The war against Afghanistan continues to be portrayed by President Obama, and other government officials—with the help of a compliant and complicit media—as a war against terrorism. But the decades long CIA and U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan has always been about serving the interests of capital and finance. Although a poor country, Afghanistan has tremendous economic and geopolitical value for the United States. As the short history that follows shows, the U.S government has consistently supported reactionary forces in Afghanistan in service of U.S. corporate interests.
In 1978, a progressive revolution takes place in Afghanistan
For thousands of years, Afghanistan had been a repressive feudal society when, in the mid-1960s, revolutionaries in Afghanistan formed the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Their intent was to overthrow the feudal landlords who had kept over 90% of the population in indentured servitude. In 1973, the PDP managed to depose the king, however, its governance was inept, and unpopular. In 1978, the people of Afghanistan staged a huge demonstration in front of the Presidential Palace and took down the first PDP government. The army intervened on the side of the demonstrators and invited Noor Mohammed Taraki, a journalist, to head up another Marxist-led coalition of national democratic forces. The people had spoken.
The Taraki government legalized labor unions, set up a minimum wage, a progressive income tax, a literacy campaign, and programs that gave ordinary people greater access to health care, housing, and public sanitation. It organized farmer cooperatives and lowered food prices. It provided public education for girls and promoted the emancipation of women from tribal bondage. It stopped the cultivation of opium poppy, and abolished all debts owed by farmers, some of which were generations old. Finally, it began a major land reform program in which land was redistributed to former serfs.
Obviously, the old reactionary elite in Afghanistan was not happy. Feudal landlords opposed the confiscation and redistribution of their land, and fundamentalist tribesmen and mullahs opposed the progressive ideas of gender equality and the secular education of women and children, which undercut their authority and power.
The U. S. undermines progressive economic and social reforms of the Taraki government
As soon as the Taraki government came to power in 1978, the CIA, assisted by Saudi and Pakistani military, intervened in Afghanistan on the side of the protesting feudal lords, reactionary tribal chieftains, fundamentalist mullahs, and opium traffickers. The Carter administration, through the CIA, provided huge sums to Muslim extremists to subvert the reformist government, a government that was not only providing a better life for the majority of Afghans, but was also friendly with the Soviet Union.
In 1979, a top official within the Taraki government, covert CIA operative Hafizulla Amin, seized state power in a U.S. backed armed coup and executed Taraki. He halted the reforms, and murdered, jailed, or exiled thousands of Taraki supporters. But he didn’t last long. On December 26, 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, killed Amin and installed genuine PDP leader, Babrak Karmal. The very next day, on December 27, 1979, massive Soviet ground forces invaded Afghanistan from the north.
The CIA, the Mujahideen, and Osama bin Laden
The Soviet invasion allowed the CIA to turn a reactionary tribal resistance against economic and social reform into a U.S. proxy war with Soviet Russia, which threatened U.S. corporate access to resources, labor and markets around the world. The CIA and its allies, including Saudi Arabia, recruited, supplied, and trained nearly 100,000 radical Muslims, or mujahideen, from over forty Muslim countries. Among those was Saudi-born millionaire Osama bin Laden.
After a long and unsuccessful war, the Soviets left Afghanistan in February 1989. The PDP Marxist government held on for another three years but was finally taken over by the U.S. backed mujahideen.
But, after taking power, the tribal mujahideen fought among themselves, terrorized civilian populations, looted, had mass executions, closed schools, raped thousands of women and girls, and destroyed much of Kabul. Needing an independent source of income, they forced farmers to grow opium poppy. To gain leverage with the mujahideen, the Pakistani ISI, with tacit approval from the CIA, set up hundreds of heroin labs across Afghanistan. As a result of U.S./Pakistani policy, the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland became the biggest producer of heroin in the World.
The U.S. funds and supports the Taliban
From the U.S. government/corporate perspective, Afghanistan was rescued from progressive, anti-capitalist reform and takeover by the Soviet Union, but the mujahideen were not easy to control. By 1995, the CIA and the ISI had begin to support and fund an extremist, fundamentalist sect of Sunni Islam, called the Taliban, which successfully fought its way to power, and took over most of the country.
The Taliban stopped the raping and poppy growing. All men were required to have untrimmed beards and women had to wear the burqa. Women were, once again, outlawed from social life, deprived of most forms of medical care, barred from all levels of education, and work outside the home. Those who were deemed “immoral” were stoned to death or buried alive.
Afghanistan = Pipelineistan
After the discovery of natural gas and oil in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in the early 1990s, U.S. companies acquired the rights to some 75 percent of these vast new reserves. But there was a major problem. How were they going to transport the oil and gas from the landlocked region?
U.S.government/corporate policy, designed to lock out Russia, China and Iran from the oil and natural gas in this region, called for the construction of a natural gas pipeline, which would run through Afghanistan. Since the mid 1990s, U.S. and European oil companies have been pushing this goal.
The U.S. government supported the Taliban because it thought it would impose the necessary order and stability to allow the new pipeline to be built. As soon as George W. Bush was elected president, Unocal and BP-Amoco pushed to resume discussions with the Taliban, with Secretary of State Richard Armitage, ex- Unocal lobbyist, taking the lead. As late as August 2001, meetings were held in Pakistan to discuss the pipeline.
But, while those negotiations were underway, the US was secretly making plans to invade Afghanistan. The Bush administration and its oil sponsors were losing patience with the Taliban, and wanted to get the Central Asian gas pipeline going as soon as possible.
September 11th provided Washington with a reason to invade Afghanistan and establish a pro American, puppet government. By December 2001, the Taliban had been overthrown, and the U.S. installed Hamid Karzai as President of Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai, also a former employee of Unocal, had been involved in early negotiations for the pipeline. As soon as Karzai was in power, the heroin business, once again, boomed. (see Mike Davis’s excellent article “Heroin Deaths Rise: Afghanistan War To Blame”)
Oil and mineral profits
President Obama was not truthful when he explained on June 22, 2011, that the continued, although slightly reduced, U.S military presence is in Afghanistan is needed to make the United States safe from terrorism. The truth is that he is just another U.S. president participating in the decades long government effort to make Afghanistan safe for global capital and finance. The truth is that our young men and women are being sent to die to secure the territory through which the oil and gas pipelines will have to pass. This, to ensure Russia, China and Iran are denied access to the last of the global oil and gas supplies on the planet. No matter what President Obama is saying about troop withdrawal, the recent discovery of at least $1 trillion in mineral deposits in Afghanistan will insure that the United States never really leaves the country.
Of course President Obama says the war is about preventing another terrorist attack. How can he tell the American people they have lost treasure and loved ones, and will continue to do so, to defend natural gas pipelines and oil and mineral profits?