By Jakob Stein
On April 14, Joe Biden formally announced his plans to end the US military’s war in Afghanistan and withdraw troops after 20 years, an estimated $2 trillion spent, countless casualties, and untold misery for the people of Afghanistan. The plan for withdrawal, which was initiated during diplomatic talks between the Trump administration and the Taliban starting in 2019, has drawn both praise and opposition from Democrats and Republicans for various reasons, but at the end of the day the motivation behind it is the financial calculations of US imperialism.
The imperialist invasion of Afghanistan was initiated in 2001 following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Under the guise of ‘fighting terrorism and extremism,’ the war’s intended purpose was to overthrow the Taliban, who were charged with harboring al Qaeda. While US forces were able to remove the Taliban from state power and install a puppet government in service of the US, they were never able to totally defeat the Taliban as an insurgent force, which has made problems for the US military ever since.
The irony in all of this lies in the fact that the US helped create the conditions for the rise of both al Qaeda and the Taliban during the Cold War. After the revisionist Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the US propped up the Mujahideen, loose-knit Islamist guerrillas who included the likes of Osama bin Laden himself. While there were some genuine revolutionaries in the country also fighting against Soviet social-imperialism, the conflict became another proxy war between the US and the USSR.
After the Soviet Union succumbed to its own revisionist internal contradictions and the Taliban emerged victorious from the Afghan civil war, they were seen as a valuable asset in the region by the US. Afghanistan is an extremely valuable route for petroleum from Turkmenistan to the Caspian Sea and was therefore a perfect place for a pipeline—Afghanistan also sits on top of one of the largest nearly-untapped petroleum reserves. The hundreds of billions of dollars of US ‘aid’ meant to build up the infrastructure of the Afghan state, much of which ended up in the pockets of corrupt compradors, should be viewed in the context of facilitating the extraction and transportation of oil for the benefit of US imperialism.
As time went on the Taliban began to lose value for US imperialism, and once they were overthrown the new puppet government of Hamid Karzai proved to be a more useful ally. While US imperialism was successful in establishing a comprador in the seat of power, they were never able to crush the Taliban and could not proceed with the absolute economic domination of the country, their invasion seeming to only fuel further recruitment into the Taliban.
The writing was already on the wall over ten years ago—under the Obama administration, the US ramped up its troop numbers to a peak of 100,000 in 2010, before eventually decreasing US forces in the region in favor of training the puppet government’s army to fight the Taliban on their own. This plan has also proven fruitless, as the Taliban are now stronger than they’ve ever been since being overthrown.
The ‘Afghanistan Papers,’ published in 2019, demonstrate that the American public were consistently lied to by the US imperialists when they claimed that the conflict was ‘turning a corner’ and victory was on the horizon. In reality, military officials knew that the war was unwinnable.
This general attitude that the US was engaged in an unwinnable quagmire motivated Trump to begin diplomatic negotiations with the Taliban, as the US was pouring billions of dollars into this conflict every year it remained. Most of the negotiations revolved around a ceasefire on US troops and a commitment from the Taliban that they would not fund or protect ‘terrorists.’ Even after the negotiations were concluded, the Taliban continued assaults on Afghan state security forces, knowing that any potential negotiations with the puppet government, if they took place at all, would only confirm what had already been established on the battlefield.
Biden is not withdrawing US troops for any anti-imperialist or ‘humanitarian’ reason—US imperialism is convinced it is pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into an unwinnable war and is attempting to cut its losses and use more low-intensity tactics to secure its interests in the area. In February, Biden’s administration brokered a meeting between the Taliban and the government of Turkmenistan, another supposed violator of ‘human rights’ that has never seen US military intervention or sanctions, in order to facilitate the building of the long-awaited Caspian pipeline.
What is clear is that the military resistance of the Taliban has been able to weather the storm of the US imperialist military and forced them to the negotiating table. While some may denounce the withdrawal of US troops as a blow to humanitarian processes and women’s rights in the area, they are only giving cover to US imperialism and its true motivations in the region. Now that brute force has proved incapable of securing US interests, Biden’s administration and those of his successors will likely use the economic weight of the US and non-governmental organizations to fight for what the imperialists want.
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