Taliban, warlords and instability
US-sponsored elections regarded “a joke”
Khalid Bhatti, Socialist Movement (cwi in Pakistan), Lahore, October 6th 2004
The Bush Adminstration’s dreams of stability, peace and democracy in Afghanistan have been shattered. The increased Taliban attacks and insurgency by other groups have killed more US and ‘coalition’ soldiers than during the formal war to overthrow the Taliban, in 2002. After three years of US occupation, the Afghan masses are still suffering from poverty, and unemployment. 1.2 million Afghans face starvation and famine. The vast majority of people have no access to health facilities, drinking water, education, roads, transport, electricity and other basic services and utilities.
It is estimated that continuous violence over 25 years has killed up to 10% of the population. More than six million Afghanis are refugees in Pakistani and Iranian camps. They are living in extreme poverty. Many Afghan families “sell” their children for $70 to $90 (US dollars). Thousands of women and young girls are sold into prostitution every year. The economy is in tatters. The central state structures do not exist. The net result of the imperialist-financed Mujahdeen insurgency against the pro-Soviet Union Afghanistan regime, in the 1980s, and the fighting in the 1990s between the different Mujahdeen warlords and the Pakistini-sponsored Taliban, has been to throw Afghanistan back decades.
The Afghan warlords control 80% of the country. Some of these monsters are stooges of US imperialism, while others are getting money from different imperialist powers and drug dealing. France, Germany, Russia and the US are giving finance. These forces are involved in wide spread human rights violations. Warlords, like General Rashid Dostam and Ismail Khan, are responsible for killing thousands of people.
There is no such thing as ‘democracy’ in Afghanistan, despite the claims of the occupying powers. Much has been said about the “success” of the voter registration. And, yes, it was very “successful”; in some regions where the total registered are 30% higher than the total of those eligible! One senior Afghan minister even admitted that 10% of the 10.5 million names provided could be the result of people registering more than once.
Months ago, the US spent huge amounts of money bribing delegates to the ‘Grand Assembly’ (Loyah Girgah) which ‘elected’ Hamid Karzai as interim President by simply standing up at the end of the meeting. Now the US is spending millions of dollars to bribe the powerful religious and regional warlords. The superpower used every possible means to have Hamid Karzai elected as President, including bribing potential opposition candidates to withdraw from the elections. Because the result is decided beforehand, and the announcement on 8 October that Hamid Karzai will be the new President, many Afghanis correctly regard the so-called ‘democratic’ process as a joke. They ask why they should bother about elections.
The Taliban and other opposition forces have launched a campaign to boycott the election. They are threatening potential voters, saying they will have to “face the consequences” if they come out to vote. On the other hand, the ‘Coalition’ and Afghan interim government forces are forcing people to cast their votes. One example of this was the statement broadcast in one area, on radio on 22 September that “All Terezai tribes-people should vote for Hamid Karzai…If any Terezai people vote for other candidates, the tribe will burn their houses”. It is therefore likely that Karzai will win the Presidential election with US help. But his victory will not bring any stability to Afghanistan. His rule is completely dependent on US forces. If US troops left the country, the Karzai government would not be able to sustain itself for even one week.
Divisions amongst warlords
Big differences have developed within the Northern Alliance forces, the coalition of warlords that the US relied on to oust the Taliban from power in 2002. Ahmed Shah Masud, a brother of a well-known deceased warlord leader, is openly supporting Karzai. Cracks are also widening between Qasim Fahim (the Defence Minister) and General Rashid Dostam (the Deputy Defence Minister and an infamous warlord). The removal of Ismail Khan from the Governorship of Herat province is another indication of the split in the Northern Alliance, as well as the US moving against what they saw as a pro-Iranian element. Ismail Khan has been made a Federal Minster, but he has refused to accept this new post. The fighting between his forces and Afghan army is still going on, in which more than 500 people have been killed. It is likely that after the elections the US will try to further weaken the Northern Alliance to strengthen the Karzai camp. But this will not be easy to do. If the US presses the Northern Alliance too hard, the situation can lead to civil war. Ismail Khan has already threatened to join up with Taliban forces.
Imperialist and local powers are constantly meddling in Afghanistan. General Qasim Fahim is still the ‘strongman’ of Kabul and the Russian government is fully behind him. French imperialism is also backing Qasim Fahim. The removal of Ismail Khan as Governor of Herat is a big setback for the Iranian regime, as he was their most trusted man. Pakistan is also playing a role in the situation. The Islamic fundamentalist faction of the Pakistan state is still supporting the Taliban and other militant groups.
Every country in the region is involved in this Afghan proxy war. Yet the majority of the Afghan population wants peace, stability, employment and democracy. They are sick tired of violence and destruction. They want to live in peace.
That is the main reason the bulk of the population is not yet supporting the Taliban. But they also feel betrayed by Karzai and the US. Many no longer have illusions that the US-led occupation will bring peace, prosperity and economic revival. Now the masses regard the ‘coalition’ troops as foreign occupying forces. In this situation, the Stalinist PDPA (People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan) has failed to play a role as an alternative force. The leaders of PDPA are more interested in getting jobs in the Afghan government. They are not offering the Afghan masses genuine socialism as alternative to war, occupation and fundamentalism. Now, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they believe that imperialism can bring stability and peace.
Afghanistan is bitterly divided on an ethnic basis. The government in Kabul is dominated by non-Pashtoons. Now Karzai (who is a Pashtoon) is promising more representation for this ethnic group. But his plans will mean less representation for other ethnic groups. The increasing social, political and economic crisis will only deepen ethnic divisions.
Afghanistan is a prime example that capitalism fails to solve any fundamental problems facing the people of the neo-colonial world. The promises of “reconstruction” – made loudly by Western powers at the time of the war against the Taliban regime - are still no more than a pipe dream. Capitalism in Afghanistan only can bring destruction, poverty and hunger.
Afghani women still face the worst conditions. There is no fundamental change in their situation following the fall of the ultra-reactionary Taliban regime. It was reported that two weeks ago, US soldiers raped and killed 13 young Afghan girls at Bagram airbase. Sexual abuse and violence is on the rise against women. One Afghan woman said in a recent media interview that during the Taliban regime she was forced to wear a Burka, but now she is wearing a Burka to “save herself”. Warlords also carry out crimes against women. In many areas of the country, Afghan women are still facing the same repressive conditions as they did under Taliban rule.
Only the overthrow of capitalism and a democratic socialist society, as part of a socialist confederation in the region, will end the miseries of the Afghan masses. A planned economy, under the democratic control and management of working people, can bring prosperity, peace and stability in Afghanistan. Socialism is the only way forward.