Communist Party USA
As is their habit, the bourgeois media and politicians are treating the current situation in Afghanistan as if everything went wrong under the Biden administration (if Republicans are speaking) or under the Trump administration (if Democrats are speaking). The historical roots of the current situation, involving the return to power of the Taliban are, as usual, ignored. The same sort of thing goes on with the recent controversy over Haitian migration to the United States. “Those crazy Afghans” or “those crazy Haitians” are dismissed as just impossible people—end of story. What this does is obfuscate the ultimate cause of each crisis, and, especially, hide the hand of imperialism in creating the crisis in the first place. Let’s look a bit at the history of Afghanistan and see how various kinds of imperialist intervention have shaped that country’s destiny. I won’t go all the way back to Alexander the Great but, rather, will start with the tsarist Russian and British interventions at the beginning of the 19th century. The British “Great Game” The “Great Game” was the term coined by the British Empire’s expansionist leaders to describe the dangerous rivalry of two European imperialisms: that of tsarist Russia and of the British Empire. From the reign of Catherine the Great on, the Romanov tsars worked hard to expand their control, first of the Caucuses region in Western Asia and then relentlessly eastward through Central Asia and eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean (seizing much Chinese-held territory in the process). In overcoming a whole series of Muslim Central Asian emirates (Khiva, Bokhara, Samarkand, etc.), the Russian army slaughtered vast numbers of original inhabitants of those regions and encroached more and more on Afghan territory. At that time, the British colony of India was ruled not by the Colonial Office in London but by a private concern, the British East India Company. The head of the Indian government was the governor-general, whose headquarters were in Kolkata (called Calcutta by the English). The British ruled India directly through the company and indirectly through alliances with native princes. The British had a huge army in India, with its own officers and support systems that were not part of the regular British Army. As Russian expansion in Central Asia pushed eastward, the British rulers of India became nervous. Would Russian arms eventually triumph over the rulers of Afghanistan and thus end up within marching distance of India, the source of so much of the wealth of the British ruling class? So, when Russian envoys began showing up at the court of the Emir (not yet king) of Afghanistan in Kabul, panicky alarm ensued in Kolkata. In 1838 the British governor-general of India, Lord Auckland, alarmed that Afghan Emir Dost Mohammed Khan had received a Russian delegation, decided to invade Afghanistan, oust Dost Mohammed, and restore Shah Shuja, a deposed former ruler, as a British puppet in Kabul. A huge army composed of British and Indian troops invaded Afghanistan, captured Kabul, and installed Shuja on the throne. But in very short order, a counter movement of Dost Mohammed’s supporters arose, defeated and cornered the British, and drove them out of the country—with very few of the soldiers making it back to India alive. Rather than becoming a Russian puppet, Dost Mohammed immediately set about using the Anglo-Russian enmity for his own purposes, restoring friendly relations with the British while maintaining them with Russia. For a while, this balancing game characterized Kabul’s policy. There were two more Anglo-Afghan Wars (from 1878 to 1880 and during the spring and summer of 1919), and Afghanistan managed to get full independence…
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How the Taliban came to power — again.