"The open lies of the Americans and their atrocities in Afghanistan every day has left us with a hole in our hearts, we've lost everything," Masih Ur-Rahman, who lost his wife and seven children to a U.S. airstrike in Wardak, Afghanistan, in September 2019.
In October 2001, with the thin excuse of fighting a “war on terror,” one month after 9/11, the United States government and their allies, including Canada's government, unleashed a brutal war and occupation on the people of Afghanistan. At least 160,000 Afghans have been killed, though this number is widely acknowledged as a conservative estimate (Brown University Costs of War). Over the last 19 years, the lives of people in Afghanistan have deteriorated across all basic indicators – and today, in 2020, Afghanistan has the world’s lowest life expectancy and highest infant mortality rate.
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff announced in late February 2020 that a “deal” had been signed between the United States and the Taliban. The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation, have met multiple times with representatives from the Taliban – in an attempt to bring about an “inter-Afghan dialogue,” between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban.
After nearly two decades of war and occupation of Afghanistan, the Trump Administration is maneuvering to gain pre-election bonus points for a bogus foreign policy deal. Simultaneously, the U.S. administration continues to build on its strategy to maintain a permanent U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. There is a lot of speculation about whether the various “sides” will ever uphold a deal. However, it must be asked what does this U.S. brokered “peace process” mean for the people of Afghanistan?
“Peace Process,” or Buying Time for Longer Occupation
The sham “deal” announced in February 2020, and the current “intra-Afghan” talks with the Taliban, like other negotiations that have been going on secretly and publicly for the last ten years, will go nowhere. With the United States pulling strings in the talks, and through their ongoing occupation, there continues to be no end in sight to the chaos and destruction in Afghanistan.
The people of Afghanistan have no reason to put any confidence in the government of the United States. After two decades of constant night-raids, bombings, firefights, sexual violence, and other forms of state-terrorism, all packaged in the rhetoric of “fighting terrorism,” “bringing democracy” or “defending women’s rights,” the U.S. has no ground to stand on.
With a strategy designed to fail, the United States never even fulfilled its stated primary objective of overthrowing the Taliban. The presence of terrorist and extremist organizations has been steadily rising in the last 19 years of the country's occupation by the U.S. and NATO. In 2020, the Taliban controls at least 20% of the country, while Afghanistan’s government controls 30%, and the rest, 50%, remains “uncontrolled” by either the Taliban or the U.S. puppet government.
Although there is a lot of discussion on the surface about a “timeline for withdrawal,” there is no evidence that the United States will ever do so. On August 14, 2020 the U.S.-backed President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani wrote a Washington Post editorial. He wrote, “We thank the United States and our international partners for their continued support of our security forces, which will be critical as we move forward with the peace process.” The U.S. or NATO forces will not be “fully withdrawing” anytime soon.
As of September 2020, there are 8,600 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and around 8,000 NATO troops from other countries. The U.S. government has announced plans for a further reduction of troops in the coming month, as per the agreement with the Taliban in February 2020. However, this does not represent the total of foreign forces in Afghanistan - far from it. In 2018, there were 26,922 U.S. Department of Defense contractors operating in Afghanistan, and the withdrawal of these unnamed forces is not part of any U.S.-Taliban negotiations.
As investigative reporter Azmat Khan describes in her March 2 interview on Democracy Now, "[private contractors] allow the U.S. to continue the war while reducing its overt troop levels and sustaining that war with a sort of invisible army.” Paid mercenaries have been contracted for airstrikes and intelligence operations. The CIA sponsors some of these contract mercenaries. They have been accused of horrendous night-raids and murders and face no consequences for these war crimes. As Human Rights Watch reported in late October 2019, 14 times the “CIA-backed Afghan strike forces committed serious abuses between late 2017 and mid-2019.”
By August 2020, the number of U.S. troops is down to what it was when President Trump took office in 2017. However, over the last three years, a reduction in U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan has meant more, not less, war and occupation for Afghanistan. As the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has decreased since 2017, the number of deadly airstrikes and drone bombing has escalated. There have been nearly 8,000 airstrikes in 2019 – the most recorded since the U.S./Canada/NATO invasion in 2001 (Bureau of Investigative Reporting).
Though the latest version of a U.S.-Taliban “deal” may make claims about withdrawing the U.S. and foreign forces or closing military bases, this does not represent a change in the United States' strategy in Afghanistan. Even if there is some drawdown to troops in the coming months, it is only a change of tactics. Maneuvers such as this are a dog and pony show directed at the people of the United States. It is a public relations campaign for the Trump Administration. When the Taliban, the Afghan government, and the United States sit down at the same table, President Trump will claim a foreign policy victory – and try to make it a significant accomplishment for the coming election on November 3, 2020.
“War on Terror” or War of Terror?
President Trump does not attempt to conceal his disdain for Afghanistan's people and those killed through U.S. drones, airstrikes, and night raids. In his speech on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan in 2017, he said, “We are not nation-building again; we are killing terrorists.” Twelve years earlier, Canadian Forces General Rick Hillier said very similar words explaining, “We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people,” and describing Afghan people as “detestable murderers and scumbags.”
Based on nearly two decades of war and occupation, it seems as though anyone in Afghanistan could be considered a “terrorist” and a “detestable murderer.” In Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan, thirty people were killed by a U.S. drone bombing while harvesting pine nuts on September 19, 2019. A few days later, in Helmand Province, at least forty people were killed in a brutal raid at a wedding, carried out by the U.S. supported Afghan forces. These are only two horrific examples of thousands that show the sheer terror that people in Afghanistan have lived under for almost twenty years.
Statistics from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) demonstrate just how difficult life has become for people in Afghanistan – and how it continues to worsen, especially for women and children, who are the most vulnerable in society. Out of 37 million people, 14 million need immediate humanitarian assistance, compared to 9.4 million people in 2019. 2.4 million people face food insecurity at a “crisis” or “emergency” level. In 2001, at the time of the U.S. invasion, 30% of people in Afghanistan lived below the poverty line; by 2017, this number was 54.5% (World Fact Book).
Afghanistan now produces 82% of the world’s opium – in 2001, opium production was nearly eradicated under the Taliban. Opium farmers in Afghanistan report that they have taken up farming opium to pay for basic needs, food, medical expenses, and debt. (UNODC and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Afghanistan Opium Survey 2017). All of this is proof that the lives of people in Afghanistan are deteriorating.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also hit Afghanistan and brought the further crisis to a healthcare system wrecked by 19 years of U.S./NATO war. Due to the pandemic, Save the Children estimated that 7.3 million Afghan children will face food shortages. The most recent report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) stated, “that an additional eight million people will fall into poverty, pushing the poverty rate from 55 percent to 80 percent.”
This devastation is what the U.S./NATO war and occupation has brought to the people of Afghanistan.
Turning Afghanistan into a Permanent Military Base
Every honest rational person understands that from every aspect the occupation of Afghanistan occupation is negative and gloomy. So, if the United States and its allies, including Canada, did not invade and occupy Afghanistan to fight terrorists, overthrow the Taliban, or improve people's lives, explicitly women and children, in Afghanistan, why is the United States there?
In 2020 the Washington Post released a collection of documents known as the Afghanistan Papers. They consist of previously classified memos and reports related to the work of SIGAR – the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. These papers paint one general picture of the U.S. invasion, war, and occupation of Afghanistan – that the U.S. government has been lying about their actions and intentions in Afghanistan the entire time.
For example, the United States government claimed that they were in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban for harbouring terrorists. However, as summarized by the Washington Post, “The Lessons Learned interviews [from the Afghanistan Papers] also reveal how U.S. military commanders struggled to articulate who they were fighting, let alone why.
Was al-Qaeda the enemy, or the Taliban? Was Pakistan a friend or an adversary? What about the Islamic State and the bewildering array of foreign jihadists, let alone the warlords on the CIA’s payroll? According to the documents, the U.S. government never settled on an answer.”
As the Afghanistan papers demonstrate, the United States never intended to defeat the Taliban, only to destabilize Afghanistan to justify their continued presence. In short, there was never an apparent “enemy” for the U.S. government to defeat in Afghanistan because that is not the objective of their continued occupation.
The U.S. strategy for Afghanistan is permanent war, occupation, and chaos, which allows the U.S. government to turn Afghanistan into a permanent military base to hold a strategic presence and advantage in the region of South and Central Asia against Russia, China, and Iran.
The New Era of War and Occupation
For almost the last two decades, the people of Afghanistan, as with the people of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and other countries facing the U.S. war machine, have been paying a horrible price for the deepening capitalist crisis in the United States and other imperialist countries. Faced with economic crashes and a falling average rate of profit, countries such as the United States and Canada are forced to find new markets, resources, and labour. The decaying capitalist-imperialist countries are in confrontation with other growing world powers, mainly Russia and China. The strategical location of Afghanistan makes it the perfect battleground, politically and economically against adversaries.
On top of Afghanistan’s rich mineral and gas resources and access to new trade markets, the United States, above all, is looking to maintain control in Afghanistan as one of the steps towards regaining hegemony in Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Because not only is Afghanistan situated between the Middle East and the Asian continent, it also shares a border with Iran.
In 1979, the Iranian people overthrew the U.S.-backed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and kicked Western imperialist interests out of the country. Since then, Iran has been an example of resistance and independence from the United States for people throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Therefore, it is the main obstacle to U.S. hegemony in the region. Thus, bringing Afghanistan to the submission brings the United States one step closer to destroying its ultimate target in the Middle East and North Africa – the independent, defiant, and resilient people of Iran and its government.
This economic and political necessity has driven the United States on their murderous warpath for the last 19 years – and fuels the new era of war and occupation, which began with the U.S./Canada/NATO invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
U.S./NATO Out of Afghanistan Now! End the Occupation Now!
October 7, 2020 will mark the 19 years since the U.S./Canada/NATO invasion of Afghanistan. Since then, untold misery has been unleashed upon the people of Afghanistan. Three million people have fled Afghanistan in search of a better life, many only to find further hardships in refugee camps in surrounding countries or inhuman camps on European islands. As one refugee said brilliantly and truthfully in a 2015 interview with Al Jazeera News, “I AM NOT INTERESTED TO GO TO EUROPE, EUROPE IS NOT BETTER FOR ME. AFGHANISTAN IS BETTER FOR ME, BUT THEY TOOK AFGHANISTAN AWAY FROM ME. THEY DO NOT LET ME BE IN AFGHANISTAN.”
However, the people of Afghanistan have not given in to U.S. forces in the country. They continue to resist under U.S. occupation. For centuries Afghanistan has been known as the “graveyard of empires” for their powerful history of resistance. As people living in the United States and Canada, we owe the Afghan people our active support and struggle against this brutal and unjust war.
The war in Afghanistan has cost the U.S. an estimated 2 trillion dollars (Brown University Cost of War Project). There is no question that the taxpayer money should have been used not for war, but for healthcare, education, housing in the United States – as the devastation caused by capitalist mismanagement of the pandemic in the United States has cruelly exposed. In total, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have been deployed to Afghanistan, fighting in a brutal war that the United States government never intends on ending. On top of the deep psychological trauma experienced, 2,300 U.S. soldiers were killed and nearly 21,000 wounded. (U.S. Department of Defense). 158 soldiers from Canada also lost their lives - all for war and occupation that has destroyed the lives of millions of people in Afghanistan.
The people of Afghanistan do not need a useless Trump “deal.” The poor, working, and oppressed people in the United States do not need one either. The people of Afghanistan have a right to determine their own future, without the interference of the United States, Canada, or any other imperialist country. This is a fundamental right of all nations, self-determination. They also have a right to be given reparations by the United States, NATO, and Canada for the destruction that this terrible war and occupation has caused.
From the United States and Canada, it is our responsibility and human duty to build an effective anti war movement to bring the US, Canada, and all imperialist troops home now, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or anywhere around the world. At the same time, we must also unite, organize, and build a movement to shut down all U.S. bases, not only in Afghanistan but also in the whole Middle East and North Africa, and around the world.
Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette
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