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Posted on 14 December 2001 at 13:08 GMT

War in Afghanistan leaves conflict and chaos

"VICTORY TODAY can look a lot like defeat tomorrow". This quote from Time magazine (3 December) aptly sums up the situation in Afghanistan. Tony Blair has said that the "future is bright"; that the Taliban's flight from Kandahar and the agreement for an interim, power-sharing government, totally vindicates the coalition's war strategy.

That strategy has caused thousands of Afghan deaths and injuries, destroyed countless homes and turned millions into refugees. And for what? Not to end terrorism. The poverty and oppression suffered by millions around the globe and the lack of a mass socialist alternative to capitalism means that many more people will unfortunately turn in desperation to terrorist methods.

The US could kill bin Laden, bomb all 50 countries on its so-called 'terror hit-list' but terrorism would still flourish in the conditions which capitalism and their policies create. They are already looking for targets in Somalia. For some in the US administration, encouraged by the rapid collapse of the Taliban, this would just be a 'warm up' for taking on Iraq.

But Saddam is not the Taliban and as the Economist points out (8 December) there is no equivalent of the Northern Alliance in Iraq to do the US's fighting for them. Even Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, Britain's chief of defence staff, has admitted that this could "radicalise Arab opinion further" and provoke "wobbles" in the anti-terrorist coalition.

Beneath the spin of the politicians and generals, the situation on the ground in Afghanistan is far from rosy. The UN representative for Afghanistan reported that the talks in Bonn had been on the brink of collapse. UN officials and Western diplomats had to keep reminding delegates of the billions of dollars of foreign aid on offer (The Independent 6 December).

Shi'a Muslims, feeling underrepresented, complained that "it will be difficult for this agreement to survive like this for too long" (Financial Times 6 December). The 'butcher of the north', General Dostum, initially refused to have anything to do with the new government saying that he would block access to areas under his control. These include important oil and gas reserves.

He has since changed his mind. But for how long? This brutal warlord has changed sides more than any other commander. When last in control of Mazar-i-Sharif he had his own airline, currency and trade with the West.

Power struggles between warlords have broken out in most cities including Kandahar. Temporary power-sharing agreements could easily break down as they wage battles for their own power, prestige and booty. The areas surrounding and in between cities have degenerated into anarchy with roadblocks and checkpoints manned by armed bandits looting and terrorising.

It was the anarchic and chaotic conditions which reigned under these forces last time which allowed the Taliban to come to power in the first place.

Any foreign peacekeeping force could easily become caught up between feuding warlords or dragged into a guerrilla war with remnants of the Taliban.

Afghanistan's desperate people have had enough of war and violence but capitalism cannot offer them a stable future free from poverty. At least six million Afghans are refugees.

Iran has begun to forcibly repatriate refugees who have no homes to go to. The 60% of refugees in Pakistan not in camps are now being moved to border areas where they face terrible conditions.

In Bosnia, more than two years after the war ended, over one million refugees are still displaced. The situation in Afghanistan is even more desperate. The promised "billions of dollars of foreign aid", even if they materialise, will not be sufficient to create a decent life for people in this country ravaged by war and starvation.

For them and workers and poor around the world only socialism can guarantee freedom from poverty, oppression, conflict and war.

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