Within a month of one another, the amerikans and the Taliban fixed their positions in preparation for a new phase of the struggle in Afghanistan. On August 15th, Taliban released an open letter declaring that the precondition for the resumption of peace-talks and a hopeful ceasefire is the withdrawal of all amerikan forces from the country. Amerika has shot back with Trump and Tillerson affirming the united $tates’ position on Afghanistan, promising a “clear definition of victory” for the amerikan people. It appears Petraeus’ desire for a “generational struggle” in Afghanistan will come to fruition if it is not brought to a speedy conclusion by the brave Afghan resistance. However, the subtext of Trump’s discussion on Afghanistan, if it is to be believed, is absolutely terrifying and paints a picture of genocide unwilling to be veiled in terms of “democratization” and a happy future for the Afghan people.
A Desperate Shift in Amerikan Military Policy
we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in far away lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image—those days are now over. Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests. We are not asking others to change their way of life, but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better lives. This Principled Realism will guide our decisions moving forward.
This may, on its face, appear tactful (for however much tact one can attribute to Trump) and in line with the notion that amerika is bringing something better for the people of Afghanistan. However, it must be made clear that he is talking about pulling back the humanitarian veil of imperialism, and exposing only the self-interest of the amerikan imperialist bloc. This is only compounded Pentagon officials’ talk of relaxing the rules of engagement in Afghanistan, in order to achieve a speedy victory against so-called terrorists. How far do these butchers intend to “relax” the rules of engagement that have already condoned the murder of children and farmers? Unless it unravels under its own weight, or is truncated by a new administration, or, preferably, defeated by the resistance of the Afghan people, this doctrine is nothing short of a declaration of war by the amerikan imperialists on the next generation of Afghans.
It would not be the first time, as we have seen in the amerikan policy of murder throughout the Third World. Especially now, as they are being relentlessly driven back by a ring of fire that has burned its way across the equator. The North is feeling the heat, as it were, and the imperialists will resort to even more naked acts of violence and genocide in order to preserve their empire. Perhaps what we are seeing is amerika going “back to the basics” and starting once more from the 1960s, where fond memories of napalm bombs and agent orange were made. It is here we can find the astute observation of General Edward Lansdale that:
There is only one means of defeating an insurgent people who will not surrender, and that is extermination. There is only one way to control a territory that harbours resistance, that is to turn it into a desert. Where these means cannot, for whatever reason, be used, the war is lost.
The notion of “relaxed” rules of engagement offers us some image into the rapidly changing mentality of the top military brass and genocidal logisticians. Before, we saw a blatant disregard for the “rules of engagement” in Iraq and Afghanistan, that were already fairly “relaxed” in their attention to the murder of civilians. Veterans in Iraq recalled the operative mentality of “the crowd condones it” wherein all adults become targets in an ambush situation because, as the rhetoric would suggest, they must have allowed such an attack to take place. What has begun as a tactical modifications to the rules of engagement has now become active policy, as at the very top they have adjusted to the new reality. They cannot afford defeat, so they will pave the way for “victory”, and erode all protections that keep Lansdale’s “means” from becoming policy.
The Movement for National Liberation
We should not mistake that, simply because he is evil, that he is wrong, because certainly the Afghan masses have told the world that they will accept no fate without dignity. This is evidenced by the 16 year war without victory that the imperialists have waged, setting constantly extending timelines for their withdrawal. The Taliban, despite this onslaught has only grown in size and support throughout the country, and has issued a report that even western sources say perhaps underestimates their support in the country. The report, which was analyzed by the right-wing “Foundation for the Defense of Democracies” detailed that:
[Of the 349 districts in Afghanistan, the Taliban] fully controls 34 districts, including the district centers, and contests another 167 districts (these are districts where the Taliban claims it controls between 40 to 99 percent of the territory). The Taliban has a significant presence (10 to 39 percent) in another 52 districts, and a minimal presence in six more districts (1 to 9 percent). The Taliban said it has no presence in 89 districts, however, in some of those provinces it says it is conducting ‘guerrilla activities.’
This is despite the genocidal campaign waged by the united $tates where more than 100,000 soldiers occupied the country at the height of the troop surge. It is clear that amerikan power in Afghanistan is brittle, and without substance beyond the force of arms it employs. The Taliban, in their own open letter to the amerikan government, even stated that the occupation is the principal reason for the longevity of the war, and insisted that they have been prepared for many years for peace talks in the event of a full amerikan withdrawal. The Taliban, by their own admission, is popular because of their resistance to the amerikan occupation! The fact is that despite their complete political program for the reconstruction of the Afghan state, the one position that resonates near-universally with the Afghan people is the desire for an end to the occupation of their country.
The Taliban has undergone a great transformation since its formation in the early part of the war with the Soviet Union. The overall orientation of the group has shifted under the pressure of amerikan imperialism and the occupation from one based mostly on religious and moral conservatism toward one rooted in the national liberation and self-determination of Afghanistan. It is this shift which has been responsible for the group’s increasing willingness to negotiate many of the conservative reactionary positions they hold. So far, what is absolutely non-negotiable has been the full independence of Afghanistan from imperialist domination. This is a transformation motivated by pressure exerted by the people of Afghanistan, as the Taliban has been transformed into an institution of their national liberation (or at least a candidate for whom they are willing to settle). For the left, this is not the reality most convenient for us or the social revolutionaries of Afghanistan, but it is the reality we are faced with nonetheless. Revolutionaries are never faced with ideal conditions as they “should” be, plucked fresh and spotless from the mind, but navigate conditions as they actually are.
On the Future of Afghanistan
Certainly to many, the notion of life under Taliban rule has few upsides, and certainly their reactionary policies will create unspeakable horrors for women and LGBT+ people in Afghanistan if they are not successfully moderated by the intercession of popular power. We should have no illusions when faced with the prospect of Taliban governance, and we have a history to look to that informs us of what may happen once the amerikans are thrown out. However, we must also silence the liberal detractors who would rather fill our minds of the what-ifs of Taliban rule in order to distract from the very real horrors that exist right now under the rule of the corrupt Kabul government and amerikan occupation.
We must emphasize that such liberal distractions give justification to the continued amerikan presence, and legitimize the ongoing horrors inflicted upon the peoples of central, west and south asia through the various military zones established in Afghanistan. Not to mention the ongoing abuses of women and LGBT+ people by the current compradore government, which has a track record of supporting the executions of women for crimes of “adultery” and forced marriages to rapists in order to re-enter social life in Afghanistan. It is clear that the warlords of the Kabul government are no better in their “democratic” processes than the Taliban regime was, who have also undeniably been responsible for many serious abuses against women. Anuradha Ghandy reflects on this very situation in her essay Fascism, Fundamentalism, and Patriarchy:
[T]he warlords who came to power in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal in 1992 were as reactionary as the Taliban that swept to power several years later, and RAWA, the women’s organisation that opposed the restrictions on women’s rights, was as critical of the warlords as of the Taliban. Today the same warlords are back in power under US protection. But whether they are reactionary regimes like the Saudi monarchy or more mass movement based organisations, they have been making control over women’s dress, her movements and manner of her participation in public life an important part of their campaign and this is what has gained the maximum publicity in the bourgeois and imperialist media given the campaign being launched by American imperialism against Islam. [Emphasis Added]
The key difference between those amerikan-sponsored warlords who now dominate the Kabul government and the Taliban is their position in relation to the greater imperialist mission in the region and the world. One represents the national self-determination of the Afghan people, while the other represents the continued occupation and murder of the masses of Afghans for the sake of their own enrichment through the amerikan-endorsed trade in heroin and minerals. The defeat of imperialism in Afghanistan represents a strategic defeat for the beast that has, since the end of the world war and even before, crushed the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America. However, we must nevertheless be cognizant of the work still left to do by social revolutionaries to push the movement for national self-determination in the direction of class struggle and proletarian revolution.
We should not be so optimistic (that is, ignorant) to think this will be easy. Unfortunately the victory of the Taliban would galvanize their support for years, perhaps decades, to come if there is no ideological intervention through the development of a world anti-imperialist movement. The left has remained a quite small part of the overall push for an end to the occupation in Afghanistan, with 90% of the force applied coming directly from the war in the countryside lead by the Taliban. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that the power of the national bourgeoisie, independent of the great support networks provided by the imperialists, is a weak one. Certainly the class struggle eventually waged against this class would be at an advantage without having to come up against the full might of the genocidal imperialist armed forces, and a bourgeoisie emboldened and subsidized by imperial finance capital.
The revolutionary and anti-imperialist nature of the Taliban is, after all, purely temporary in the absence of proletarian class interests. They will at one point, as all other petty-bourgeois movements do, find ways to make peace with former enemies in the interest of their own bourgeois motivations. Imperialist contradictions can prolong this temporal juxtaposition to empire and global finance capital, but we understand that their position is dynamic and fleeting. For now, however, we understand that their rule and the end of amerikan occupation would be, in the long term, positive to the future of the Afghan people and social revolutionaries both. When murderous drones no longer stalk the skies over Asia, we can confidently say that a positive and qualitative change has occurred. This, after all, is the primary goal for the Taliban at this point.
Prospects for Anti-Imperialism and Social Revolution
It goes without saying that principled anti-imperialists and social revolutionaries should be wary of the Taliban and their allies, as they have a long history of betrayal and reactionary violence. Faith in reactionaries to be anything more than temporal allies against imperialism is a deadly mistake. We should be absolutely clear that while the Taliban represents the ambitions for national liberation and self-determination for the people of Afghanistan, our involvement in the withdrawal of NATO soldiers from the country must not be narrowed to a blind support of the Taliban. It must be toward the ultimate defeat of imperialism, and we must never become overwhelmed with the thought of victories small or great along the road to that ultimate goal. The greatest task for anti-imperialists and social revolutionaries at the moment is to build a sustainable movement for the end of imperialism, not just this or that occupation or aggression.
Nevertheless this must begin with the tangible end of imperialist relations in every country, and will be built atop a global movement that unites all progressive peoples together in global new democratic revolution. That is, we should not reject alliances with the progressive and revolutionary national bourgeoisie on left-opportunist principles with the excuse that we must remain fully independent in our struggle against imperialism. Such dogmatic stances mistake isolation for independence. However, we must also not concede to the right-opportunist proposal of integration with reactionary movements for national liberation that now exist. Global new democratic revolution must be constructed under the broad auspices of the conscious world-proletariat, and therefore must bare the seeds of social revolution. This is not something that will fall into place, rather it is something we must actively cultivate through the course of our shared struggle against imperialism.
For now, our task is to understand the contents of the open letter to the imperialists in the amerikan government, and to respond to it with concrete anti-imperialism. We should not reach out to work directly with the Taliban in Afghanistan, such an act would serve no higher good in the current situation, and would put more people in even greater danger. However, we should act in accordance to the letter’s primary message, which is the ardent wish of all peoples struggling against imperialism, with whom we must have concrete, not abstract, solidarity: the occupation must end before peace can be restored. This is the first and last dictum, the minimum program of anti-imperialists of all stripes. We must continue to build among the anti-war movement a thoroughly anti-imperialist faction that can not only bring about the end of the war in Afghanistan, but all campaigns currently waged by amerikan imperialism abroad. See our discussion of this very topic in a previous article, Corrective to the Anti-War Movement.
We must pursue these ends with an intense revolutionary spirit, and must remain pragmatic within the boundaries of achieving the defeat of imperialism and establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is not enough to offer nominal support for this or that organization mobilizing the people against imperialism, we must be prepared and willing to bring the logic of anti-imperialism to its ultimate conclusion at home. For amerikans, that means support for the national liberation and decolonization of this continent, as well as the weakening of imperialism by opening a domestic front, through a revolutionary and realistic program of action.