August 24, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On Monday night, August 21, Donald Trump announced his new strategy for America’s 16-year-long war in Afghanistan. “We are not nation building again,” he bellowed, “We are killing terrorists.”
Trump promised to end any restrictions limiting his generals and field commanders from raining death and destruction, even minor ones that might reduce civilian casualties. He hailed the “success” of this gloves-off approach in Mosul, Iraq. There the U.S.-led assault reduced huge swaths of the city to rubble and killed as many as 40,000 people. And while Trump refused to say it, there are widespread reports that the U.S. will be sending another 3,900 troops to Afghanistan.
Trump didn’t just threaten more killing in Afghanistan. Like the global Mafioso he is, Trump threatened Pakistan with severe consequences if it didn’t play ball and stop giving aid and comfort to the Taliban. He warned the U.S.-installed Afghan government (which is reportedly losing 20-30 soldiers a day) that it had better be ready to sacrifice even more for U.S. objectives. And Trump declared the U.S. was “going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us”—a reference to the widely discussed potential for the U.S. to profit off Afghanistan’s vast, untapped mineral wealth.
All this is heaping new crimes and horrors on the people of Afghanistan atop the crimes and horrors they’ve suffered for 16 long years, and threatening new horrors to the people of the region and world.
In its decade and a half of war and occupation against the reactionary Afghan Taliban as well as other Islamist jihadists, the U.S. has already killed uncounted thousands—men, women, and children! It has bombed wedding parties and wantonly massacred innocent villagers—16 in one night by one U.S. soldier on a hate-filled rampage. It has seized and terrorized people in the dead of night, then turned them over to its Afghan “allies” to torture them in dungeons like the one next to its Bagram air base—which the U.S. was forced to close in 2014 after its barbarism was exposed. Official estimates put the war dead at a staggering 149,000 and the wounded at another 162,000, enormous numbers which almost certainly vastly understate the carnage. The war forced more than a half-million people to flee their homes in 2016 alone!
Now, the fascist Trump/Pence regime in April dropped the world’s largest-ever non-nuclear bomb, nicknamed MOAB, the “mother of all bombs,” on Afghanistan. It has escalated air strikes—389 in June, the most in a month in five years—and increased civilian casualties. And Trump is promising more dead, more wounded and more terror. And he’s raising the specter of widening the war regionally—possibly globally.
Why Did the U.S. Start this War?
Trump’s speech on Afghanistan dominated the news cycle, with the system’s politicians and pundits all discussing it. But they did so within a certain framework: that America’s motives for invading and occupying Afghanistan were unquestionably legitimate, even noble.
But what has this war been about? And what has the U.S. been doing in Afghanistan?
In October 2001, the George W. Bush regime invaded Afghanistan. They did so in the name of “liberating” the people, bringing freedom and democracy, and exacting justice on those responsible for the attacks of September 11.
In reality, that is not what was behind the invasion of Afghanistan. As the world’s imperialist godfather, the U.S., like any Mafia overlord, could not tolerate insults, let alone attacks by lesser gangsters, and retain its status as top global predator. So after the shock of 9/11, the Bush regime felt it was essential to lash out violently, on a massive scale, to demonstrate to one and all that neither America’s will nor its power was diminished but rather, like the Roman Empire, it would decimate its opponents. Afghanistan was the first target of the planned onslaught.
The U.S. rulers also felt compelled to take drastic measures to stem the growth and influence of reactionary Islamic fundamentalism—embodied in groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban and states like Iran. This was not because these Islamist forces oppress the people, especially women, in brutal, medieval fashion, but because they were undermining America’s imperialist grip on the Middle East and Central Asia, regions key to its global power.
Bob Avakian deeply explores the imperialists’ motivations, the necessity they faced, and how they saw that necessity, and the profound repercussions of the “War on Terror” in Bringing Forward Another Way. The dominant forces in the U.S. ruling class envisioned this as a decades-long war to restructure the entire region—“draining the swamp” as they put it—to eliminate the economic, social and political wellsprings of reactionary fundamentalism and to more fully integrate this vast swath of the globe into the U.S. -dominated world order in general and in its rivalry with Russia and China in particular.
After Afghanistan, the U.S. targeted Iraq, and had Iran, Libya, Syria and other regimes in its gunsights as well.
This “restructuring” never equaled liberation. “The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism,” Bob Avakian has written. “What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.”
In Afghanistan, this meant U.S. forces began by overthrowing the reactionary Islamic fundamentalists of the Taliban, occupying the country, and then creating “political structures to enforce that imperialism”—a new government, with some formal elements of democracy, some very superficial rights for women in some places, and the building up of infrastructure like roads. And they patched together a national government consisting of a hideous cabal of warlords, narco traffickers and other widely hated lackeys who’ve oppressed, butchered and preyed on the Afghan people.
What’s Behind Trump’s New Strategy
The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan has been the longest war in U.S. history. But all the economic, political and military moves and shifts, troop surges and troop withdrawals have not brought it victory, and the U.S.-backed Afghan government remains weak.
When Trump rails against “nation building,” he’s pointing to a core element of his new strategy: that the U.S. will now focus on crushing forces that present a challenge to the U.S. empire and its global objectives. This shift in strategy is bound to mean much more horrific violence, torture and destruction in Afghanistan and beyond, and is signaled by Trump’s message to U.S. commanders that they no longer need look over their shoulder as they carry out carnage, massacres and war crimes.
The Trump/Pence regime is indicating it is ready to expand the Afghan war (possibly including to Taliban and Al Qaeda “safe havens” in Pakistan) as part of other moves it is planning in South Asia, including working more closely with India.
Where the Interests of Humanity Lie in All This
After 16 years, the necessities of empire that propelled the U.S. into Afghanistan and the Middle East remain, and in many ways are even more acute today. This includes the need to defeat radical Islamic jihadism and to demonstrate American decisiveness and strength, which Trump has promised to assert more violently and viciously around the world, promising “we will always win.” And this has propelled them once again to remain in Afghanistan.
And there is a grave danger that Trump and his fascist regime may attempt to cut the “Gordian knot” of the intractable contradictions they face in Afghanistan (and elsewhere), not simply by escalating there, but regionally or even globally. Trump even went out of his way to declare the U.S. had bolstered its nuclear arsenal—this in a speech on Afghanistan and South Asia.
Over these 16 years, the U.S. has battled the brutal Taliban and other jihadists in Afghanistan. This clash between America’s imperialist carnage and support for vicious oppressors and the feudal barbarities of the Taliban has created a horrendous dynamic in which these two outmoded, reactionary forces have fueled and reinforced each other, even as they’re battling each other.
None of this is just, and none of this is in the interests of the people of Afghanistan or the world. In fact, it’s diametrically opposed to our interests. No one should hope any of this “wins,” which would only encourage and enable more U.S. aggression and bloodshed. It is a U.S. defeat—and a defeat for this fascist Trump/Pence regime—that’s in the interest of the people of Afghanistan and the world. Such a defeat could weaken the grip of the U.S. rulers on the planet and the people, and help create a situation in which it becomes possible to actually overthrow the monstrous system that now threatens humanity and the planet through revolution, and take the first great steps toward bringing into being an emancipatory society and world based on Bob Avakian’s new, re-envisioned communism.
As part of preparing for revolution, Trump’s dangerous threats and escalation further underscore the life-and-death urgency not only of visibly protesting America’s war in Afghanistan, but of November 4 being the beginning of the mass political struggle to force the Trump/Pence regime from office. Everyone reading this should throw in with this effort.