From 2001-2007 the occupation of Afghanistan and a growing low-intensity war in Pakistan proceeded with little notice in the U.S. Dominated by the uprising in Iraq, the U.S. ruling class–the principle force guaranteeing the occupation and the most to lose from its failure–equally treated developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan with relative neglect. For the last two years this course has been slowly reversed, and the U.S. has not only attempted to deal with the growing resistance in Afghanistan, but has dramatically deepened its involvement inside Pakistan. Richard Holbrooke, one of the architects of Clinton’s Yugoslavia policy and now playing a similar role in Afghanistan and Pakistan under Obama, indicated this conceptual shift when he said U.S. imperialism is not facing an Afghanistan problem, but a AfPak problem.
With Iraq secured, the Bush administration put General David Petraeus in charge of Central Command who turned to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which was completely out of control. The neo-Taliban now functioned as a shadow state throughout the south and east of the country, advancing to the edges of Kabul that confined a collapsing and illegitimate U.S.-backed regime. More recently, the resistance has emerged in pockets around the north of the country. The promotion of Petraeus signaled the intention to replicate the Iraq strategy which involved destabilizing the resistance by incorporating its bourgeois elements into the state and, at the same time, carrying out total war against its popular bases of support–what Don Rumsfeld had called the El Salvador option. Further, the U.S. depended on sharpening divisions in Iraqi society and capitalizing on the decisive ideological failures within the resistance.
Obama appointed General Stanley McChrystal, chief Special Forces commander in Iraq, to implement a similar strategy in Afghanistan. As commander of JSOC, McChrystal was one of the central players in the “El Salvador option” inside Iraq. McChrystal was highly critical of military policy in Afghanistan and gave a grim assessment of the state of the occupation, which was subsequently made public. Faced with a classic guerrilla campaign, the historical problems of state building in Afghanistan, and increased inter-state and regional competition in central Asia, for example the recent expansion of the Shanghai Cooperative Organization, U.S. imperialism has endangered its own strategic positions throughout the region.
Continue reading Crisis of the Occupation in Afghanistan
Historical Features of Afghanistan
A) Afghanis have fought the British in three separate wars and Russians once and defeated them or held them at stalemate. This is military dimensions of this war is something the American brass and political establishment are aware of. This is reflected in the uneasiness of sending more troops although the new fiscal realities of the U.S. government are probably playing a role as well.
B) Afghanistan is one of the few places on the Earth where bourgeois-capitalist development has had little if any impact. While many newly independent countries in the post-colonial era were taking stabs at state-led development, Afghanistan was largely left out of this dynamic. This has meant a centralized state with a national ideology, which reaches into the pores of Afghanistan, has never existed. There is a huge gulf between the cities and the rural sectors of society. It also means that the presence of a working class is minimal.
C) The Communists following the overthrow of Daoud did not have a base in the countryside. 90% of the Afghani population lived here at the time. To push for change they had to rely on a top-down strategy which alienated the villagers. This meant force and violence had to be used by the Communists fuelling an insurgency. The pitfalls of revolution from above laid the gravestone of the Afghani Communists. So when Afghanis hate Communism, it is not because they are backwards, it is because Communists first became their jailers and tortures and later with the Soviets sided with those who jailed and tortured them.
Most Communists made another fatal mistake in supporting the Soviet invasion. Socialism/Communism cannot be brought by the barrel of a gun. Furthermore, the Soviet army found itself playing the role of occupier instead of some progressive force. This was the inherent logic from the beginning.
Continue reading Notes on Afghanistan and Pakistan
There are a lot of dimensions to the Af-Pak situation. Here are some of the key ones:
Most immediately are the tensions and “knife fighting” going on in administration over whether to send more troops to Afghanistan and what strategy to pursue. It is definitely worth discussing what this debate says about Obama’s administration and at the same time the challenges and concerns facing US Empire.
Second there is the issue of what strategy to pursue. During the spring Obama went with a padded counter-terrorism strategy meaning the general thrust was to go after the Taliban and Al-Queda with some aid and development tacked on. It looks like McChrystal is calling for a full-blown counterinsurgency stategy which is civilian-centric and closer to nation-building.
Continue reading What next for US Empire in Afghanistan and Pakistan
This summer, Pakistan’s supreme court ruled that hijras, a name for South Asia’s historic transgender community, will be registered by the state, ostensibly to provide social services and prevent police brutality.
This article from The Guardian written by Basim Usmani indicates that, though the ruling has been lauded by official media and Pakistan’s middle classes, both the motivations and the effects of the ruling are less than liberating for queer people in Pakistan. Continue reading Queer Liberation and the Pakistani State