying powers and the puppet Karzai government. Even more importantly, it is bound to exacerbate feelings of disaffection in the puppet Afghan army and rouse among its ranks a burning hatred for the occupation regime.

Dissensions within the ruling class

The above three incidents, apparently unrelated, are nevertheless connected with each other in that they point to the insuperable problems facing the occupying powers in Afghanistan.

These problems are deepening divisions within the ruling circles of the principal powers waging the war and weakening public support for it. The Obama administration in the US is paralysed. While its military representative in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal has requested an additional 40,000 troops, its chief diplomatic representative in that country, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, has insisted that no further troops be sent in a hopeless cause to prop up the failing Karzai regime.

The significance of Ambassador Eikenberry’s stance lies in the fact that, far from merely representing his personal position as a former commander in Afghanistan, it is indicative of deeper divisions within the administration and, by extension, the ruling circles – between those who want to gamble on a large troop surge in a desperate last attempt to win this unwinnable war, and those who consider the war as already lost and, therefore, not worth wasting further blood and treasure on.

Up to now, the administration has been able to sit on the fence on this issue on the pretext that, failing a re-run of the Afghan presidential election resulting in a clear winner, there was no credible Afghan partner deserving of further support in the form of troop reinforcements. Now, with the pull-out of Dr Abdullah from the presidential race and the reappointment of Karzai, Barack Obama and his ministerial colleagues have no further excuse for procrastination. They will have to jump to one side of the fence or the other. And, irrespective of whichever way they jump, the occupation forces in Afghanistan are facing certain defeat.

A similar state of paralysis and sense of despair and hopelessness pervades the Labour government in Britain. Forced by the conditions on the ground in Afghanistan and waning public support in Britain for this bloody war, which has claimed thousands of innocent Afghan lives and nearly 100 British soldiers this year alone, Gordon Brown is trying a balancing act by his readiness to send another 500 British soldiers to the war zone, on the one hand, and a promise to host a London summit in the coming month of January which would, he claimed in his annual foreign policy speech at the Lord Mayor’s banquet on 16 November, set out a detailed timetable for the handing over of control to the Afghan National Army (ANA) and make way for the eventual withdrawal of the occupation forces.

Brown’s stance, being a subterfuge for placating anti-war public sentiment while carrying on with the war, is all the same a product of the narrowing options of the government and the resultant paralysis in decision making. The events in the coming months will take the decision out of the hands of the government – the victories of the resistance, hand-in-hand with the further desertion of public support at home, will relieve Mr Brown of the predicament facing him.

Declining public support

Survey after survey reveals declining public support for the war. According to a ComRes survey carried out at the weekend of 7-8 November for the BBC, 63 percent of people surveyed thought that all British forces should be withdrawn as soon as possible.

A YouGov poll for Channel Four News similarly revealed growing public disenchantment with the war. It showed that 35 percent of the population think that British troops should be withdrawn immediately compared with 25 percent only two weeks previously. Overall, 73 percent of people want UK troops out of Afghanistan immediately or within a year, while 57 percent are of the view that victory in the war is no longer possible.

Nearly half of the electorate in four of western Europe’s biggest states (France, Germany, Italy and Britain) think that Barack Obama should send no further troops to Afghanistan, according to a new Harris poll conducted for the Financial Times.

In the light of the above opinion poll revelations, it is hardly surprising that the Conservative spokesman for foreign affairs, William Hague, has begun to express his “worries” and “concerns” about the Afghan mission and the length of time for which it can be sustained.

McChrystal’s plan to wage a counter-insurgency campaign in the Afghan countryside is regarded as a bridge too far on both sides of the Atlantic. Instead, influential voices are with increasing frequency urging Mr Obama to scale down the Afghan mission to one of ‘counter-terrorism’. General McChrystal’s original plan, which would have carried a price tag of a trillion dollars over a 10-year period, being regarded as “too much and too long”, has already been discarded.

In the words of the Financial Times’ leading article of 14 November 2009, General McChrystal’s counter-insurgency policy is “far too ambitious”, requiring “a level of forces and a length of time that the political timetable and shrivelling public support for the war among all allies is unlikely to sustain. Simply put, few ultimately believe the US and Nato have the stamina for it.” (‘Afghanistan dance’)

The Obama administration has been obliged to reduce its goal to simply “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda and its safe havens”. If this is indeed the real aim of Nato operations, and we know that it is not, the war becomes even more absurd and impossible to justify since the number of al-Qaeda operatives is reliably put at about 100, with most of them being on Pakistani territory, while the strength of the resistance to the occupation runs into several thousands of combatants enjoying the sympathy and support of the Afghan masses.

It is a sign of the despair of the occupying powers that, in addition to strengthening the ANA from the current 94,000 to 134,000 by the end of 2011, they are seriously considering building up regional militias; that is, arming warlords considered friendly to the occupation – this at the same time as they berate Hamid Karzai for cosying up to the same sort of notorious fraternity!

The plan to expand the ANA will take time and cost $17bn, according to reliable estimates. The imperialist powers have neither time nor, at a time of ballooning budget deficits, money on their side, even if we ignore the ability of the resistance to infiltrate the puppet security forces. Not surprisingly, then, parallels between this war and the Vietnam war, from which the US emerged defeated and humiliated, are being regularly drawn.

Occupation the real problem

Because of their inability, or unwillingness, to recognise that the occupation is the real problem, that it is the occupation of their country by the armed forces of the predatory foreign powers which impels the Afghans to join the ranks of the resistance, to sympathise with it, and to render active support to it, the political, diplomatic and ideological representatives of imperialism are forever clutching at straws and attributing the strength of the resistance to such a peripheral phenomenon as the corruption that permeates the Karzai government.

It is very flattering (not to say self-deluding) to the occupying powers to pin the blame for the miserable failure of this naked imperialist enterprise on the creation of their own – the corrupt puppet Afghan government – rather than on themselves and the inherently doomed nature of their mission. It has the further advantage of propagating the lie that the occupation forces are in Afghanistan to promote a clean and honest government capable of providing jobs, education, electricity, roads and hospitals for the Afghan people.

Not surprisingly, then, the occupying powers have been shouting themselves hoarse and demanding that the corrupt and incompetent government of Karzai, re-elected by ballot-rigging, get rid of corruption! They have even threatened to veto his ministerial and senior police, army, judicial and gubernatorial appointments. Steps of this kind would only serve further to undermine, if that is possible, the credibility of this façade for the occupation, which is already illegitimised in Afghan eyes, sustained as it is by foreign forces and funding.

Increased resistance

While the bickering in the imperialist camp, and in that of the puppets in Kabul, as well as between these two camps, becomes fractious and turns into fracas, the Afghan resistance continues to intensify its onslaught on the occupation forces and undermine the latter’s ability to continue much longer.

The resistance, already in control of three quarters of the country, is steadily increasing its control further and penetrating into new territory. Attacks on the occupation forces have registered a marked increase over the last 12 months, with a particular emphasis on disrupting Nato’s supply routes.

On 8 November, the resistance fighters set ablaze two fuel tankers on the road from Torkham (Khyber Pass) to Kabul, underlining the vulnerability of the massive convoys carrying supplies over a distance of more than a thousand miles from the port of Karachi in Pakistan to the 100,000 occupying foreign troops in Afghanistan.

In addition to the damage wreaked through destruction of vehicles and supplies, the resistance has turned Nato’s supply chain into a source of funds by levying tolls on hauliers and confiscating a portion of the supplies.

By Nato’s own admission, 2 percent of the cargo brought through Pakistan is lost to the resistance, and we can be sure the real total is much higher. More funds thus secured translate into more guns and fighters for the resistance.

Nato has been attempting to diversify its supply routes, particularly following last year’s attacks by the resistance in Peshawar, in which 300 trucks and Humvee military vehicles were destroyed. A new route from the north through Uzbekistan and Tajikistan presently carries approximately 30 percent of US military ground cargo.

However, the spread of the resistance into northern Afghanistan has rendered even this new supply route far from secure. Last September, the resistance hijacked two fuel tankers in Kunduz province. Nato responded to the hijacking by air strikes, which killed 100 civilians, further inflaming Afghan passions against the occupation forces.

Solution: end the occupation

The plain facts are that no part of Afghanistan is safe for the imperialist soldiery; that the occupation is hated by the overwhelming majority of the Afghan people; that the Afghan resistance will only cease when the occupation ends; and that the sooner the imperialists are forced out of Afghanistan, the sooner the Afghan people will be able to start rebuilding their shattered country.
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