Bring the troops home now!
Julia Gillard announced a renewed 10 year commitment to the war in Afghanistan with agreement from the Opposition last month. This renewed commitment by Australian imperialism must be met with a renewed commitment from the anti-war movement to stop the carnage, waste and destruction in Afghanistan.
By Kirk Leonard, Socialist Party
In November 2001, following the September 11 attacks, Australia committed troops to the invasion of Afghanistan on the basis of the existing military alliance with the United States. Initially the US and Australian governments told us the goals of the invasion were to overthrow the Taliban regime, capture Osama Bin Laden and destroy Al Qaeda. This was supposed to provide more stability and security in the world, while liberating the people of Afghanistan.
Almost 10 years on, Al Qaeda continues to operate from different countries, Osama Bin Laden has not been captured and the Taliban is strongly resurgent as a military and political force. On top of that, the updated goals of bringing democracy and human rights to Afghanistan are also utopian dreams. Look no further than the corrupt and thoroughly undemocratic government of warlords and opium barons for proof of that!
These failures go on top of the carnage and destruction wrought as a result of the war and foreign occupation. Some estimates say 30,000 Afghan civilians are dead as a direct result of the conflict with many more dying indirectly. 21 Australian soldiers have been killed and in 2009-10 the Australian government spent $1.2 billion dollars on its share of this disaster.
The real reasons for the war have much less to do with human rights, democracy and security for working class and poor people than they do with inter-imperialist rivalry and contests over influence. Julia Gillard let the cat out of the bag during last months Parliamentary debate when the first reason she gave for being in Afghanistan was to maintain the military alliance with the US.
Australian imperialism depends on close ties with the US in order to counter the influence of Chinese and Indian imperialism in the region. It also needs US support for its own mini-imperialist adventures in countries like the Solomon Islands and East Timor.
Rather than destroying groups like the Taliban or eliminating a threat to ordinary Australians, as the ALP and the Coalition claim, the war in Afghanistan is strengthening these forces and increasing the chance of terrorist attacks in Australia.
Foreign troops are hated and seen by the Afghan masses as brutal occupiers who prop up the corrupt and undemocratic Karzai government.
Recently three Australian soldiers have been charged with killing innocent Afghans while conducting an operation to kill an insurgent leader. Whether these particular soldiers are guilty or not, this type of activity is typical of occupying forces. These operations usually involve overnight raids on villages which often end in civilian deaths. This fuels the hatred of the occupation amongst the Afghan masses and boosts support for resistance.
The only force capable of solving the problems in Afghanistan is an independent organisation of the poor and working class. Only on the basis of a socialist program would it be possible to secure real human and democratic rights. A decent future could be provided to all Afghans by taking into public ownership all the key industries and by placing the $1 trillion of untapped natural resources under democratic control.
The last few decades have proven that the only alternatives for Afghanistan under capitalism are unending foreign occupation and carnage or rule by ruthless warlords and reactionary religious zealots.
Ordinary Australians can give crucial support to the building of such an alternative in Afghanistan by rebuilding the anti-war movement here and demanding that Australian troops be brought home immediately.