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Afghanistan: Another unwinnable war

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From the outset Afghanistan was posed as the "winnable war". The invasion was underway within four weeks of 9/11 with little opposition in North America or Europe. But after seven years of bloody fighting  longer than World War II  opinion is now divided as to whether the quagmire in Afghanistan can in fact be resolved. Gordon Brown still insists Afghanistan is the "good war" in the Middle East. He told Parliament at the end of last year, "We are winning the battle in Afghanistan."

However, in his optimism, he is swimming against a stream of reports predicting a bleak future for the country. The Afghanistan Study Group, a collection of US diplomats and military experts, says the country is showing signs of being a "failed state". Reports from Oxfam and from the country's NATO commander are similarly pessimistic.

The deepening crisis has led to divisions within the Nato countries. Canada has threatened to withdraw 2,500 troops from Kandahar, if other western countries don't send more troops to support the occupation. This is aimed mainly at France and Germany, which have also been condemned by Robert Gates, US Defence Secretary, for not shouldering "their share of the fighting and the dying". Nice turn of phrase: he certainly knows how to sell a war!

The Canadian government is under pressure to withdraw in the face of mounting resistance in Afghanistan, with 73 of its troops killed so far. Opposition to the war is up to 70 per cent in Quebec, and rising elsewhere. In Britain, 62 per cent want all 7,800 troops withdrawn within a year.

This lack of faith in the occupation forces, both amongst the general population in the West and the elite, is the result of the situation on the ground. The Taliban fighters have adopted the most brutal guerrilla tactics.

Karzai's regime

The US now has almost 50,000 troops in Afghanistan: twice as many as in 2004. However occupation casualties are mounting steadily: from 58 in 2004 to 232 in 2007. Civilian deaths have increased 74 per cent in the last year, when 400 Afghan non-combatants were killed. Even US-installed puppet president Hamid Karzai, has accused the international forces of "careless operations".

The territory controlled by Karzai's government is shockingly low. Mike McConnell, America's top intelligence official, has claimed that he runs about 30 per cent of the country, and the Taliban 10 per cent, with the remainder under tribal control.

One major problem facing the country is the rising drugs trade. Many farmers have turned to opium production in the destabilised post-invasion economy, making Afghanistan the heroin capital of the world. The export value of the country's opium amounts to nearly half its GDP, and more than 12 per cent of Afghans are involved in opium poppy cultivation. The highest estimates suggest that 40 per cent of profits, amounting to tens of millions of pounds, go to fund the insurgency.

Ironically, one of the reasons for increased opium cultivation is that the US liberalised the market, making Western food imports far cheaper than Afghan grown produce.

The liberation of women was one of the initial aims of the invasion stated by the US and British governments. This was simply a cover-up for their true imperialist aims of new markets and political domination. The lie that the invaders had the interests of Afghani women at heart is now being exposed.

Initial gains that were won for women after the invasion are being reversed, and there is spiralling rape and violence against women. Moreover, Sayed Pervez Kambaksh's death sentence for downloading material on women's liberation shows how empty the rhetoric about liberation really is.

The conflict in Afghanistan does not end at the border. In the Pashtun-dominated border regions there is little distinction between Afghans and Pakistanis. Many Afghans displaced in the 1980s and 1990s grew up in refugee camps in Pakistan and went to religious schools there. The fighting has therefore spread into neighbouring Pakistan, whose army has already suffered great losses.

The Pashtun tribes, for whom war has been a backdrop to everyday life for decades, already have a long experience of fighting the Soviets. Securing these areas is vital for the US in Afghanistan, as 75 per cent of all supplies are passed through Pakistan, but this is proving close to impossible.

The Taliban are gathering support and strength throughout the region, and now have a presence in over half the country. Their policies are undoubtedly reactionary. Last month they produced a constitution, proposing executions in public, women being fully covered and having no right to education, and banning all light entertainment as anti-Islamic.

It would be wrong to suggest, as the western media often does, that there is a single insurgency movement called the Taliban. The resistance is in fact far more varied. Nevertheless, support for radical Islam is rising. It is the force in the region that has fought the occupiers most consistently.

The anti-war movement in the West must show solidarity with all forces fighting the occupation. Of course, we have the right  and internationalist duty  to criticise the Islamists' aims and methods. But our anti-imperialism is rendered meaningless if we do not support those fighting imperialism on the ground in Afghanistan and across the Middle East.

It is the duty of anti-imperialists across the globe to turn Afghanistan into an unwinnable war for the imperialists, and so end the distinction between the "bad war" in Iraq and the "good war" in Afghanistan. Every time Western troops set foot in the Middle East in pursuit of profit they will act against the interests of the working class  in these countries and in the West.

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