Reflections on Events in Afghanistan

M. K. Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline

The Taliban fighters posing for family photo and relaxing in the Presidential Palace, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug 15, 2021

1. Collapse of the Afghan Army 

Social media reported that at the Kabul residence of the Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib who post-haste fled to Tajikistan on Saturday with President Ashraf Ghani, three Toyota Landcruiser SUVs were found stacked with American dollar bills. 

Mohib was the shadow king of Afghanistan. He controlled the country’s defence budget. In the coming year, he would have handled over $3 billion, which the US has earmarked as assistance for the Afghan armed forces. The Taliban spoiled his party. 

The mystery of the Afghan armed forces losing the will to fight is actually no mystery at all. The main reason has been the misappropriation of defence budget. In Ghani’s set-up, Mohib, his trusted flunky, controlled the Defence Ministry — not the Defence Minister — and he obviously did well for himself — and probably Ghani too. Time will tell. 

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2. The green shoots of politics are reappearing 

The explosion of life is unstoppable. The first buds are edging their roots from the dirt no sooner than Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul on Sunday, without telling anyone, carrying a massive loot of ill-begotten wealth stolen from his people. And the green shoots of political recovery are appearing. 

Tense and urgent care is needed. The region is rallying. Pakistan has taken the lead. 

On Sunday afternoon, a galaxy of senior Afghan politicians, largely drawn from the erstwhile Northern Alliance of the late 1990s, arrived in Islamabad to cogitate with the Pakistani leadership regarding the mainstreaming of the Taliban. The delegation comprised three top figures from Panjshir Valley, veteran Hazara leaders, the Jamiat-e Islami, Afghan Parliament (including, interestingly, the eldest son of the Tajik leader from Mazar-i-Sharif Mohammed Atta Noor.) 

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3. The Return of the Native 

There is immense curiosity about the Taliban’s first moves following the dramatic return to Kabul after two decades. The big question on everyone’s mind is whether the Taliban has ‘changed’ since the 1990s. Opinions vary. But, so far at least, there are no signs of a return of repressive authoritarian rule. 

The stunning press conference on Tuesday in Kabul by the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid distinctly exuded an air of moderation and tolerance to dissenting voices. 

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4. The ‘X’ Factor in Kabul 

The Chinese commentaries vehemently reject the western claims of democratic transformation in Afghanistan. A conversation on Tuesday between the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his American counterpart Antony Blinken (at the latter’s initiative) brought this out sharply.

Wang told Blinken that ‘facts have once again proved that mechanically copying an imported foreign model cannot readily be fitted to the use in a country with completely different history, culture and national conditions, and ultimately, is unlikely to establish itself.’

Wang said that without the support of people, ‘a government cannot stand’, and the use of power and military means to solve problems will only cause more problems, and ‘lessons in this respect deserve serious reflection.’ Wang underscored that Afghanistan’s open and inclusive political framework ought to be ‘in accordance with its own national situations.’ read more

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The relative decline of US imperialism

Michael Roberts blog | August 17, 2021

The swift collapse of Afghanistan puppet government when US troops withdrew from the war with the Taliban and left the country after 20 years has been likened to the fall of Saigon at the end of the 30-year ‘American’ war against the Vietnamese people.  The scenes of Afghans trying to get onto US planes at the airport to escape seem startlingly familiar to those of us who can remember the last days of Saigon.

But is this a superficial similarity?  After all, America’s occupation of Vietnam was way more costly as a share of US national output and in terms of the lives of American soldiers than the attempt at ‘regime’ change in Afghanistan.  The Vietnam disaster led to the US government running deficits for the first time since WW2.  But even more important, it meant a diversion of investment into arms rather than productive sectors at a time when the profitability of capital had already begun to fall, the Golden Age of investment and profitability having peaked in the mid-1960s. 

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U.S. defeat in Afghanistan—A contrast with the Soviet experience

As’ad AbuKhalil

Consortium News | May 13, 2021

U.S. troops in 2011 conveying the Salang Pass during the war in Afghanistan, the route used by Soviet forces during the invasion 32 years before. (U.S. Armed Forces, Michael Vanpool, Wikimedia Commons)

The decision by President Joe Biden to withdraw “all U.S. troops” from Afghanistan (not really all, but you know how empires fold their occupation tents) was a major decision in the contemporary history of the U.S. empire since the end of the Cold War. The U.S. war in Afghanistan has lasted longer than the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan and yet Western media never regarded U.S. involvement for what it was:  an attempt to reshape the Middle East — and beyond — according to U.S. designs. Many of the facts regarding the background of the American intervention rarely make it into U.S. media narratives.

There is a big difference between the U.S. and Soviet experience in Afghanistan.  The Soviet Union never invented exile groups and forced them on the native Afghan population to rule over them. In name only of course, as the U.S. military and the foreign service bureaucracy have really ruled the country.  Just as in Iraq, the U.S. relied on puppets, with very little popular legitimacy in most cases, to rule in its name.

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In the country’s every heartbeat

On Fidel’s 95th birthday, in a 2021 full of challenges, a pandemic and a criminal blockade, the Comandante en jefe returns “on battle footing,” in this great struggle for life

Elson Concepción Pérez

Granma | August 13, 2021

Photo: Granma Archives

Fidel is always present, with his example, with his ideas and actions, in the country’s every heartbeat. In times of adversity and of times of victory.

Now, on his 95th birthday, in a 2021 full of challenges, a pandemic and a criminal blockade, the Comandante en jefe returns “on battle footing,” in this great struggle for life, guiding the generation of continuity, correcting the course of the work we are constructing.

From the sacred boulder, where his physical remains rest, he accompanies his brothers and sisters in combat, in the Sierra and on the plains, and his younger followers, who apply his teachings, offering, first and foremost, his example of always being close to the people, listening to them, convoking them, sharing the truth, building confidence in victory.

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US suffocates Cuba for unwavering, victorious anti-imperialism at great cost

Aaron Maté

The Grayzone | August 2, 2021

Cuba’s anti-imperial foreign policy helped end apartheid in South Africa and sustain liberation movements worldwide. Historian Piero Gleijeses says that’s one of the main reasons why the US has terrorized the island nation through today.

Cuba’s anti-imperial foreign policy helped end apartheid in South Africa and sustain liberation movements worldwide. Historian Piero Gleijeses says that’s one of the main reasons why the US has terrorized the island nation through today. 

Cuba’s anti-imperialist foreign policy helped end apartheid in South Africa and support liberation movements around the world, much to the outrage of the US government, which has placed the island nation under a crippling blockade for over six decades. 

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Regime Change, Lies and Video Films

Rosa Miriam Elizalde

Twenty years of lies from Washington, but only 10 days were enough for the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan. Joe Biden has finished it off by stringing together a pathetic excuse, again a lie: “Our mission in Afghanistan was not to build a nation, not to create a united democracy. Our only national interest in Afghanistan has been and continues to be to prevent a terrorist attack on the United States.”

Who believes him? The Washington Post compiled some 2,000 pages of notes from more than 400 interviews with Afghan military, diplomats, aid workers and officials a year and a half ago. They believed they were testifying on condition of anonymity and talked their heads off about the mistakes of the U.S. military and the deliberate deception of the Afghan population (and the world) to sustain the “regime change” project in Afghanistan at all costs. Lessons learned, they called this an unusual piece of paper.

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Latin American socialism and the fight against COVID-19: Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua

Sasha Gillies-Lekakis

MR Online | August 18, 2021

Latin America has been one of the regions worst-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, in every sense. Not only are countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Peru suffering epidemiological catastrophes, the result of right-wing neoliberal policies, but the World Bank and other financial institutions have reported that the region has suffered the most serious economic crisis as a result of the pandemic. The 2020s in Latin America are set to be a “lost decade,” with little social, economic, or political advancement in a number of nations. The failures of capitalism have become glaringly obvious during COVID-19, even though they were already apparent prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. And while there has been an overwhelming focus on the deaths, violence, and instability wracking numerous Latin American states, far less attention has been paid to the three countries that have, against all odds, defied this norm: Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

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The Household and the State

Prabhat Patnaik

IDEAs | August 16, 2021

Simple analogies can be deceptive, even dangerous. An example is the analogy often drawn between the household and the state. Just as a household cannot “live beyond its means” for ever, and sooner or later its creditors not only stop giving loans but take away the assets of the household for defaulting on loan repayment, likewise, the state cannot “live beyond its means” for ever and go on borrowing ad infinitum; sooner or later its creditors stop giving loans and even attach its assets.

This is a very common argument. One has heard it innumerable times, from spokesmen of Bretton Woods institutions and from Finance Ministers’ budget speeches, providing a rationale for restricting the fiscal deficit. Since the fiscal deficit is a measure of the state’s additional borrowing, incurring a fiscal deficit implies that the state is “living beyond its means”, which would eventually bring it to grief, as happens with a household.

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The IPCC Report: Key Findings and Radical Implications

Beyond the headlines: what climate science now shows about Earth’s future. Can we act in time?

Brian Tokar

The UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its latest comprehensive report on the state of the earth’s climate. The much-anticipated report dominated the headlines for a few days in early August, then quickly disappeared amidst the latest news from Afghanistan, the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections in the US, and all the latest political rumblings. The report is vast and comprehensive in its scope, and is worthy of more focused attention outside of specialist scientific circles than it has received thus far.

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Caleb Maupin’s homage to Dr Norman Bethune

Most Americans and Canadians never heard of this great internationalist hero, but he is revered in China.

EDITED BY PATRICE GREANVILLE

The Greanville Post | August 15, 2021

An informal chat with Caleb Maupin as your guide to the multitude of news, lies, distortions, rumors, idiocies, hypocrisies, and ideologies that shape our world.

Taking the example of Canadian surgeon Dr Bethune, who offered his services to help the Spanish Republican army and later China’s revolutionaries in their hour of need, Caleb discusses what makes a person dedicate his life to the betterment and liberation of others. 

China has many monuments to Bethune’s memory. The Chinese people never forget their true friends, let alone those who will put their lives on the line to help them, as Dr Bethune did. Mao wrote a heart-rending eulogy to him, which I reproduce below. 

IN MEMORY OF NORMAN BETHUNE

December 21, 1939


“We must all learn the spirit of absolute selflessness from him. With this spirit everyone can be very useful to the people. A man’s ability may be great or small, but if he has this spirit, he is already noble-minded and pure, a man of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, a man who is of value to the people.”—Mao Tse-tung

By Mao Tse-tung

Comrade Norman Bethune,[1] a member of the Communist Party of Canada, was around fifty when he was sent by the Communist Parties of Canada and the United States to China; he made light of travelling thousands of miles to help us in our War of Resistance Against Japan. He arrived in Yenan in the spring of last year, went to work in the Wutai Mountains, and to our great sorrow died a martyr at his post. What kind of spirit is this that makes a foreigner selflessly adopt the cause of the Chinese people’s liberation as his own? It is the spirit of internationalism, the spirit of communism, from which every Chinese Communist must learn. Leninism teaches that the world revolution can only succeed if the proletariat of the capitalist countries supports the struggle for liberation of the colonial and semi-colonial peoples and if the proletariat of the colonies and semi-colonies supports that of the proletariat of the capitalist countries.[2] Comrade Bethune put this Leninist line into practice. We Chinese Communists must also follow this line in our practice. We must unite with the proletariat of all the capitalist countries, with the proletariat of Japan, Britain, the United States, Germany, Italy and all other capitalist countries, for this is the only way to overthrow imperialism, to liberate our nation and people and to liberate the other nations and peoples of the world. This is our internationalism, the internationalism with which we oppose both narrow nationalism and narrow patriotism.

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