A disastrous invasion and a disastrous withdrawal

Submitted by martin on 31 August, 2021 - 5:09 Author: Colin Foster
US Marines in Afghanistan, 2001

We opposed the US invasion of Afghanistan and always refused positively to support the US and NATO military presence there. We have never sloganised for "US troops out of Afghanistan", because that would suggest some support for a Taliban victory.

For a long while we have said that further years of the US operation would most likely worsen the horrors when the US would, inevitably, eventually, some time, withdraw. That prediction has been confirmed.

Probably an even halfway competently-managed withdrawal relatively soon after 2001 would have produced fewer horrors. Probably any US policy more concerned with the welfare of the peoples of Afghanistan, and less exclusively concerned with aiming for a showy military victory, hoping that market forces would produce economic advance, and then fumbling for a decade about how to get out of a quagmire, could have mitigated the disaster.

But for socialists to seek to advise the capitalist big powers on how to calibrate their military actions can bring only illusion, not progress. The factor that could have changed the whole picture substantially was a democratic upsurge of workers and peasants in Pakistan sufficient to break the tacit alliance between sections of Pakistan's military and the Taliban.

As Trotsky explained back in 1939: "Our tasks... we realise not through the medium of bourgeois governments and not even through the government of the USSR, but exclusively through the education of the masses through agitation, through explaining to the workers what they should defend and what they should overthrow. [That] cannot give immediate miraculous results. But we do not even pretend to be miracle workers. As things stand, we are a revolutionary minority. Our work must be directed so that the workers on whom we have influence should correctly appraise events, not permit themselves to be caught unawares, and prepare the general sentiment of their own class for the revolutionary solution of the tasks confronting us".

Or again: "The policy that attempts to place upon the proletariat the insoluble task of warding off all dangers engendered by the bourgeoisie and its policy of war is vain, false, mortally dangerous... The workers will be able to profit to the full from this monstrous chaos only if they occupy themselves not by acting as supervisors of the historical process but by engaging in the class struggle".

Those generalities should not stop us denouncing the specific more-or-less worst-imaginable policy of withdrawal set in train by Donald Trump in early 2020 and followed through by Joe Biden. We quoted Malalai Joya, an Afghan feminist and long-time critic of the US presence, saying about the Doha talks that they were "a betrayal". She was right.

Now, as Joya told the German newspaper SĂĽddeutsche Zeitung (13 August): "The Taliban are advancing. For ordinary people and especially for women, this means even more suffering. Progressive people like me are more in danger than ever".

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