As if there were not enough troubles for the occupation forces in Iraq, now the Afghan resistance has stepped up its struggle against Anglo-American imperialist occupation and plans for domination.
While the attention of US imperialism has been concentrated on Iraq, the resistance in Afghanistan has gathered unstoppable momentum. In the months leading up to the takeover of security by Nato from the US (on 31 July 2006) in southern Afghanistan, the Afghan resistance, in addition to hit-and-run tactics, have been waging pitched battles with a passion and vigour not anticipated by the imperialist commanders.
Although Nato’s formal mandate is limited to the ‘stabilisation’ of Afghanistan, the ferocity of the resistance has obliged it increasingly to wage a counter-insurgency war. In April 2006, John Reid, the then British defence secretary, had expressed the hope that British troops would be happy to leave Afghanistan in three years’ time “without firing one shot because our mission is to protect the reconstruction”.
For more than a year, heavy fighting has been taking place in the southern Pashtun heartland, in the provinces of Helmand and Kandhar. In response to the stiff resistance put up by Afghans, Nato forces have resorted to heavy-handed tactics, including indiscriminate shootings and aerial bombardment, which in turn have had the effect of alienating the Afghans still further and bringing them closer to the resistance.
According to the figures released by the Pentagon, the US air force dropped more bombs on Afghanistan in the last six months of 2006 than in the first three years of its campaign, with 987 bombs dropped and 146,000 cannon rounds fired by US aircraft in support of Nato during this period. In 2006, more than 4,000 Afghans, mostly civilians, were killed by Nato through indiscriminate bombardment. “Nato’s strategy has eroded support for its mission as well as for Karzai – nothing could be more telling than Karzai weeping and complaining about Nato killing Afghan civilians,” said Sam Zia Zarifi, Asia research director at Human Rights Watch. (Quoted in ‘Wave of civilian deaths hits Afghan support for Nato’ by Rachel Morarjee, Financial Times, 16 December 2006)
In the words of Benoit d’Aboville, the former French ambassador to Nato, the breaking down of suspected insurgents’ doors in the morning made it difficult to build bridges in the afternoon.
Such is the unpopularity of the occupation forces and the hatred entertained by ordinary Afghans towards the occupiers that the resistance has spread from the south to many other parts of the country. By the beginning of September last year, the fighting had spread to the capital Kabul, which came under two deadly bombings in the space of a single week. On 27 February, the Afghan resistance launched a further deadly attack on Bagram air base, the target of the attack being US vice president Dick Cheney, who was staying at this heavily-guarded facility near Kabul. The attack served to underscore the growing strength of the Afghan resistance.
29 April 2007 witnessed a 14-hour battle between the Afghan resistance and the occupation forces in the western province of Herat. Eleven days earlier, on 18 April, in one of its most daring operations, the resistance seized control of a highway just 70km outside Kabul in the Tagab district of central Kapisa province. Although the government forces regained the road after 24 hours, the clash marked a new watershed for the resistance, which was able to demonstrate its capacity to wage the heaviest battle in the region of the capital for the first time since 2001.
Such is the indiscriminate brutality of the occupation forces that on 2 May even the puppet president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, was forced to warn that “the patience of the Afghan people was running out”. He issued this warning after several days of protests in the eastern city of Jalalabad over the deaths of six civilians in a raid by the occupation forces on a compound that, it was claimed, housed a suicide bomber. There were similar demonstrations in western Herat’s Shindbad district, with crowds chanting “death to America” in the wake of the Jalalabad atrocity.
Pitched battles are presently raging between occupation and resistance forces in areas such as Kunduz, far away from the traditional strongholds of the resistance in the south and east of the country. “The security crisis is spreading like an oil slick across the country,” said Saleh Registam, an Afghan member of parliament. The north of Afghanistan is “a ticking time bomb”, said a diplomat in Kabul.
In 2006, more aid workers were killed in the north and west of Afghanistan than in the south – nine staff with aid agencies or the UN being killed in the north, thirteen in the west and four in and around Kabul, compared with two in the south, according to Afghanistan NGO Security Network. (See ‘To a second front?’ by Rachel Morarjee, Financial Times, 22 November 2006)
The puppet government, whose writ does not run even in Kabul, has been reduced to uttering irrelevances. Opium production, with a record harvest of 6,100 tons this year, accounting for 92 percent of the global supply of this narcotic used for making heroin, represents about half of the $7bn–a-year Afghan economy. With no peace, no security and no reconstruction, hand-in-hand with rampant corruption and a thriving drug trade, Afghanistan is not only a failed state but also a narcotic state – all this courtesy of the imperialist occupation of this unfortunate land.
There is no way that the 33,000-strong Nato force can overwhelm the Afghan resistance, whose numbers are conservatively estimated at 12,000 fighters enjoying widespread support from the Afghan population, and with easy access to a sympathetic population in Pakistan across a 2,500km-long border, running through fatiguing mountain terrain. The border has become even more insecure owing to General Musharraf’s domestic problems, which obliged him last year to do a deal with tribals in Waziristan, who harbour sympathy for the Afghan resistance.
Existential threat to Nato
Meanwhile, in the face of Afghan resistance, bickering within Nato is threatening the very existence of this war-mongering Nazi organisation. General Jones, Nato’s military chief, failed in his request to secure an extra 2,500 troops, helicopters and other equipment to reinforce his hard-pressed troops in Afghanistan. Countries such as Germany refuse to deploy their forces in the areas of heaviest fighting, and there are perennial quarrels between member states over the tactics to be adopted – whether greater emphasis is to be placed on counter-insurgency or on reconstruction and the campaign for hearts and minds. The Belgian prime minister has even called for Nato to withdraw from Afghanistan.
All these are mere symptoms of the growing inter-imperialist contradictions, which are bound, albeit through several intermediary steps, to lead to the disintegration and disbandment of Nato as a military arm of the western imperialist camp – and with it the transatlantic security cooperation between US imperialism and its rivals in Europe. The spring offensive of the Afghan resistance, already under way (the downing by the resistance of a Nato helicopter on 30 May in southern Afghanistan with the loss of seven Nato lives is a foretaste of the unfolding events), will hasten this disintegration, for which peace-loving and progressive humanity everywhere ought to thank the heroic Afghan resistance.
Thus far, the imperialist coalition in Afghanistan has suffered close to 400 casualties – most of these since 2005. The casualties suffered by British troops in the southern province of Helmand have caused unease and controversy over the mission, with the British public failing to see any reason for this senseless war and the slaughter of thousands of innocent Afghans.
On 20 November last year, Tony Blair visited Camp Bastion, the British military base in Helmand province. Addressing the 800 troops lined up to meet him, he said: “Here in this extraordinary piece of desert is where the future of world security in the early 21st century is going to be played out.” If that indeed is the case, and we are inclined to concur, Nato is in for a scandalous defeat, an ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan, a lapse into irrelevance and a lingering death. Roll on the day.