Afghanistan: time to go

THE MASSIVE leak of US military files concerning the war in Afghanistan to the Wikileaks website and selected newspapers has only served to confirm what most peace campaigners already knew or suspected. They confirm the reports we have from investigative journalists like Guy Smallman who toured Afghanistan a year ago, speaking to villagers and recording on film the devastation caused by US and British air strikes on Afghans civilians, their homes and their way of life.

But the imperialist media both sides of the Atlantic can no longer deny the catastrophe, confusion and horror of the war now that it has come direct from the US troops’ own confidential reports to their bosses in Washington.

There have been some incredible attempts to spin the leak — claims that the leaks may be total fiction, claims that “the US and British troops may have killed hundreds but the Taliban have killed thousands and must be stopped” or “the Taliban are using civilians as shields”.

But Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, stands by the authenticity of the leaks — if there are any lies in the reports then the US officers who sent them were lying to their own senior commanders. But why on earth would they tell lies like that? The newspapers who published the reports also went to great lengths to check them.

And the Pentagon is not so much denying the content of the leaks as claiming they will undermine support for the war and put frontline troops at greater risk.

The leaks contain no actual details of US strategy and tactics that would be of use to the Taliban — and the Afghan villagers do not need these leaks to know that war crimes are being committed against them.

It is these war crimes that are the main source of recruits for the Taliban. The Taliban was largely the creation of Pakistani intelligence in the early 1990s. With the covert support of the CIA and the Saudis they toppled the feuding mujahideen war-lords that had overthrown the progressive Afghan republic after the fall of the Soviet Union. Many Afghans initially supported the Taliban effort to end the violence and drive the drug-lords out of most of the country.

The Taliban are an extreme religious, reactionary feudalistic force. They ruled with extreme oppression and violence to obliterate all the progressive measures the people’s government had introduced. The last leader of the people’s republic, Mohamed Najibullah, was tortured, castrated and murdered by the Taliban after he was captured in 1996.

But they are also fiercely nationalist. They provided a sanctuary for Osama Bin Laden and refused to open up Afghanistan to US exploitation. Now, when their former US allies are invading and killing civilians, the villagers look to the Taliban as their only protection.

As long as British and American troops remain in Afghanistan they will be driving Afghan people to join and support the Taliban. The population of Afghanistan have never committed any crime against the imperialist powers; they did not ask to be invaded or “rescued” from the oppressive Taliban. The only benefit the imperialists can offer the people is to try to defeat the Taliban and leave the corrupt and almost equally oppressive Karzai government in charge.

And so long as the imperialists’ war crimes drive people into the arms of the Taliban that can never be achieved.

The real reason for the invasion had more to do with mineral reserves and the right to put oil pipelines across Afghanistan, a strategy from the immediate post-Soviet period when the most right-wing American Neo-Cons thought they could rule the world by controlling all the oil supplies on the planet. That strategy died in Iraq — killed by the grit and determination of the resistance to imperialist invasion and the US failure to consolidate its occupation of the country.

Now it is losing the war to consolidate its power in Afghanistan. The US was stupid to invade Afghanistan but that was under President Bush. Now it is time for Obama to admit his predecessor’s mistakes and leave Afghanistan in peace for the people there to resolve their own internal political issues.

Once the Americans and British are gone, progressive Afghans can engage with their own class struggle to win people away from the Taliban. US and British troops — as well as Afghan civilians — can stop dying needlessly in this war that is benefiting no one.