Crowds burned a US flag in Kabul on October 6 at a rally to mark the 10th anniversary the next day of the US-led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.
For three hours, Reuters said, “men and women … with placards and banners accusing the United States of massacring civilians while denouncing President Hamid Karzai as a puppet subservient to Washington” took part in the peaceful protest organised by the Solidarity Party of Afghanistan.
The protest is part of a growing trend in Afghanistan of non-violent resistance by grassroots forces opposed to both the occupation and the Islamist terrorist the US-led forces are supposedly fighting.
Democratic opposition growing
The Solidarity Party of Afghanistan ― together with other organisations such as the Association of Afghan Social Justice-Seekers and the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, local and ad hoc groups and unaffiliated activists ― form a democratic, secular anti-occupation current in Afghan politics.
This current, whose non-violent strategy is largely ignored by the Western media, is increasingly organising Afghanistan’s long-suffering people.
Former parliamentarian Malalai Joya is the best-known representative of this current in the West. In an English-language video message from Afghanistan to mark the occupation’s anniversary, she said: “I hope Afghanistan one day will see a glorious uprising like in the Middle East countries.
“Right now we are witnessing a small uprising in some provinces of Afghanistan like Herat, Konar, Nangarhar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Farah, Kabul and many other provinces, which is a big source of hope for the bright future of Afghanistan.”
Joya was scathing about occupation: “Ten years ago the US and NATO invaded my country under the fake banner of women’s rights, human rights and democracy. But after a decade, Afghanistan still remains the most unstable, corrupt and war-torn country in the world.
“The consequences of the ‘war on terror’ has only been more bloodshed, crimes … human rights and women’s rights violations that has doubled the misery and sorrow of our people.
“During these bloody years, tens of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed by occupation forces and terrorist groups.”
She pointed out that the aggression against her country had intensified under US President Barack Obama. His administration has extended the war into Pakistan using remote-controlled drones, whose attacks, like the air strikes and night-raids in Afghanistan, kill mostly civilians.
Malalai Joya's address on the 10th anniversary of the war on Afghanistan.
For their part, those responsible for the occupation are having difficulty projecting a different assessment and US acknowledgement of the anniversary has been low-key.
In an October 6 statement, Obama relied on the primary pretext for the war: fighting terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
“In delivering justice to Osama bin Laden and many other al Qaeda leaders, we are closer than ever to defeating al Qaeda and its murderous network,” he said.
The president did not explain how the assassination of bin Laden in a lightly guarded compound in Pakistan had been helped by the preceding 10 years’ slaughter in Afghanistan.
Furthermore, the killing of the main suspect without trial, 10 years after the crime, would hardly be a spectacular result for law enforcement even if it had not come at the cost of two prolonged wars and hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths.
In reality, the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US were a pretext for the war. The September 11 hijackers were not Afghan, they were mainly, like bin Laden himself, from Saudi Arabia.
The plotters initially became acquainted in Germany and learnt to fly in Florida. Bin Laden did have refuge, and training camps, in Afghanistan at the time, but the Taliban regime indicated a willingness to find a facing-saving way of extraditing him ― an option not pursued by the US.
Bin Laden’s association with Afghanistan went back to when he was an operative for Saudi intelligence and the CIA. Afghanistan’s miseries started in the late 1970s when it became a battleground in the Cold War between the US-led Western countries and the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union sent in troops to prop up a Soviet-allied government and the West fought Soviet forces with proxies: Afghan and foreign Islamists. Al Qaeda was later formed out of the foreign Islamists.
The CIA-armed Afghan mujahideen were a fragmented coalition of rival warlords and militias. These combined a particularly violent and misogynist Islamic fundamentalism with tribalism, ethnic chauvinism and banditry.
Afghanistan first became a significant heroin producer during this war, which created many of the negative stereotypes of the country that feature in today’s pro-war propaganda.
After the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989 and the collapse of the pro-Soviet government in 1992, the Mujahideen warlords turned on each other in a civil war in which violence against civilians reached new extremes.
When the Taliban, created by Pakistan's intelligence agency in religious schools in refugee camps, took over in 1996, many Afghans welcomed the end of the civil war. But the population was quickly alienated by the Taliban’s backwardness, intolerance, repression, misogyny and extreme violence.
Meanwhile, bin Laden and al Qaeda, told before the 1991 war against Iraq that the US no longer needed them, went rogue and started attacking Western and Saudi targets.
The only countries to diplomatically recognise the Taliban regime were US allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Between 1996 and 2001 the Taliban manoeuvred to avoid alienating either of its former allies, al Qaeda and the West.
The Taliban worked to destroy Afghanistan’s heroin industry in a bid to maintain favour with the West. But the US administration of George W. Bush was already set on conflict.
Several senior members of the Bush administration, including defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and vice-president Dick Cheney, were members of right-wing think tank, the Project for a New American Century. Its blueprint for a new wave of US aggression posited the need for a “new Pearl Harbour”, which was provided by bin Laden in the September 11 terror attacks.
It is no surprise that terrorism has increased in the past decade.
Even less surprising is that the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, accomplished by a combination of airborne firepower and an alliance with anti-Taliban warlords, has not brought the democracy, development and empowerment of women that was a prominent part of the justification for the 2001 invasion.
This is not for lack of funding: the US has spent US$57 billion on “civilian” aid to Afghanistan since the invasion. However, not only does much of this go straight back to US and other companies acting as subcontractors, much of it goes straight to warlords.
Afghan warlords benefit financially from direct subsidies that come out of the US military budget ($3.7 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001) and bribes paid directly out of the aid budget.
They also act as subcontractors ― their private armies being employed as “security contractors” to guard occupation force bases and convoys. Even the Taliban have benefited from this racket.
The warlords’ private armies form the basis of the Afghan security forces that Obama claims will be ready to take over from the occupation forces in 2014.
“The standard of Afghanistan’s security forces is slowly improving,” the October 3 Sydney Morning Herald reported, “but they still stand accused of human rights violations such as rape, murder and torture, according to a new study.”
The study, by Oxfam, also found that 90% of the security forces were illiterate.
The politics of Karzai’s puppet government mirrors this warlord rule. Kabul’s incongruous rich suburbs are a monument to the wealth the warlord elite has derived from Western military and aid budgets ― as well as the heroin trade, which has increased 4500% since the invasion.
The Taliban are always happy to claim credit for the frequent assassinations of warlord politicians, but in reality they are just as likely to be the work of rival warlords.
Ten more years?
Meanwhile, much of Western the media is giving Obama’s comments less credence than retired General Stanley McChrystal’s prediction that the troops will need at least another 10 years to create a stable Afghan state.
After 10 years of occupation, life expectancy in Afghanistan is still only 44 and a woman still dies in childbirth every 29 minutes. Rule by the Taliban has been replaced by rule by warlords who share the Taliban’s repressiveness, violence and misogyny. They differ only in that they have more violent internecine conflicts, more criminal enterprises, more money and they bring with them the lethal air strikes and night raids of the US-led forces.
Joya said in her video message: “The Western governments betray not only the Afghan people, they betray their own people too. They are wasting their taxpayers’ money and the blood of their soldiers in a war that only safeguards the interests of the big corporations and the Afghan criminal warlord rulers …
“I believe the only solution to the catastrophic situation in Afghanistan is withdrawal of all of the troops from our country because their presence is making much harder our struggle for justice … If they leave Afghanistan, the backbone of fundamentalist warlords and terrorists will break.”