– Syrian children: A question that answers itself
– US-led occupation of Afghanistan: 15 years of hell for the people with no end in sight
(AWTWNS 3 October 2016)

This AWTWNS news packet for the week of 3 October 2016 contains two articles. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as they are credited.

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  • Syrian children: A question that answers itself
  • US-led occupation of Afghanistan: 15 years of hell for the people with no end in sight

Syrian children: a question that answers itself

3 October 2016. A World to Win News Service. The US, UK and France have turned the horrible attacks on civilians in eastern Aleppo into an occasion to score a propaganda victory against their Russian rivals and Syria’s Bashar Asad regime. The bombings of civilians certainly is a war crime, as they claim, and even if this area is a stronghold of Islamic fundamentalist fighters, as Russia claims, such atrocities reveal that both sides are atrocious murderers. But for all the West’s talk about the children of Aleppo – with pictures of wounded and dismayed little children that should break anyone’s heart – what happens when these same children or others like them, in Syria or other countries where the suffering of children has reached massive proportions, try to flee to safety?

Does the West show concern for their treatment in abysmal refugee camps in Turkey and Greece, where refugees feel they are deliberately being made to suffer as punishment for leaving Syria, and to dissuade others from joing them?

Why do the Nato powers refuse to use their naval resources to conduct search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean? Why have they abandoned such operations, with the exception of the Italian Coast Guard, and a Greek Coast Guard that has been stripped of its efficacy by EU-imposed cutbacks, so that lives depend on the efforts of fishermen and NGO volunteers?

What about the estimated one thousand unaccompanied children – children who have lost or become separated from their parents – trying to stay alive in Calais, France, in a camp the world’s barbarian authorities like to call “the jungle,” even though its inhabitants help each other out remarkably given the circumstances? So far the French authorities have refused to help even these children, let alone all the children and adults who desperately need it, in a flagrant violation of French and international law. The British government has washed its hands of their fate, even though many of these children have family in the UK and are therefore legally entitled to asylum there. For the US, it’s Europe’s problem.

Is the West’s fake “concern” for children anything but another weapon to be wielded in its clash with rival reactionaries?

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US-led occupation of Afghanistan: 15 years of hell for the people with no end in sight

3 October 2016. A World to Win News Service. The occupation of Afghanistan by a coalition of Western powers headed by the US will have lasted fifteen full years as of 7 October.

Instead of any sign of an end to this war, there are new plans for it to continue. US President Barack Obama, speaking on 6 July this year, outlined his plan to keep 8,400 US soldiers in Afghanistan after his presidential term comes to an end in January 2017, along with more than 6,000 Nato and other so-called coalition forces.

This is contrary to the promise Obama made during his campaign for the presidency eight years ago. After several gyrations during his term, beginning with a drastic increase in 2009 in the number of troops from the level set by his predecessor President George W. Bush in a futile attempt to win quick victory, and then large-scale troop reductions, in the end he has opted to continue the occupation.

It has been proven over and over again that making war is a permanent job of any president in order to fulfill US imperialist interests, and Obama could not be an exception. Despite his efforts to pretend he is not a warmonger, the US has been at war throughout his entire presidency. It has troops fighting in Afghanistan, and now again in Iraq (where Obama just sent additional troops to bring the number of US forces to more than 5,000), as well as in Syria and Libya. American bombs and missiles are also killing people in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

In his statement announcing the prolongation of the war in Afghanistan, Obama tried to downplay the importance of this decision.

“Compared to their previous mission – helping to lead the fight – our forces are now focused on two narrow missions:  training and advising Afghan forces, and supporting counter-terrorist operations against the remnants of al-Qaeda as well as other terrorist groups, including ISIL [the Islamic State or Daesh]… Every day, nearly 320,000 Afghan soldiers and police are serving and fighting, and many are giving their lives to defend their country.” (This and subsequent quotations from that speech are from the transcript released by the White House on 6 July 2016.)

In order to cover up the real intention of the war and the real cost to the Afghan people, Obama referred to gains he claimed have been due to this war.

“With our support, Afghanistan is a better place than it once was. Millions of Afghan children – boys and girls – are in school. Dramatic improvements in public health have saved the lives of mothers and children. Afghans have cast their ballots in democratic elections and seen the first democratic transfer of power in their country’s history. That government is a strong partner with us in combating terrorism. That’s the progress we’ve helped make possible.”

After 15 years of occupation and imposing a brutal war on the people that has caused tremendous suffering, all that Obama could point to is a number of boys and girls going back to school and unsatisfactory improvements in public health that he falsely calls “dramatic”. Neither the number of children in school nor public health have regained the levels reached before the Western imperialist intervention to support certain jihadis, the brand of Islamic fundamentalist friendly to the US and Pakistan at that time, in a war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979-89.

Obama’s reference to ballots and “democratic elections” is especially hypocritical, since the winners of the elections arranged by the US have been Hamid Karzai and then Ashraf Ghani, leaders of one of the world’s most corrupt regimes, even according to US officials and media. Even with support from the occupiers, still both of them had to rig the elections in order to win. Obama’s statement is not much different from what he said about Iraq on 14 December 2011:

“We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” (CNSNews.com, 29 December 2014)

A “sovereign country” where the US appointed the regime, in cooperation with reactionary forces in the region such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, a place where foreign interference has made political life a sideshow for most Iraqis. A “stable” country where competition between these powers has constantly roiled conflicts, and Daesh has been able to advance up to within a few miles of the capital Baghdad. Obama made no reference to Abu Ghraib and other prisons where the US forces tortured and murdered people, mainly ordinary people, enabling the conversion of these prisoners into Daesh supporters. He made no reference to the bloody sectarian war that the US triggered and fuelled, resulting in the murder of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of millions. He made no reference to the Islamisation of Iraq under the US-led occupation that dramatically changed the life of Iraqi people and especially women, and finally gave birth to horrible forces such as Daesh. He made no reference to other horrific consequences this has inflicted on the people of Iraq and Middle East.

Similarly, in his statement on Afghanistan, Obama made no reference to what the people of Afghanistan have gone through due to an unjust and brutal war waged by the Western imperialists. He didn’t refer to tens of thousands of innocents who lost their lives due to bombardment and the war. He made no reference to the terrorised children who woke up in the middle of night to see their parents held at gunpoint by US troops. He did not mention the people who were repeatedly stopped and searched by the occupier forces. For the last fifteen years, the US has launched bomb and missile attacks on many village gatherings. In the latest, a US drone strike hit a village celebration in Nangarhar province on 28 September, killing at least 15 civilians and injuring another 13, according to the UN. (Guardian, 30 September)

Obama boasts about the “dramatic” improvements in public health, but doesn’t mention the hospitals bombarded. In one of the most notorious incidents, a US gunship destroyed a Medecins Sans Frontiers hospital in Kunduz in September 2015, murdering at least 42 patients and medical personnel and injuring another 30.

In talking about the corrupt regime the US had “democratically” elected, Obama doesn’t mention the rights of the many thousands who were insulted, imprisoned and horrifically tortured at Bagram and other US and Nato-controlled military bases in Afghanistan, people who were arrested and falsely accused of connections with al-Qaeda or the Taliban, and who, after they were released, became determined to join the Taliban. He doesn’t mention those tortured to death even without the formality of a trial.

Obama referred to combating terrorists groups, but he made no reference to the fact that Islamic fundamentalists are stronger than ever in Afghanistan, thanks to the occupation. Once hated by the majority of the people in Afghanistan, now due to the occupiers and their appointed regime and its atrocities the Taliban have managed to gain support in many parts of the country, even places where they never had much before, such as Badakhshan, in the northern part of the country. He did not say that Daesh is gaining ground in Afghanistan too. The US-led occupation has been a huge factor in the fundamentalists’ growing strength.

The occupation has brought nothing like liberation to Afghanistan’s women. In fact they have been the worst victims of this occupation and war. Their most basic rights have been put on sale explicitly and implicitly to keep US-favoured jihadis happy and draw the Taliban to the negotiating table. This has resulted in some of the most scandalous cases such as the amendment of family laws, the rape and kidnapping of young women with impunity, and the climate that led to crimes like the notorious murder of Farkhunda and the stoning of Rakhshana.

What about the reconstruction of the economy and the nation-building initially promised by the occupiers? Obama prefers to say nothing about that, either. We can see for ourselves the features of an economy that has been “reconstructed” by the US and other imperialist occupiers. The Afghan economy is mainly built on growing poppy for opium production and export. Afghanistan currently supplies about 90 percent of the world opium market. Millions of people are employed or involved in some way in the drug trade. Both the US occupiers and the Taliban encourage this.

Another pillar of the Afghan economy is the “aid” provided by the occupiers and other donor countries. The US government has injected $115 billion into the Afghan economy, supposedly for the country’s reconstruction. (New York Times, 17 September 2016) As a result, the economy became addicted to money provided by the occupiers. Further, this produced enormous corruption, especially among jihadist warlords and other government bureaucrats. The overall situation has left millions no choice but to either leave the country or live on the money family members abroad send back home. Not only have decades of war forced millions to seek refuge in neighbouring and other countries, but now the current economic situation is also pushing the more well-off section of people and especially the younger generation to leave the country and look elsewhere for a home.

The US imperialists have spent more than a trillion dollars in a war that has directly caused the deaths of more than 150,000 civilians and soldiers and wounded many more. The war has also indirectly caused the death of hundreds of thousands of others and the suffering of millions of people. This has certainly not been done to bring some boys and girls back to school, but in pursuit of the US’s global interest and regional interests.

Reducing troops to continue the occupation

Boasting about his efforts to deflate US involvement, Obama cited the reduction of US troops from 100,000 to fewer than 10,000 and the alleged change in their mission, from fighting to training and advising Afghan forces and supporting counter-terrorist operations. But he immediately referred to 320,000 Afghan soldiers and police the US is trying to organize to fight its battles in Afghanistan.

First of all, reducing the numbers doesn’t change the nature of the mission. The nearly 15,000 troops from the US and its “coalition” are many more than enough to make them invaders and occupiers. Consider that the US and its allies started their occupation with 30,000 troops. Secondly, regardless of their numbers, these forces are pursuing the same goal that has guided them since the 2001 invasion, to dominate Afghanistan and control a strategically important region, and serve the regional and global interests of US imperialism. Keeping 100,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan was unsustainable for the US. The draw-down did not change the nature of the war or represent anything like an end to the war. It was a change in tactics by Obama and his administration and its military leaders to make that war sustainable at the cost of Afghan lives. The Afghan national army lost nearly 3,000 officers and soldiers in 2013, and since then its losses have at least doubled.

The US has also been trying to “legalise” its military and political presence for the indefinite future by arranging a bilateral strategic treaty with the Afghan government. This treaty, signed by president Ghani, discloses the US’s real intention, which is to continue the occupation as long as it can. It gives the US continued access to nine major land and air bases, including Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandhar. It allows the US to keep its aircraft and many Special Forces and “advisers” in the country at least until the end of 2024, with the option of renewing the treaty at that time. This agreement also gives immunity to US troops from any Afghani law. No US soldier can be arrested or put on trial by Afghans.

The war with Taliban

The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan was followed by several years of bloody infighting among the jihadi warlords who had led the war against them. Cvilians were slaughtered. Much of Kabul was destroyed. This led many people to support the Taliban takeover in the 1990s, organized by Pakistan, with support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar and the implicit agreement of the US. After the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon, the US decided it had to intervene directly in Afghanistan. But the people that the US and its allies put in power in place of the Taliban were not much different ideologically. The difference was that they were more friendly to the US and the West, or opportunistically appeared that way, or did not care who dominated the country as long as they had a share in the power. After the US-led invasion, the Taliban took advantage of the discontent among Afghans about the occupation and the atrocities committed by the occupiers and their appointed regime, which became more widespread as the war continued.

The US is aware of the extreme corruption of the regime and the atrocities committed by its armed forces because they are trained to do so, but they are simply incapable of doing without all this. The US is also well aware that after 15 years the war is deadlocked.

The Taliban faces serious limitations. They no longer enjoy the US support or neutrality that enabled them to come to power two decades ago. They are a reactionary and fundamentalist force. When in power, they are brutal and oppressive to women, non-Pashtun nationalities, and other religions, and so they will have a hard time uniting many provinces and peoples. The contradiction between their Pashtun chauvinism and other nationalities such as the Tajik , Hazara and Uzbeks is very acute. Despite their advance in some areas, they have not been able to seize power countrywide or in major cities. For instance, they recently grabbed parts of the northern city of Kanduz for the second time, but had to quickly retreat.

Yet the US and its coalition may have reached the conclusion that they will not be able to defeat the Taliban. The US could not put an end to the ambitions of the Taliban and their backers when it had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, and now the Taliban are again making military advances. US frustration was clear from a comment by a “senior administration official on the condition of anonymity”. He refers to Afghan forces, but could well also mean the US forces who are leading them:

“It does not appear that the Afghan forces in the near future will be able to defeat the Taliban… Nor is it clear that the Taliban will make any significant strategic gains or be able to take and hold on to strategic terrain. It is a very ugly, very costly stalemate.” (New York Times, 17 September 2016)

This prospect, however, will not stop the US from seeking to preserve its interests by other means. Its solution is to include the Taliban in a power-sharing deal. That would consequently increase the influence of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Afghanistan. As Obama put it in explaining US efforts to draw the Taliban to the negotiating table, “The only way to end this conflict and to achieve a full draw-down of foreign forces from Afghanistan is through a lasting political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban. That’s the only way. And that is why the United States will continue to strongly support an Afghan-led reconciliation process.”

So all the talk about liberating women and peace and prosperity has evaporated into thin air. The promises about democracy have produced nothing but a puppet, corrupt regime. Instead of eliminating fundamentalist terrorism, the war has ended up being a war to force the Taliban to the negotiating table.

The US and its appointed regime are trying to achieve that, but it seems it has not been working so far. In order to convince the Taliban to negotiate, the US also has to convince Pakistan, now deeply involved in contention with India over regional influence, and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in their contention with Iran. Other countries are also involved.

The solution of the imperialists is continued occupation, at least given the present world situation. Considering this situation, the particular limitations of the imperialists and the present balance of forces, they don’t really have other options. From the US point of view, no increase or decrease of forces, and no amount of support or further training by US advisers for the so-called Afghan national army, can solve this problem.

As for their opponents, the Islamic fundamentalist forces such as the Taliban, Daesh and Al-Qaeda who are opposing the present Afghan regime, despite their conflicts based on mutual religious and national differences, they are all oppressors, too, and like the regime are aligned with reactionary regimes abroad. To say the least, they are also part of the problem and can never be part of the solution.

The forces on both sides of the conflict are trying to hang on until they find an opportunity. The US and Taliban or Pakistan or any other player in the conflict may not prefer the present situation, but they can also take advantage of it and help continue the war in Afghanistan, even if at a lower intensity. Pakistan can prevent the proposed peace agreements and keep Afghanistan unstable, and the US also has a “good” excuse both at home and internationally to continue its occupation at a more sustainable cost, at least until a more settled situation in the world is achieved, which might not be any time soon.

The people of Afghanistan, whose interests should be paramount in this complex situation, are not considered important by the reactionaries. A revolutionary force that can rely on the people and has a clear and unambiguous position against both the imperialist occupiers and the reactionary fundamentalist forces could resolve the problem in the interests of the masses. What is needed is a revolutionary party whose goal is to end all exploitation and oppression and lead the masses to liberate themselves from the mess that the imperialists and the reactionary fundamentalists and their backers have created in Afghanistan – and around the world.

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