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You are here: Platypus /Empty, pro-imperialist rhetoric: A response to Chris Cutrone’s “Afghanistan”

Empty, pro-imperialist rhetoric: A response to Chris Cutrone’s “Afghanistan”

Hari Kumar

Platypus Review 141 | November 2021

PLATYPUS CONSIDERS ITSELF SOCIALIST.[1] Why does it then print pro-imperialist rhetoric and dismiss “New” and “Old” Lefts? It is one thing to say, “Today there are nothing but idiots.”[2] Far more disturbing is the following: “The Left [...] under the shadow of the Cold War and Vietnam, cannot acknowledge let alone recognize properly that the U.S. is not the source but only the central — and indispensable — actor in the politics of global capitalism. Anti-Americanism is a sham;” “The U.S. of all things in global capitalism really is ‘too big to fail.’”[3]

Such extraordinary Left-dressed, theatrical rah-rah — for U.S. imperialism! Cutrone says, “old 20th-century” divisions between imperialist and dependent countries are passé: “there are only First and Third Worlds —and perhaps not even that distinction holds.”[4]

Denying distinctions between imperialist and dependent nations does not unravel Afghanistan events. In contrast, recognizing imperialist dictums to “divide and rule” to empower indigenous stooges does explain history. In semi-colonial countries, nationalists strive for reforms against imperialisms. How did this play out in British India and Afghanistan up to today? Apparently the depressing story bears repetition.

1. Dividing Afghanistan’s Pashtuns by the imposed Durand Line

Migrations made Afghanistan a multinational state at the end of the 19th century. Only nominally independent, it was left as an un-swallowed “buffer” between the Tsarist Russian Empire and the British Empire in India. The “Iron Amir,” Abdur Rahman Khan, summarized the dilemma in 1900: “How can a small power like Afghanistan, which is like a goat between these lions [Britain and Tsarist Russia], or a grain of wheat between two strong millstones of the grinding mill, stand in the midway of the stones without being ground to dust?”[5]

Afghan monarchs from the Durrani tribe of the Pushtun nation attempted to gain nationalist independence to varying degrees. Afghanistan’s eastern boundary was tested by three Anglo-Afghan wars, which were never completely won by the British. Yet Britain was able to impose the 1893 Durand Line on Afghan rulers. This divided the Pashtun and Baluch territories, forcing portions into imperial India. This was to be the seed of Pashtunistani nationalism, threatening later Pakistani leaders — one example of the enduring principle of divide and rule, routinely applied to the Indian “jewel” of the British Empire.

Abdur Rahman Khan during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80)

2. Two sections of indigenous capitalists

National capitalists are indigenous capitalists resisting foreign control. In the early 20th century they derived inspiration from the then anti-imperialist, socialist USSR. Indigenous capitalists faced several problems. First, while they needed workers to effect democratic reforms, they feared the masses. Moreover their countries previously had miniscule working classes anyway, often being peasant-based and “feudal.” Pseudo-socialist programs led by nationalists enabled attacks on tribal and feudal remnants while state resources went to capitalist development. Historically, however, they faced increasing control by imperialism. Sometimes weak nationalists tried joining forces (e.g., the Bandung Non-Aligned movement). Finally, if indigenous capitalists did attain power, they tried to minimize “aid” or strings-debts, often bargaining in imperialist-shopping. Fading British imperialism (especially after Suez), was often out-bidded by one — sometimes both — of the two newer dominant world powers, the U.S. and post-1953 USSR. (The USSR economic basis changed from socialism into capitalism.)[6]

Meanwhile other capitalists found profit in imperialism, becoming business facilitators, compradors, or agents. They often allied with rural landlords. Over time they also increasingly “bargained.” Pakistan escalated this into manipulating the U.S.

3. British divide and rule of imperial India

British imperialists refined the art of transforming dangerous militants into tame compradors. Allan Hume, shrewdly created the Indian Congress Party in 1885 to neutralize democratic Indians: “A safety valve for the escape of great and growing forces generated by our own action, was urgently needed and no more efficacious safety-valve than our Congress movement could possibly be devised.”[7]

After World War II, direct colonial rule was replaced by indirect neo-colonialism.  Sir Stafford Cripps admitted to parliament:

What, then, were the alternatives which faced us? Those alternatives were fundamentally two [...] first, we could attempt to strengthen British control in India [with] [...] a considerable reinforcement of British troops [...] The second alternative was, we could accept the fact that the first alternative was not possible, and make a further attempt to persuade the Indians to come together [...] One thing that was, I think, quite obviously, impossible was to decide to continue our responsibility indefinitely — and, indeed, against our own wishes — into a period when we had not the power to carry it out.[8]

4. Partition of India

In 1933, Chaudhuri Rahmat Ali at Cambridge University, proposed a multinational partitioning of Muslim-majority parts of India into “PAKSTAN”: P (Punjab), A (“Afghanistan,” i.e., the North-West Frontier Province), K (Kashmir), S (Sind), TAN (Balochistan) — this became “Pakistan” (“the Land of Pure”). In 1947, Britain’s direct colonial rule ended with two dominions, India and Pakistan.

The 1947 Partition into “India” and “Pakistan” was not on the basis of ethnicity, but rather religious belief. The Indian Empire was divided between two dominions, creating a permanent tension between them, strengthening continued domination. It led to migrations, refugees, and persecuted minorities.

In 1947, the Durand Line remained the frontier dividing Pashtuns between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Balochistan became an oppressed nation under the dominant Punjabi nation of the state of Pakistan. This lit the long fuse of the “Pashtunistan” national question still burning today.

5. The multinational, feudal character of Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a land-locked, multinational state dominated by the Pashtuns in “a tribal confederation comprising multi-racial groups and nationalities.”[9] Roughly, Pashtuns comprise 40% of those speaking Dari or Pashto (in two factions, Abdali or Durranni Pushtuns (usually the rulers) and Ghilzai Pushtuns). Persian speaking Hazaras (9%) and Tajiks (25%) inhabit the Hindu Kush. Further North, Uzbeks (9%), Turcomans, Kyrgyz, and others speak Turkic languages.

Till the 1980s, Afghanistan was predominantly agricultural with a large nomadic population.  Before the Russian invasion, 88% of the total population of Afghanistan lived in rural areas.[10]

It is thought that in 1975, the population approximated 17 millions, of whom 14% (2.4 million) were in urban areas.[11] In 1966–67, 77% of people were agriculturists, while only 6% were in industry or handicrafts, and 2.2% worked in construction and mines.[12] The predominant mode of production was tribal feudalism with the khan, who was “economic lord and master of peasants, and their unquestioned military, tribal, and administrative leader.”[13]

The khans (Durrani Pushtuns) were installed around 1740.[14] The mullah was a landowning, religious man.[15] Both malik (administrative official) and mir-i-aab (owner of the water) were khan-appointed.[16] Only 12% of land was arable, which was concentrated in a few hands: “In 1978 […] 5% of the landowners were in possession of 45% of all cultivable land. About 83% of owners held between 5–10 acres of largely uneconomic land. [...]  In 1978 there were thirty families in the country whose holding consisted of between 500 and 50,000 acres of agricultural land.”[17]

Crops had five values derived from land, water, labor, capital, and seed.[18] The peasant obtained only one-fifth of the yield; as land, capital, and seed were from landlords, and water from the mir-i-aab. The peasant being of the same tribe as landlord-khans was subject to tribal obligations. Khan, malik, mullah, and mirab made up the village council Jirgah to control rural life. Debts that were often inherited over generations dispossessed small land-parcels. The peasantry became a landless, agricultural proletariat working for payment in kind or cash. Later entry of tractors into villages, further worsened the life of peasants.

Even in 1978 there were 2.5 million nomads. The poorest joined the agricultural workers. But the wealthiest nomads, originally camel traders, became truckers, merchant capitalists, or money lenders. Commercial capital centered on the money bazaars of Kabul and Kandahar, but was initially controlled by Indians.[19]

As late as 1978, most non-state industry was owned by the Pakistani bourgeoisie. National Afghan capitalists centered in traditional trades of fruits and carpets.[20] Nonetheless a small, national-owned industry was started in the 1930s, by the merchant Abdul Majid Zabuli. Despite mullah resistance to usury, Zabuli also established a bank. The government levied customs duties, which was its main revenue stream, engendering close relations with smugglers.

6. Early governments attempt to modernize but are obstructed by mullahs

Amir Abdur Rahman began a slow centralization, without interfering with Islamic tribal structures. In contrast King Amunullah (1919–29) tried modernizing Afghanistan, and banning the purdah (veil). Religious opposition overthrew him: “[Following] Kemalism [in] Turkey [...] [he] promoted Western education, equality of the sexes, Western law not Islamic, agricultural modernization [...] religious and tribal leaders denounced these reforms as un-lslamic [...] Massive revolts in the countryside overthrew Amanullah in 1929.”[21]

King Nadir Shah’s short reign (1931–33) accommodated rural conservatism. The Loya Jirgah consisted of a reactionary monarchy allied to landowning chiefs and mullahs. All gains of women were repealed. Pushtu was declared the national language.[22]

After Nadir’s assassination, King Zahir Shah’s reign continued as “stagnation.”[23] Notwithstanding intentions, by 1947 a liberal movement began in the “Awakened Youth” (Wikh-i Zalmaiyan) movement. In relatively free elections in 1949 they had success, but were suppressed in 1953.[24]

But pressure to modernize was building. The first U.S. contracts developed the Helmand River project. Increasingly, traders became thwarted by Pakistani blocks on trade routes. This spurred aid from the USSR for “an alternative trading outlet to break the country’s previous dependence on trade via Pakistan. In 1950, the Soviet Union and Afghanistan signed a new trade agreement; over the next five years, trade between the two countries rose by 50 per cent, with the Soviet Union taking a fifth of Afghanistan’s exports. In 1961, another crisis year, 55 per cent of Afghan trade was with or through the Soviet Union.”[25]

In 1954 a $3.5 million loan, and in 1955 loans of $100 million ensured the revisionist USSR became the dominant ally.[26]Meanwhile Pakistan had joined the U.S.-run Baghdad Pact. By 1965, new elections were called. At Soviet revisionist urging, a united People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) won three of five Kabul seats.[27]

7. Who was the PDPA?

The PDPA was formed in 1965, by middle-class intelligentsia, civil servants, and teachers. But even this progressive movement contained tribal-based divisions. Nur Mohammed Taraki, a low-ranking civil servant and Hafizullah Amin, a teacher, organized the “Khalq” (people) faction.[28] Babrak Karmal,  a member of the Durrani Pashtun aristocracy, had close links to the monarchy. With Mir Akbar Khyber of the Military Academy, they formed the “Parcham” (flag) faction. These factions represented distinct strata:

Parchamites came from Persian-influenced, urban, upper-class backgrounds. Since many had family ties with the ruling elite, the Khalqis branded them the “Royal Communist Party.” [They] spoke Dari, and were culturally isolated from Pushtun tribal life. By contrast, Khalqis represented the rising, newly educated, lower-middle-class Pushtuns from small towns and rural areas who wanted Pushtun influence to be dominant but also favored reclaiming lost territories.[29]

The Khalq openly called for a “national united front of patriotic, democratic progressive forces” including the “national bourgeois.” To carry the masses it called for the “primary objective of creating a socialist society.”[30]

But their real ambition was revealed in talking to American diplomats: “On 14 March 1965, Taraki described the party as a left of center political party: ‘designed primarily to assist the middle class, to elevate the lower ranks of the population, and to obtain assistance from the wealthier elements for this purpose. [...] slightly left of center [...] to pre-empt [...] Daud who [...] talks of his fondness for ‘socialism.’”[31] Even so, this was more progressive than Parcham who wanted to “assure the king that we are not Communists.”[32]

The Khalq represented the interests of the working class, peasantry, and the national capitalist class. But it was dominated by the national capitalist class. Parcham represented the interest of the feudal and monarchist landowners. However, both factions were supported by the USSR revisionists against Daoud.[33]

8. The Daoud Coup ties itself to the USA, though allowing some modernization

In 1973, Prime Minister Daoud led a military coup against his cousin King Zahir. This signalled new modernization. Daoud called for support from the revisionist USSR, who had trained his officers.[34]  The Parcham wing of Karmal joined Daoud’s coalition government at Moscow’s behest. The Khalqis of Taraki and Amin deemed Daoud policies “too conservative.”[35]

Indeed, Daoud retreated on several fronts. While proposing new land reforms, he never enacted them. This happened despite “urban-based land speculators” entering rural areas who “diluted the influence of the feudal landowners.”[36] Daoud’s original objection to Zahir’s U.S. and Iranian sponsorship was dropped: “Daoud was a militant nationalist who believed that the King had betrayed Afghan interests by agreeing to a treaty giving Iran access to waters of the Helmand River.”[37]

Daoud had previously argued for an independent “Pashtunistan”: “Daoud had long spearheaded Afghan irredentist demands for an independent, Afghan-linked "Pashtunistan" and […] a Baluch state linking Baluch areas in Pakistan and Iran with Afghanistan.”[38]

Daoud went West. Enter the Shah of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Henry Kissinger.[39] This led to a $2 billion “aid” package, Savak agents thrown in gratis. This was the first entry of Wahhabi fundamentalism in Afghanistan:

Iran [...] replace[d] the USSR as Kabul's biggest aid donor, and a projected rail and highway network linking Afghanistan to Persian Gulf ports would have canceled out Afghan dependence on Soviet trade and transport outlets [...] The Shah’s intelligence agency, Savak [...] and the CIA worked [...] with underground Afghan Islamic fundamentalist groups [...] [and] Ikhwan ul-Musulmeen (Muslim Brotherhood) and the Rabitat-al-Alam-al-Islami (Muslim World League) Saudi Wahabi orthodoxy [...] Savak channeled U.S. weapons, communications equipment, and paramilitary aid to anti-Daoud groups.[40]

Pakistan, Savak, the CIA, and covert fundamentalists launched abortive, anti-Daoud coup attempts in 1973 and 1974.[41] Nonetheless, by 1974, Daoud was firmly tied to the U.S. He purged Moscow supporters, ruptured relations with PDPA, and ratified a treaty to share Helmand waters with Iran, for which he had previously castigated King Zahir. He reneged on calls for “Pashtunistan.”[42] The 1974 economic agreement between Daoud and the Shah of Iran, moved Afghanistan away from its dependence on the Soviet Union.[43]

9. The 1978 Saur (Taurus) Revolution

Absent a mass workers movement, the Khalq led an anti-Daoud coup with military allies. Led by the national capitalist class, from weakness it was forced to ally with pro-USSR Parchamite compradors. Nonetheless it displaced Durrani Pashtuns by Ghilzai Pashtuns for the first time. Taraki’s government included Karmal and Amin.

The program of national democratic reforms attacked feudalism and illiteracy. Decree No. 6 targeted rural mortgages-debts; No.7 marriage and bride-prices; No.8 land tenure.[44] But despite “only 2.2% of landowners holding 42% of land,”Afghan peasants opposed land reform.[45] Why? Feudal conservatism was fervently organized by Pakistan and the U.S. to destabilize the government. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brezhniski’s adopted the policy “Sowing shit — in Russia’s backyard.”[46] This was when pro-U.S., comprador fundamentalists (Buhanuddin Rabbani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyr) emerged.[47] We will see them later.

As Taraki stalled, Amin pushed on but was deemed by Moscow too independent:  “Karmal and the Parchamites (were) ‘more reasonable, more willing to listen’ [...] The Khalqis were ‘too radical, too headstrong, too unpredictable.’”[48]

While pro-Brehznevite Russians portray Amin as a pro-U.S. tool, he merely insisted upon Afghani independence: “in friendship with all countries and utilisation of economic assistance rendered [...] with no regard to the socio-economic system of the aid-giving country, provided aid is unconditional and with the principle of non-interference in the affairs of one another and respect to national independence;” “No Soviet military bases will be built in Afghanistan because we do not need them.”[49]

That was not enough for Russia. Selig Harrison wrote of Amin, “I found him a formidable strongly nationalistic figure clearly not prepared to play the role of supine puppet. His confident attitude [...] was that he knew how to handle the Russians, who needed him.”[50]

Amin overplayed his hand. Yuri Andropov, Boris Ponomarev, and Dmitriy Ustinov ordered Russian troop invasion. Amin was killed, and compliant Parcham puppets were empowered: first Karmal, later Muhammed Najibullah. By 1984, 150,000 USSR troops and 10,000 non-military “advisers” occupied Afghanistan. Afghan National resistance grew into the National Islamic Front in 1979,[51] comprising seven groups, including the “Afghan Arabs” of Osama bin Laden. From the start it was largely controlled by Pakistan and the U.S. The U.S. initially invested $625 million.[52] Appalling troop losses forced Russian retreat in 1988. But only after 3–5 million refugees flooded Pakistan and Iran,[53] leaving 15,000 Russian dead (but uncounted Afghan dead) and costing Russia $5 billion per year.[54]

After the 1988 Geneva Accords established a cease-fire, the stooge Najibullah lasted three years despite unrelenting attacks. By now only an utterly destroyed rural and urban infra-structure remained.[55] Former khans were now dependent warlords: “competing leaders dependent on opposing politically motivated military assistance; population subsistent on politically motivated humanitarian aid; destruction of the rural subsistence economy [...] flight of millions of mainly rural refugees to camps and cities in Pakistan and Iran; creation of refugee-warrior communities.”[56]

10. From Mujahadeen Civil War to Taliban Regime to U.S. comprador regimes of Hamid Karzai to chaotic exit

Mujahadeen factions escalated rivalries into open civil war, fueled by Pakistani secret services ISI and CIA. Revenues, ethnic, tribal, and religious affiliations drove rivalry. Pakistan and its U.S. paymasters favored Pashtun Hikmetyar over Ahmed Shah Masud, a Tajik. Pakistan wanted to secure “Durand” borders against Pushtun separatism, and build a Kashmiri mujahideen against India. Cash stakes were enormous, excluding extras like “Stinger” missiles: “Congress secretly allocated $470 million for Afghan covert action in 1986 [...] upped to $630 million in 1987, with matching funds from Saudi Arabia. [...] A regional commander drew a CIA retainer of $20,000-$30,000 a month [...] more influential leaders $50,000 a month.”[57]

Revenues from arms, foreign relief aid, opium, smuggling, and money-laundering were invested overseas.[58] The ISI formalized transnational trade in transport, smuggling, and opioids, linking Pakistan, Asia, Gulf-states, and Iran.

But recruits were needed. Jamiat-e-Ulema Islami (JUI), led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, ran religious schools for impoverished students. By 1988, over half a million students were in 8,000 registered and 25,000 unregistered madrassas, all funded by Pakistan (both Zia ul Haq and Benazir Bhutto), Saudi Arabia, and the U.S.[59]Students were drafted as Mujahideen, watching as commanders become corrupt warlords.[60]

Factionalism hampered the anti-Najibullah war. New government appeared imminent. The 1992 Peshawar Accords attempted unity, making a Tajik, Burhanuddin Rabbani president and Pashtun Hikmetyar PM. Urged by Pakistan, Hikmetyar demanded sole power. Ultimately Kabul fell to Masud’s Tajiks and Uzbeks (under General Dostum). Hikmetyar shelled Kabul “mercilessly.”[61]

By 1994, disillusioned ascetic students formed “Taliban” (Talib: seeking knowledge). Led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, dominated by Bin Laden’s Wahhabis, they allied with Hikmetyar. Weary ex-Mujahideen joined. Saudi wealth helped form the 1996 Taliban “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” under Sharia law. Masud’s forces now retreated to regroup as the “Northern Alliance” of Tajiks, Uzbeks, and minorities. 

But after the 9/11 Wahhabi terrorist airplane attacks on New York, the U.S. launched open war. Carpet-bombing created high civilian casualties (“Collateral damage,” said Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld).  The Taliban was overthrown with a “light footprint,” CIA and Special Forces coordinating the “Northern Alliance.”[62]

Any surrender of the Taliban to Interim President Karzai in 2001 was rejected by Rumsfeld: “The Taliban were completely defeated. [...] Karzai envisioned surrender keeping militants from playing significant role [...] But ‘The US is not inclined to negotiate surrenders,’ Rumsfeld said [...] ‘Omar captured or dead.’”[63]

Under UN cover, a comprador government for the U.S. headed by Karzai, was installed. International forces included “the first NATO military operation outside Europe.”[64] Many pro-U.S. warlords were brought back by the CIA for infrastructure support.[65]

Taliban (Pashtun) regrouped, resisting Hamid Karzai: “Karzai’s regime empowered three groups, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. [...] Tajiks who constitute only 27% of the Afghan population, still make up 70% of officers in the Afghan army. Although Karzai himself is a Pashtun, many fellow tribesmen view his presence as mere window-dressing for a U.S.-devised realignment of long-established power relations in the country, dating back to 2001 when the U.S. toppled the overwhelmingly Pashtun Taliban.”[66]

Allied forces contended with corrupt Afghan army leadership. The U.S. began undermining Karzai, but he tried to negotiate a truce. The Taliban was trying not to be purely Pashtun, and the truce “resonated with many Afghans."[67]However, occupying forces continued killing. Obama oversaw 542 drone strikes and an estimated 3,797 deaths, including 324 civilians. “Obama told aides: ‘Turns out I’m really good at killing people. Didn’t know that was gonna be a strong suit of mine.’”[68] Karzai gave way to Ashraf Ghani. Unsurprisingly both men and women in the countryside detested the U.S. and NATO forces who killed indiscriminately.[69]

Obama gave way to Trump, who gave way to Biden. All wanted cheaper means to control Afghanistan than paying the blood-price of occupation. They would leave it to Pakistan to guard U.S. interests. Hence imperialism’s “exit” fiasco.

Preliminary balance sheets are grim: “2,500 Americans had died fighting on Afghan soil, along with almost 1,000 troops from allies like Britain and Canada.”[70] But “the toll for Afghans has been far higher: At least 240,000 Afghans have died [...] many civilians [...] [By] estimates, American taxpayers had spent two trillion dollars.”[71]

The Taliban government is led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Sirajuddin Haqqani (son of Jalaluddin Haqqani) is interior minister. The Haqqani allied to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

11. What comes next?

In the immediate term imperialists serve pablum: “Foreign Minister Wang to Blinken: China stood ready to work with US ‘for a soft landing.’”[72]

Nonetheless, imperial selfish interests demand, at minimum, material assets. Several new factors demand analysis, including perhaps these.

First, despite drastic humiliation, comprehensive calculations still place the U.S. as imperialist nation No.1, though challenged by China.[73] The EU will develop its own military force, also indicating the U.S. weakening. Similarly there are strong trading linkages between Germany to China and Russia.[74]

Secondly, China has interests in Afghanistan: “to ensure Islamic extremism in Afghanistan does not spread to China’s Xinjiang region.”[75] “Close to home along the Af-Pak frontier [...]  The Turkestan Islamic Party is believed to be the successor to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.”[76]

Afghanistan is likely the beggar: “In 2018, 80% of Afghanistan's $11bn public expenditure came from donors [...] Even during Obama years, Washington encouraged China to invest in the Aynak copper mine because of the scale of revenue it could provide to Afghanistan.”[77]

Moreover: “China’s long-term strategic investment [includes] the Belt-and-Road Initiative [...] If extended from Pakistan to Afghanistan [...] it would open up a shorter land route to markets in the Middle East. [...] Kabul [makes] India’s resistance to joining less consequential.”[78]

Thirdly, there are important resources at stake. Even in 2002,oil lines across Afghanistan borders were enticing: “Oil and gas-rich Central Asian states, in particular Turkmenistan, saw Afghanistan as a possible pipeline route to connect to world markets.”[79]

Now other lucrative assets have been discovered: “Afghanistan rests upon vast mineral and energy reserves, which the US Geological Survey values at $1 trillion and the Afghanistan Minister of Mines values at about $3 trillion [...] total amount of Chinese investment in Afghanistan reached $521 million and construction contracts reached $899 million by the end of June 2016.”[80] “Afghanistan has what China most prizes: opportunities in infrastructure and industry building [...] and access to $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits, including critical industrial metals such as lithium, iron, copper and cobalt.”[81]

Finally, Pakistan was irked by statements from Karzai and the Taliban on Pashtunistan, rejecting the “Durand Line”: “The Karzai government [and] insurgent groups operating in both states including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqanis in Pakistan do not recognise the legality of the border.”[82]

Complicating matters is the anti-Pakistani Tahafuz movement developed in Pakistani-held tribal lands: “The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (Pashtun Protection Movement) [...] demanded an end to atrocities by Pakistan army and police in the Tribal Areas [...] A huge number of young Pashtuns [were] killed and abducted [...] labelled as terrorists for Pakistani Taliban [...] feared as supporters of Afghanistan's Greater Pashtunistan.”[83]

12. To Conclude

Cutrone seems to think the U.S. “will be missed”: “One thing is certain: The U.S. served as well as checked all [powers] in Afghanistan and was thus both welcome and unwelcome there to all. The U.S. will be missed.”[84]

He concludes incorrectly: “There is no new Cold War between the U.S. and China nor is there an inter-imperialist rivalry between them.”[85]

Marxists in both Afghanistan and the West wishing to assist peoples of colonial-type countries should support breaking away from imperialist sway, while simultaneously creating independent Marxist movements moving to socialism away from nationalism. Obfuscating U.S. imperialism’s power — or any other imperialism including China — can only serve reactionary ends.


[1] Parts of this article also appear in Hari Kumar, “Afghanistan, feudal reaction and imperialism — a battle continues,” The Left Berlin, September 27, 2021, available online at <https://www.theleftberlin.com/afghanistan-feudal-reaction-and-imperialism-a-battle-continues/>.

[2] Chris Cutrone, “Afghanistan: After 20 and 40 years,” Platypus Review 139 (September 2021), available online at <https://platypus1917.org/2021/09/02/afghanistan-after-20-and-40-years/>.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Louis Dupree, Afghanistan (Princeton: Princeton University Press,1973), 415.

[6] Cf. W. B. Bland, Restoration of Capitalism in the Soviet Union (1980), available online at <http://www.oneparty.co.uk/html/book/ussrmenu.html>.

[7] William Wedderburn, Alan Octavian Hume, C. B.: Father of the Indian National Congress, 1829–1912 (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1913), 77.

[8] Hansard HC Deb. vol. 434, cols. 503–504, March 5, 1947, available online at <https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1947-03-05/debates/df7d9662-ea67-452a-8469-59adeff76e71/India(GovernmentPolicy)>.

[9] Raja Anwar, Tragedy of Afghanistan (London: Verso, 1988), 125–35.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Fred Halliday, “Revolution In Afghanistan,” New Left Review 112 (Nov/Dec 1978): 4–44.

[12] Dupree, Afghanistan, 146–47, 164–66.

[13] Anwar, Tragedy of Afghanistan.

[14] Halliday, “Revolution in Afghanistan.”

[15] Beverley Male, Revolutionary Afghanistan: A Reappraisal (London: Palgrave, 1982), 65–70.

[16] David Gibbs, “The peasant as counter-revolutionary: The rural origins of the Afghan insurgency,” Studies in Comparative International Development 21, no. 1 (1986): 36–59.

[17] Anwar, “Tragedy of Afghanistan.”

[18] Cf. Anwar, Dupree, Male, op.cit.

[19] Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 82.

[20] Anwar, “Tragedy of Afghanistan.”

[21] Gibbs, “The peasant as counter-revolutionary.”

[22] Cf. Halliday, “Revolution in Afghanistan” and Gibbs, “The peasant.”

[23] Halliday, “Revolution in Afghanistan.”

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Diego Cordovez and Selig S. Harrison, Out of Afghanistan: The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 15.

[28] Male, Revolutionary Afghanistan, 21.

[29] Cordovez and Harrison, Out of Afghanistan, 18–19.

[30] Male, Revolutionary Afghanistan, 42–44.

[31] US Embassy memo, cited; Faridullah Bezhan, “Parties Afghanistan, 1964–73,” Iranian Studies 46 (2013): 921–41.

[32] Male, Revolutionary Afghanistan, 21.

[33] Fred Halliday and Zahir Tanin, “The Communist Regime in Afghanistan 1978–1992: Institutions and Conflicts,” Europe-Asia Studies 50, no. 8 (1998): 1357.

[34] Gibbs, “The peasant as counter-revolutionary.”

[35] Ibid.

[36] Male, Revolutionary Afghanistan.

[37] Cordovez and Harrison, Out of Afghanistan, 14.

[38] Ibid., 14–17.

[39] Gibbs, “The peasant as counter-revolutionary.”

[40] Cordovez and Harrison, Out of Afghanistan, 14.

[41] Male, Revolutionary Afghanistan.

[42] Cordovez and Harrison, Out of Afghanistan, 14.

[43] Male, Revolutionary Afghanistan.

[44] Ibid. See also Halliday and Tanin, “The Communist Regime.”

[45] Gibbs, “The peasant as counter-revolutionary.”

[46] Male, Revolutionary Afghanistan, 148.

[47] Ibid., 110, 124, 171–74, 184.

[48] Cordovez and Harrison, Out of Afghanistan, 18–19.

[49] Male, Revolutionary Afghanistan, 110, 124, 171–74, 184.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ahmed Rashid, Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam In Central Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 2.

[52] Anwar, “Tragedy of Afghanistan,” 223–32.

[53] Thomas Barfield, The War for Afghanistan: A Very Brief History (Princeton: Princeton Shorts, 2012), 8.

[54] Fred Halliday, “A Cold War tragedy in Afghanistan that the world forgot,” Irish Times, May 5, 1996.

[55] Barfield, The War for Afghanistan.

[56] Barnett Rubin, “The Political Economy of War and Peace in Afghanistan,” World Development 28, no. 10 (2000): 1789–1803.

[57] Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), 151.

[58] Rubin, “The Political Economy of War.”

[59] Rashid, Taliban, 89.

[60] Anand Gopal, “The Other Afghan Women: Rural Areas Hope Taliban Rule Will End Decades of U.S. & Warlord Violence,” Democracy Now, September 16, 2021, available online at <https://www.democracynow.org/2021/9/16/anand_gopal_afghanistan_womens_rights>.

[61] Rashid, Taliban, 117–27.

[62] Barnett R. Rubin, “Saving Afghanistan,” Foreign Affairs 86, no. 1 (January 2007): 57–78.

[63] Alissa J. Rubin, “Did the War in Afghanistan Have to Happen?,” New York Times, August 23, 2021.

[64] Rashid, Taliban, 89.

[65] Anand Gopal, “The Other Afghan Women,” The New Yorker, September 6, 2021.

[66] William Dalrymple, “A Deadly Triangle: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India,” The Brookings Essay, June 25, 2013, available online at <http://csweb.brookings.edu/content/research/essays/2013/deadly-triangle-afghanistan-pakistan-india-c.html#>.

[67] Ahmed Rashid, “How Obama Lost Karzai,” Foreign Policy (March 2011): 71–76. See also Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neele, “Afghanistan: The End of the Occupation,” Solidarity, August 19, 2021, available online at <https://solidarity-us.org/afghanistan-the-end-of-the-occupation/>; and Gopal, “The Other Afghan Women,” The New Yorker.

[68] Micah Zenko, “Obama’s Final Drone Strike Data,” Council of Foreign Relations, January 20, 2017, available online at <https://www.cfr.org/blog/obamas-final-drone-strike-data>.

[69] Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale ,”Afghanistan: The end of occupation,” Mondoweiss, August 20, 2021, available online at <https://mondoweiss.net/2021/08/afghanistan-the-end-of-the-occupation/>. See also Gopal, “The Other Afghan Women,” The New Yorker.

[70] Gopal, “The Other Afghan Women,” Democracy Now.

[71] Rubin, “Did the War in Afghanistan Have to Happen?”

[72] Zhou Bo, “In Afghanistan, China Is Ready to Step Into the Void,” New York Times, August 20, 2021.

[73] Tony Norfield, “World Power,” Economics of Imperialism, September 14, 2021, available online at <https://economicsofimperialism.blogspot.com/2021/09/world-power.html>.

[74] Hari Kumar, “An Initial Assessment of Angela Merkel’s Legacy,” The Berlin Left, July 25, 2021, available at <https://www.theleftberlin.com/an-initial-assessment-of-angela-merkels-legacy/>.

[75] Azeta Hatef and L. R. Luqiu, “Where does Afghanistan fit in China’s grand project?: A content analysis of Afghan and Chinese news coverage of the One Belt, One Road initiative,” International Communication Gazette 80, no. 6 (2018): 551–69.

[76] Michael Clarke, “‘One Belt, One Road’ and China’s Emerging Afghanistan Dilemma,” Australian Journal Of International Affairs 70, no. 5 (2016): 563–79.

[77] Vincent Ni, “China will tread carefully in navigating the Taliban's return,” The Guardian, August 17, 2021.

[78] Hatef and Luqiu, “Where does Afghanistan fit.”

[79] Hari Kumar, “The Afghanistan War of 2002 – Legacy of USA Imperialism and Social-Imperialism,” Alliance 45 (2002), republished by Marxist-Leninist Currents Today, August 21, 2021, available online at <http://ml-today.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/afghanistan-war-2002.pdf>.

[80] Hatef and Luqiu, “Where does Afghanistan fit.”

[81] Bo, “In Afghanistan, China is Ready.”

[82] Amina Khan, “Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations: Post 2014 Challenges,” Strategic Studies 34, no. 2/3 (2015): 20–46.

[83] Pravesh K. Gupta, “Pashtunistan Factor In Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations,” Himalayan 23, no. 3/4  (2019): 96–123.

[84] Cutrone, “Afghanistan.”

[85] Ibid.