In twelve days, fifteen British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. Eight were killed in just 24 hours, three of them just 18 years old. This senseless waste of young lives has aroused a new anger and questioning about the war in Afghanistan. People demand answers about the lack of equipment which has led to so many soldiers’ deaths, and about why they are still there fighting an unwinnable war.
Gordon Brown claims, “… if we are to defeat this vicious insurgency, and by doing so make Britain and the world a safer place, then we must persist with our operations in Afghanistan.” But a poll for ITV’s News at Ten (13/07/09) revealed that nearly three in five people think “British troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan.” Only 3% think they should stay.
The war on Afghanistan started eight years ago. It was the start of the “war on terror” following the terrible attacks on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th 2001. George Bush and Tony Blair rapidly declared victory in Afghanistan, but the brutal offensive against the innocent Afghan people continued. Thousands died in this war in just the first few weeks, but the death-toll has continued unabated. Over 4000 people died in 2008.
Eight years on – Taliban still not defeated
Eight years on, the Taliban – the extreme right-wing Islamic organisation which was ousted from power in 2001 – has still not been defeated and has reclaimed territory.
We were told that the war would establish democracy, but the elected government in the capital Kabul is a tragic joke – it barely even holds power in the city, never mind the rest of the war-wracked country.
We were told that the war would bring rights to women, but the warlords who replaced the Taliban in different sections of the country are just as oppressive and women are still treated brutally, denied basic rights, and are desperately poor.
US led forces have no strategy to defeat the Taliban. The Taliban are able to finance their struggle from the drugs trade and have little to fear from the weak and corrupt Afghanistan Government. The warlords and the Karzai regime have enriched themselves while the vast majority of the population lives in abject poverty. The police are corrupt, extorting bribes and ransoms from kidnappings. Ordinary Afghans oppose the US-led foreign armies but also fear the Taliban and warlords.
The US and Britain have recently begun a major offensive against the Taliban in the south of the country. The US has sent in 21,000 more troops. The deaths of the British soldiers have led to calls for more troops and equipment to “do the job properly”. But no amount of troops or equipment will bring stability to Afghanistan. Others rightly ask – “why are we there?” Even the former UK ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said it “looks cruel for our troops to be there without an end in sight.”
Gordon Brown and Barack Obama repeat the words of George Bush and Tony Blair – that this war is necessary to protect the streets of New York and London from terrorist attack.
The Socialist Party condemned the 9/11 attacks. Millions worldwide were shocked by the loss of thousands of innocent lives. But the so-called “war on terror” has led to a human catastrophe on a greater scale. Thousands of innocent Afghans and Iraqis have died and millions have been made refugees. Young US and UK soldiers have died needlessly.
We warned in 2001 that the war was likely to lead to an increase in terrorist attacks, and sadly we have been proved right. Rather than stamp out terror, these wars have made ordinary working people in the west and worldwide more vulnerable to attack.
The bombs in London on 7th July 2005 and the attempted attacks two weeks later, were a result of the barbarous imperialist policies of Bush and Blair and other capitalist world leaders.
Bomb attacks have taken place in Madrid, in Bali, in Mumbai and other cities. These wars have not destroyed Al-Qaida.
Instead, along with western support for the carnage wreaked by the Israeli state in Gaza, have increased the suffering and the hatred felt by millions across Asia and the Middle East, generating more recruits for terrorist organisations as people turn in desperation to these misguided methods.
We warned in 2001 that “the added problems that this war has brought to people of the region will last for decades unless a socialist transformation is brought about in the area. … The country faces continued civil war and devastating social and economic disruption…. The Western powers clearly have no solution to provide the long-term stability they say they intend to bring to Afghanistan.” (SP leaflet 2001)
We can have no trust in the Western powers’ promises. Forty per cent of promised western aid to Afghanistan – $10 billion – has yet to arrive. Of the little that does, exorbitant amounts go to officials, offices and consultants.
After the first Gulf War in 1991 the West promised to help rebuild Iraq, but after 10 years of bombs and sanctions they invaded again in 2003 – a war for oil and US prestige and power.
Despite Obama’s much-trumpetted troop withdrawal, the US government expects to have bases in Iraq until at least 2015; we demand immediate withdrawal.
Following all the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s, the promise of bringing stability and ending the rule of dictators never materialised. It was the working masses of Serbia who rose up in a mass movement and overthrew the dictator Milosevic.
It is only through their own mass action that the working class and oppressed people of Afghanistan and the surrounding region can end the reign of terror inflicted upon them. To aid this action, independent organisations of the working class and oppressed people need to be built across the region.
Capitalism is currently wracked by an historic economic crisis.
Working and poor people across the world are paying the price in job losses, home repossessions, pay cuts, decimation of public services, mass impoverishment and food shortages.
Global capitalism is responsible for the poverty, repression and conflict which lead to war and to the blind alley of terrorism.
The war in Afghanistan only intensifies the crisis of capitalism.
We believe that it is only through mass action to end capitalism and to replace it with a democratic socialist system, that a real and lasting solution will be found.