by Rohini Hensman* in India
We [in India] too protested against the US war on Afghanistan in writing and in demonstrations. The difference is that we had already been protesting and critiquing Taliban rule for years before. We saw them as analogous to the fascist forces in our own countries, like the RSS in India and the ‘Sinhala-Buddhists’ in Sri Lanka – in fact, we referred to every advance of these forces as ‘Talibanisation’ of our countries. Different religions but the same fascist ideology.
Our first priority should be clarity about what has happened. Let’s not kid ourselves: the Taliban hasn’t changed. They may be more media-savvy and pragmatic in allowing others to provide the services they are unable to provide, but it’s on their own terms, and therefore assisting them to rule the country. Regardless of what they say, there are reports that they have destroyed schools, stopped women going out to university or work, and drawn up lists of girls above 12 and young unmarried women to become wives of fighters, i.e. sex slaves. They have already killed journalists and dissenters, and will carry on doing so.
Every woman activist actually in Afghanistan whom I have seen interviewed expresses bitter disappointment and a sense of betrayal at the withdrawal of US and other Western forces, alongside contempt for the corrupt and incompetent government of Afghanistan, not just under Ghani but also under Karzai. I was at first surprised at the much more lenient view of the armed forces, but now I understand it. The US was supplying essential support services, and with their abrupt pullout those services came to an end, making it impossible for the armed forces to function and giving them no time to adjust. They had no loyalty to a government that didn’t pay them properly or even provide them with sufficient food, ammunition and other supplies. And many of them were desperately anxious about their families in Taliban-conquered territory, and rushed home to try and protect them.
Before we condemn China, Russia, Pakistan and Turkey for establishing relations with what is essentially a Taliban regime, let’s not forget that Trump was the first to provide the Taliban with legitimacy by negotiating with them in 2020 and releasing 5000 Islamist fighters – many more than Assad released. He gave the Taliban everything they wanted without getting anything in return except for undertakings that were not worth the paper they were written on – so much for the art of the deal. That was completely in accordance with his contempt for human rights and democracy. But what about Biden? He simply went along with the agreement without consulting the Afghan armed forces or the people of Afghanistan. People living in the US may have difficulty imagining anything worse than living under US rule, but living under fascist rule can actually be worse, and in some respects, including their treatment of women and girls, the Taliban are worse than the Nazis. The Hazaras, a religious (Shia) as well as ethnic minority, have also suffered genocidal attacks by the Taliban. Essentially, Trump and Biden handed Afghanistan over to the fascists. Is anyone on the left criticising them for this?
Arming the women of Afghanistan? That sounds like one of the fantasies I indulge in to comfort myself. Getting arms to the women of Afghanistan and training them to use those arms under the noses of the Taliban is not a very realistic prospect. At best, a few refugee women in neighbouring countries – not Pakistan, which is also crawling with Taliban – may be possible. Maybe Kurdish women fighters can be recruited to do this. Good luck with organising that, John. Mightn’t it have been easier to do this before the US withdrawal?
I too stand for the overthrow of the Taliban by the people of Afghanistan. I just think that would have been much easier to achieve and could have been achieved without the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of girls, women, ethno-religious minorities and progressives, if the left had intervened to insist on a better-managed withdrawal of Western forces. Allowing democratic and socialist groups in Afghanistan to be slaughtered unless they can escape into exile is not the best way to support them.
*-Rohini Hensman is a writer, independent scholar and activist working on workers’ rights, feminism, minority rights and globalization. She has been published extensively on these issues, her most recent book is Indefensible: Democracy, Counter-Revolution and the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism. Workers, Unions, and Global Capitalism: Lessons from India .
Oaklandsocialist comments: The only real way to defeat the Taliban fascists would have been through a mass movement from below, led first and foremost by Afghan women, also in connection with the working class movement in Iran and elsewhere. As Oaklandsocialist commented in our previous article on Afghanistan, like all capitalist regimes, the US capitalists hate being defeated by their rivals. The only thing that is worse in their eyes is a movement from below.