Lifting a Rock to Drop It On One’s Own Feet: On the Failed US Mission in Afghanistan

Afghan civilians walk past abandoned military uniforms and equipment.

Comrade Redbeard and Comrade Toussaint

The US-led effort in Afghanistan collapsed with a pathetic whimper on Sunday, with the entry of Taliban forces into Kabul, the nation’s capital, the flight of puppet President Ashraf Ghani to Tajikistan, and the Vietnam-esque images of helicopters taking off from the roof of the (former) US Embassy. According to US officials, American soldiers have shot two supposedly armed men in the Kabul airport, and at least three Afghans were run over and killed by an Air Force jet as they tried to cling to it. It is, by any account, an abysmal end to the decades-long Yankee occupation of Afghanistan. When Joe Biden declared that “America is back” at the beginning of his term, he was right: backed into a corner in its longest official war. As American revolutionary Communist organizers, our task is to sum up the past 20 years, learn the lessons to be learned, and continue to build a firm anti-imperialist movement that can obstruct the continued machinations of Yankee imperialism in its eternal quest for more sovereign states to loot and destroy.

The invasion of Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, shortly after the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in Washington, DC and New York City. The pretext was to dismantle al-Qaeda and deny it a supposed base of operations in Afghanistan. This mission did not accomplish any of its stated tasks. Al-Qaeda operatives strategically withdrew to the rural hinterland, or to Pakistan. Remember, it was in Pakistan where Osama Bin Laden was killed, not Afghanistan. The Taliban, using classical principles of guerilla warfare, launched a guerilla insurgency which, as we saw all this week, ended up being successful, slowly gathering strength, whittling down occupation forces, and taking advantage of the withdrawal of US troops to sweep the country with lightning speed. The 20 year mission to pacify and subdue Afghanistan met the same fate as British imperialist and Soviet social-imperialist attempts. The Graveyard of Empires has now claimed the US.

The rapid Taliban victory could only have happened through the use of Pakistan as a rear area and consistent work in the hinterland. This shows the continued viability and universality of guerilla warfare as a strategy to defeat occupation forces and puppet states. Of course, this was not a protracted people’s war, as that method of armed struggle only belongs to people’s forces. The Taliban is a fundamentally reactionary force. Its roots go back to the time of the Soviet occupation (1979-1989), when radicalized madrasa students (Taliban means “students” in Pashto, one of the main languages of Afghanistan) received training and armament in Pakistan to fight alongside other mujihadeen against the Soviets. The Taliban as it exists goes back to 1994 in the city of Kandahar, where they arose as a militant reformist movement that declared an intention to combat corruption and garnered mass support by generating a modicum of security in an area that had previously been seen as lawless. Taliban rule is marked by a strict and dogmatic interpretation of Islamic law, severe oppression of women and minority religions, and corporal punishment/execution of those who commit crimes against property. They are also rabidly anti-Communist. Hence, they are no friends to the working and peasant population of Afghanistan. The support that they received was solely because they were seen as the only force capable of toppling Yankee imperialism and the puppet regime, which was the primary contradiction. The Taliban had the power to drive the Yankees and their minions out, and others did not. 

The humiliation and defeat of US imperialism and its minions is a good thing, but the fact that it was accomplished by the Taliban does not make the Taliban good. Cancer isn’t good because it takes the life of an miserable old war criminal. A fascist isn’t good because he stabs another fascist over a personal insult. Conflicts between reactionaries can be exploited by people’s forces in support of the Communist goal. However, many vulgar revisionists in the United States, Canada, and Europe absentmindly cheerlead anytime the United States suffers a defeat. This is not Communism, as Communists are partisans of the peasant and worker masses. The Taliban is an enemy of the peasant and worker masses.

Our solidarity and firm proletarian internationalist greetings go out to the Communist Party of Afghanistan (Maoist), who have recently suffered the loss of their Comrade Zia, went through a struggle and rectification campaign to strengthen their party, struggled through US military occupation from their inception, and now must organize the people against the Taliban reactionaries. Our hope is that they continue to dare to struggle and continue to build their Party under these conditions and one day raise the red flag over Kabul.
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It would be glib to suggest here that it’s always darkest before the dawn, or to issue a toothless call for solidarity with the Afghan people and the victory of socialism in Afghanistan. Although we want these things, that doesn’t make them so. At the moment, the outlook for the Afghan masses is quite grim. We cannot and should not lie about that, even in the name of revolutionary optimism. Afghanistan has suffered degradations in the last 40 years that no one would envy. But Afghans are not eternal victims, and as dialectical materialists, we know that the world is constantly changing. What is true today may not be true tomorrow, and what is true tomorrow may not be true in a year or years from now. The Taliban cannot rule forever anymore than Washington can. Our support, in so much as we have any to offer from thousands of miles away, goes to the Afghan workers and peasants, to the refugees, and to all Afghans fighting for a peaceful, just, and sovereign country, free from imperialism and tyranny. 

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