Make Afghanistan the war to end all imperialist invasions

Justice for Afghanistan rally, Brisbane, August 22
Justice for Afghanistan rally, Brisbane, August 22. Photo: Alex Bainbridge
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The quick collapse of the puppet government in Afghanistan and its army should not come as a surprise.

US President Donald Trump made a deal with the Taliban in February of last year for a new government and further negotiations were had with Joe Biden’s administration in April. They were a clear signal the US would tolerate the Taliban back in power.

It’s hardly surprising that Afghan National Army soldiers were not prepared to die when such a deal had been made, and to defend a corrupt puppet government which had no mass support.

In region after region, the Taliban negotiated a handover of power. The war lords simply swapped sides from the puppet government to the Taliban while the Afghan army was ordered not to fight.

However, for the mass of people, the Taliban takeover was no liberation. Some street protests have been organised and, all over the country, people have been flying the tricolour flag as a symbol of resistance.

The US occupiers and its media have always described Afghans as people in “need” of the US to “liberate” them. Anti-occupation protests or protests against the war lord government in Afghanistan were ignored.

Despite widespread acknowledgment that Harmid Kazai and Ashraf Ghani’s governments were corrupt, there has been less focus on the fact that they were composed of warlords of the Northern Alliance, propped up by the US. These warlords were brutal as well as corrupt.

The US occupation forces, including Australia’s, have never acknowledged that the war crimes committed in Afghanistan, such as the US drone attacks, helped the Taliban recruit.

Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed. We will never know the true extent of this disaster because counting was never systematic. It was bad at the beginning, and worsened under the Barak Obama administration which relaxed its “rules of engagement” for airstrikes.

The US justified the invasion as part of the “war on terror” to find Osama bin Laden and to liberate the country from the repressive Taliban.

We know now that none of the terrorists who flew into the Twin Towers came from Afghanistan. We also know the US had funded and armed bin Laden and the bloodthirsty Northern Alliance warlords for decades.

In 2001, the lies used to justify the invasion were accepted by a large numbers of people in the invading countries. A significant minority, however, continued to oppose it, including the Socialist Alliance.

That opposition increased over time, especially after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. By 2008, opinion polls showed a majority opposed to the war.

The Revolutionary Afghan Women’s Association put it like this in October 2001: “The continuation of US attacks and the increase in the number of innocent civilian victims not only gives an excuse to the Taliban, but also will cause the empowerment of the fundamentalist forces in the region and even in the world”.

The John Howard-led Coalition, supported by the Beazley-led Labor opposition, invoked the ANZUS Treaty to jump on board the US-NATO invasion. Labor has been shoulder-to-shoulder ever since.

The occupation empowered warlords. In Oruzgan, where the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) were based, warlord Matiullah Khan gained more power as a result of the occupation.

The ADF’s elite Special Air Services regiment has been responsible for horrific war crimes, some of which have been detailed in the Brereton report. Witnesses to these war crimes in Afghanistan have been systematically threatened and intimidated.

The Australian Federal Police are looking into laying charges, but only on lower-level soldiers responsible, not their senior officers.

Governments responsible for Australia’s participation in the 20-year war are complicit in war crimes and should be made to face justice. Those who ordered and organised the cover-up of war crimes should be charged with complicity.

The chaos surrounding the departures of US occupation forces underscores how the invasion and occupation was never about helping people. And now, as Afghans likely to be targeted by the Taliban call for help, the federal government turns a blind eye.

Afghan interpreters and others who helped the ADF and aid organisations have been applying since at least 2013 to be resettled here as refugees.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison now says those wanting refugee status can only apply from within Afghanistan.

Afghans require our support. It has to be multi-faceted.

It means not recognising the Taliban government and showing our solidarity with the emerging resistance movement there.

It means bringing the war criminals who authorised this war to justice.

It means increasing the humanitarian refugee intake by 20,000 and accepting Afghan refugees who have escaped to other countries.

It means granting permanent protection visas to all Afghan refugees already here and in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. It means granting amnesties to all Afghan nationals who fear returning to Afghanistan.

It also means breaking the US-Australia military alliance, including closing down all US military bases and ending joint military exercises, to ensure that Australia can never again embark on such a disastrous occupation.

[Sue Bolton is a member of the Socialist Alliance national executive.]

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