Misery mounts two years after ignominious US exit from Afghanistan

Nov. 27, 2022, London. March for Freedom for Afghanistan’s Women and Girls. PHOTO: Garry Knight / Flickr
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The second anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was barely mentioned by the mainstream media this summer. Neither were the deadly aftereffects of U.S. imperialism’s 20-year war, or the desperation and destitution the U.S. and NATO left behind. And never mind the broken promises to many of the 8.2 million Afghan refugees, stranded today in 103 countries. Apparently, for the Biden administration, no news is good news where Afghanistan is concerned.

U.S. deceit. The 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City was the pretext for a U.S. and British invasion of Afghanistan less than a month later; NATO soon joined the fray. The ostensible reason? The ruling Taliban, a Frankenstein creation of the CIA, had refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, mastermind behind the Twin Towers attack. But there was more to the story. The region was of vital geopolitical interest to Wall Street and European imperialism, which were increasingly competing in the region with Russia and China.

Like earlier British and French wars in Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom had absolutely nothing to do with advancing democratic rights.

The Taliban crackdown. Today life has become hell for the people of Afghanistan, especially for women and children. Fifteen million people suffer from catastrophic levels of hunger amid cutbacks in humanitarian aid and economic collapse. Women are barred from most areas of public life and work, and the media is muzzled. Girls cannot attend classes beyond the sixth grade; after that it’s underground schools or nothing.

Arrests, assaults and murders of protesters and journalists are common. As of December 2022, over 18,000 people had been imprisoned. Recently, a ban on beauty parlors as un-Muslim has closed 60,000 places of employment and community for Afghan women.

The United Nations Human Rights Council report in late July was unusually revealing about atrocities and starvation. However, it is not anticipated that the U.N. Security Council will take any meaningful action to alleviate the situation.

Refugees abandoned. Afghanistan’s refugees are the third largest displaced population in the world, after Syrians and Ukrainians. On the final days of the chaotic U.S. exodus from Kabul, the Biden administration left behind thousands of people who were relying on the American government to help them escape repression. But as U.S. planes scurried down the runway, the trail of broken promises and frightened families was long.

After two whole years, 250,000 applications for U.S. asylum are still pending. And fewer than 5,000 of the 97,000 Afghans who resettled here have secured refugee status. Individual GIs and U.S. reporters have tried to help their Afghan translators, but even they run into insurmountable bureaucratic obstacles.

Migrant life in the U.S. is no picnic, as described by this PBS  interviewee: “We’re straining to pay bills as assistance from the government and resettlement agencies runs out; stuck in temporary housing, and trying to figure out how to apply for asylum because most (of us) are under a two-year emergency status called humanitarian parole.

Now antagonism toward Afghans is rising. Iran has already deported 5,000 migrants. Taliban ally Pakistan offers little help to stranded escapees, instead pushing them back across the border into Afghanistan.

Global resistance crucial. Afghans who oppose the crushing of civil and labor rights, free speech and women’s freedom have been largely driven underground by ruthless Taliban suppression. But Left Radical of Afghanistan (LRA) points out that “Left and progressive forces in (our country) have always been suppressed by Islamic parties and their foreign backers, whether during the anti-Soviet war or the U.S./NATO war.”

Despite the crackdown, women and girls have bravely taken to the streets in small numbers to demand their rights. Each time, they risk being beaten, jailed or killed and expose their families to retaliation. Recently they have resorted to indoor rallies which they air on the internet. Their defiance is spreading the word that Afghan women will not be silenced.

The Spontaneous Movement of Afghan Women (SMAW) recently sponsored two European speaking tours to widen awareness of the need for revolutionaries to support the indigenous struggle against the Taliban. Today LRA and SMAW are key to building crucial international support for the Afghan resistance at home and across the globe.

The FSP calls on:

  • Human rights organizations, labor unions, feminists and radicals of all nationalities to fight for open borders and universal asylum for Afghans seeking refuge in their countries.
  • The U.S. government to immediately process the backlog of visa applications and provide sufficient aid to Afghan refugees in the U.S. to start new lives here.
  • The Taliban government to lift all restraints on women’s and girls’ universal human rights and open all forms of employment and education to them.

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