January 21, 2015

Afghanistan war is far from over

By T.J. Petrowski

 After 13 years, the U.S. and NATO are announcing the end to combat missions in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of troops. But despite the symbolic flag lowering ceremony, the U.S. led war is in fact not ending, and the brutal war is set to continue through 2015. NATO is set to "transition" to a non combat, "Resolute Support" mission to assist the Afghan National Army in its operations, with 4,000 NATO troops to remain in Afghanistan into 2015.

 President Obama has authorized 10,800 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan in 2015 (an increase of 1,000 from his May 2014 pledge to reduce troop levels), to resume combat operations against Afghan militants (including night raids by Special Operation soldiers, previously banned by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai), and aerial strikes. A senior American military officer was quoted saying that "the Air Force expects to use F 16 fighters, B 1B bombers and Predator and Reaper drones to go after the Taliban in 2015."

 The continuation of combat operations comes after the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the U.S. and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, a former U.S. citizen and World Bank employee. The highly controversial agreement allows for thousands of U.S. troops to remain for another decade and grants all U.S. service personnel immunity from prosecution under Afghan laws. Several massacres and unlawful acts were committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including the murder of 16 civilians in Kandahar and footage of U.S. soldiers urinating on the dead bodies of Afghans and posing for photographs with dead civilians.

 Imperialism has a long history of occupations and interference in Afghanistan. In the 1980s, the U.S. and its allies, through Pakistan, funded radical Islamic counterrevolutionaries, including bin Laden and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, fighting to topple the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), then implementing widespread social reforms that benefited millions of Afghans. These "freedom fighters," as former U.S. President Reagan described them, tortured teachers and activists, burnt down schools, poisoned children, and raped women.

 After the PDPA was overthrown, the U.S. largely disengaged from Afghanistan, having accomplished its primary objective, and the various counterrevolutionary factions fought amongst themselves in a devastating civil war. The Taliban, an organization of Islamic students led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, defeated these factions and captured Kabul in 1996. The U.S., keen to see Afghanistan under strong central rule to allow a US led group to build a multi-billion dollar oil and gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to the Arabian Sea, indirectly supported the Taliban's rise to power through Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

 The U.S. led 2001 invasion of Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11 or bin Laden. The invasion was an imperialist war of resource plundering and transferring public wealth into private hands. The media went into a frenzy when the U.S. "discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan" in 2010. The New York Times even declared that Afghanistan could become "the Saudi Arabia of lithium," a mineral used in the manufacture of batteries. It is inconceivable that U.S. authorities weren't aware of Afghanistan's mineral wealth before the invasion; the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s confirmed the existence of enormous mineral reserves and produced "superb geological maps and reports that listed more than 1,400 mineral outcroppings, along with about 70 commercially viable deposits."

 Prior to the invasion, opium cultivation was banned by the Taliban in collaboration with the United Nations, and by 2001 the crop had declined by 90% to 185 tonnes. After the U.S. invasion the opium crop skyrocketed under Hamid Karzai. The drug trade was an important source of covert funding for the Afghan counter-revolutionaries during the 1980s and 1990s and has long been under the control of the CIA. Mujahideen counterrevolutionaries forced Afghan peasants to plant opium, turning the Pakistan Afghanistan border areas into the world's top heroin producer, with the collaboration of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Islamabad.

 The money from the drug trade is laundered through banks and recycled as covert funds for intelligence agencies. Money laundering, according to the IMF, constitutes 2 5% of the world's GDP, and a significant share of money laundering is linked to the trade in narcotics. Narcotics represents the third largest commodity after oil and arms, with powerful financial interests behind the trade. "From this standpoint, geopolitical and military control over the drug routes is as strategic as oil and oil pipelines," writes Professor Michel Chossudovsky.

 Working people need to reject the various pretenses used by Western imperialism to exploit the people and resources of other countries around the world.

Reprinted from the January issue of People’s Voice Newspaper.

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