Socialist Worker

Instability in Afghan war grows as the US bombs Pakistan

by Jonathan Neale
Issue No. 2119

The resistance to the occupation of Afghanistan is growing, spreading and winning. In response, a frightened US military is edging closer to war with Pakistan.

To understand why this is happening, we have to go back to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. A strange thing happened. Almost no one fought to defend the Taliban.

But the US’s allies inside Afghanistan would not fight either. By 2001 Afghans had lived through 23 years of first war with the Soviet Union and then civil war. People longed for peace – any peace.

And they expected the US to bring money to their country.

There was almost no resistance to the occupation for three years. Then it began to appear. One reason was that Afghans had expected reconstruction and it didn’t happen.

The money from the US was measly – and much of it went on foreign NGO workers who made between $30,000 and $200,000 a year in a country where the average income per person is less than $300.

The other cause of the resistance was the actions of the Western forces in the Pashtun speaking south and east. They kicked in doors, beat people up and shot them.

Resistance

When the Afghans shot back, the US and their Nato allies called in airstrikes to bomb villages. Then whole communities joined the resistance.

In 2005 the resistance began building, at first in the Pashtun areas. It was a popular uprising, a people in arms. They looked around for national leadership.

The left, the liberals, the secularists and the Islamists from the north of the country were all, in one way or another, working with the occupation.

The only national force that has called for total opposition to the occupation was the Taliban. So the villagers decided they supported them.

About half of Afghans are Pashtuns, as are most Taliban. But from 2007 the resistance has been spreading across the country.

The NGOs produce maps showing their people where it is safe to travel. In 2006 the south and east was unsafe. Now most of the country is unsafe.

The US is worried that the capital Kabul could be cut off.

The resistance now controls two of the three main roads into Kabul. If they can cut the third, the US would have to airlift in enough food to feed two million people a day.

In response, the occupation forces have been escalating bombing of villages. But Hamid Karzai’s Afghan government relies on a level of support inside the country. And its supporters cannot tolerate the current bombing.

Karzai has called for an end to Nato bombing. More importantly, he went to a village near Herat where the warplanes killed 60 children, and sat with the villagers.

The occupation forces cannot stop bombing. It is the only way they know to fight. They cannot tolerate a fair fight, as they would lose it.

And the US military has begun bombing Pakistani villages. The people on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border are mostly Pashtuns. The Pashtuns on the Pakistani side feel sympathy with the Afghan resistance.

In the last few years they have organised what the Pakistani media call “local Taliban” in solidarity.

The Pakistani army responded by invading the traditionally autonomous “tribal” areas along the border to suppress the Pakistani Taliban.

The Taliban killed many hundreds of Pakistani soldiers. Fighting its own people put great stress on the Pakistani army.

This is particularly so because 30 percent of enlisted men and 30 percent of officers in the Pakistani army are Pashtuns.

Earlier this year one unit of 300 men surrendered to the resistance, and other units simply retreated without firing.

Moreover, Pakistani public opinion is heavily opposed to the government’s alliance with the “war on terror”.

The recent elections and the removal of president Pervez Musharraf, the US-backed dictator, mean that the government now has to pay some attention to public opinion.

Border

But the US sees that the Afghan resistance now has safe areas in Pakistan to retreat to, rest and arm, and that they can raid across the border.

Because the US generals are losing in Afghanistan, they are frantic to do something to break the resistance. This increases the risks to the troops. Recently one US unit lost nine men in one day, and a French unit ten men.

They are screaming for more troops. And the US has launched the regular bombing of villages inside Pakistan using unmanned drones.

It has begun sending special forces across the border to attack Pakistani villages.

The US military also say there are now regular firefights along the border between Pakistani army units and US troops.

In one recent fight, US forces called in bombers that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers.

In any normal country, this would count as a declaration of war. The Pakistani army and ruling class are terrified of losing US support. But the generals and the politicians, except the US’s pet President Zadari, have condemned the attacks.

The consequences of a US war with Pakistan would be horrific, so both sides hold back.

It may not come to that. But the rising power of the resistance in Afghanistan is pushing the occupiers towards extreme solutions.

Terrible suffering waits in the wings, certainly for the Afghans, maybe for the Pakistanis.

And for the US and British soldiers sent to the meat grinder? Bring them home.

Jonathan Neale has written a major article on Afghanistan for the forthcoming International Socialism journal. Go to » www.isj.org.uk


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Article information

News
Tue 16 Sep 2008, 18:05 BST
Issue No. 2119
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