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Afghanistan - paying the price of western occupation
"THEY HAVE paid the ultimate price, but achieved something of lasting value" is what prime minister Gordon Brown said about the recent nine deaths of armed forces personnel in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, while these soldiers did pay the ultimate price, the whole imperialist adventure into Afghanistan has been one long tragedy and the western coalition forces are nowhere near to achieving their objectives.
The news of Taliban successes, the mass break-out of Taliban prisoners from Kandahar jail and the border clashes between Pakistan and US forces, show that the imperialist invasion of Afghanistan is far from the success story that the US and UK had once claimed.
Instead, Afghanistan is a divided and dangerous country. Coalition troops only have tentative control in the capital Kabul and some areas in the south. Taliban forces are making a comeback, not just militarily but through the support of many sections of the population.
British forces in the Helmand province are experiencing greater resistance from Taliban fighters who are now adopting more terroristic methods, including roadside bombs and suicide bombings.
The UK forces death toll now stands at 106. That figure, together with the thousands of civilian and 700 other coalition deaths, shows the violent nature of western imperialism's intervention into Afghanistan.
In 2006 the United Nations (UN) warned that Afghanistan was in danger of becoming a "failed state". This year, Afghanistan finds itself seventh in an index of the most failed states, only two positions behind Iraq. The puppet Hamid Karzai government is out of control with corruption running wild and with no real improvement in Afghanistan's infrastructure. There have been few improvements in schools and hospitals.
Added to this, opium production has rocketed since the invasion. Rather than controlling the amount of heroin being produced, the invasion has actually created the unstable conditions allowing increased poppy production.
Faced with poverty many farmers have given up on growing essential foodstuffs in favour of growing opium. This has compounded the problems of food shortages and famine. It is clear for the ordinary Afghanis that although the coalition removed a brutal and barbaric regime, it brought countless problems which affect their day to day lives.
Brown and Bush, however, have recently decided that they will reinforce this failure. Thousands more American and British troops are being prepared to be sent to Afghanistan.
However, this will not bring peace to the region as Nato and the coalition hope. The Taliban are growing in strength and popularity because they claim to offer a stable alternative to Afghanis' appalling life under occupation. The Taliban and the other right-wing militant forces in Afghanistan are not a progressive alternative though.
The ideas of the Taliban and al-Qa'ida are reactionary and repressive. It is a sign of the desperation of many people in Afghanistan that there is growing support for these forces.
The idea of sending more troops will not be greeted with support from many people in America or Britain. Support for the war in Afghanistan is at an all-time low in Britain.
Brown, who already has one of the worst approval ratings of any British prime minister, has shown his true colours yet again; not only support for big businesses over ordinary working-class people but also that he is willing to risk the lives of British service men and women for the sake of imperialist prestige.
Worryingly, the conflict has shown signs of spreading to other countries, particularly Pakistan. The US has been carrying out operations within Pakistan since last year. However, recently, tensions between the two countries have grown further.
On 11 June, eleven Pakistani soldiers were killed on the Afghanistan border in what they say was an American air strike.
The US refused to comment on whether they had targeted the Pakistani soldiers or not, merely claiming they were engaged with "anti-Afghan" militants.
This clash shows the politically fragile nature of the region. Pakistan is an unstable country itself, with an elite made more dangerous by its nuclear weapons capability.
The US strike has enraged people in Pakistan and could create more support for that country's reactionary political Islamist movement which sends jihadists to fight coalition forces alongside Taliban guerrillas inside Afghanistan.
While Brown and Bush plan to send more troops to try and fight their way out of this failure, to many Western governments there is no way out.
Divisions within Nato have begun to emerge with Canada and Germany questioning their presence in Afghanistan. Other countries, such as Spain and Italy, have chosen to send their troops to safer areas of the country.
While publicly Nato has gone to great lengths to show its 'unity', it is only really the US and UK governments that argue there is a way out. However, it is clear that no amount of troops or weapons will be able to achieve imperialist victory in Afghanistan. Most Afghanis rightly see US and UK troops as occupiers and not liberators.
The imperialist forces have proven that they are unable to provide the basic infrastructure needed to live. Millions of people still go without water, electricity and access to education and health care. Imperialism is utterly incapable of delivering these things, as it exists to pillage and plunder.
Unfortunately the Afghan poor and working class have few political alternatives to look towards at present, and so urgently need to build their own organisations. And the working classes of the US and UK must aim to build a socialist alternative to their respective capitalist governments.
The establishment of mass working class parties in both countries - based on fulfilling the basic material needs of the majority and not the profits of a rich minority - could force the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ending the occupation of Afghanistan would mean ending deaths like the recent nine British troops, and moreover ending the misery of occupation for the millions of Afghanis who live in poverty, despair and danger every day.
In The Socialist 25 June 2008:
Socialist Party editorial
Unison Conference 2008
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