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Taliban insurgency, poverty and corruption Brown's Afghan crisis deepens
WITH THE body count of UK troops at over 250 and with a general election looming, Gordon Brown is desperate for an exit strategy from Afghanistan.
A recent conference of ministers and delegates from 70 countries and organisations that was hosted by Brown in London, agreed to "building up the Afghan institutions, the army, the police, civilian government", and continuing to buy the loyalty of former Taliban fighters with a increased pot of $500 million.
However, one former Taliban commander, Mullah Mohammad, bitterly complained: "They [the peace and reconciliation commission] told us they'll protect us, and that we would have the chance to have jobs. Now we have nothing."
This reconciliation 'strategy' is on top of the additional 30,000 US troops pledged by US president Barack Obama to join the more than 100,000 Nato and foreign troops already fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
Exactly how the Afghan institutions - riddled with corruption and dominated by violent warlords - are to be 'built up' so that they enjoy the support of the Afghan people, remains unclear. To start with, if Gordon Brown et al want to see 'clean government' in Afghanistan then why are they entertaining Afghan president Hamid Karzai, whose re-election last year was widely condemned as fraudulent?
The reason why many Afghans are bitter and disillusioned after eight years of occupation by the western powers and being ruled over by a pro-western regime is that their plight has got worse.
Mass unemployment, widespread poverty, growing inequality, bloodshed, insecurity, and a lack of democratic rights combined with government corruption, have undermined any legitimacy that Brown and Obama are so desperate to see in Afghanistan and instead, have boosted support for the right-wing Islamist Taliban.
According to Actionaid, 40% of the country's 25 million population are unemployed and a third of Afghans live on under a dollar a day - while suffering a 27% inflation rate. Five out of six people in rural areas have no electricity. And many Afghans remain as displaced internal refugees without work, land, schools and access to clean water. Religious extremism and feudalism has enforced women into semi-slavery despite an equal rights constitution.
Although official figures are not collected, an estimated 30,000 Afghans have been killed, thousands more maimed and injured, with 3.7 million refugees in Pakistan and Iran. Now the head of British forces in Afghanistan gloomily talks of another 40 years of occupation before there will be 'stability'.
To bring an end to the continued cycle of war and poverty a political alternative is needed. All foreign troops must be immediately withdrawn and the Afghan people must be allowed to determine their own future.
Central to this is the need to support Afghan workers and poor peasants in forming their own independent political voice. Such a force could raise the demand for the creation of jobs and investment in education and health services.
Public ownership of the country's raw materials and key industries could be used to invest in developing the economy and turning it away from opium production.
United by their common interests, workers and peasants across Afghanistan could create multi-ethnic defence forces to oppose the sectarian forces such as the Taliban and establish full democratic rights.
A socialist movement could transform the lives of ordinary Afghan people. Promoting international solidarity and linking up with trade union organised workers and socialists in the region, it could help threaten the corrupt and reactionary regimes throughout the middle-east and Asia and begin to lay the basis for a democratic socialist government of Afghanistan as part of a socialist confederation of the region.
In The Socialist 3 February 2010:
War and occupation
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party news and analysis
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis