The Afghan occupation is unraveling. The invaders have been forced entirely into a defensive posture, always reacting to the advances of the Taliban forces, never advancing themselves. We hear sporadic news of increased aerial bombing—succeeding mostly in killing Afghan civilians—and the targeting of so-called drug labs, but nothing of real advance. The imperialists are stuck, and the political stability of the comprador government they have relied on for 16 years is crumbling before their eyes. The countryside has become a hostile sea, dotted by small islands of imperialist control, all under serious and continuous threat by the Taliban who, like a tide, wash inland, each time a little further. The largest of Afghanistan’s “islands”, Kabul, is quickly becoming its most affected.
Just a week ago the Taliban seized the Intercontinental Hotel, a moral fortress of imperial and comprador power, for 24 hours amid a series of embarrassing military blunders on the part of the security forces. The whole world was, for a brief moment, invited to remember the war they had tried so hard to forget. The imperialists could not escape images of flames pouring out windows, and the sound of gunfire punctuating false reports of the security forces’ success in recapturing the hotel. Amid ongoing chaos, the so-called president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, has admitted in a 60 Minutes interview that he cannot even protect people in the country’s capital.
The siege of the Intercontinental Hotel, which has claimed the lives of between 18 and 43 people, depending on who you ask, marks a dramatic highlight to the ongoing condition of the amerikan occupation of Afghanistan. Before this, we had been told that the uptick in NATO bombing and the surge of amerikan forces into the country were a signal that the imperialists would launch a new offensive to retake lost territory. However we have seen no such territorial gains, and the bombing campaigns have largely failed to turn the tide against the Taliban or even the Islamic State. More often than not, amerikan bombs serve to reinforce the need to end the occupation as more and more civilians are maimed and killed in unrestricted drone warfare.
Paradoxically, the amerikans’ increased presence in Afghanistan has not broken their retreat, as their soldiers in Kabul no longer even drive to their military installations. Rather, they must be flown into the heavily fortified compounds, where they will remain for the duration of their deployment. Out of fear, the imperialists have forfeited the streets. They have come to realize there is no such thing as a “green zone” in Afghanistan. The amerikans are depending on an impossible victory in Afghanistan, one that their crumbling empire desperately needs. Their army remains confined, and as the Intercontinental Hotel incident has shown, a greater commitment means a greater embarrassment when the dominoes fall.
Gen. Nicholson, the commander of amerikan forces in Afghanistan, argues that these are precautions taken out of a “moral imperative” to protect u.$. soldiers in the country. Rather, they can be understood as a moral defeat, a daily confirmation to amerikan soldiers that the country they were sent to “protect” is too dangerous for them to drive in. Even without a large internal anti-war movement, the morale of the amerikan war effort cannot be sustained, nor can they break out of their perpetual retreat, both moral and strategic. They cannot win the war from behind blast walls, and they know that. But appearances are everything. They cannot admit defeat, even if they cannot win. They are prepared to bleed Afghanistan for generations to avoid it, because they know the stakes. When the Intercontinental burned, the amerikans did not imagine their lackeys and assets in flames. Rather they saw the entire Afghan project begin to blacken and curl.
The Taliban is prepared to make Afghanistan the graveyard of amerikan empire, and it is in attacks like those on the Intercontinental Hotel that make amerika’s defeat undeniable. In the face of a world in open rebellion against amerikan hegemony, the expiration date of empire is fast approaching.