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From The Socialist newspaper, 9 December 2009

End the war in Afghanistan

Bring the troops home now

Stop the War Coalition demonstration October 2009, photo Bob Severn

Stop the War Coalition demonstration October 2009, photo Bob Severn   (Click to enlarge)

THE OCCUPATION of Afghanistan has lasted eight years; it has cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Now the US, British and other governments are preparing to send even more troops to their deaths. However, it has become clear that not only have they achieved none of their aims but the situation in the region is worsening.

Ken Douglas

The war has already cost the lives of over 230 British soldiers, 100 this year alone. There are over 1,000 casualties, including many with life-changing injuries resulting in double and triple amputations.

The US has spent over $200 billion, with the final cost estimated to be over half a trillion dollars; in Britain the cost has passed 12 billion - enough to build 23 hospitals and employ 23,000 nurses or 60,000 teachers.

Bush and Blair declared that the purpose of this war was to drive out the Taliban and reconstruct Afghanistan. But after eight years what has been achieved?

An estimated 97% of the country now has substantial Taliban activity and the conflict is spreading into neighbouring Pakistan. For ordinary Afghans, their country is a more dangerous place to live - the number of civilian deaths is at its highest since 2001.

According to the UN's human development index, which takes into account life expectancy, education and income, Afghanistan comes 181 out of 182 countries. 42% of the population lives on less than one dollar per day.

Anti-war demonstration October 2009, photo Rob Emery

Anti-war demonstration October 2009, photo Rob Emery   (Click to enlarge)

This was supposed to be a war for democracy but the recent elections revealed widespread fraud, mainly on behalf of the incumbent Mohammed Karzai. Despite the fact that there was supposed to be a re-run, Karzai was sworn in anyway when his opponent Abdullah Abdullah pulled out.

This was supposedly a war to liberate women from the oppressive yoke of the Taliban but after eight years 87% of Afghan women are illiterate and only 30% of girls have access to education. A recent law passed by the Afghan parliament gave husbands the right to withhold food from their wives.

US president Barack Obama and Gordon Brown's solution is to send more troops. Their only concern is that withdrawal without a clear victory over the Taliban would be damaging to their prestige. In reality, US and British imperialism have no solution to the quagmire that their policies have created in Afghanistan.

However, opposition to the occupation is growing not only in Afghanistan but also in the main countries that have troops there. Millions of people have demonstrated against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 but so far have been unable to reverse the policies of Blair's and Brown's governments, despite a majority opposing the occupation at this time.

We urgently need to build a mass movement to force Brown to bring the troops back. But we also need to build a political alternative that can give a voice to all those opposed to the big business agenda of the main capitalist parties and their policies that lead to war, poverty and misery.

The solution lies with ordinary working-class people, in Britain, Afghanistan and worldwide. Only an independent, democratic, mass movement of ordinary Afghans could begin to sweep away the corrupt gangster politicians and warlords, establish genuine democratic rights and rebuild their country.

Hand in hand with ordinary working-class people in the countries whose governments back these imperialist policies, these movements have to be linked to a struggle for socialism. Linked to a fight for a society where the world's resources are under the democratic control of the working class and poor and used for the benefit of the billions and not the billionaires and their corrupt politicians.

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In The Socialist 9 December 2009:

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