Parallels between Afghanistan historical and political developments and the Middle East
The decision of the United States of America to withdraw its military forces from Afghanistan is not sudden, as propagated by its allies in Europe and South Asia. The decision was first announced more than a year ago, after which negotiations began at Doha with the regrouped ‘new’ Taliban which included the former President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, a dual citizen of the USA and Afghanistan and the former foreign minister of the government of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah. The Afghan –American Zalmay Khalilzad, a United States policy adviser on Afghanistan, a former student of the American University at Beirut was also associated with the Doha negotiations, which concluded with an agreement in February 2020, including the assurance that Taliban would not attack US forces retreating from Afghanistan. The bomb blast at the Kabul airport is an agent provocateur act and cannot be attributed to the Taliban. The US-UK and NATO forces withdrawal from regions has never been peaceful and is always accompanied by violence in an attempt to leave behind warring factions to prevent stability, to justify erstwhile occupation. Bomb blasts are strategies of Empires executed through covert organizations or a political proxy, useful in widening sectarian and religious divide for better control of societies to be devoured.
The declaration of ‘victory’ by President Biden, the pronouncement that US forces were not in Afghanistan for ‘nation-building’ and had achieved its objective of flushing out terrorists, was made to avoid conceding serious military reverses facing the US-led NATO forces and US-trained and backed Afghan army on the ground. Provinces have been overrun by the regrouped new Taliban. Afghan forces have either surrendered or deals have been negotiated by the Taliban with a few Governors, as with the Governor of Herat, who has surrendered.
The Taliban has regrouped once again after 20 years in exile, this time projecting itself in a new avatar as a national liberating force against foreign occupation; unlike in 1996 when it was paid for, trained, and installed in office by US-UK Intelligence Agencies closely assisted by the ISI of Pakistan and by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, recognized by only three governments. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto admitted in an interview that the former Taliban was jointly trained by the agencies of the US, UK, and Pakistan. The regrouped ‘new’ Taliban has now extended guarantees during negotiations, reiterated during a press conference on taking over Kabul, that a government of the Taliban will not repeat the mistakes of the past. In turn, the Taliban has received diplomatic support from countries earlier opposed to its policies. A militarily overstretched USA facing a serious internal economic and financial crisis is negotiating a soft landing with the Peoples in the Republic of China. This is a part of the new global geopolitical reality, irrespective of belligerent statements made by American and Chinese government representatives. However, this situation is not understood by collaborators of the Empire in many countries tied to US – UK – Israeli apron strings.
China brought on board its strategic allies, the neighbors of Afghanistan; Russia (former Republics of the USSR, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan have borders with Afghanistan and a security treaty with Russia), Iran, and the government of Pakistan, whose country has been used for almost 45 years by the US – UK led NATO covert and conventional forces and by members of the so-called International Security Assistance Force as a military and logistic base for training and launching of violent mercenary terrorist militias into Afghanistan, in co-operation with the Middle East allies of the US and UK, the Saudi Monarchy and some of the Emirates, who are US and British protectorates. An important role was assigned to Osama Bin Laden, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, an asset of the CIA, MI6, and Saudi Intelligence, overseeing the ’Al Qaeda’ (database) of foreign Arab military fighters deployed alongside the Taliban on the AfPak border and in Afghanistan, and in several countries in Central Asia, Russia, the Middle East, and Africa. The Bin Laden family-owned property in London and joint businesses and investments in US Companies with the Bush family in the United States.
Every Afghan militia was paid for, trained, and armed on the AfPak border which is extensive, almost 1,660 miles in length, with nomadic pastoral herds of sheep and goats traditionally crossing over to the no man’s land on the Pakistani side during the severe Afghan winters, in search of pasture, as extensive former Afghan territory along this border was handed over by the British to Pakistan during the partition of India
Successive terrorist militias, Mujahideen, Al Qaeda, and former Taliban all claimed that they were acting in the name of Islam, waging a ‘holy war’, to defeat an un-Islamic ‘socialist government‘ of the Peoples of the Democratic Party, an alliance of two left parties, the ‘Khalq’ and the ‘Parcham’ founded by the first President of the PDP Nur Mohammad Taraki, and his Deputy Babrak Karmal. The PDP assumed power in 1977 with a government allied to the former USSR, as were all earlier governments of Afghanistan whether the Emirs or the later Republic of President Daoud. A few hardliners of the PDP party belonging to the Khalq faction led by Hafizullah Amin, who became a Marxist in the United States; a President of the Afghan students Association in the USA, obtaining both his Masters degree in teaching and a PhD from Colombia University, calculatedly provoked Afghanistan’s clergy among others, with his policies from 1978 indiscriminately imprisoning many Afghan intellectuals, predominantly leaders and members of the Parcham party in the PDP alliance, seizing power after murdering the first President of the PDP, Nur Mohammed Taraki who had spent many years in India during his youth, causing serious instability for the PDP government from 1978 to 1979.
In this very period after the ‘Saur Revolution’ in Afghanistan, from 1977, the US, UK, and Pakistan strategy for training terrorists in Pakistan to attack Afghanistan was adopted and implemented. Haffizulah Amin was deposed and killed in 1979 in the midst of political infighting. Following these tragic events in 1979 President Babrak Karmal, a former Member of Parliament from Kabul became President. During his presidency and that of his successor President Najibullah, a policy of national reconciliation was announced; the PDP government became more representative, all political prisoners were released and a policy of moderate reforms was adopted, to transform Afghanistan’s landlord dominated feudal economy. The PDP party remained in government with the support of the people of Afghanistan until 1991 without being defeated; stepping down only under a UN plan sponsored by US –UK and NATO powers in collaboration with Gorbachev and later Boris Yeltsin, after an economic blockade on Afghanistan from all of its international borders.
The PDP initiated land reforms in the interests of the peasantry and the landless. In Afghanistan, thousands of acres were owned and controlled by feudal lords. This government abolished usury, the charging of exorbitant rent on loans by money lenders rampant in Afghanistan, though strictly prohibited by Islam. This affected the interests of the feudal money lenders turning them against the PDP. Forced marriages of Afghan women without their consent was prohibited, which was really the purchase of Afghan women, and the minimum marriage age was raised to 16 for women and 18 for men. Literacy centers for educating women and men were established, as millions of Afghans in 1977 were still illiterate. These reforms then and now are being referred to by some world leaders as reforms against the traditions of the Afghan people, and the root cause of the instability in Afghanistan. Not a single reform of the Peoples Democratic Party from 1977 was against Quranic injunctions; neither was Islam in any danger whatsoever from the PDP government, the majority of whose members were respectful of the religion and culture of the Afghan people. The reality was that the feudal landlords, many of whom were also money lenders and drug lords with a vested interest in controlling and suppressing the rural population, enforced feudal customs which were tribal and un-Islamic and propagated along with the military dictator General Zia Ul Haq’s government in Pakistan, claiming that the PDP government was against Islam, which was far from the truth.
The landlords, drug lords, money lenders, and comprador sections, became mercenary collaborators of foreign powers. The so-called leaders of the ‘Mujahideen’ and other militias trained on the AfPak border regions from 1977, by CIA, MI6, ISI, and the Intelligence Agency of Saudi Arabia, mounted brutal un-Islamic attacks on the civilian population of Afghanistan from across the AfPak border; including serious hit and run raids on roads and highways, attacks on civilian installations and development projects, gas attacks on schools, attacks on women attending literacy centers, to discredit the PDP government; while on the ground serving the interests of the military-industrial complex and the banking and financial interests of the US, the UK and other NATO countries, and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia elites, who were the real beneficiaries of a continuous ‘holy war’ on Afghanistan and adjacent regions.
Mujahideen militia leaders and their international backers, CIA, MI6, ISI, and Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agencies used the narcotics trade to finance the activities of the Mujahideen. Poppy cultivation and the trade in narcotics grew in direct proportion to the insurgency against the PDP government. The Mujahideen, Al-Qaeda, and former Taliban raked in lesser amounts, in millions from the United States, its Middle East allies, and from the International trade in narcotics., the third-largest commodity in international trade. The United States had earlier used the drug trade to finance its Intelligence operations in the ‘golden triangle’ in South East Asia.
Afghanistan a country of courageous hospitable people and rugged beauty, of the magnificent snow-capped Hindukush mountain range, a country with thousands of years of historical, political, and cultural linkages with the ancient civilization of the Indian Subcontinent, was brutally subdued by terrorist attacks from across its international borders by the shenanigans of US-UK led NATO powers, allied with Pakistan and with a few other countries in the Middle East. A brutal war was waged against the Afghan people, at first covertly from 1977 and thereafter openly from 2001.
In the 19th and first half of the 20th Century, Afghanistan had militarily resisted and rolled back British Imperialism despite three Anglo-Afghan wars and unjust seizure of Afghanistan’s territory by the Durand Line among other such impositions, though the Indian subcontinent was already militarily occupied by the British, with India becoming the pivot of the British Empire. The entire material and human resources of the subcontinent of India were used by Great Britain for the enormous capital accumulation which financed the Industrial Revolution, and for the subjugation of countries to the west and east of the Indian subcontinent, including China and the Arab world.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, the late former National Security Adviser of the United States, a Polish immigrant, fanatically anti –Russian, admitted in a moment of exultation in an interview to Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998, that the CIA, MI6, and ISI along with their Middle East allies, began training Afghan ‘Mujahideen’ on the AfPak border several months prior to the extension of Soviet Military assistance to Afghanistan, with the objective of drawing the USSR into the civil war which had been unleashed against the PDP government, in view of historically close Soviet-Afghan diplomatic relations.
It is not widely understood that governments of different political complexions in Afghanistan, had close diplomatic relations with the former USSR, which as a matter of policy did not interfere in its political affairs; these were strictly state-to-state relations. In 1919, the Emir of Afghanistan was the first to recognize the Bolshevik government after the 1917 Russian revolution. The Emir in his communication to the head of the Bolshevik government proposed a Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation between Afghanistan and the former USSR, as a safeguard against British Imperialism. From 1919 onwards former USSR had close and friendly relations with successive Afghan governments, whether monarchies or the Republic of President Daoud, signing Treaties of Friendship and Cooperation with all these governments, including with the PDP government in 1978. Ministers holding office in the PDP government in 1977, included democratically elected members of the Afghan parliament from Kabul during the Republic of President Daoud, namely Babrak Karmal, President of the PDP government from 1979-1986, whose father had served in the Afghan Army as Major General in the Republic, and Anahita Ratebzad a widely known woman Member of Parliament.
To dismiss Afghan society as ‘tribal’ is unjust, as it had adopted representative institutions from the days of Emir Zahir Shah and President Daoud, many years before the PDP party formed a government, apart from its traditional Shura Councils. Women had access to school education, to universities, to employment, and to public life in particular in urban areas, even before the government of the Peoples Democratic Party; though large parts of the countryside continued to be dominated by feudal landlords imposing tribal customs to subjugate and control the local population men and women. The most brutal phase for Afghan women began with mercenary terrorist attacks on Afghanistan from militant training camps in Pakistan, followed by the large-scale thousands of bombing sorties by US –UK led NATO forces assisted by Pakistan from 2001, which continued over two decades.
Niloufer Bhagwat: Vice President of the Indian Association of Lawyers and Vice President of the Confederation of Lawyers for Asia and Africa.