Pierre of the Communist Party international committee interviewed a comrade of the Left from Afghanistan and you can view this and more internationalist news and analysis in the latest issue of the CP’s international bulletin.
How would you characterise the current Afghan government?
The government is a puppet, they depend entirely on the will of the US, they have no margin of activity in interior and exterior politics, everything depends on the US foreign ministry. Until now all measures are led by the US. The government has no independent will concerning the regulation of questions for the country.
Whenever there are problems, during elections, the US creates solutions outside the constitution. Eg. in 2014 there was such a big gap between two presidential candidates it took too long to declare the winner. John Kerry came to Afghanistan to create a solution, a government of national unity, this does not exist in the Afghan constitution! When we have big national problems, we ourselves have no power or competence sufficient to resolve them, the Americans always come in to solve things.
In the last elections, the same problem came, both candidates wanted to be president, the Americans decided that Ghani would be president, and created a new post to allow the other candidate to have a government position. All of this was illegal, outside of the constitution.
How strong is the organised working class movement, the trade unions and progressive political parties?
It’s a very complicated situation at the moment. We (PDPA) were in power, followed by an arbitrary despotic regime, a chaotic situation. The sweeping away of all progressive movements, all popular movements chased away from power, and from the country. We were smashed and split into a thousand pieces, and in our place there were fractional wars between mujahideen, tribal groups, warlords. There were 70,000 dead, there was no place for normal political life, strikes, elections, or any of this. There was no space for political organisations. This situation lasted for years until 2001 when, whatever the origin, there was an opportunity for the Americans to occupy Afghanistan.
When the Americans occupied, a new order was formed, they set in motion the process of creating a government. This government was formed by old administrators trained by the CIA and reactionary elements, there was no chance of popular entry to this government of occupation. They created a fake democracy, full of limits and all designed to keep the ruling elite in power. There was no opportunity for the left to participate or express itself. No possibility to gain terrain. The US allowed political parties to form, legally, but they could not organise on the ground in a situation of war. Along this there is always outside pressure on progressive parties (threats?). There is the right to strike, but in reality there are no big organised strikes. There is the right to a free press, but no actual conditions to express it. This was a deliberate effort by the Americans, they did not want any left organisations, no popular forces in the country.
According to Ashraf Ghani, 90% of Afghans live under the poverty line. It was not like that when we (PDPA) were in power! This low level of development is difficult for trade unions, there are real problems of hunger in some parts.
What are the reasons for the US/NATO withdrawal?
It is not really a retreat, I will explain why. The military bases are all still there, they are still maintained. The country is still occupied whether or not you have soldiers there. The Americans have created a policy which ensures they will still control the country:
1. They have created a social base dependent on US capital. Essentially this is the old Mujahideen and pro-US administrators. This social base composes the majority of US aid and the country’s wealth. There are different fractions, people who have contracts for construction, logistics, petrol. There is lots of money flowing into specific social groups. Eg. Bagram air base needs petrol, a lot of petrol! This is contracted to a private business, with wide profits shared among this pro-US social blanket. This group will do everything it can to defend the USA and its interests.
2. As mentioned earlier there is the creation of a system of administration which prevents the emergence of national or progressive forces.
3. There is a military pillar, a security force which does what the Americans say.
So the soldiers go, but the whole system of occupation has not gone.
The Taliban was created by the British government, organised by the Pakistani government, and funded by Saudi Arabia. The Taliban are a creation (as in – they have been constructed). The mujahideen covered 8 different groups operating out of Pakistan during the 1980s, they were many disparate dispersed groups, not easily controlled by the USA. They were allies with the USA against socialism, but they pursued an independent policy. When the Taliban were made, they did exactly what the Pakistanis told them. When they were in power they were very friendly with the USA, they talked, they had business negotiations on gas deals, and they committed the very worst atrocities. Terrible violence, huge massacres against the poorest ethnic groups. Killing people by putting them in cages in the desert without food or water. They organised mass killings, 62% of the Azarak population was killed. The Taliban blew up an ancient Buddha statue, no respect for cultural heritage. The US allowed this to continue without doing anything.
The Taliban was never anti-US overall, but they were unreliable. Afghanistan was a strategic location and the US wanted more direct control there. So understand that the US simply wanted to invade because it was in their geopolitical interests, and 9/11, all the war on terror was a pretext.
The people installed in Doha or Qatar are ‘official’ Taliban. You should know that these are all old Taliban commanders or important figures who were captured by the Americans, they went through Guantanamo Bay, or Bagram. When they were released they did not go back to fight, they now live in luxury hotels in the emirates. They are well paid for. These official Taliban people are at the disposal of the Americans. When you see negotiations, it is just the Americans negotiating with their own puppets, they are not so much negotiations as a friendly sharing of power. This is the important point, that the people negotiating in Qatar are not ‘real’ Taliban, they are just politicians now. The ‘real’ Taliban fighters are uneducated, or they have only had theological education, they are young men from the villages who have been given guns and told to fight, not a proper organised political force.
Actually the Americans have a nice and well-controlled, well managed war. The government in Kabul, and the Taliban leaders in Qatar, both are US puppets. Sometimes guns get ‘lost’ and end up in hands of Taliban fighters, meanwhile the Afghan army cannot move without US approval. When there are negotiations between these two, it is essentially a rapprochement between two pro-US forces.
When one of the Taliban leaders went to talk with Iran, he was soon afterwards assassinated by drone strike. These people turn up dead when they do things the US does not like, and they understand this. The Taliban commanders inside Afghanistan are not at all present at the negotiations, these are the ones the US is concerned about. And you see that when the peace agreement was signed, it made no difference to the violence on the ground. The US will not allow the Taliban to take power in the country without a limiting partnership.
What might be the consequences of a politicised Islamic regime in Kabul for the stability of Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative?
Well, there is already an Islamist government in Afghanistan, the Americans like this. They created it in 2001! They want a country like Saudi, or Morocco, this is the wish of the Americans. The regional issue can be seen through manipulation of ethnicities. The Taliban are mostly Pashtun (in the south-east of the country), and not a majority, although we can’t be sure because there is no proper census. To understand the regional dimension it is enough to say that the war started in the east of the country, and was transferred to the north of the country. The Americans deliberately shifted the conflict and pushed it to the borders of Russia and China and Tajikistan. This process of movement was important to ‘make it an international problem’. In one month, the Taliban took 60 cities in the north (provinces of badakhstan, kunduz), all areas where there are Uzbeks, Tajiks, Azraks, no Pashtuns. How is it the Taliban could take the cities without local support? The Taliban are a conquering force in the north. The US seeks to weaponise the Taliban against Tajikistan (a secular and pro-Russian country) and against China. The US seeks to use the Taliban in this way, to threaten and destabilise Central Asia.
The CSTO was formed specifically to stop the Taliban spreading into Central Asia. The Russians have very strong military bases in Tajikistan, with all the latest technology. They brought Iskander missiles there. Why would they bring these big rockets for little Taliban fighters? The missiles are there to guard against the Americans, against NATO bases, because the Russians understand it is NATO pushing the Taliban into Central Asia.
The Chinese wanted to put the New Silk Road through Afghanistan, and historically Afghanistan was a big part of the Silk Road. These trade routes would help the Chinese, and they would help develop Afghanistan, but the Americans said no, they stopped it. There is an open-cast copper mine in Afghanistan, a huge mine, the second biggest in the world, created by the PDPA government. The Chinese offered to buy the mine for $2 million, they signed a contract in the early 2000s, Chinese investment would have created jobs, developed the economy. The Americans said no, they told the Chinese to leave, they told them to ‘fuck off’. The US wants to block the Silk Road and they aren’t interested in projects for economic development.
What demands should the peace movement in Britain be making of the British government? Could the UN have a significant role to play?
Britain always had a role to play in governing Afghanistan via Pakistan. We want the British government to see Afghanistan as what it really is, a secular multi-ethnic country. As I mentioned there is a dislocation of society into different ethnies, the contradiction of ethnic groups is a plague. The British government always seeks to arrange itself vis-a-vis the Pakistanis, and the Pakistanis always play off the ethnic groups.
There was a bomb in a girls school last week, 87 girls killed, more than 100 wounded. These are children, it is barbarity. There are other massacres in mosques, at public gatherings, schools. We demand the peace movement in Britain recognise the multi-ethnic character of Afghanistan, and help prevent the deepening of divisions.
To help the progressive forces in Afghanistan, please defend those who are persecuted inside the country, the comrades who are targeted and threatened with death for their activity.