Afghanistan

This well researched book was written (by Ahmed Rashid) before the events of September 11th 2001. The author is a journalist who has worked in Afghanistan since 1979. It has been described by The Guardian as the book which is being read by Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell, who allegedly have been heavily influenced by the book. Do not let that deter you from reading this book! It remains to be seen if they have really been influenced by it.

It was quite amusing to hear the reports on the radio that a column of American tanks was advancing on Kandahar. Since this glorious advance only took place after Kandahar had surrendered, this must have been the most painless "triumphal advance" in the history of warfare! This little incident is a good example of the kind of surrealism that has characterised this campaign from the beginning. Predictably, the Americans are shouting victory as loud as they can. Despite all the triumphalism, the real situation becomes clear if we ask ourselves concretely what has been achieved?

"The Marines have landed and the situation is under control." This kind of headline was very common in the 1930s, when the USA had a habit of intervening with tedious regularity in the territory of small states in Central America. Now history seems to be repeating itself - but with a difference. The marines referred to here are, of course, American. While the US marine corps is grabbing the headlines of the world press, a couple of hundred British marines are kicking their heels on the outskirts of Bagram airstrip, while a couple of thousand of their comrades are kept hanging around on army bases in Britain, unloved and unwanted, while Tony Blair fumes in impotent humiliation.

The situation in Afghanistan after the dramatic fall of Kabul continues to give the British and Americans a headache. Washington is still trying to improvise a coherent strategy, making up its policy as it goes along. Bush's lackey, Tony Blair is having trouble keeping step. An update on the war by Alan Woods.

In the Saturday (November 17) issue of the Jang - the biggest daily paper in Pakistan, the well-known columnist Munnoo Bhai published extensive extracts from Alan's article The fall of Kabul with the comment that this is the "best analysis one can find anywhere". The Jang newspaper is read by up to 20 million people every day, and Munnoo Bhai's column is widely read.

Afghanistan is full of surprises. And what surprise could be bigger than the lightening advance of the Northern Alliance over the last seven days? In less than a week, Taliban forces have been swept from most of northern Afghanistan, including the key cities of Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Kunduz, Taloqan, Bamiyan, Jalalabad and the capital Kabul. The question is: How did a force that only two months ago controlled most of Afghanistan get swept from the battlefield so quickly, and is the battle over?

Events inside Afghanistan are moving quickly. So quickly that it is difficult to keep up with the lightening changes in the situation. The fall of Kabul came more quickly than anyone could forsee. Washington hoped that it would be able to hold back the Northern Alliance's advance until it had succeeded in putting together a coalition of non-Taliban forces (read: American stooges) to take over the country. However, in war, events cannot be directed like an orchestra under the conductor's baton. Alan Woods explains how this affects the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.

As the autumn haze sets in, Pakistan seems to be engulfed in an environment of gloom, confusion, apathy and sorrow. The masses are bewildered at what is going on and what is about to happen. It is a country not directly at war and yet all the social and economic implications of a war are very much present. Pakistan society seems to be in a state of war - a war nobody wants to wage, since not even the ruling junta is prepared to commit Pakistani troops to this most peculiar conflict.

To understand the present war that is taking place in Afghanistan, one must take into consideration the factors that have shaped the history of this tragic land. Doctor Zayar gives an overview of the history of Afghanistan from the middle ages to the present day.

Alan Woods reports from Russia on the developments during the first week of the war on Afghanistan and particularly the way in which Russia is advancing her interests in the whole of Central Asia and the Caucasus on the back of the 'war on terrorism'. Woods also outlines the difficulties which the US will increasingly find in this campaign.

"The bombing of Afghanistan has now begun. The most powerful and richest country in the world, the USA, is bombing one of the poorest countries on this planet. And Britain, as usual, is behaving as an obedient lapdog to US imperialism. However they may try to disguise it, this war is not about “justice” or “fighting terrorism”. The aim is to terrorise the peoples of the former colonial countries, to bully them into submitting to the will of the rich and powerful. It is a warning: 'either you do as we say, or you get bombed!'". A first emergency analysis by Fred Weston.

Everything on a world scale is now subordinated to the perspective of war. The fact that the attack on Afghanistan (and other countries) has been delayed does not mean at all that the risk of hostilities has diminished. Alan Woods looks at the world situation as the build up towards war unfolds.

"Many people have been shocked at the media pictures of the unfolding tragedy in Afghanistan. The Taliban regime has carried out a reign of terror, with ethnic cleansing... severe repression against oppressed nationalities and members of other religions, the smashing of statues of Buddha, the public execution of women in Kandhar the whipping... The howling of the oppressed women of Afghanistan reverberates throughout Asia. The question is: who is responsible for this bloody civil war, all these deaths, the hunger, ethnic cleansing and sheer barbarism? The answer is very simple. It was American imperialism which reduced Afghanistan to the level of the Dark Ages and completely destroyed

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"The dark clouds of war and destruction loom large over Afghanistan and Pakistan. As time clicks away the atmosphere of speculation, uncertainty, confusion and deep fear grips these impoverished societies. The threat of Imperialist aggression in the aftermath of the attacks in New York and Washington is dangling like a sword over the heads of the people." Lal Khan, editor of the Marxist paper Jeddo Judh (Class Struggle) in Pakistan, explains the background to the coming to power of the Taliban, their relationship with the Western oil companies, who is Osama Bin laden and finally reports on the mood in Pakistan...

"Pluto Press have recently published a new book, Reaping the Whirlwind, The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan, by Michael Griffin. He has done a service in providing some quite detailed information about the origins of the Taliban and the background that led to their emerging as a force capable of taking control of most of modern-day Afghanistan."

The brutal air strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan constitute a further sample of the bullying tactics of US imperialism and will be condemned by activists in the labour movement everywhere. By such means Washington uses its powerful airforce in order to throw its weight around and intimidate and blackmail all the peoples of the third world. This latest escapade is clearly intended for US public opinion, to show that "something has been done" in relation to the terrorist bombings in Kenya.

Marx explained that in the long run capitalist society would either be replaced by Socialism or it would degenerate into Barbarism. The situation in Afghanistan is a living example of what Barbarism means. In this interview, held on March 22, 1998, Afghan socialists explain the situation in their country after the victory of the Taliban.

We are republishing Ted Grant's 1980 article on the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, together with an introduction by Alan Woods. In this article we find a scientific Marxist analysis of the class content of the 1978 Afghan revolution and its historical origins. In addition, we have an explanation for the principled position that we took with regard to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that occurred the following year.

In 1978, a radical faction of the Afghan Communist Party seized power in a military coup. The 'Saur Revolution' carried out a whole series of progressive measures. The government passed decrees abolishing the selling of brides and giving equality to women. It announced a land reform and the cancellation of farmers’ debts. These measures met with the ferocious opposition of the powerful land owners and moneylenders. This article by Ted Grant, published in 1978, contains an analysis of the revolution, as well as the phenomena of colonial revolutions and proletarian bonapartism more generally.