The fall of Kabul, on Sunday 15th August 2021, has all but completed the sweeping back to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan two decades on from their ousting in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. This is a tragedy for the long-suffering people of Afghanistan. It also lays bare the rotten nature of Western foreign policy there over the past forty years, and the meaninglessness of the project undertaken in that country over the last twenty years.
The arming and supporting of Islamist mujahedin insurgents by the USA, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, from the late-1970s onwards, undermined the Saur (April) Revolution of 1978 and then the government of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), and laid the roots from which grew a plethora of reactionary jihadist groups in the country and the wider region.
These jihadist groups were violently opposed to the progressive policies of the PDPA government that sought to build a modern society oriented towards the eradication of poverty and the pillars of the feudalist past in the country. These Western-backed reactionary elements have been hostile to any notion of human and democratic rights as enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights or their application to the people of Afghanistan, in particular towards women and children.
The intervention of the Soviet Union to support the government of its southerly neighbour, already under attack by CIA-backed jihadists, was used as a justification by the West for its arming of the Islamists. The NATO member countries’ main concern was to stop the spread of a foreign policy agenda in the countries of the region that was contrary to its own, as well as any potential alignment with the Soviet Union.
While the Afghan government of national reconciliation, headed by Dr. Mohammad Najib, continued on beyond the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, it struggled to survive the continued pressure of an unholy alliance between key NATO powers with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan supporting the mujahedin. From the eventual fall of Kabul in the spring of 1992, Afghanistan was plunged into a brutal civil war between the various Islamist forces controlling different territories within the war-torn country. Whole swathes of Kabul were levelled to the ground. It was from this maelstrom that the Taliban emerged in 1994, before butchering their way into Kabul in 1996.
In the five years of Islamic fundamentalist rule that followed, societal gains that had been achieved in education, healthcare, housing and land rights, as well as towards the emancipation of women were reversed. Instead, Afghanistan became the training ground for the most reactionary Islamist forces, including al-Qaeda, and provided the base from which the 9-11 attacks were launched in 2001.
The Western response to this atrocity by militarily invading Afghanistan has effectively meant a twenty-year-long occupation costing approximately two trillion dollars and, tragically, the loss of many thousands of lives. The recent rapid withdrawal of Western forces has precipitated the collapse of the government of Afghanistan in a matter of weeks.
Failure of military intervention
The collapse of the US-installed government of Afghanistan is an object lesson in the failure of military intervention as a tool of foreign policy. Liberation organisation has always maintained that the imposition of government by external forces could not be a guarantee for democracy and people’s rights in Afghanistan. The outcome of the Taliban being re-installed in Afghanistan will be a major humanitarian disaster as those opposed to the Taliban scramble to leave, while the many that cannot are left to face the likely horrific consequences.
It is clear that neither the US nor Britain have showed any concern whatsoever for the fate of Afghanistan’s ordinary citizens. Perhaps no more can be expected from the US given the remarks of former US Ambassador to the United Nations and National Security Advisor, John Bolton, in an interview with Sky News on 12 August 2021: “Part of the problem that we’re having as a country debating Afghanistan is that somehow the notion has crept in that we’re there to defend Afghanistan, that we’re there as an act of charity […] It was always a mistake to think that we were there to make Afghanistan the ‘Switzerland of Central Asia’. We’re not there to build their nation. We’re there to protect our nation.”
The real agenda of the US is laid bare by a clause in the agreement reached with the Taliban in Qatar and overseen by the former Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will not provide visas, passports, travel permits, or other legal documents to those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies to enter Afghanistan.” It is evident from this wording that it was fully expected that Afghanistan would fall to the Taliban. (This was in February 2020, almost a year and a half before the terrible events of recent days.)
Western responsibility for crisis
The governments of the United States, Britain, and NATO member countries must take responsibility for this crisis which has developed on their watch – all unsanctioned under international law. They cannot be allowed to cut their losses and leave the beleaguered people of Afghanistan to the wolves.
The once unthinkable spectre of renewed Taliban rule and the crisis unfolding before our eyes in Afghanistan is the result of years of flagrant violation of that sovereign country by the US, Britain, and NATO.
The UN, the international community, and all those concerned for peace, human and democratic rights, and social justice around the world, must insist that the Taliban – as well as the silent allies who stand behind them, such as Pakistan – are held to account for what now transpires.
The international community must insist upon the rule of international law and a political transition in Afghanistan. Taliban rule cannot be allowed to continue unrestrained and must abide by the basic norms and tenets of human and democratic rights as enshrined within the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights – including the rights of women and national minorities. Afghans driven from their homes must be granted full refugees status. International diplomacy and negotiation must become the default recourse of foreign policy, not military intervention.
Afghanistan is the latest in a litany of failed wars of intervention which have resulted in disaster. The people of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen can testify to that reality. However, it is imperative that the international community do all in its power to make sure that Afghanistan is the last of these failed imperial adventures.
Liberation will work with our partners, to ensure that the people of Afghanistan and their progressive representatives are not left alone and without a voice.
16th August 2021