Rioting in Afghanistan highlights contradictions facing US imperialism

Recent rioting in Kabul after a US military vehicle collided with civilian vehicles killing dozens has highlighted once again the dilemma facing the imperialists. Resentment at the presence of foreign troops is growing among the people as Taliban activities also spread.

The ongoing occupation of Iraq has overshadowed what US imperialism is doing in war torn Afghanistan, but the rioting that broke out in Kabul on May 29 has brought to the attention of people around the world what is really happening there.

What sparked off the rioting was an accident involving a US military vehicle and a number of civilian cars on the outskirts of Kabul. According to some Afghan TV reports 30 people were killed and more than 60 injured. There were also reports that American troops then fired on an unarmed crowd.

This was the worst outbreak of violence in Kabul since the Taliban were ousted five years ago. In an attempt to quell growing anti-US sentiments among the Afghan population the US embassy has promised to pay compensation to the families of those killed, but this will have no effect as the problem goes far beyond the issue of the accident itself.

Such an eruption of violence cannot be explained simply by the road accident itself. It merely highlights the real mood that is developing in Afghanistan. It underlines the fact that Afghanistan, just like Iraq, is a country under foreign occupation. No amount of propaganda on the part of the US government and its allies can hide the fact that the people of Afghanistan do not want foreign troops in their country.

The US and their allies claimed they were going into Afghanistan to guarantee its people democracy and progress. But so far the people have seen very little of this. The Afghan "parliament" is made up of 240 MPs. According to some sources, 200 of these have their own private armies. So, far from being a representative democratic institution, this parliament is merely a gathering of the men with real power on the ground, those who command the local militias. Meanwhile President Karzai remains in power only thanks to the protection of US troops. Without them he would most likely be a dead man.

The behaviour of US troops is also a contributing factor towards the growing resentment of people towards them. Apparently this latest accident is not a rare occurrence, far from it! Many drivers in Afghanistan can tell stories of how US military vehicles are often driven without any concern for the local people. The other foreign troops apparently are no better.

One taxi driver is reported to have said that, "If American oppression of ordinary people continues this way, we will all have to join the Taliban again to get rid of them." This one comment reveals the depth of the resentment. The regime of the Taliban was a terribly brutal one, but such is the behaviour of the troops of imperialism that now to some people even the Taliban are beginning to appear as a better option.

The "government" has done close to nothing to improve the lives of ordinary Afghanis over the past four years. Instead of things getting better, people feel things are getting worse and this is what lies behind this recent outburst of popular anger. The number of unemployed is growing and there seems to be no prospect of new jobs being created. Starting with the anger at the behaviour of the foreign troops, people have then moved on to express their opposition to the present government.

The behaviour of the Afghan "police" during this latest incident highlights the weakness of the present regime. It underlines the fact that without the foreign troops the government would not last one day. Many of the police actually showed sympathy for the rioters and refused to move against them. In some cases they took off their uniforms and joined the rioters shouting insults against President Hamed Karzai.

Analysts friendly towards the regime are now busy inventing conspiracy theories. According to these, the rioting was not spontaneous, but carefully orchestrated by political forces such as the Jamiat-e-Islami. Whether this is true or not we cannot say. But even if it were true, how do they explain the widespread nature of the rioting? If it was organised, then all we can say is that the organisers tapped into a real mood of resentment among the population. "Death to Karzai" and "Death to America" could be heard as the demonstrations grew in numbers and attempted to move on the US Embassy.

The response of the government was to impose a curfew in Kabul - from ten in the evening until four in the morning - for the first time since the fall of the Taliban. By yesterday morning an apparent "calm" reigned over Kabul as tanks were positioned near the sites of the worst rioting. This calm, however, fools no one and many people are wondering when the next outburst will come.

While this is the situation in Kabul, further afield there is a growing resurgence of Taliban activities. In Southern Afghanistan Taliban attacks on US and other foreign troops are increasing.

Last year was the worst yet for US troops and Taliban attacks are at their highest since 2001, when the Taliban regime was toppled, and already this year 25 US soldiers have died in Afghanistan, small compared to Iraq but growing nonetheless.

The number of Taliban fighters is increasing and in some areas there is growing sympathy for them among the population. What is happening just south of the city of Ghazni, in the Andar district is symptomatic. There real authority in the rural areas has fallen into the hands of the Taliban. Apparently they patrol the area freely, and in the past two years they have managed to re-establish a position where they can easily find sanctuary in the local villages.

Thus in spite of all the bombings and the presence of 20,000 US troops, together with forces from Britain, Canada, Italy, Australia and other countries, imperialism is finding it increasingly difficult to hold down the country. This demonstrates quite clearly that you cannot hold down a people with sheer force of arms. The US army is the most powerful in the world. It has at its disposal the most destructive weapons ever known to humankind, and yet it cannot pacify and "normalise" a small and extremely underdeveloped country such as Afghanistan.

Back in 2001 after the fall of Kabul we published an article, Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul: Is the war over? written by Alan Woods. At the time the media was full of stories about the end of the Taliban. Now Afghanistan would become a stable democracy backed by US and other western troops. It was of course mere propaganda that ignored the real situation inside Afghanistan. Alan Woods wrote the following:

"The swiftness of the collapse of the Taliban's defence, and the ease with which the Northern Alliance entered Kabul, has led many to conclude that the war is over and that the Taliban are finished. This is a serious misreading of the situation..."

And he went on to say:

"The Taliban have lost their grip on power, but not their potential for making war. They are very used to fighting a guerrilla war in the mountains. They did it before and can do it again. In the north, they were fighting in alien and hostile territory. But in the villages and mountains of the Pushtoon area, they are in their own homeland. The prospect opens up of a protracted guerrilla campaign which can go on for years."

The latest news confirms this analysis. Now the problems the US are facing in Afghanistan will be added to those that they are facing in Iraq. All this is having a growing impact on "public opinion" back home in the USA, where the majority of the people are now against the war and would like to see the troops pulled out. The true nature of US military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq is becoming clearer as each day passes. It confirms what Trotsky said about the USA when he referred to the giant with feet of clay. Those feet could crack at any moment revealing the real class contradictions that have developed internationally and within the borders of the United States themselves.

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