This past week, the U.S. announced it would finally pull its troops out of Afghanistan after 20 years of war.1
President Biden called it a “just” war when he announced the withdrawal by September 11 this year. After years of calling Afghanistan the “good war,” the mainstream media, the propaganda organs of this system, treated the news as the end of a well-intentioned but difficult and, to an extent, poorly thought-out effort on the part of the U.S.
But what’s the real truth? That America’s 2001-2021 war in Afghanistan—and its interventions in the decades before, and leading up to it, have been savage, totally unjust wars of imperialist empire that have destroyed the lives of literally millions of Afghans and devastated the country and society.
Biden calls Afghanistan a “just war,” the U.S. troops as having “valor, courage and integrity”? The farthest thing from reality:
Local children look at a U.S special forces member during their raid on a tiny farming village in Konar province, northeast of Kabul. U.S. forces and their Afghan clients terrorized people with such raids or dead-of-night house searches. Photo: AP
A Quick Background: U.S. Proxy War against the Soviet Union, 1979-89
In December 1979, the Soviet Union2 invaded Afghanistan. Their aim was to prop up a regime that was friendly to the Soviet Union. The U.S., especially under President Reagan, responded over the next decade by funding, arming, and organizing the reactionary Islamic fundamentalist Mujahideen (including Osama bin Laden and future leaders of the Taliban with their medieval, patriarchal program3) in a vicious, decade-long “proxy”4 war to “bleed” the Soviets and kill Russian forces.
The result: Between 800,000 and 1.5 million Afghans (along with 15,000 Soviet soldiers) were killed in this reactionary bloodbath, and five million Afghans were forced to flee the country. As important, this played a major role in unleashing and spreading the scourge of reactionary Islamic fundamentalism and jihadism across the region and the world, and it helped pave the way for the 9/11 attack.5
This 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon with hijacked airplanes took nearly 3,000 lives. People in the U.S. were in shock and mourning, and George W. Bush, the president at the time, took advantage of this to launch a series of wars and other aggressions aimed at giving the U.S. dominance of the Middle East and Central Asia, a strategically important part of the world.
Afghanistan was the first.
The U.S. Invades Afghanistan in October 2001
Over the last two decades, different sections of the U.S. imperialists have come up with a half-dozen or more justifications for their invasion and occupation: avenging 9/11 and preventing another one, ending terrorism, liberating women, bringing democracy, and more. In reality, as Bob Avakian analyzed at the time, this was a predatory war of imperialist empire attempting to lock in U.S. domination, and designed to send a gangster message to the world that any attack on the U.S. would be avenged at hundreds of times the cost, and facing a certain need, real and perceived, to “drain the swamp” in the Middle East and South Asia of the Islamic fundamentalists who hate and attacked the U.S., “rebranded” as an overall “war on terror.”
Right after this invasion, Bob Avakian analyzed in The New Situation and the Great Challenges:
They [the U.S.] have ambitions of essentially reshuffling the whole deck, reordering the whole situation—beginning with the strategic areas of Central and South Asia and the Middle East that are more immediately involved now—but, even beyond that, on a world scale. This is “New World Order Revisited” or New World Order 2 that they’re trying to carry out on a deeper and more sweeping level than what they set out to do with their war against Iraq a decade ago. They’ve set themselves a very far-reaching agenda with gigantic implications.
Like any Mafia thugs—and they are that on a monstrous and worldwide level—they can’t allow even the appearance that somebody came up and poked them in the eye, and got away with it. If you are worldwide and world-class gangsters like them, if you are global exploiters with an apparatus of mass murder and destruction to enforce and extend that, you just can’t allow even the appearance that someone can get away with hitting back at you.
What Did the U.S. Bring to Afghanistan?
A staggering amount of violence, death, destruction, suffering, and oppression! Between 2004 and 2018, it dropped over 38,000 bombs, and by March 2020, it had carried out over 12,000 drone strikes.
By August 2016, some 111,000 people had been killed and over 116,000 injured in the war. On top of this carnage, nearly five million Afghan people have been forced from their homes by the war.
Today over one-half of Afghanistan’s 35 million people remain impoverished, and nearly one-half don’t have enough food. Chronic malnutrition has stunted the growth of a mind-boggling 41 percent of Afghan children under five. One-half of the population lives on less than a dollar a day.6 The U.S. war and occupation fueled the resurgence of the Taliban and other reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces, and now after all this death and destruction, the Afghan people will face the greater horrors these reactionary monsters will no doubt bring.
Some Concluding Points to Note:
- Far from being “all powerful” as they like to brag, the U.S., with all of its arrogance and hubris, was militarily worn down and defeated in Afghanistan. Bob Avakian presciently analyzed this contradiction as far back as 2006 in Bringing Forward Another Way:
[T]hese imperialists are good at invading countries and knocking over regimes, but then when they find themselves in the position of occupying the country and they have a population that gets aroused against them, it becomes a different dynamic, and it is not so easy for them. It is not so easy for them to maintain “order” and to impose the changes they want to impose in accordance with their interests. It is not so easy to impose this “from the top down”—which is the only way imperialist occupiers can impose changes. (See Bringing Forward Another Way by Bob Avakian for further analysis of the contradictions and difficulties faced by the U.S. imperialists in their global “war on terror” focused in Iraq and Afghanistan.)
- The Afghanistan war is—yet again—a crystallization of what’s said about the U.S. military in the DECLARATION, A CALL TO GET ORGANIZED NOW FOR A REAL REVOLUTION from the Revcoms:
The military of this country is not carrying out an “honorable service”—and it is not some “bad ass” force that people should respect. It is doing the same thing around the world, on a massive scale, that the police are doing here: carrying out the cowardly killing and terrorizing of people in the service of the biggest oppressors in the world, the rulers of this country. And it is a major cause of the destruction of the environment.7
STOP Wars of Empire, Armies of Occupation, and Crimes Against Humanity!
Revolution, Nothing Less!
1. The U.S. currently has thousands of contractors and other operatives in Afghanistan besides the troops it’s withdrawing, and it has also raised the spectre of continuing its military aggression with forces stationed outside the country. See, “How the U.S. Plans to Fight From Afar After Troops Exit Afghanistan,” New York Times, April 15, 2021; “Afghanistan: Biden Vows to End Nation’s Longest War by 9/11 After Decades of Bloodshed & Destruction,” Democracy Now!, April 14, 2021. [back]
2. From 1917 until the mid-1950s, the Soviet Union (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR) was the world’s first socialist state, and this marked a huge advance for humanity. However, following the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, capitalism was restored in the Soviet Union. By the late 1970s, the Soviet Union had become a capitalist-imperialist power, and it was locked in a fierce, reactionary rivalry with the U.S. for global dominance. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. [back]
3. Osama bin Laden was a member of a prominent family in Saudi Arabia who became a fanatical Islamic fundamentalist and joined with the Mujahideen to wage war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. He later helped form the jihadist group Al Qaeda, turned against the U.S., and helped plot the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. The U.S. assassinated him in 2011. The Taliban are Islamic fundamentalists, rooted mainly among Afghanistan’s Pashtun people, who also emerged from the 1980-88 war against the Soviet Union and ruled Afghanistan during the 1990s until they were overthrown by the U.S. in 2001-2002. [back]
4. Proxy wars refer to wars in which the warring parties—often rival world powers—do not fight each other directly, but through local forces especially in the Third World which these powers fund, arm, and often direct. [back]
5. American Crime Case #24: U.S. Proxy War Against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, 1979-1988, revcom.us, February 25, 2019. [back]
6. America Leaves Afghanistan After Killing Over 100,000 People in Its “Good War,” revcom.us, March 9, 2020. [back]
7. FROM THE REVCOMS (REVCOM.US): A DECLARATION, A CALL TO GET ORGANIZED NOW FOR A REAL REVOLUTION [back]