When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, CIA officer Milton Bearden warned it could “end up on the ash heap of Afghan history”.
More than 18 years of death and destruction later, Donald Trump has been forced to all but admit the US can’t win.
Trump and the Taliban resistance group signed a “peace deal” last weekend. This would see the withdrawal of the US, British and other Nato troops within 14 months, a huge blow to US imperialism in the region.
The deal could fall apart. The Afghan government, installed after the 2001 invasion, could move to block it.
And the Taliban has said it will not “de-escalate violence” unless thousands of its supporters are released from prison.
The US invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, saying it wanted to root out Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida group.
Liberal pundits claimed the invasion would bring women’s liberation and “nation building”. In reality, it was part of a bigger attempt to assert US dominance in the Middle East and the world.
The US and its allies have killed at least 175,000 Afghans and spent nearly £800 billion. But its puppet government controls less than half the country. Trump may hope a deal will boost his election chances. But it reveals the shattering failure of the invasion.
Afghanistan has been a battleground of imperialism—a global system of competing states—for decades.
During the Cold War of 1945-91, the US and Stalinist Russia competed to dominate the world. Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up a deeply unpopular Communist dictatorship. A hugely impressive resistance movement, known as the Mujahedeen, ground down its occupation.
The Mujahedeen forced Russia to withdraw in 1989, but the country collapsed into civil war.
The US and Pakistani ISI spook service oversaw the setting up of the Taliban in 1994. They hoped it could restore order and allow them to run an oil pipeline through central Asia, bypassing Russia and Iran.
The US used 9/11 as another chance to assert its interests. The brutality of its occupation led to growing resistance.
The Taliban positioned itself at the head of this and won the allegiance of various local groups.
Over 775,000 US troops have been deployed to Afghanistan at least once—but they have failed to crush the resistance.
The only hope for ordinary people in Afghanistan is for workers and the poor to take control from the warlords, landowners and occupiers. And that means kicking imperialist powers out of the country.