|Volume 51 Number 14, April 24, 2021||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
On April 14, President of the United States Joe Biden made some remarks "on the way forward for Afghanistan" from the White House Treaty Room and said that the US and its NATO allies intend to withdraw from Afghanistan. Saying that he had "inherited a diplomatic agreement, duly negotiated between the government of the United States [Trump's previous administration] and the Taliban, that all US forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, just three months after my inauguration," Biden committed to "begin our final withdrawal - begin it on May 1 this year". He also said that "it is time to end the forever war", but he made no mention of the anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, choosing to claim the same justification as Bush and Blair for this war on the Afghan people as he focused on the anniversary of 9/11 for the final withdrawal on September 11, 2021. Reports also suggest that the 2,500 troops would be replaced by 20,000 mercenaries.
The same day, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace made a statement saying that "as we drawdown, the security of our people currently serving in Afghanistan remains our priority". However, he pointedly did not mention any date for withdrawal of the remaining British forces in Afghanistan. The last combat troops from Britain left in 2014, but about 750 British special forces remain as part of the NATO mission to "train" Afghan forces.
The fact that the Defence Secretary speaks of a "drawdown" in Afghanistan, without giving specific dates of withdrawal, appears to be of significance. In a foreword to Defence in a Competitive Age , released by the government on March 23, Ben Wallace said that the armed forces will "become more present and active around the world, operating below the threshold of open conflict to uphold our values and secure our interests, partner our friends and enable our allies, whether they are in the Euro-Atlantic, the Indo-Pacific, or beyond". An article by Mayer Wakefield for Stop the War pointed out , "Despite the significant cutbacks to the regular army, the paper details the increasingly interventionist intentions of the British government and its armies with commanders apparently determined to increase the number of armed forces operations around the world 'in smaller but more highly trained units'. As part of this, the Royal Marines will be overhauled into a new Future Commando Force (FCF) which will be deployed around the world on an 'enduring basis'. It will also fight alongside the new special operations Ranger Regiment announced in last week's review which, according to the Defence Secretary, would 'be able to operate discreetly in high-risk environments and be rapidly deployable across the world'".
In other words, the British ruling elite and the warmongering interests they represent, whilst they may reduce their static forces in Afghanistan, are planning to retain "special forces" on an "enduring basis", supplemented by mobile marine forces, in even more places where they should not be in the world. Rather than reducing Britain's bases on other countries' soil, overseas bases are "critical", claims the government in its news story announcing its paper, "to both supporting operations and in ensuring the vision of a more globally engaged defence" . Also significantly, Biden in his Whitehouse remarks confirmed that the US was "refining our national strategy to monitor and disrupt significant terrorist threats not only in Afghanistan, but anywhere they may arise - and they're in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere".
In March too, Boris Johnson, in The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy , laid out his vision for Britain in 2030, where "the United Kingdom will be a beacon of democratic sovereignty, and one of the most influential countries in the world, tackling the issues that matter most to our citizens through our actions at home and overseas".
These are all code words for the US and Britain continuing to interfere and occupy countries around the world but with a shift to "operating below the threshold of open conflict". We shall see. Will the people's opposition to the violation of their sovereignty be quenched because the intervention operates "below the threshold of open conflict", and, indeed, will this threshold prove to be a reality? Using the justification of "significant terrorist threats" rather than the previous pretext of a "war on terror" is unlikely to rescue Anglo-US intervention and aggression from the condemnation by the people of all countries. There has been massive opposition to these wars over the last 20 years, as the chaos wrought by these big powers has continued to escalate.
What can never be forgiven or forgotten is that on October 7, 2001, the then Labour government of Prime Minister Tony Blair, as an ally of Bush and the US warmongers, launched a war on the Taliban government of Afghanistan, claiming it was a "war on terror". After two weeks of the invasion, named by the invaders as"Operation Enduring Freedom", Tony Blair declared to Parliament, "We have now significantly damaged the Taliban's military capabilities," adding, "It is important we continue this military action and make sure it is successful." For nearly twenty years it has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Afghan people, with thousands maimed and injured and left without proper treatment. It has forced even larger numbers of Afghan people to flee their country, depleting their economy of professional and qualified people who now work in low paid jobs subject to the racist treatment of the ruling elites that invaded their country. It has further wrecked the economy of one of the poorest countries in the world and caused immense suffering. The resistance of the people to occupation has never ceased and the Taliban were never defeated as Tony Blair had claimed. In fact, it is with the Taliban that the Anglo-US imperialists and NATO have negotiated their withdrawal.
Over the last twenty years, the people of Afghanistan have defended themselves against all the odds with such resilience and courage. It is they who must decide their future and their own destiny as they face the catastrophic legacy left by the occupiers and the prospect of continued interference in their affairs by the Anglo-US and NATO powers.
These twenty years have been twenty years of the struggle against war, state terror and reaction. The flood gates were opened by the response of the US and Britain to 9/11, just as the new millennium got under way, with the trampling of any norms of international conduct. These have continued, as Bush and Blair's successors have espoused the doctrine of regime change, "soft power" combined with "hard power" and a so-called new legality where the rights of nations to sovereignty and self-determination are cast aside and the actions of the big powers are justified in the name of "fighting terrorism", "opposing ethnic cleansing" and "human rights" and so on.
This is not how international affairs should be conducted. For the people, these last twenty years have brought to the fore the necessity to bring into being an anti-war government that stands for a vision of society that recognises the rights of all, that ends Britain's interference in the internal affairs of other countries, that withdraws from NATO and stands for democratisation of international relations and the equality and rights of all nations big and small.
1. Corporate report - Defence in a Competitive Age, March 23, 2021
2. Mayer Wakefield, "Let Us Be Clear, There Are No Cuts - Just Huge Budget Hikes For An Increasingly Aggressive War Machine", March 22, 2021
3. "The Defence Command Paper sets out the future for our armed forces", 23 March 2021
4. The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, March 16, 2021