by Cheryl Zuur
I watched some bits of news/documentaries about Afghanistan on Youtube. Both of them followed a woman reporter (one from France News 24) into different parts of Afghanistan, including rural areas held by the Taliban. A few statistics; 80 percent of the Afghan population live in extreme poverty in rural areas. Literacy in the population has increased to around 43%, but only 15% of women can read and write.
Atta Mohammed Nur
One interview was with Atta Mohammed Nur, a leader of the Mujahadeen who became governor of Balkh province. (He just fled to Uzbekistan with Dostum).
To me he represented the essence of what the US occupation came to represent; a modern warlord who became enormously wealthy bringing capitalism to his region through “modernization”, building underground shopping malls and more.
The population in cities and around US bases benefited from the occupation, with boom towns offering flea markets selling DVD’s of Hollywood and Bollywood films, and more.
Body building is very popular among Afghan men, and they greatly admire Schwarzenegger.
The lack of women in public spaces except in major cities, and their lack of access to education and health care is still shocking to women living in bourgeois democracy.
Taliban Economic Development Plans
All of this made me think about that essential question; what are the Taliban’s plans for the Afghan economy? And will whatever exists of an Afghan working class in cities find a way to organize once the dust has settled?
The Taliban have to portray themselves as the sacred protectors of Islam from the corrupt and degenerate culture of the west, yet in order to stay in power they need to allow development of some kind. They may claim all kinds of things but in the end, they will need cash and know that they cannot maintain the Opium trade, or count on international aid. We already know that India and China are circling.
China, the “non corrupt and non degenerate” super power seems like their best bet.
The US had no choice but to leave, knowing full well that China would be moving in.
The Taliban has taken a page from US Imperialism when they said “well, yes we know about the Uyghurs and of course we care about Muslims all around the world. But we will not interfere with China’s internal affairs”.
If the Taliban follows through with their “modernization” of their own governing approach, moderating some of their past policies just enough to be accepted by some other countries- and who knows, eventually by the US if they cut deals with the World Bank and others? It seems like one possible development would be the Taliban becoming a strange mix of feudal ideas combined with modern capitalism, China style. After all, China won’t be demanding that they have elections, just that they protect their development projects from terrorist attacks and keep their mouths shut about the treatment of the Uyghurs.
I read an essay by a US Treasury Department attaché to Afghanistan about how much cash the Taliban already has access to sitting in the banks from International Aid, not to mention all the weaponry. He blathered about sanctions, freezing funds and the usual, but he knows damn well the Taliban have been carefully orchestrating other resources. They control the borders and can continue the narcotic trade, illegal mining and more. Who’s been stopping them so far?
The Afghan people are fighters, but in this century all of their fight has gone against invaders. Maybe now with their own Afghan/Pakistan/Chinese government forming, they will start to organize for their own class and their own country. Africans and South Americans have learned that the Chinese are imperialists as well.
I did a search for “How will the Taliban develop the economy” and found this very detailed thesis published in 2010 about the political economy of the Taliban, up to that point. They have come a very, very long way since then, from a group simply seeking to consolidate and expand their power, to an organization who’s annual income is estimated to be 1.5 billion a year. The Taliban are a 2021 modern capitalist enterprise, complete with “illegal” operations, but steeped in a Islamic Fundamentalist world view.
They’d be right at home with the Christian Evangelical businessmen in the US.