The Taliban in power and after…- K. Murali (Ajith)

The hasty withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan, abandoning the Ashraf Ghani puppet regime to its fate, was a heavy defeat for US imperialism. Despite pouring in troops and billions of dollars and occupying that country for twenty years, it failed in its objectives. The scenes at its embassy were seemingly similar to those seen some fifty years ago in Saigon (presently Ho Chi Minh City) – desperate measures to destroy evidence of its brutal occupation and the even more desperate attempts of its collaborators to get on its evacuation planes. Afghanistan once again drives in the lesson given by Mao Zedong – “Imperialism is a paper tiger.” But there was a crucial and qualitative difference. Back in 1975, the city was being taken by a revolutionary army, driving out the imperialists and their collaborators from Vietnam and bringing a war of liberation to its victorious conclusion. In August 2021, the Taliban entered Kabul to setup a reactionary, comprador, regime. Hence, not just US collaborators, many others too, fearing the Taliban’s theocratic dictatorship, were trying to get out of the country.

Earlier on Maoists in Afghanistan had predicted that “…kicking out the occupying forces through Talibanite armed resistance is a defective, partial, and inconsistent armed resistance and finally must come to a conclusion through compromise between the two.” That is exactly what happened. The Taliban took over the country with the implicit acquiescence of the US. US officials are now claiming that they never expected such a rapid rout of the Ghani government’s army. There is talk about a failure of intelligence. That is arguable. The corruption and incompetence of the puppet army was widely noted and commented upon quite earlier itself. A steady build up in the pace of surrenders and capitulation to the Taliban was also quite evident. It wouldn’t have taken much intelligence to assume a quick and total collapse once US support was withdrawn. Though the final withdrawal began with Biden’s announcement of a date, the course was already set with Trump’s declaration of intent and the ensuing talks between the US and Taliban representatives in Doha. The very fact that the Ghani regime was kept away from those talks, almost till its conclusion, was indicative of things to come. Perhaps the US may have counted on the Taliban needing to negotiate with local power centres on their way to Kabul and assumed that this would give it time for an ‘orderly’ exit. That didn’t happen in any significant manner. Except for a tiny minority, local feudal warlords quickly switched allegiance. If anything, what the US failed to gauge was the extent of anger and disgust against it and its puppets. But then, blinded by its imperialist arrogance, it has always failed in this,.

Other than the dead-end it’s occupation was facing, the decision of the US to withdraw from Afghanistan was also prompted by increasing contention with China. It is readjusting its diplomatic and military deployment all over the world in order to focus on this. And in this context, an attempt to gain something from a bad ending may actually underlie the ‘disorderly and hasty’ withdrawal seen there. It is interesting to note that a high level summit of China, Pakistan and the puppet Ghani government, held just a couple of months back, was insisting that the withdrawal of foreign forces should adhere to a ‘systematic and responsible’ process. This was to ensure that the situation would not be utilised by ‘terrorist’ forces. The exact opposite has been delivered by the US. Was this wholly unintended?

The present Taliban regime is a theocratic dictatorship, just like its previous avatar. But the economy is in shambles and the new government is in desperate need of foreign support. It will be caught between this compulsion and its theocratic stance. An attempt to present a less rigid facade, to admit some easing of orthodox religious norms, to develop a working relation with leading imperialist powers and other countries, is already seen. It is still not clear whether this is unified policy or the thinking of a faction within it. Whatever it may be, the world situation and that within the country will not allow it to duplicate its past record. But, unlike in the past, there is now a rival armed theocratic force: the Islamic State – Khorasan (ISIS-K). The more the Taliban regime compromises with imperialist forces, the more it will become the target of ISIS-K propaganda accusing it of betraying the ‘faithful’. Whatever grudging acceptance its claim to legitimacy as a patriotic force had among the masses will also dissipate as its comprador nature gets revealed. Besides, it is not as unified as it was in the past. This means that its ability to exercise centralised rule will be considerably limited.  All of this means internal strife.

Additionally it will also mean room for other militant theocratic forces to operate. Among these the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and the Turkistan Islamic party (TIP) are notable. They are Uyghur forces and their main target is China. Apart from them there is also the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. These are the type of forces the China-Pakistan-Afghanistan statement mentioned earlier was concerned about. Is the US trying to turn its defeat into a trap, setting up space for these forces to grow in order to use them as pressure tools against China and Russia? Even draw them into exhausting and prolonged military engagements? That is not implausible. US backing for Mujahedeen resistance against Soviet social imperialism, the creation of the ISIS to counter growing Iranian influence in Iraq and Syria are some known examples of nefarious measures the US adopted to weaken forces inimical to its interests. Quite significantly, the US had removed the ETIM from its ‘terrorist’ list towards the end of the Trump regime.

Whatever may be the calculations of the US, the actual course will most probably be one of unforeseen consequences. That has been the general rule. The big rocks imperialism picks up to throw inevitably fall on its own feet. If it is planning to bolster armed movements in China and Central Asian countries, that will have its repercussions in Pakistan and India too. It will not be possible to wall off these movements from the armed resistances that swear by Islamic ideologies, already active in both of these countries. The Pakistan regime was able to secure places for its henchmen in the new Taliban government. Even then, it seems that its influence is not as strong as it was last time. The Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) swore allegiance to the Taliban’s head but that hasn’t helped Pakistan end its armed activity. It is reported that the TTP had carried out 240 attacks on Pakistani forces by October of this year itself, a sharp increase over the 180 for the whole of 2020. A ceasefire, itself said to be made for propaganda value with a proxy force, has collapsed. Existing issues between Afghanistan and Pakistan, such as the closing of border crossings and border fencing remain unresolved. The fact that Pakistan has still not formally recognised the new government is an added irritant. De facto recognition and assistance in mobilising international aidwon’t suffice for long. There are reports in the Indian media that the ISIS-K is being supported by Pakistan’s ISI. That can’t be ruled out. So too is the case with reports in the Pakistani media about India’s RAW supporting the TTP and the armed resistance in Baloochistan, which is also hitting at Chinese social imperialist interests. Meanwhile there are reports about China scouting for locations in the part of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan suitable for setting up a military camp. Given the sharp contradictions various peoples of this region have with the respective ruling classes oppressing them, all these agencies are in the game of trying to utilise them. Hence, if the US tries to join it, either directly or through a collaborator like the Indian regime, it will certainly lead to a heightened degree of internal conflicts. And that holds the probability of their spilling across borders and leading to wars.

Evidently, all of this is very much present as backdrop to the intense diplomatic jockeying taking place around the Afghanistan situation. The Modi regime was wholly depending on the US to take care of its interests. After all, the Indian government had channelled large infrastructural investments into Afghanistan responding to US requests and assured by its security.But, as usual, the US left it in the lurch. Apart from comprador slavishness that blocked any attempt to open up direct access to the Taliban, Indian diplomacy was additionally hampered by the virulent Brahmanist ideology, the intense Islamophobia, guiding the Modi regime. Now its desperately trying to make space for itself in Taliban ruled Afghanistan. Interestingly, it seems that Russian imperialism is aiding it to some extent in this matter. Pakistan, China, Iran and the Central Asian Republics (CAR) directly, Russia through these Republics and India are the countries that could be affected by Afghanistan becoming a base for various armed resistances. China is banking on Pakistan to secure its interests, dangling the carrot of pouring in billions in investment before the Taliban.Russia is apparently hedging its positions, not wholly going along with China. This was indicated by its high level presence in a summit meeting organised by the Modi regime in which National Security Advisers(NSA) from CAR participated. It is further affirmed withits facilitation of the recent India plus CAR foreign ministers meet. Modi’s foreign minister had tried to project the latest meeting as proof of India’s influence in CAR. Their choosing to come here rather than attend the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers meet venued by Pakistan was projected to this effect. It is true that the Indian government has some influence in CAR. It has maintained a military base in Tajikistan since long. However in this instance the Russian hand is all too evident. Yet Russian imperialism is not fully backing the Modi regime’s moves on Afghanistan. This was made quite clear when it preferred to issue a separate statement after the NSA’s meet. It choose to leave out mention of “collective cooperation” in tackling radicalisation, extremism and so on, apart from other things seen in the Delhi Declaration issued after that meet.

Apart from its geo-strategic importance, Afghanistan’s rich mineral wealth is a major factor underlying imperialist contention to control it. The country is rich in resources like copper, gold, oil, natural gas, uranium, bauxite, coal, iron ore, rare earths, lithium, chromium, lead, zinc, gemstones, talc, sulphur, travertine, gypsum and marble. It is one of the richest mining regions in the world, holding untapped mineral wealth and rare earth elements estimated at roughly $3 trillion. A stabilised and centralised rule in the country will greatly facilitate its plunder. This is one of the unstated concerns motivating repeated calls for ‘stability and inclusive governance’ in Afghanistan. But, as we see in Africa, that is not a necessary condition. Imperialist and comprador monopolies are quite capable of running all sorts of economic operations even in conditions of civil war. They do this through, or with the assistance of, armed groups fighting the central government. For the present, the pattern that will get stabilised may well be decided by the contours of the contention and collusion among imperialist powers, mainly the US, China and Russia. But that need not necessarily be so. If the revolutionary forces succeed in uniting the numerous streams of people’s resistance and directing it against the new comprador regime, a totally different dynamic will gain prominence. Reports from the country indicate that this resistance is by no means insignificant.

Which imperialist power the Taliban regime will mainly align with remains to be settled. There will also be some repositioning in the proximity of various regional war lords to the central power and their influence on it. However, in essence, this regime will represent the same class interests as the preceding one. There won’t be any change in this. Taliban rule will continue to safeguard and implement those interests in a new form. Therefore, its comprador and feudal nature will soon be revealed. The armed resistance it led was partial. Its coming to power did not represent any overthrowing of the old class rule. Even then, the defeat suffered by the imperialist occupiers will certainly have boosted the anti-imperialist spirit of the Afghani people. As the comprador role of the Taliban becomes more and more evident the patriotic image projected by it will wane. But the anti-imperialist spirit of the masses and resistance to feudal, theocratic, rule will not wane. The potential for building up a revolutionary democratic struggle with a firm anti-imperialist stand will consequently increase. The level of general awareness of the new generation that grew up over the past twenty years will surely be qualitatively different. This will be even more so among young women. Not surprisingly, almost all recent reports of public protest coming from Afghanistan have noted the presence of women. This too is a positive factor facilitating the building of a broad, militant, resistance to Taliban’s theocratic dictatorship that will the serve the cause of a new democratic Afghanistan.

Along with these objective factors one must also note the organised presence of Maoist forces in that country. The last time the Taliban took power the Maoists were scattered in different organisations. Now, there is a centralised party, the Communist Maoist Party of Afghanistan. Analysing developments since the Taliban took over, it points out: “Now that the colonial project of the United States imperialists and its allies in Afghanistan has failed, and the people of the country are once again under the yoke of the Taliban’s theocracy, it is now clearer than ever that the only salvation and path forward for the liberation of the people of Afghanistan from the horrors of capitalism-imperialism and Islamist fundamentalism are New Democratic Revolution with a socialist and communist orientation. This important task is possible to accomplish with the unity and solidarity of the toiling masses around a revolutionary program and the revolutionary vanguard party. Therefore, we must strive for the ideological-political and organizational expansion and consolidation of the party so that we can respond to the urgent needs of the struggle and move forward towards the preparation, initiation, and advancement of the People’s War in Afghanistan.” It has also noted the favourable conditions emerging where, “Mass anger and wide dissatisfaction with the Taliban’s rule have persuaded some progressive intellectuals and leftist forces to overcome their sectarianism and egoism and to sympathize with communist and revolutionary struggle.” The future of Afghanistan decisively depends on the success of the vanguard in channelising, mobilising and leading this anger and dissatisfaction towards revolution.

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