Twenty years after the U.S. and its allies — including Australia — invaded Afghanistan, the venal puppet regime they propped up has collapsed, and the reactionary Islamist Taliban is back in charge. This disaster was created by imperialism, which funded rightwing fundamentalist forces in the 1980s to bring down the Soviet-backed government. The winners are the military industrial complex, profiting handsomely from decades of war. The Afghan majority, who oppose both the Taliban and the regime it replaced, are the losers.
Listen to Afghan voices. In a recent statement, Left Radical of Afghanistan (LRA) says, “the U.S. created a corrupt regime in Afghanistan, funded fraudulent elections and promoted poppy cultivation and trade.” The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) is similarly scathing, having argued since 2001 that the U.S. occupation would empower fundamentalist forces. RAWA asserts, “let our people decide their own fate. This occupation only resulted in bloodshed, destruction and chaos. They turned our country into the most corrupt, insecure drug mafia and dangerous place, especially for women.” While LRA says, “the Afghan people want the U.S. government to be held accountable for the humanitarian catastrophe, killings and damage of the 20-year war in Afghanistan. It must pay compensation.”
Humanitarian emergency. Even before the Taliban marched into Kabul, the UN Refugee Agency reported that half a million Afghans had fled this year, the vast majority women and children. Most end up in Pakistan or Iran. There is an urgent need for these people to be resettled in third countries.
Australia has allocated only 3,000 places from its existing humanitarian program of 13,750 refugees annually. The government cut its resettlement program by 5,000 from the previous year. Calls are getting louder for Australia to match the UK and Canada, which have both announced they will welcome 20,000 from Afghanistan. This would be a good start, but much more is needed.
No time to waste. To date, the focus of resettlement has been on those who worked with Australian forces in Afghanistan, but there are also many more in urgent need. For those remaining in Afghanistan, feminists, leftists, LGBTIQ+ Afghans, Hazaras, secular people, journalists, writers and human rights advocates are all at serious risk and must be prioritised. Additionally, the more than 10,000 Afghan asylum seekers stranded in Indonesia and Malaysia should be resettled in Australia, as should those still in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Along with Afghans currently in Australia on temporary protection visas, all should be granted permanent protection, now!
Afghans who remain in their country also need political and material solidarity, especially the emerging resistance to the Taliban, such as the brave women and young people who are asserting their rights.
It is vital to understand what led to the debacle that has unfolded in Afghanistan. This was anything but a war to make things better for Afghans. It was an imperialist adventure to advance the geopolitical interests of the U.S. and its allies. People in Australia should demand an end to the disastrous military alliance with the U.S. Those responsible for war crimes must also be held accountable. LRA defiantly declares, “the people of Afghanistan will never forgive your heinous crimes, and history will record these horrific events like Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Vietnam.”