Afghanistan, Featured, Imperialism

Afghanistan : Talibaan Again to the Centre Stage

US State Department’s admonishing National Security Advisor to the Govt. of Afghanistan for asserting that US Admn. is negotiating terms of its surrender before Talibaan in the talks in Doha, is one more demonstration that US imperialism is losing its war in Afghanistan. It has been the longest war waged by US imperialism, continuing for over 17 years. According to a UN report nearly half of the country is under the control or influence of Talibaan who had control over most of Afghanistan at the time when US led forces invaded that country. Not for nothing is that country called the historical graveyard of empires, particularly empires that run amok. Since millennia, it has held a fatal attraction for imperial powers who fancied themselves as world hegemons, who saw their control over the region both a symbol of world domination and recipe for continuing the same. Its importance relative to the long historical period has somewhat declined due to rise of maritime routes for the transit of trade and military forces.

Its strategic location is at the centre of Asia and the Eurasian land mass at large with China to the East, India to the South, Iran and Arabs to the West and Russia and Central Asia to the North. It was at the juncture of the lands under the great Asian empires and on the strategic routes. Asia had been the Centre of world population, prosperity and production for a very long period of history i.e. from the beginning of the rise of State and till the West European ascendency from the middle of 19th Century. Asia is still home to the overwhelming population of the world, nearly two third and largest productive land mass and hence Afghanistan retains its strategic importance. But it lures imperialist countries presently for other reasons as well. There are big deposits of mineral ores in the region, with estimates of such wealth running into huge sums.

Two recent developments encapsulate the present situation in Afghanistan and both these processes involve the dominant political force in Afghanistan, the Talibaan. Russia with China has held several meetings in Moscow to which the representatives of Talibaan have been invited. Though initially Afghanistan Govt. chose not to participate but later sent its ‘unofficial’ representative to the meetings. Other important participants in the process include Pakistan and Iran along with Central Asian neighbours of Afghanistan. India too, having initially rejected participation in this process, later participated through unofficial representative. As a follow up of these meetings, other forces and organizations representing people of Afghanistantoo have been invited and several representatives have participated in the Moscow meeting.

Another process has been initiated by US imperialist rulers. Representative of US Admn. Khalilzad has held several rounds of meetings in Doha (Qatar) with representatives of Talibaan.Talibaan too has sent a senior leader, Barader, to guide theTalibaan delegation in the negotiations. In fact it was in the later Obama years that Talibaan had been allowed to open a liaison office in Doha. This was after the failure of Bush attempt to bring Afghanistan totally under the military control of US imperialism and further after the failure of earlier Obama years at escalating this ‘necessary war’ and later failure of attempts at differentiating moderate and hard line Talibaans. However, not much progress was registered in this Doha processbut the battle field reality coupled with geopolitical changes in the region forced US imperialist rulers to take their Doha initiative further. US led war ran into rough weather and US trained Afghan puppet troops suffered several defeats and often ran away from the battle field. Along with emerged the new situation in the region with strengthening of Russia-China strategic relationship and their closer relations with Pakistan and also China’s Belt and Road initiative in which this region emerged as an important area both due to its proximity to Gwadar-Sinkiang route as well as China’s forays into Central Asian republics. Russia and China started advocating Talibaan as partners in settling the situation in Afghanistan ostensibly also to forestall the emergence of Islamic State and other ‘Islamic extremists’.

Not much progress was initially made between US Admn. and Talibaan due to insistence of US Admn. on participation of Afghanistan Govt. in the negotiation under the caption of ‘Afghan led peace process’ but Talibaan continuously ruled out any discussion with Govt. in Kabul installed and sustained by US military forces. Secondly, Talibaan also ruled out any cease-fire with this Afghanistan Govt. Faced with fast developing situation, US Admn. had to give up both these conditions and now some progress is made in Doha negotiations. US state dept. too has acknowledged progress in Doha talks. Recently US State Dept. summoned Afghanistan Govt.’s National Security Advisor who is on visit to USA and has openly declared that US Admn. is negotiating surrender with Talibaan. His assertion betrays the unease in Afghanistan Govt. over the Doha negotiations.

US Admn’s plans to reduce their troops in Afghanistan while retaining some influence in that country, has brought role of Pakistan, particularly its powerful military, into sharp focus. Trump Admn. has been putting pressure on Pakistan for ensuring presence of Talibaan leaders in the negotiations and Trump Admn. has appreciated the role of Pakistan Govt. inensuring that. Trump himself has acknowledged improvement in the relations between US and Pakistan in recent past and US compulsions in Afghanistan have played an important part in this improvement. With Afghanistan emerging as a hotbed of inter-imperialist rivalry and Pakistan emerging as key facilitator having influence over Talibaan, Pakistan importance has grown for them. Added to this is the role of Pakistan military in supporting rulers of Gulf monarchies, particularly Saudi Arabia and UAE, against their own people i.e. for maintaining internal control. Given the importance of these monarchies for maintenance of US influence in the Middle-East, importance of Pakistan for US imperialism can easily be understood.

In fact US imperialism has since long been seeing South Asia as an extension of its Middle-East policy. Two pillars of its influence in Middle-East, namely Israel and Saudi Arabia, have been utilized for larger US influence in the region. While Saudi Arabia has been maintaining close ties with Pakistani rulers, Israel has been spreading its influence in the ruling circles in India. During the RSS-BJP rule, this influence has increased sharply due to close affinity between Zionist and Hindutva opposition to Muslims. Activities of notorious Israeli intelligence agency, MOSSAD, have reportedly grown manifold in India. Not only did Indian Govt. use Israeli missiles to hit Balakote in Pakistan but also used Israeli vocabulary to explain this attack.

Currently the Doha talks are centred on future administrative set-up for Afghanistan as Talibaan have refused to recognize the present Govt. of Ashraf Ghani who was a US citizen till some time before becoming Afghanistan’s President. The time line of withdrawal of foreign troops i.e. troops of US and its allies has been worked out. It is also reportedly agreed that Talibaan will not allow Afghanistan soil to be used for attacks against US imperialism. It is worthwhile to recall that in its eagerness to invade Afghanistan, US Admn. had declined an offer of the then TalibaanGovt, for trial of Osama bin Laden and others in any neutral country. Talibaan had not accepted that soil of Afghanistan was in any way used to plan attacks in USA. So what US Admn. is showing as its success is its acceptance of the old position of Talibaan.

Present and evolving situation in Afghanistan has several important aspects.Firstly it shows that howsoever powerful an imperialist power may be, it is surely to be defeated by a people who struggle against their national subjugation. Afghans are again living upto their historically earned reputation. Secondly, the emerging scenario shows the importance of Pakistan to the rival imperialist camps- one led by USA and the other by China-Russia. This may have important bearing for the situation in South Asia where belligerence of the neighbours- India and Pakistan- will not be allowed to escalate beyond manageable limits. It is worth noting that it was US President who had tweeted not only that India was likely to take action against Pakistan but also that situation will de-escalate between South Asian neighbours even before Imran Khan had announced release of Indian Air Force pilot. Trump obviously gave the credit of this de-escalation to the officials of his Administration who he claimed had worked with the two Governments.

Indian Govt. has itself to blame for its increasing marginalization in Afghanistan. Indian Govt. during the two terms of NDA and UPA each, had supported the US military occupation of Afghanistan. In the process Indian Govt. did not stand against foreign military occupation of a country. Talibaan are obviously socially reactionary, but foreign imperialist occupation cannot be justified on that ground. Had Govt. of India not supported the US led occupation it would have earned at least some good will among the people of Afghanistan who share long and deep cultural relations with India. But Indian Govt. has been kowtowing to imperialist designs in the region rather than pursuing the policy of unity of the people of the region. Govt. of India’s claims to have invested in the development of Afghanistan were scoffed at by none other than the US president himself. Having long opposed US plans of scaling down its military presence in Afghanistan while supporting US installed govt. there, Indian Govt. is slowly waking up to the reality of the new situation. Chief of Indian Army recently advocated joining the efforts on Afghanistan likening it to jumping on the bandwagon.

It is the imperialist powers who are behind the growing conflict in the world including South Asia. Subservience of Indian rulers towards imperialism is preventing India from playing a role for peace in the region.