The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 8th March 2019

US Troops Out of Afghanistan?

by our Asian Affairs correspondent

IMPERIALIST interference in Afghanistan may soon end if talks between the Americans and the Taliban in Doha bear fruit. The second round of talks between US officials and representatives of the Sunni Muslim movement kicked off in the Qatari capital last month. Reports in the US media say that the Americans are now ready to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan in return for a Taliban pledge to no longer provide a safe-haven for al-Qaeda in the country.

The Afghan war is now longest in American history with no end in sight and no prospect of establishing a stable puppet regime. Now, according to the New York Times, the United States will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan over the next three to five years under a new Pentagon plan that would also cut by half the 14,000 US troops currently in Afghanistan in coming months.

The plan, which has reportedly received broad acceptance in Washington and amongst America’s NATO allies stipulates that the 8,600 European and other international troops stationed in the country would focus on training the Afghan military, shifting the remaining US troops’ task to counterterrorism operations. But “no understanding has so far been reached about any agreement or document” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Sunday.

Some 14,000 US troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan propping up a weak central government that has been fighting the Taliban militia whose sectarian regime was overthrown by imperialist forces, led by the United States, in 2001.

The Americans claimed that the Taliban’s “Islamic Emirate” was harbouring Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader held responsible for the devastating terror attacks on New York and Washington on 9th September 2001. Bin Laden, who later moved to Abbotabad in Pakistan, was killed when US commandos stormed his compound in May 2011.

Now the US State Department has put a million dollar price tag on bin Laden’s son, Hamza, who they fear will revive the flagging fortunes of the fanatical Islamic sect that has vowed to avenge the death of their founder. There’s no doubt that the Trump administration wants to cut its losses in Afghanistan.

Over 2,400 US troops and nearly 2,000 more American mercenaries and civilian “contractors” have been killed in Afghanistan over the past 17 years. A further 20,000 plus have been wounded in the fight to curb the Taliban. But the Talibanis, who are supported by Pakistan, still control half the country. War-lords backed by India, Iran and Russia control the rest while the central government’s authority goes little beyond the capital, Kabul.

Though the Taliban can easily dump Al Qaeda — their alliance with bin Laden ended years ago — their main objective is to establish their authority, and their sectarian brand of Islam, throughout the country. Their “Islamic Emirate” at its height still only controlled some 80 per cent of Afghanistan. Any attempt to extend their control after the Americans leave is bound to lead to the resumption of civil war.

This would inevitably destabilise Russia’s Central Asian allies so the Kremlin is developing its own strategy towards a post-American Afghanistan. Last November the Russians promoted an intra-Afghan reconciliation meeting in Moscow, which brought together representatives of regional states, and delegations from the Taliban’s political office in Doha and the Afghan High Peace Council. In February the Russians followed up by sponsoring another Afghan conference in Moscow. It was attended by representatives of various Afghan political parties and movements, including the Taliban. Meanwhile there’s no let up on the bloodshed. Last week Taliban fighters stormed an Afghan army base in Helmand killing at least 40 government troops. This week at least 16 civilians were killed in an attack on a construction company in eastern Afghanistan.