of Broken Promises
on a series of reports from A World to Win News Service
the US-imposed regime change in Afghanistan came promises of a better
economy, stability, democracy and women's liberation. The US and
its allies pledged "aid" to reconstruct the country and have tried
to justify their presence in Afghanistan in the name of bringing
security to the people.
years after Karzai and the warlords took over the reins of government,
reconstruction and the economy of Afghanistan are as bleak as ever.
The backward and restrictive social conditions for women are legitimised
by the state, and so-called political stability is nowhere on the
horizon. With a solution stamped "Made in USA", there is little
perspective that the situation in any of these areas is likely to
and the Economy of Afghanistan
US bombs carried out massive destruction, the US convened its allies
to a conference in Tokyo in 2002 that pledged $5.8 billion in aid
to Afghanistan over the next five years for reconstruction. More
recently, the US promised another $1.2 billion and urged its allies
to put up a billion dollars more. This is not very much money by
international standards. The US alone is spending almost a billion
dollars a month ($900 million) for its own occupation expenses in
Afghanistan. But any ordinary person who sympathises with Afghanistan's
people and who might think that the answer is to send more "aid"
should consider how this money is spent.
much of it goes to rebuilding the country. As the British Observer
newspaper pointed out on 25 May, "So far donor countries have committed
just $300 million to road-building in all Afghanistan, by coincidence
exactly the same amount of money as is being spent on reconstructing
the US embassy in Kabul.... The contractor is Bechtel, the US construction
giant." One of the two main Bush-friendly mega-corporations getting
very much richer in Iraq at the moment, Bechtel charges almost $400,000
per kilometre of road constructed.
for the rest of these funds, the US and the West are sending supplies
and cash, both directly and through non-governmental organisations.
Much of it is in the form of military aid for the central government
or for the particular warlords supported by the particular donor
country. It also includes so-called civilian aid, in the form of
food or money to subsidise food imports from the West (another bonanza
for American and other giant corporations).
economy is basically powered by two things: opium and money sent
home by Afghanistanis in exile. With four million abroad out of
a population of 24 million, Afghanistan has one of the highest percentages
of people forced to live abroad of any country in the world. The
main reason for this and for why Afghanistan's economy has been
strangled overall is very simple: the warlords and the feudal system
Communist Party of Afghanistan (a participant in the Revolutionary
Internationalist Movement) analyses Afghanistan as "a semi-feudal
and colonial country". It is semi-feudal because it has a feudal
economic and social system that has been influenced by capitalist
relations. It is colonial because not only is the country under
the political and economic domination of imperialism (like many
countries considered semi-colonial), it is also directly occupied
by imperialist forces.
warlords started out as local feudal rulers or with the support
of such people. Others have used their guns to become feudal rulers
or big landowners over time. About 75 per cent of the people of
Afghanistan live in the countryside, and most of them are under
the domination and control of these warlords. Almost half of the
cultivable land belongs to the feudal and big landlords, and the
other half is divided among the peasant farmers. This means that
the vast majority of the peasants are either landless or are forced
to make do with very small plots of land. The farmers who work on
the feudal lands have to pay between 65 and 85 per cent of the crops
to the feudal as rent. This could be even higher in the case of
warlords and their armies enforce this exploitation - in most cases
the warlords are the direct exploiters themselves. They grab the
land of the people who have left the country and in some cases force
the people to sell or even just abandon their land. Sometimes they
collect taxes. They use the Islamic tax known as khoms to take 20
per cent or more of the crops. In a report from Shol Garah valley
in Afghanistan, the New York Times wrote on 24 September 2003, "The
fighting in this fertile bowl flared as the harvest neared, and
that was not a coincidence. From bountiful crops of cotton, corn
and wheat would come a cut for local commanders. The more land the
commanders controlled, the more crop they could claim... Throughout
early summer, men toting weapons roamed in pickup trucks. Gunshots
echoed. Farmers watched helplessly, wanting nothing more than to
be free of the men...."
Fix for the
growing has become a golden opportunity for the warlord government
and all those it represents to expand their capital and become a
part of the new comprador class that US imperialism intends to reconstruct.
Only a few months after the US and its allies invaded, it was clear
that Afghanistan was going to become the world's largest opium poppy
producer again. After the Taliban succeeded in banning this crop,
less than 200 tonnes were produced in 2001. But this figure reached
3,400 tonnes in 2002 and it will probably be well over 4,000 tonnes
in 2003. Today it is estimated that more than 3 million people and
their families in the country support themselves directly from poppy
cultivation. Several million more work in the poppy fields occasionally.
farmers of Afghanistan are in fact driven to opium cultivation by
powerful but merciless forces: on the one side a globalised world
economy that gives them no choice but to grow something they can
live from, and on the other side the imperialist intervention and
what this has meant for their lives.
the absence of irrigation systems and in a situation in which water
is often stolen by big feudal landlords and more powerful people,
many have turned to growing poppy. Poppy plants need less water
than wheat or other basic food crops. Further, how can peasants
afford to grow wheat when their crops will be undersold by cheap
imports produced by subsidised farmers in the rich countries? American
and European food "aid" to Afghanistan is almost as lethal as land
mines. The rich countries are happy because they can sell their
surplus wheat, but free or cheap imported wheat ruins Third World
peasants and, by making the country dependent on food imports, eventually
who profit from the poppy business are certainly not the farmers.
First come the gangs who charge the farmers to "protect" them against
other gangs. Then come the armed groups of one or another warlord.
Then come the officials demanding bribes. If the peasants refuse,
they may see their harvest destroyed, or end up in prison. So a
large percentage goes to all these parasites. Even if things work
out for a peasant family, it is certain that they will make only
a little money, which of course is better than starving.
production is directly related to the predominance of feudalism
and the rule of warlords in Afghanistan. But the political conditions
imposed by the US have been a key factor. Poppy growing in Afghanistan
might have a long history but it did not take place on such a large
scale until the US began to back the Mojahadeen Islamic fundamentalist
(and feudalistic) guerrillas in the war of resistance against the
USSR in the 1980s. These warlords encouraged poppy cultivation in
areas under their control to finance their war against the Soviet
is grown in 24 out of 32 of Afghanistan's provinces, but most of
the production is concentrated in five provinces that are strongholds
of the warlords now allied with the US, including Badakhshan. That
province was the stronghold of Ahmad Shah Massoud, a close ally
of Europe, especially France. Now it is under the control of his
Jamiat-e-Islami, a powerful faction of the former Northern Alliance.
Poppy production now forms the biggest single part of the economy.
One estimate is that it brings in $2 billion in foreign currency
a year. It is central to the wealth and power of the social forces
on which the US occupation depends, from traders and local warlords
to big comprador businessmen and the highest-ranking government
officials. It is intimately connected to the political and economic
maintenance of the country's enslavement by backward feudals and
supplies 70 per cent of the world's heroin. It supplies Pakistan,
Iran, Central Asia, Russia and Eastern and Western Europe. Much
of the addiction from Afghanistan's opium is concentrated in countries
where the degradation of the people particularly suits US strategic
interests. There are estimates of up to as many as six million drug
addicts in Pakistan, nearly five million in Iran, around four million
drug users in Russia, and many new addicts in the former Soviet
states of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan -
all targeted for US domination. This is one of the major "achievements"
of the US occupation of Afghanistan.
is the Source of
ongoing power struggle within the Afghanistan regime, the lack of
government control outside Kabul and on top of that the continued
fierce fighting with the Taliban, underscore just how unstable Afghanistan
remains. Many aid organisations have halted their activities, complaining
that the situation is deteriorating.
Afghanistan has been a strategic prize for great powers anxious
to expand their regional domination. The country marks the dividing
line between Central Asia (historically dominated by Russia) and
South Asia (dominated by the British and then the US). For the British
and then US, Afghanistan was the gate to Central Asia. For Russia,
it was the gate to South Asia and the open sea to the south. This
contention has been the source of instability for more than a century.
The exception was the period when the USSR was a socialist country.
During those decades the Soviet Union had no designs on Afghanistan
and there were several decades of relative calm.
the attack of 11 September 2001 as a pretext, the US tried to take
advantage of its position as the only superpower to finalise the
situation in Afghanistan. The aim was to ensure stability there
in line with its own imperialist interests and pave the way for
expanding American hegemony in Central Asia and the Middle East.
But events proved this to be more difficult than the US ruling class
still considers Central Asia as its area of domination and Afghanistan
as its backyard. It could not tolerate US advances towards its area
of control. As a result, it has stepped up its support for the forces
it backs in the power struggles within the Afghanistan government.
For example, Defence Minister General Qasim Fahim is said to have
good relations with Russia. No wonder there was a $40 million military
deal between Russia and Jamiat-e-Islami, of which Fahim is a main
leader. The contract calls for Russia to provide transport helicopters,
gunships and spare parts directly to Fahim's ministry rather than
to the Afghan National Army.
European imperialists no less eager to increase their influence
in Afghanistan have nourished relations with certain opposition
forces since the time of the Taliban. After the US-led 2001 invasion,
the European countries sent their troops under UN and NATO flags
to control Kabul. They have been asking for the expansion of the
UN mandate to allow them to operate outside Kabul, so that they
could expand their control in Afghanistan.
reactionary countries in the region are also interfering in Afghanistan.
Pakistan is in the forefront. Its generals were the main promoters
of the Taliban and, on American instructions, gave them vigorous
help to seize power. After the fall of the Taliban, these generals
have allegedly been helping the Taliban to regroup and to use Pakistan's
border region as a base for operations inside Afghanistan. The relationship
between Pakistan and the Jamiat-e-Islami is very strained. Pakistan's
main concern is that it is locked in confrontation with India on
one border and cannot afford to have hostile forces on the other.
the other side, Iran has provided military aid to the private militia
of Ismail Khan, the governor of Herat province in western Afghanistan.
Huge amounts of imported goods are flooding into that region. The
Islamic Republic of Iran is also trying to use the similarity of
the Shia religion to influence forces in Hezarah Jat and is training
and financing Islamic groups in central and north-western Afghanistan.
is also trying to gain influence in Jamiat-e-Islami to expand its
regional importance in competition with Pakistan.
and Uzbekistan are eager to revive their support for General Dostum,
a Northern Alliance member who is an adversary of other forces within
the Alliance, and would like to boost him in the power struggle.
this shows that the warlords are only small pawns in a "Great Game"
played by the big powers and other reactionary states. The biggest
players are the US occupiers and the other imperialists who have
sent troops. They are the main source of instability. History gives
little reason to think that any big power occupation or puppet regime
could bring peace and stability, let alone the social change Afghanistan's
people so badly need.
Oppression for Women
the invasion of Afghanistan and the fall of the Taliban, many women
across the country thought they would get at least some limited
freedom. They thought they could at least lighten their Islamic
covering, and leave their homes for work and school. They hoped
they could take part in social and political activities. But instead
a new nightmare awaited them.
cover may no longer be compulsory by law, yet no woman can go out
without it. The burka, imposed by law under the Taliban, covering
the entire body from head to toe, is generally common, and in most
cases women must wear a burka to protect themselves against insult
or rape. As a 2003 Amnesty International report put it, "During
the Taliban era, if a woman went to market and showed an inch of
flesh she would have been flogged; now she's raped."
return of many girls to school is also running into obstacles. Some
schools have been burnt down to deter parents from enrolling their
children. In some areas soldiers and militiamen of the former Mujahideen
groups are discouraging girls from going to school. As Human Rights
Watch noted, these men have grabbed many young girls on their way
to school and kidnapped and raped them. This organised harassment
has added to parents' worries, so that returning refugee families
who had sent their girls to school in Pakistan and Iran are now
frightened and choose not to send their girls to school in Afghanistan.
The state also plays a major role in reinforcing women's conditions:
in November 2003 a law from the 1970s was upheld prohibiting married
women from attending high school. This stifles any hope for many
women to improve their lives, as many girls are forced into marriage
at a young age, sometimes as young as 9 or 10.
cases of rape and sexual abuse of women are not reported because
there is little support for fighting this in any part of the society
and none in the government - neither in the executive power (run
by President Karzai) nor in the judicial system, which is mainly
in the hands of fundamentalists. In fact, the current rulers and
their courts put the victims on trial, not the rapists. Women who
are victims of rape or other abuse are often convicted of adultery
form of oppression of women that makes the women property and thus
the bearers of the "honour" of men is deeply rooted in the feudal
and semi-feudal system. It is the very forces who are acting as
US allies in Afghanistan, the feudal landlords and warlords, who
embody and enforce this system.
New and Reactionary
of the greatest farces of democracy imposed on Afghanistan's people
is the puppet regime's new Constitution, approved by the Loya Jirga
(Grand Council) in early 2004. It is not much of a surprise, since
basically it is the programme of the feudal and comprador class
who have pledged allegiance to their imperialist masters at the
expense of the masses of the people. In other words, the Constitution
is designed to protect and consolidate the dominant semi-feudal
economic and social relations and to ensure the dominance of imperialism
over the country. This means a dictatorship of the reactionary classes,
the feudalists and imperialist lackeys and their servants, over
and against the people, who are the majority.
tenets of Islamic ideology represented in this Constitution violate
one of the most basic principles of any democracy - the separation
of state and religion. The Constitution puts it this way: "No law
in Afghanistan can be valid if it goes against the sacred religion
of Islam and this Constitution." It also allows judges to make decisions
using Islamic law as their guide. The judges must swear "in the
name of God the Great" that they will "uphold justice and right
according to the commandments of the sacred religion of Islam and
Constitution allows political parties to be established as long
as their programme "does not go against the principles of Islam"
and they don't have "military aims" or "foreign affiliation". This
means that communists and other atheists won't be allowed to form
a party or other organisation. These conditions may also apply to
Maoist movement in Afghanistan has a shining history. It started
in the 1960s and gained broad support throughout Afghanistan. People
call them Sholeii ("Sholeh-ists," after the name of the organ of
the Progressive Youth Movement). The Maoists fought hard. Many were
killed by the pro-Soviet revisionist government during the USSR's
imperialist invasion, while some were murdered by the Islamic fundamentalists.
Most people who know about the Sholeii respect them. But the new
Constitution outlaws them, while Islamic organisations that have
committed countless crimes against the people enjoy the freedom
to rule and to commit more crimes in the name of the "law".
to the Constitution, "The state encourages private investment based
on a market economy, according to the rule of law, and guarantees
its immunity." At the same time, it foresees no protection for the
national economy and puts no restrictions on imperialist capital.
Thus, there is no serious pretence of independence of the country,
but rather a built-in freedom for invaders to run the economy, plunder
its resources and exploit the masses.
vast majority of the peasants in Afghanistan are landless or have
very little land. But the Constitution does not even refer to the
land question, one of the most essential issues for Afghanistan's
people, nor provide for land distribution, which is one of the most
basic democratic steps the country requires. Instead, it has an
empty reference to "effective programmes" for helping peasants and
very different Draft Programme has been published for a future united
Communist Party of Afghanistan. That party will consist of Maoist
parties and organisations, including the present Communist Party
of Afghanistan, a participant in the Revolutionary Internationalist
Movement. It declares that, "New-democratic revolution is the proletariat's
minimum programme. This revolution overthrows imperialist domination
and eliminates semi-feudal relations through agrarian revolution
and carrying out the central slogan of land to the tiller."