Afghanistan Imperialism United States

The Fall of Kabul: Which Way Forward for Afghanistan?

By Sheraz Mel

The fleeing of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, without offering resistance, and the capture of Kabul by the Taliban without firing a shot have closed the twenty years of a cruel chapter of Afghanistan’s history and ushered in a new chapter full of uncertainty, turmoil and possibilities. This new chapter starts with the withdrawal of American imperialist forces and the Taliban’s entry into Kabul. This withdrawal is a clear demonstration of the failure of global capitalist politico-economic order and its neo-liberal policies. While invading Afghanistan in 2001, American imperialist had set itself some explicit and implicit strategic imperialist goals. Apparently, they had planned to disperse Al-Qaeda and bring Bin Laden to justice (Ironically the Americans shot and killed the unarmed and ill Bin Laden, later in 2011, to prevent him from disclosing his close connections with the imperialists. They armed and organized his Al-Qaeda against Syria’s Assad regime and provided it with aerial support thus transforming it into a formidable organization). Other goals included the emancipation of Afghanistan and the establishment of democracy, gender equality and equal rights for women, crushing the Taliban and prevent it from coming to power again. Today, however, when the Americans are leaving, the Taliban are stronger than ever. Only a small fraction of women living in urban centres enjoy some liberties. Now they have also been relegated to ordinary oppressed Afghan women. While fleeing, the Americans have broken dreams in their minds of containing Russia and Iran, and besieging China. At the same time, the Taliban’s violent reaction and fundamentalism have taken over the state. Religious fundamentalism and extremism are actually a political and social phenomenon borne out of reactionary political response to the current system by those backward social layers who are left deprived, robbed of a bright future and isolated by the uneven development of society by capitalism. It was the imperialists who organized and armed these groups to crush the mass movements, progressive parties and organizations in the Muslim countries. In modern history, there is not a single fundamentalist organization that was not nourished and utilized by imperialists for their dirty purposes. From promoting Wahabism in connivance with the Saud family to nurturing Muslim Brotherhood against Nasser in Egypt to supporting General Suharto against Sukarno in Indonesia or erecting Hamas against Palestinian liberation movement or funding the reactionary Mujahideens against the revolutionary government of Afghanistan. From Al-Qaeda to Boko Haram and from ISIS to Al-Nusra Front, there are dozens of such reactionary organizations which were created by imperialists to safeguard their interests around the world. Recent history has sufficiently proved that imperialism and fundamentalism are two sides of the same coin. Many liberals, blinded by the false US claims at the time, supported them to crush fundamentalism and restore human rights in the region. Now they are grumbling.

The Fall of Kabul

The last 40 years of imperialist war in Afghanistan has dismantled the Afghan state, society and political forces. Warlords and drug lords have replaced collective political leadership. A new generation has grown up amid this war who has dreamt of the end of the war and prosperous life. In the absence of a political alternative, they inadvertently turn to these warlords who have turned the war into a profitable business. Except for some small political organizations in Afghanistan, all the groups of powerful warlords are the proxies of one or the other imperialist country, including the neighbouring countries. No group has a political vision of its own and no socioeconomic program for the betterment of society. They are puppets of their respective imperialist masters. The recent fall of Kabul can be understood in the same background. Some analysts describe the Taliban takeover of Kabul as a conspiracy by America which is utter nonsense. In fact, American imperialism had become so impotent in Afghanistan that it had lost its senses. In such a situation, it committed blunder after blunder. Taliban took full advantage of recent Doha talks. Despite the agreement, Taliban would act contrarily and America would watch them helplessly. Before the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, it was agreed that after Ashraf Ghani’s resignation a provisional government would be formed which will conduct fresh elections in six months. However, by capturing Kabul Taliban has effectively taken all the matters into its own hands. Taliban’s surprising swift advance towards Kabul owes much to America’s abrupt abandonment of military bases in Bagram, Kandahar and other places in the dark of night which had a negative effect on the morale, solidarity and defence capabilities of the Afghan army. Afghan soldiers and officers began abandoning their outposts even before the battle and in a situation when all their supplies had worn out. The low pay of Afghan soldiers, nonpayment of salaries for months, embezzlement in military supplies, inadequate aerial support, conflicting orders from the local commander and the centre and finally the rapid switching of allegiances of tribal chiefs to Taliban all contributed to the complete demoralization of Afghan army. Taliban met tough resistance in Herat and Lashkargah and couldn’t capture it for days. If they had encountered similar resistances in other cities, it would have taken the Taliban years to reach Kabul. However, Herat’s warlord Ismail Khan, on Iran’s instructions, surrendered to the Taliban and handed over Herat to them, just as he had cooperated with American’s in the toppling of Taliban in 2001, again on Iran’s instructions. This further demoralized the army. The Kabul administration summoned Lashkargah’s commander to Kabul to defend the city, while Lashkargah’s frontline crumbled and the Helmand province fell to the Taliban. Ghazni’s governor handed over the province to the Taliban. In Kandahar, the influential tribal chiefs and warlords paved the way for the Taliban’s takeover. Ashraf Ghani’s ancestral province Logar was also captured in the same way. In this way, the Taliban reached Kabul from the south, while advancing in the north they continued capturing important cities and reached General Rasheed Dostum’s Mazar Sharif. Dostum is a puppet of Turkey’s Erdogan. He had bragged of establishing a new state of Turkistan by partitioning Afghanistan in case of the Taliban’s offensive. His centre of power, Mazar Sharif, was captured by the Taliban in a jiffy. Dostum and General Atta fled to Uzbekistan. In this way, the Taliban travelled from north to Kabul without encountering any resistance. Taliban’s swift victories in the north were impossible had it not been for the Russian and Iranian help.

Ashraf Ghani, whose know-how about statesmanship was limited to his experience in office drudgery of World Bank and NGOs, was utterly incapable of playing any decisive role in Afghanistan’s complex and extraordinary circumstances. Americans contemptuously kept him out of the whole process of talks with the Taliban. He could not even respond to such humiliation. These talks continued even till the fall of Kabul but still, Ashraf Ghani and his government remained irrelevant. Grasping the whole situation the astute leader of Northern Alliance Abdullah Abdullah secured the position of head of the High Council for National Reconciliation. This position allowed him to play a pivotal role in the final stages of talks and remained close to the Taliban. The role and position of Abdullah Abdullah in the imminent Taliban government, in which other groups will also be incorporated, will further elaborate the Taliban’s rapid victory. Constitutionally, Ashraf Ghani was the supreme commander of the armed forces. During this whole war, he didn’t even visit a single front to boost soldiers’ morale. One day he was seen with his advisors and commanders at Bala Hissar fort Kabul devising defence strategies and the very next day he was seen fleeing the presidential palace with suitcases full of foreign currencies, as reported by the Russian ambassador. He fled to UAE and left the country in turmoil and uncertainty. The schooling and training of capitalist institutions of the World Bank and NGOs can only produce cowards and accidental liberals like Ashraf Ghani. On the other hand, the cauldron of revolutionary struggle produces leaders like Noor Muhammad Tarakai, Hafizullah Amin and Dr Najeeb who sacrificed their lives in defence of oppressed masses and became immortal. The government in Kabul collapsed immediately after Ghani’s escape. This vacuum has been swiftly filled by the Taliban who entered Kabul without any resistance and with each passing moment they are consolidating their power.

Whereas the vacuum created by Ashraf Ghani and his government was filled by the Taliban as the only alternative at the moment; Russia, China and Iran want to fill the vacuum created by America’s defeat. These countries provided every possible support to the Taliban in its fight against America. At the same time, Pakistan is coordinating and harmonizing with these states by utilizing its great influence on the Taliban. In such conditions, the current pro-American Pakistani regime and Pakistani deep state will inevitably come into conflict. For Pakistan the year 2021 can become a reverse scenario of 2017. Despite being a landlocked country and about 75 per cent of its terrain being mountainous, Afghanistan is an important bridge between central Asian states and south Asia. Its natural resources and minerals have been the focus of various imperialist powers. According to a report of the American Defense Committee published in the New York Times, Afghanistan is sitting on colossal reserves of Copper, Carbon, Chromite, Floride, Iron, Uranium and several other precious metals. The report further estimates that huge reserves of lithium can transform Afghanistan into Saudi Arabia of lithium. Lithium is an important element used in rechargeable batteries for mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras and electric vehicles. China has been eyeing the extraction of these minerals for decades. China has already signed various oil and copper extraction projects including the Mes Aynak copper project. However, due to turmoil and uncertainty, these projects could not move forward. China also plans to link Afghanistan through Belt and Road Initiative with CPEC in the south and with Silk Road in the north. China has built close ties with the Taliban. Both sides have had several meetings in China. Taliban has assured China it will not allow Afghanistan’s territory to be used against China. China has also assured support to the Taliban. It seems that China, Russia and Iran are using the platform of Shanghai Cooperation Council to try to replace America’s Unipolar order.

On 17th August, the Taliban held their first press conference and announced their immediate measures and policies in which they pledged no retribution, to allow girls’ education, women to continue their work albeit in Islamic Hijab, banks and financial institutions would continue to work. However, contrary to these announcements, reports are emerging from far-flung areas that people are being abducted and killed, young girls and widows are being forcefully married to their fighters. Residents of Kabul are in a panic. They are leaving the country while the Taliban consolidating its power. After Ghani’s escape, the vice president Amrullah Saleh has declared himself the president. He has organized anti-Taliban commanders in Panjshir valley and has started resistance against the Taliban. During Dollar Jihad Amrullah Saleh received military training in Pakistan and was a commander of Ahmad Shah Masood’s Jihadi organization. Later he was appointed the head of Afghan intelligence service NDS and afterwards the vice president of Ashraf Ghani. If the Taliban further cements its ties with China, Russia and Iran, then America and India would support this new northern alliance; and ISIS Khorasan, TTP and other organizations will be their allies. This will pave the way for another war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Whether the Taliban has learnt something from its previous stint in power or not, they certainly have learnt how to consolidate their power. They have Iranian mullah aristocracy in their neighbourhood where a dictatorial religious government is at the helm and the Taliban have had cordial relations with them for some time. The immediate probability of the nature of Afghan government, whether it is an ‘elected’ or transitional one, an all-powerful supreme body or council will dominate it. All governmental functions, military matters, interior and foreign policies will be decided by this ‘body’. Financial matters will also be under its domain. It means that Afghanistan’s rough body politic will be wrapped up in the straightjacket of the Iranian political system which will cause the straightjacket to be torn apart because neither Afghanistan has an economy relatively strong like that of Iran, nor a dominant nationality similar to Iranian Persians. It is economically, socially and culturally several times more backward than Iran and is a turbulent country. A strong economy is a precondition for state oppression; however, there exists no such precondition in Afghanistan. Taliban’s whole policy stresses only on punishments and retributions of the judicial system. They have no socioeconomic program for the betterment of society other than banning music, destroying musical instruments and prohibiting cultural activities. For the oppressed Afghan masses, their economic program is no different from Pakistani PM Imran Khan’s policies i.e. charity, philanthropy and alms.

At the moment, the danger of a bloodbath has been averted. There are various possibilities hidden in the present situation of Afghanistan. It is the duty of revolutionaries to look for the progressive contents in a given phenomenon, preserve and nourish it. Over the years, a series of reactionary events have been taking place in Afghanistan. However, the potential for further reactionary events is fading. The defeat of American imperialism in the region is actually the failure of neoliberal capitalism, having far-reaching repercussions which will help in the development of revolutionary conditions and the spread of revolutionary ideas. The new generation of Afghans is learning many things from their experiences. New ideas and outlooks are emerging. Afghan women in Kabul have set an example of audacity and fearlessness by protesting against the Taliban right in front of their armed goons. They are not just a few individual women but the voice of the majority of the Afghan masses. These voices will transform into thunder evoking mass resilience and revolutionary slogans which will silence all the reactionary voices once and for all.

US Withdrawal from Afghanistan: Horror after Terror