Kabul Falls—What Next?

by Farooq Tariq, general secretary, Labour Party of Pakistan

[This is an edited version of an article posted on the Internet on November 13, 2001, from Lahore, Pakistan. Click here to visit the web site of the Labour Party of Pakistan.]

The Northern Alliance (NA) took over Kabul today, November 13, without much resistance. The Taliban’s much-threatened “jihad” (holy war) was nowhere to be seen when the Northern Alliance forces arrived. Kabul was taken without any serious fight from the Taliban. The myth created by the Taliban and their supporters internationally that no one could defeat the Taliban will be shattered within days across the globe after this shameful surrender by the Taliban in Kabul. It was not, as some media persons have suggested, a tactical retreat; rather, it shows the total collapse of morale among the Taliban.

The U.S.-sponsored Northern Alliance took over Kabul only a day after Bush made a public plea to the Northern Alliance not to take Kabul. Bush wanted to please the visiting Pakistan military ruler, General Pervez Musharaf. The Pakistan government is now pleading for a UN peacekeeping force to help form a broad-based government. This is just to be saying something after the Pakistan president was publicly humiliated by this takeover.

The U.S. government desperately wanted a win. It felt it needed a big victory immediately. That is why the public plea of President Bush for the Northern Alliance not to enter Kabul was put aside to allow for this much-waited event. The surrender of Kabul shows the absolute dictatorial nature of the Taliban and its fast-disappearing social base. The ordinary citizens of Kabul seemed quite delighted over this victory. The Northern Alliance issued the first order that women can go back to jobs. This is just to please its masters in the imperialist countries. The majority of the Northern Alliance has no different policy on women than that of the Taliban. Once the Northern Alliance strengthens its power base, the real face of these fundamentalists will come out in the open.

U.S. imperialism has once again used the same old tactic of  “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” They have paid a heavy price for supporting and promoting the religious fundamentalists against the former Soviet Union in the past. They are repeating the same tactic, and if they continue to support the Northern Alliance, it will be like bringing up another monster that could go out of control in a very short time.

The defeat in Kabul for the Taliban is no victory for U.S. imperialism. It had to take the support of another religious fundamentalist group. The group might make some changes in its outlook in the initial phase, but it will not change its real aim of Islamic revolution in Afghanistan.

The Taliban will now lose power in Kandahar as well. Its will to fight a guerrilla war after retreating to the mountains will not have much weight, and the Taliban will be rooted out of Afghanistan for the time being. Osama may lose his life alongside of many Taliban leaders. But religious fundamentalism will not be dead with the death of its best-known leaders.

The strategy of the Taliban to move into the tribal areas linked to the Pakistani border will not meet with much success. The Taliban chapter of history has ended. There is not much time left before they will formally be out of power from all parts of Afghanistan. Now religious fundamentalism will have to wait a long time to take over state power again, as it did in Afghanistan and Iran. But religious fundamentalism will not die down, and the extreme face of these forces will carry on by suicidal attacks, guerrilla activities, and so on.

The taking of Kabul by the Northern Alliance (NA) has brought more difficulties for Gen. Musharaf’s military regime in Pakistan. This action of the NA has been carried out contrary to the strategy of Gen. Musharaf. It seems that U.S. imperialism has played a double game. On the one hand, it has been assuring the Pakistan regime that it will not do anything against its interests. On the other, it has armed the NA to take on the Taliban. U.S. imperialism was very worried that its own soldiers should not be killed in this war. So the strategy was to arm the NA to do the job instead. The U.S. military gave full air cover to the NA to move forward to Kabul. Now the reactions of Tony Blair and Bush also indicate that the taking of Kabul is no surprise for them and they had already planned that things would go like this.

The Pakistan military regime has been taken aback by the speed of the events and the way the Taliban has left without a fight. Only Pakistanis and Arab jihadis were left behind in Kabul to be massacred by the NA forces. Their bodies lying in the streets of Kabul show the methods and tactics that will be used in future as well by the NA. The Taliban ditched these foreign Mujahidin and left on their own, the night before Kabul fell.

General Musharaf’s strategy to carry on his policy of supporting the Mujahidin in Kashmir while opposing the Taliban was accepted for the time being by U.S. imperialism. General Musharaf will have no other choice but to retreat from his Kashmir policy. He cannot have two policies on the same issue of terrorism. He has to choose one. But if General Musharaf does not listen to U.S. imperialism on Kashmir, he may lose his power as well as his life. The Bush administration has been praising General Musharaf’s regime for its brave and timely stand to support them. But the fall of Kabul has changed many things. It will have a decisive effect on U.S. imperialism’s strategy toward Pakistan.

Now the focus of so-called world attention will be Kabul, not Islamabad. The Islamabad leaders have to speak again and again to U.S. imperialism about the promises it has made to them all along. Most of these promises will be forgotten. The fall of Kabul, and in a few days Afghanistan, to the NA and U.S.-allied forces will change the psychology of U.S. imperialism.

The fall of Kabul was not a surprise for us here in Pakistan. Religious fundamentalism was fighting a war they were bound to lose. The Pakistan regime had abandoned them, and you cannot fight a war with religious feelings alone. We said again and again that the Taliban would lose the war in a short space of time.

The Taliban was the most hated regime that the Afghan masses had ever seen in their whole history. It wanted to carry out its medieval policies by force. The people of Afghanistan were forced to adopt some of these policies. But they never had any mass social base in Afghanistan. The religious fundamentalist forces were a tiny, very committed minority who were able to hold on together thanks to all the support they were receiving from the international religious fundamentalist forces.

The fall of Kabul will not bring any stable regime in Afghanistan. It will further polarize the situation, and a civil-war-type situation will remain as before. But the difference will be that now the religious divide will recede into the background and the national divide will come to the forefront. Afghanistan is a mess of history in all forms. It is a jungle of different nationalities, each with its own tribal identity. This mess cannot be solved on the basis of capitalism, which can only further enhance the national divide. There is not going to be a massive pumping-in of U.S. dollars to stabilize the situation. The new Afghan leaders will be given some peanuts and then left to fight among themselves.

Afghan history has once again seen a change of power in Afghanistan after five years of brutal rule by the Taliban. But this change once again will not bring any change in the poverty of the masses of Afghanistan.

There could be a little so-called liberal time in Afghanistan if a broad-based government is established under the influence of U.S. imperialism. The Northern Alliance is in a very powerful position. It can dictate its terms, but it is unable to unite the different fighting nationalities. U.S. imperialism’s strategy will be to establish a broad-based government loyal to the aging Zahir Shah. But this government can be very short-lived, as it will not be able to control the situation. A new phase of civil war can be seen in Afghanistan in the future.

The Pakistan government has been supporting the Taliban for seven years. Suddenly it had to oppose them. Now, it has no friendly forces in Afghanistan. If a government in Afghanistan is established against the wishes of the Pakistan military regime, this could open up a new phase of hostility with Pakistan. A war between Pakistan and Afghanistan cannot be ruled out in these circumstances.

The Labour Party of Pakistan will help the tiny forces of the Left in Afghanistan to take advantage of the limited time it may have to build itself inside Afghanistan. The Weekly Mazdoor Jeddojuhd is planning to print a monthly edition of its paper in Pushtu with the close collaboration of the Afghanistan Revolutionary Labour Organization.

The Left internationally should carry on to oppose the strategy of U.S. imperialism of waging war and bringing a new puppet regime to Afghanistan. The war has not ended. It has entered a new phase. The anti-globalization campaign linked with the peace movement must carry on.

One fundamentalist group is gone; the other, with the help of the U.S., has come to power. We have no choice but to oppose this new change in Kabul, and to struggle instead for a better, democratic and socialist change.