Eight Years and Counting: End the Occupation of Afghanistan


Eight years after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the occupation continues to drag on with no end in sight. U.S. casualties are on the rise, with July and August the two deadliest months since the beginning of the war.

The recent Afghan elections, which were supposed to legitimize the U.S.-backed government and its “democratic” institutions, have instead exposed widespread corruption. Accusations of mass voter fraud and threats of violence, alongside low voter turnout, have undermined what little credibility remained for the Karzai government.

A renewed offensive in southern Afghanistan has led to increasing violence, as U.S. and NATO troops attempt to force the Taliban out of their stronghold in Helmand Province. The new offensive is part of a new emphasis on using ground troops, following massive outrage at the deaths of thousands of civilians in indiscriminate aerial bombings by U.S. and NATO planes.

This new strategy will require substantially more soldiers, on top of the 21,000 already approved for Obama’s surge. There are currently 63,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, nearly twice as many as at the beginning of the year (and joined by over 40,000 other foreign troops and 74,000 private U.S. military contractors).

Anthony Cordesman, an adviser to General McChrystal, the commander of forces in Afghanistan, is recommending that as many as 45,000 additional U.S. troops be sent, which would raise the total above 100,000 (Times (UK), 8/10/09).

Worth the Sacrifice?
These developments have led to a dramatic decline in support for the war in Afghanistan. 54% of Americans now oppose the war (CNN, 8/6/09). Only 25% think more troops should be sent to Afghanistan.

Still, Vice President Joe Biden claims that the war in Afghanistan “is worth the effort we are making and the sacrifice.” (BBC News, 7/23/09) This flies in the face of reality. After eight years, billions of dollars have been sunk into Afghanistan, thousands of U.S. soldiers have been killed or permanently disabled, and for what?

Malalai Joya, an outspoken 30-year-old women’s rights activist who was ousted from her position in the Afghan parliament by right-wing religious fundamentalists and warlords, describes Afghanistan after eight years of occupation: “Your governments have replaced the fundamentalist rule of the Taliban with another fundamentalist regime of warlords… While a showcase parliament has been created for the benefit of the U.S. in Kabul, the real power is with these fundamentalists who rule everywhere outside Kabul.” For women, “the situation now is as catastrophic as it was under the Taliban.” (Independent (UK), 7/28/09)

The war has been an unending nightmare for the ordinary people of Afghanistan. Poverty remains endemic. 53% of the population live on less than $1 per day, and 77% lack access to clean water. Female literacy – at 13% – has barely improved on what it was under the reactionary rule of the Taliban. Afghans also face daily terror from NATO ground forces and unmanned drones, and their lives are dominated by corrupt warlords and the Taliban.

Yet, according to Biden, the war must go on because Afghanistan is “a place that, if it doesn’t get straightened out, will continue to wreak havoc on Europe and the United States.” But the brutal U.S. occupation, along with the grinding poverty and oppression faced by the peoples of Central Asia and the Middle East, is only sowing the seeds for future terrorist attacks.

“Straightening out” Afghanistan will be a long, costly, and ultimately futile campaign. General Sir David Richards, the head of British forces in Afghanistan, believes it will take another 40 years of occupation before there will be stability (Telegraph (UK), 8/8/09).

As NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman put it (echoing the White Man’s Burden rhetoric of the British empire), “America has just adopted Afghanistan as our new baby.”

With a discredited U.S. puppet regime, ruling through warlords and drug-traffickers guilty of all sorts of war crimes, “stability” means nothing more than a government strong enough to suppress dissent and defend the interests of U.S. imperialism in the region. Is this really worth the sacrifice?

Rebuild the Antiwar Movement
All of this shows clearly the need to rebuild the antiwar movement. A powerful antiwar movement in the U.S. and around the world is of decisive importance in stopping the carnage in Afghanistan and preventing thousands upon thousands more troops from being sent off to kill and be killed in an unjust war.

The ground is being laid for such a movement. Millions voted for Obama and the congressional Democrats hoping they would end the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet now in power, the Democrats have frustrated these hopes by pursuing an imperialist foreign policy that is fundamentally the same as Bush’s, despite some difference in tactics.

Already, “Peace Mom” Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq, has set up a vigil outside Obama’s vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard, just as she did outside Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. Protests are also being organized across the country on October 7 and 17 against the wars.

As the Obama Administration readies to request even more troops for Afghanistan, the majority who oppose the war must be mobilized in the streets against any escalation, as well as to demand an immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces.


So Much for Democracy and Liberation
U.S. politicians never tire of talking about bringing democracy and liberation to the people of the Middle East and Central Asia.

Yet in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, home to an air base critical to the U.S. war in Afghanistan, the NY Times reports: “Many opposition politicians and independent journalists have been arrested, prosecuted, attacked, and even killed over the last year as the president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, consolidated control in advance of elections… The U.S. has remained largely silent in response to this wave of violence, apparently wary of jeopardizing the status of its sprawling air base. Indeed, the Obama Administration has sought to woo the Kyrgyz president since he said in February that he would close the Manas base.” (7/23/09)

So much for hopes the Obama Administration would mean a kinder, gentler U.S. foreign policy.

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