The Taliban of Afghanistan

Image: Ali Yasser Arwand
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By EDUARDO BORGES*

The Afghan conflict is not a topic for the unwary and amateurs.

The Taliban group has returned to populate the hearts and minds of the Brazilian press. A plethora of “experts”, most of them duly imbued with adapting their respective “analyses” to our political moment, present versions of the fact without taking into account all the historical complexity that involves this event. The analyzes very little manage to reach the theoretical and conceptual amplitude that involves the political and social crisis of a region of the world whose historical social formation was not based on values ​​and actions present in the concept of historical evolution of the western world.

The understanding of the complexity that characterizes the current Afghan conflict must, necessarily, start from the understanding of its geopolitical importance in the region. Formed by mountain ranges, Afghan territory is not easy prey for its invaders, as Alexander the Great says in the fourth century BC Within the political and economic relations of Asia, Afghanistan established itself as a strategic point of trade routes on the continent. Its borders also collaborated to put it in a constant condition of vulnerability, insofar as it had to deal permanently with neighbors such as Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal, India, China and Iran, a country that would have a direct impact on it in terms of religious and cultural.

All of this made Afghanistan one of the most invaded territories in history. Since Alexander the Great in the XNUMXth century BC, the region would suffer invasion from the Arabs during the Abbasid dynasty and from the Mongols under Genghis Khan. In the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, it was the turn of British imperialism to put its claws in the region through India, at the time British territory. In the late seventies of the twentieth century, in the midst of the Cold War, it fell to the Soviet Union to implement the first major imperialist assault on Pakistan in modern times.

The Soviet invasion redesigned the political relations of the two world powers (USSR and USA) in the region and established the starting point of the countless mistaken attacks of American imperialism. It is impossible to debate the Taliban without first understanding the actions of American imperialism in the midst of the dispute for world political and economic hegemony. Despite the reprehensible Soviet action in Afghanistan, it was not up to the US to opportunistically take advantage of it to plant its feet in the country. Here we rescue the concept of self-determination of peoples that is usually strategically forgotten by biased analysts on duty. In their eagerness to remove the Soviets, the Americans did not shy away from putting into practice what they know best in terms of international relations: arming and training their future enemies. The Machiavellianism that the ends justify the means is a phrase stamped in all CIA offices around the world.

At the time of the Soviet invasion, the CIA opened the coffers to Islamic radicals, the mujahidins, channeling their actions against the invader. By the way, it ended up helping, even if indirectly, a guy called Osama Bin Laden who was looking to establish himself as a leader in the region. Osama had very good relations with the mujahideen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani. It is in this context that the Taliban establishes itself as an allied combatant of the Americans, benefiting from the flood of dollars poured into the “Just War” by the Afghan jihadists. In the same period, in 1980, the Islamic revolution that took place in Iran under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, and which overthrew Shah Reza Pahlevi (US ally), would make the Americans arm an Iraqi politician who established himself as a great local leader, his name : Saddam Hussein. What comes next is history.

One of the consequences of American support for the Taliban, which is also neglected by current analysts, was the affirmation of Islamic fundamentalism as the moral basis of society. At that moment, for Americans, this was what mattered least. In 1977, through the so-called “Operation Fair Play”, the Chief of Staff of Pakistan General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq triggered a coup d'état and assumed power in the country. Zia-ul-Haq's government was extremely violent against the opposition, imposing a regime of terror based on Islamic fundamentalism and allied with fundamentalist groups such as the Taliban, all of them duly embodied with Uncle Sam's dollars. As for the position of the “free world” in relation to the Zia-ul-Haq dictatorship, he saw no major problems, as long as he did the dirty work against the Soviets he would continue to be awarded economic aid.

Among the fundamentalist groups that formed in the context of the dispute between the Americans and the Soviets, the Taliban, which means “students”, established itself as the most powerful after years of internal disputes between the various Pakistani ethnic factions. In 1996, under the leadership of Mahammed Omar, the Taliban came to power establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. It began a process of imposing power based on strict rules of moral conduct and, despite initially having some popular support, they gradually wore out as they imposed violent actions against human rights and the suppression of freedoms. Women were the ones who suffered the most, being forbidden to attend school or work outside the home.

It is true that from 1996 onwards, when the Taliban's condemnable actions against the Afghan population took hold around the world, the group had to live with strong international reactions. In 1997 Osama Bin Laden established his command center in Kandahar, linking himself definitively to Afghanistan. For the US, the former allies had turned into dangerous terrorists. But there was still a short fuse to start the fire and it came on September 11, 2001.

The biggest bombing in American history quickly demanded that the person responsible be found. The Al Qaeda network, led by Osama Bim Laden, was blamed for the attack. Osama had been active in Afghanistan and his connection to the Taliban was immediate. For the US, overthrowing Osama meant overthrowing the Taliban and consequently invading Pakistan. In October 2001, a military coalition led by the United States of America invaded Afghanistan and put the Taliban leaders to flight, including Mohammed Omar himself, the country would pass to American control in December of the same year. Thus began the saga of the Americans and the Taliban for the last twenty years.

Between 2001 and 2021, the world closely followed this saga, which proved to be bloody and violent for the people of Afghanistan. The war was no different for thousands of young Americans who had their physical and psychological lives cruelly destroyed. The Taliban, removed from power, were never truly down. He remained active doing what he knows best, using the country's geography to impose his guerrilla war between the mountains. At a cost of US$ 2 trillion, the American presence not only failed to fulfill its so-called democratic objectives, but also triggered the death of thousands of civilians and destroyed the future of millions of people. In 2012, the Taliban continued to try to weaken the western presence in the region and promoted an act that marked the years of conflict. Student Malala Yousafzai was attacked in Pakistan while denouncing to the international press the violence caused by the Taliban in the region. Malala survived and received the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Western presence in Afghanistan only served to demonstrate the incompetence of the American and British military in terms of medium and long term analysis. They failed to learn from the past (see Alexander the Great) and neglected the Taliban's guerrilla experience and knowledge of the inhospitable terrain. A war like this would even have an initial cause, but it was definitely impossible to know how it would end. Western imperialism was completely arrogant and today, twenty years later, it pays the price. They entered into an “endless” war against an enemy whose limits are not guided by the logic of Western limitations and weaknesses. They wanted to fight terrorism, but they only expanded it.

The “victorious” Western invasion of Afghanistan was the great bellicose illusion of the XNUMXst century. The State put in place by the invaders was unable to establish itself with the least amount of popular support. Corruption continued to mediate power relations and violence became a daily action. American imperialist capitalism, always very arrogant, has shown itself to be weak and incompetent. New actors such as China, Russia and Iran seek to approach the conflict and benefit politically and economically from the human tragedy experienced by the country. Amidst this conflict of “vultures”, the Pakistani working class passively suffers. It is the capitalist world-system reorganizing its positions between the center and the periphery of the system.

When on February 29, 2020, under the government of Donald Trump, there was a handshake between Abdul Ghani Baradar, leader of the Taliban delegation, and Zalmay Khalilzad, US envoy for peace in Afghanistan the war started in 2001, as a surgical and competent action by the USA, came to a melancholy end for American imperialism. For international relations, a new world opened up in terms of interventionist actions between sovereign states. The now-fugitive Afghan President Ashraf Ghani did not participate in the “party” in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020. Imperialism chose to “talk” to those who are really in charge. The Trump administration has assumed an obligation to withdraw its troops within 14 months. Biden ended the process kind of abruptly in that fateful August 2021. Americans miscalculated both entry and exit.

The Doha agreement provided that Al-Qaeda would not have Taliban backing. It took the United States 20 years and many innocent deaths to close, in a festive agreement, the wound of September 11, 2001. Islamists: “The Taliban have shown, in the period of reduction in violence, that they are willing to be peaceful”.

On August 15, the Taliban entered Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and gave their response to the West and Pompeo. Washington was stunned and the followers of Joe Biden and Donald Trump started a small and particular ideological “Cold War” that only serves to expose the ills of American imperialism. Employees at the American embassy in Kabul lowered the flag and hurriedly left the capital. Other governments are doing the same to their citizens. Last one out turn off the light.

What remains is a trail of blood, sadness and death. The Afghan population, mainly its working class, those who truly suffered from the American occupation paying with their lives for the complete lack of possibility of citizenship, will remain at the mercy of the will and greed of world capitalism and Taliban fundamentalism. The UN Security Council decided to appear after years of subservience to the arrogance of American imperialism. Did anyone reasonably well informed by any chance think that the so-called “nation building”, which the US proposed to establish in occupied Afghanistan, would pass through respect and mediation of the concept of self-determination of peoples? The American “free world” only exists from the door in. The future of Afghanistan and its people will be the great challenge for people all over the world, but it will be, above all, the greatest challenge for the Afghan people themselves. This is definitely not a theme for the unwary and amateurs.

*Eduardo Borges Professor of History at the State University of Bahia.

 

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