Afghanistan and the decline of American empire

Statement by LLA Steering committee 

Many, including many on the left, are lamenting the departure of the Americans from Afghanistan, the longest war (20 years) in American history. 

The Taliban, a reactionary and anti-democratic force, was not a natural growth within Afghan society. It grew out of the mujahideen, creatures of Saudi Arabia and the CIA, spawned to fight against the Russian occupation. Later, primary sources of funding and logistics for the Taliban at the time of 9/11 were Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. 

No doubt, the situation of women in particular will become dramatically worse under the Taliban. But we should remember that the war (and the ensuing occupation) was fought in order to impose a pro-Western government in the region; certainly not in order to liberate women and workers. Real democracy, workers’ rights, women’s liberation – these things cannot be granted ‘from above’, especially not by an invading country. They are won from below. 

Most of the work done on education in Afghanistan has come from charities and NGOs. The spend on education hasn’t come close to a small percentage of the trillion dollars military expenditure on this futile war and was little more than an inexpensive fig-leaf for capitalist profiteering and to reinforce the US’ position as global superpower in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. 

Having destroyed much of Afghanistan’s infrastructure the US ran an astonishingly corrupt process of (re)construction. The US Government’s own reports show how unnecessary and unused projects were built at huge cost and money was siphoned off in all directions, particularly into the coffers of US and other contractors and the pockets of its client governing cliques. It is reported that President Ghani in fleeing the country took with him suitcases full of money – doubtless only a tiny fraction of the bounty removed from the country by him and his collaborators.

Like all the Western interventions of recent years, the outcome and purpose has been western profit born out of the destruction of other people’s lands and lives – and, crucially, an effort to establish, at least for a short time, an imperialist outpost in the region. Such is the history of all the invaded: occupation, exploitation, and eventually some kind of ‘liberation’ once an empire has begun to reach the end of its life, as all empires must.

There have been so many opportunities throughout history to learn this lesson that it seems almost futile to repeat it here: foreign wars only benefit the invader’s ruling classes and those who fight those wars are also their victims.

We do not need to send more troops to Afghanistan, or anywhere else.