Long reach of the Afghan war

News earlier this week that former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani was assassinated by a Taliban suicide bomber prompted reactions ranging from shock and grief to resolution and determination. Rabbani was killed by a suicide bomber in his home, the bomber having hidden the explosives in his turban.Rabbani had been a major adviser to the Karzai regime, and had been involved in the purported peace negotiations with the Taliban leadership.

The media reactions to his killing emphasized his role as a peacemaker, a wise political leader and man of vision. However, we would do well to remember that Burhanuddin Rabbani was the political leader throughout the 1980s of the CIA-supported mujahideen militias that fought the socialist government and Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Rabbani represented the mullahs that wished to stop education for young girls, force women out of paid employment and return them to the home, impose a rigid ideological orthodoxy that tolerated no opposition, that sanctioned the murder and torture of secular-minded and socialist people, and restoring the privileges and wealth of the landlord class that had been ousted by the communist government. The socialist government had cancelled the debts of the poorest peasants, and established cheap, low-interest rate loans for agricultural workers which undercut the usurious practices of the richest landlords. All these measures were reversed by Rabbani when the latter came to power in 1992.

Here is Rabbani with one of his friends from the 1980s;

Rabbani visiting his paymaster in 1986

Rabbani was the first political leader into Kabul in 1992 after the Afghan socialist government abandoned power. The mujahideen militias then turned their guns on each other from 1992 until 1996 when they were driven out by the Taliban. During that time, women were forcibly velied, the archaeological treasures of Afghanistan were looted, the educational institutions deteriorated, medical and health systems collapsed and there was a mass exodus of refugees from Kabul and the major cities that had been relatively untouched through the 1980s Soviet period. Rabbani was a fanatical psychopath responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Afghans and the reversal of a relatively liberalised, secular society.

His murder was portrayed in the media as a blow to the peace process; however, the reality much more complex. As Stephen Grey of the Guardian newspaper points out, the vaunted peace process is actually more about lulling the Taliban into relaxing their guard, bribing their commanders to change sides, and generally stall for time as US and British forces continue hitting the Afghan population with night-time raids, unmanned drone strikes and carrying out this war of attrition against Taliban militants. Make no mistake, the Taliban are hurting; they are losing people, but they are responding with high-profile attacks and assassinations, the latest being the killing of Rabbani. The US and British forces in Afghanistan seem to have only one tactic for defeating the Taliban – encouraging defections through bribery.

The Taliban are most definitely a bunch of crazed, fanatical killers – there is no doubt about that. The suicide bombing of Rabbani is only the latest terrorist outrage carried out by the Taliban foot-soldiers. But sympathy for Rabbani is tempered when remembering the role he played in leading Afghanistan into its current deplorable situation. As we reach the tenth-anniversary of the current Afghan war, there is no end in sight to that conflict. The Obama administration has basically escalated that war, deepening America’s quagmire resulting in more deaths and new levels of violence. The Afghan war has nothing to do with liberating its people, but rather imposing US designs for military and economic dominance in the region.

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