“The truth is that neither the war nor the destruction ended, nor our people got bread and security.” These words from Malalai Joya, a brave Afghan democracy campaigner, sum up the reality for most Afghans today.
In the middle of a harsh winter, more than half of the population is starving. The United Nations estimates that 1 million children are in danger of dying from malnutrition. Fathers are being forced to sell their 5-year-old daughters to creditors, because they have no hope of ever paying off their debts and daughters are less of an asset in Taliban-run Afghanistan.
The economy, propped up for 20 years by the imperialist invasion, has taken a dive: by December it had contracted more than 40% since the occupation forces withdrew in August.
Together with a savage drought, dwindling foreign aid and, from at least last October, the pandemic hitting hard, ordinary Afghans are being made to pay for the United States’ deal to hand power to the Taliban. Banks ceased operating following the Taliban takeover and, since reopening, restrictions on foreign capital combined with fewer grants have all taken their toll.
According to the World Bank, the shutdown of the service and construction sectors, which account for 58% of gross domestic product, had a big impact. Even last year, it predicted critical household shortages, including food and fuel: about 80% of electricity, 20–40% of wheat and nearly all fuel oil is imported.
This is not to say life was much better under the US-led occupation: then, according to the Afghan Ministry of Economy, 90% of Afghans lived below the poverty line (US$2 a day).
The West would rather forget about Afghanistan. The US spent more than US$2 trillion — that’s $2,000,000,000,000 — on the war, while spruiking concern for women’s rights and democracy.
The gut-wrenching scenes in August as hundreds of desperate Afghans tried to flee on a handful of foreign planes were a reminder of just how destroyed the country is now.
Since then, courageous women continue to defy the Taliban, as well as the fiction that the West was in their country for some kind of benevolent act.
“After the United States and NATO betrayed our people again and handed over Afghanistan to their Taliban minion, as expected, the so-called ‘achievements’ of twenty years collapsed in twenty minutes and made our people face an all-encompassing and unprecedented crisis,” the Revolutionary Association of Afghan Women said on Human Rights Day last year.
Joya is furious that some Western countries are prepared to deal with the Taliban and provide it with funds, Norway being the latest.
“For months, women [have been] fighting … [in] the streets with the slogan ‘bread, labor, freedom’ and have been bravely standing in front of the Taliban’s cannibal regime … They have faced threats, torture, rape, terror, abduction and suppression … the most painful thing to watch is the Western [arbiters] of ‘rights’, evil and women’s rights.”
Afghanistan’s struggle for self-determination is far from over.
According to Joya, Aaliyah, Tamana and Parvane were abducted from their home on January 16. Earlier, according to Frontline Defenders, Tamana took part in a protest near Kabul University to demand the rights to work and to education. Taliban fighters attacked her and others with pepper spray and stun guns. They were worried that they were followed home and, several days later, they disappeared.
Joya described the betrayal of Afghan women as “unforgivable”.
She points the finger squarely at the collusion between “ignorant fundamentalists” to whom the US has now given a “new opportunity”. The Taliban are “mercenaries seeking legitimacy,” she said, calling on libertarians of all countries to “unite with the voice of Afghan women and men by protesting against the disgraceful actions and policies of their governments”.
Green Left opposed the invasion of Afghanistan, and continues to campaign for Western leaders to be held accountable for destroying a country and the lives of so many innocent people — a disaster that seems to have no end.