30th August 2021
The 9/11 attacks which shook the United States in 2001 were swiftly followed by President George W Bush’s announcement of a ‘war on terror’ in response to those attacks. In his speech to Congress on 20th September 2001 Bush stated,
“Our war on terror begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
Five days later Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, announced that the anti-terror campaign would be Operation Enduring Freedom, claiming that it would take years to fight.
The US response was clearly designed to reinforce the imperialist superpower’s assumption that it had carte blanche to pursue action across the globe, wherever its ‘interests’ were deemed to be under threat. Air strikes in October 2001 in Afghanistan were quickly followed by the deployment of ground forces by the US and its NATO allies. By December the final Taliban stronghold of Kandahar had fallen and the twenty year long occupation by the US led coalition was underway.
NATO leaders are keen to stress that the occupation was worth it, that getting rid of the Taliban in 2001 put an end to terrorist attacks being launched from Afghan soil and gave breathing space for the development of democracy in Afghanistan. Much noise is generated about the extent to which the US occupation allowed for the development of freedom for women in Afghanistan, allowing them to access education, training and employment.
As British troops finally departed Kabul over the weekend British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said it was,
“…a moment to reflect on everything we have sacrificed and everything we have achieved in the last two decades. Twenty years ago, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the first British soldier set foot on Afghan soil aiming to create a brighter future for the country and all its people. The nature of our engagement in Afghanistan may have changed, but our goals for the country have not.”
Nearly 500 British service personnel have sacrificed their lives to maintain an imperialist grip on Afghanistan. After twenty years in defence of a puppet regime, outside intervention has achieved the return of the Taliban.
The brighter future for Afghanistan was already being developed by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), in power from 1978 until 1992, when the country was plunged into civil war because the West, through the CIA, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, armed Islamic insurgents to do everything in their power to prevent the Afghan people embarking on a road to socialism.
That road emphasised equality for women, including the right to education, training and employment, all of which were snatched away when the Taliban assumed power in 1996. Quite how the nature of the West’s engagement will change from 2021 onwards is not yet clear but in the past 40 years it has moved from arming insurgents, to undermining a popular government, watching the country descend into civil war, occupation to sustain a puppet administration, troop withdrawal, chaos and the return of fundamentalist Islam.
To suggest that Western intervention has been a disaster for the Afghan people would be an understatement.
The imperialist ‘war on terror’ did not end with Afghanistan. In March 2003 the US and NATO allies invaded Iraq, on the dodgy intelligence pretext that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Presumably these alleged weapons would be targeted against the West, hence the pretext for invasion. The fact that the West had encouraged and armed Saddam in his eight year long war with Iran from 1980-1988, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, appears to have been a mere footnote for Western hawks, keen to re-establish control over the oil rich Iraqi economy.
In 2011 NATO coalition air strikes against Libya precipitated the fall of the Qaddafi government and accelerated the civil war in that country. Protests against the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria in 2011 escalated into a full scale war of intervention as the US and UK provided logistical support and weaponry to opposition groups. US and UK missiles have been instrumental in supporting the Saudi led coalition against Houthi rebels in Yemen resulting in over 100,000 dead since 2015.
Western destabilisation of the region facilitated the Islamic State group to gain control of large areas of Iraq and Syria for a period from 2015 – 2019, effectively brought to an end when the Syrians invited Russian support to repel those intervening in Syria.
The ongoing encroachment of the Israeli state upon land recognised by the international community as being part of Palestine, along with the ongoing suppression of the rights of the Palestinian people, the blockade of Gaza and a regime of daily terror, are actions facilitated or not actively opposed by the West.
To suggest that Western intervention has been a disaster for the people of Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Palestine, would be an understatement.
As the West extricates its forces from the disaster of Afghanistan the question being asked by NATO apologists is, did intervention make any difference? The answer to that question must be decisively in the affirmative. Western intervention in Afghanistan over the past forty years has definitely undermined progressive regimes, it has definitely destabilised the Middle East, definitely fuelled the rise of al-Qaeda, Taliban and the Islamic State.
As the Taliban struggle to reassert control in the face of the imperialist retreat, the ongoing battle for Afghanistan will be joined with Islamic State in Khorasan, already responsible for the murder of civilians at Kabul airport as well as the killing of US troops. In effect the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan has every chance of leaving behind a bloodbath.
Imperialist intervention has made its mark on the region; the so called ‘war on terror’ has in effect resulted in more war, more terror. Boris Johnson may speak glibly about a ‘brighter future’ for the Afghan people but imperialist action over the past forty years has been explicitly designed to snuff that out, as it has for people’s across the Middle East.
For those looking to support the cause of peace and progress across the region opposition to war, foreign intervention and the right of nations to self determination must be the guiding principles. The humanitarian disaster of Afghanistan must be addressed, the rights of the Palestinian people must be addressed, the ongoing refugee crisis as a result of intervention in Syria must be addressed and mass united action must be built to demand an end to imperialist wars of intervention.