Above: A photo from a video supposedly released by ISIS-K to demonstrate their power. http://www.sofrep.com
01-09-2021: So the corporate media narrative on Afghanistan now runs something like this: 20 years after invading, US forces were kicked out of the country by the Taliban and bungled a hasty withdrawal from the country. Afghans who worked with the US during their occupation scrambled to airports, some of whom were dragged along by a cargo plane as it tried to take off, reminiscent of scenes of the Americans fleeing Saigon in 1975. The Biden Administration is abandoning Americans who worked with the military to their own devices, in the face of the advancing Taliban forces. The US backed Afghan government collapsed without a fight, which allowed the Taliban to re-take much of the country without firing a shot. Some Western governments offer the immediate assistance of accepting tens of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan. From out of nowhere, an ISIS split off (ISIS-K) re-emerges to again target remaining US forces as well as the incoming Taliban.
A Clayton’s withdrawal
Does this tale bear any resemblance to reality? Fat chance. Like the Empire’s “Covid is the deadliest plague in world history” bunkum, the Afghanistan “withdrawal” so willfully distorts truth only sections of it align with facts on the ground. This was a Clayton’s withdrawal – the withdrawal you have when you are not having a withdrawal. It is a “withdrawal” in the same way in which the US “withdrew” from Iraq and Syria, i.e., leaving enough residual forces to occupy parts of the country to “fight ISIS” – and thereby still largely destabilising entire regions. The US did not “withdraw” and the Taliban did not “win” in the real meaning of those terms. As Kit Knightly points out, the iconic video image of the US Air Force C-17 Globemaster heavy transport plane rolling out of an air strip poses more questions than it answers. Where are the women and children trying to escape? Why are some men jogging alongside and smiling and waving to cameras? Is the US deliberately trying to re-create the scenes of the emergency helicopter evacuation from the US Embassy in Saigon in 1975?
Arguably, the US is not ending the war on Afghanistan, but privatising it. Up to 18 000 mercenaries will remain, alongside thousands of Special Forces operatives, Pentagon contractors and CIA personnel. Moreover, the Biden Administration is only completing a deal signed between the Trump Administration and the Taliban over 12 months ago, but somewhat modifying it to its advantage. Despite Trump’s other politics, one of the central platforms of his run to the presidency in 2016 was to end the forever regime change wars in the Middle East. The Democrats, as perhaps more loyal servants of imperialism, were aghast at the prospect of no more US “interventions”. To retain the veneer of liberalism though, they procured a feigned withdrawal from Afghanistan which was in reality a mere change of tactics in their geopolitical war against Eurasian integration. The US war on Afghanistan from 2001 was never about 9/11 or the Taliban, but more about establishing a beach head from which to harass, pressure and threaten neighbouring Russia, China and Iran.
From fighting “against” the Taliban, the US has switched to working with the Taliban, or at least the new version of the Taliban. The Taliban have repeatedly stated that they have changed and want to live in peace with other Afghans and other nations. While it is true that the Taliban 2.0  are a different force to that which ruled Afghanistan in the late 90s, they appear to still intend to practice a version of Sharia Law, though with some modifications. Politically, they appear willing to cut deals with US imperialism in return for their control over most parts of the country. This may better suit them and the interests of US imperialism, in that the Taliban returns to government – while the US can still use pockets of the country out of reach of the Taliban to launch terrorist attacks against China, Iran and even Pakistan. As the New Atlas reports, the US never had the intention of setting up an independent or stable government in Afghanistan. If such a government was established, it would have little choice but to sign up for desperately needed infrastructure development through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) provided by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The revised Taliban appear to have kept their word that they would not target or kill other Afghani ethnic minorities which they have previously targeted, e.g., Hazaras, Tajiks and Uzbeks. They seem to have given this same assurance to the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, it could be the case that chaos and a new civil war was exactly the intention of the US government in conducting their contrived chaotic draw down. The neighbouring PRC is vastly more powerful than it was 20 years ago when the US invaded. Similarly, the neighbouring Islamic Republic of Iran is also more capable of defending its interests than it was 20 years ago, despite crippling US sanctions. More destabilising violence and civil conflict is always going to benefit Washington, which seeks to derail the BRI and other countries in the region which are partners to the BRI – such as Iran and Pakistan.
Western governments for “refugee rights” ?
Over the last decade, imperialism itself has learnt how to use and manipulate the genuine concern that progressive minded folk feel for refugees and asylum seekers. Refugee rights activists correctly point out that many flee from Third World countries due to the West’s ongoing wars, or simply to seek better economic conditions for themselves and their families. Generally, workers have supported many protest movements calling for humane treatment of those seeking a safer place to live. However, Western governments have no qualms in exploiting real human empathy for those in less fortunate circumstances, if it can be used to further the aims of imperialist war, regime change or just plain terror. As they did in the case of Syria, imperialism aims to enlist liberal refugee rights activists to fuel their destabilisation of Eurasia. As if on cue, Western governments immediately offered to take in tens of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan. The US offered to take 10 000, the United Kingdom (UK) 20 000, Canada 20 000 and Germany 10 000. The Australian government, notorious for its inhumane treatment of refugees, offered to take 3000 , albeit with no overall increase in current caps.
It is preposterous to suggest that these governments were genuinely concerned about the welfare of Afghans who may otherwise have faced beatings or execution by the Taliban. This was done to once again mobilise liberal political sentiment behind the Empire, in the similar way in which liberalism was and is being used to impose lockdown fascism in the West under the guise of a “pandemic”. Look how progressive we are, taking in thousands of refugees fleeing the rule of backward armed tribesmen! The pretence is so phoney that only the lockdown fake left could genuinely fall for it – and there were examples. The Socialist Alliance breathlessly urged the Australian Federal Government to increase its Afghan refugee intake, while Solidarity called on the Morrison Government to evacuate the families of Afghan refugees already detained in Australia. As with their betrayal over “Covid” lockdowns, the lockdown left alibies imperialism by issuing plaintive demands for a more humane application of the Empire’s drive to war against the Eurasia and the Middle East.
ISIS-K: the Delta Variant?
As if it was choreographed, there was a terrorist attack on Kabul airport on August 26, which apparently took the lives of 13 Americans. Immediately, a group calling itself ISIS-K claimed responsibility. Supposedly a split-off from ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), the “K” stands for Khorasan province, which includes parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. All of a sudden, reports hit the news that ISIS-K is “more brutal than the Taliban”, views the Taliban as sell-outs for signing deals with the US government, and has aims of establishing an Islamic caliphate across the Middle East and Asia. This narrative would be humourous if it wasn’t so tragic. After being effectively defeated in Syria, it beggars belief that Washington would again try to rekindle the ISIS fairytale in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with an ISIS variant that rings ominously of the fake danger they are pumping out about a “Delta” variant of the putative SARS-CoV-2 virus. Yet as working people have discovered since the onset of lockdown hysteria, truth is very often stranger than fiction.
Throughout a ten-year war of regime change, US and EU imperialism and their allies including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey effectively armed, trained, funded and equipped “ISIS” in order to overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic. As exposed by famed investigative journalist Seymour Hersh and others, the US government effectively created ISIS and sent it into Syria to collapse the state. ISIS, Al Qaeda and numerous jihadists were given licence to commit the most egregious atrocities against civilians, in arguably the worst proxy war in history. The US Congress itself authorised $500 million of tax-payers money in 2014 to train and arm 5000 barbaric yahoos in pursuit of this diabolical act.
History now shows that this elaborate and deadly ruse was brought to an end by a combination of resistance from the governments of Syria, Russia and Iran, assisted by Hezbollah. This was a real defeat of US imperialism, perhaps the first one in war since Vietnam in 1975. Arguably it was this defeat which laid the groundwork for the onset of lockdown fascism in 2020. The US Empire and its allies could no longer tolerate being blocked in its drive for corporate capitalist planetary plunder by sections of the non-imperialist bloc. While the PRC did not play an active military role, the combination of being eclipsed by China’s economic power and Russia’s military power (demonstrated by the superior air power of its SU-35 jet fighters backing the resistance) sent the US Empire into a frenzy. Inflicting Covidian terror on its working class at home was one reflex, and now the deliberate re-lighting of the bonfire of ISIS style “Islamic” terrorism across Eurasia is another.
War on Terror redux
We could be once again subjected to a rehash of the war on terror, which the war on Covid only temporarily kept at bay. In response to the Kabul airport bombings, the Pentagon said the threat of ISIS-K is “very real”, and that it had been sharing intelligence on ISIS-K with the Taliban since August the 14th. The line that ISIS-K believe the Taliban are too “liberal” is spun to imply that the Taliban are now the new “moderate rebels” which makes it fine for the West to now collaborate with them. Give us a break. ISIS-K, may in fact contain US or EU special forces themselves, as British SAS troops were exposed as being disguised as ISIS and fighting with them against the Syrian government in 2015. ISIS is entirely a creation of imperialism, which provides funding, weapons, training and equipment. In the same way in which imperialism fought “against” ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Washington and London will now fight “against” ISIS-K in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s mere shadow boxing, but with the same ultimate aim – to bring down Russia, China and Iran at any cost.
So while we will be treated to another round of “here come the terrorists – again”, the terror bogey could be ISIS-K, or it could also be the “domestic terrorists” who suspected some electoral fraud in the US Presidential Election of 2020, or it could be those who suspect another political agenda behind the Covid vaccine rollout, or think something is fishy about being tracked, traced and forbidden from travelling outside their country, state, or neighbourhood. It all just rolls into one really. If the West’s Big Lie Propaganda Machine can convince people that the Delta variant of a doubtful coronavirus is bringing civilisation to its knees, they can be convinced that the ISIS-K variant aims to set up an Islamic state to threaten freedom and democracy worldwide. Its sheer fantasy, but in no way is it any more outlandish than their claims that healthy people breathing out is hazardous to others.
The stakes are high. As the history of the 20th century shows, fascism and war often go hand in hand. Today, a pseudo-medical fascism is well underway, and the nonsensical Covid restrictions imposed on workers worldwide could easily be rolled out to stymie resistance to yet another war against “terrorism” which is funded and armed by the very governments raising the false alarm. Marxists may well be faced with the task of simultaneously building the anti-lockdown movement as well as mobilising workers against yet another imperialist war “against” ISIS, read: against the non-imperialist bloc. The only way to penetrate the fog of war is with clear political leadership of the working class. Given the base betrayal of the lockdown fake left, what is critically urgent is the formation of a vanguard party staunchly defending the central pillars of Leninist-Trotskyism. Linked internationally, such a party would help mobilise workers against war and fascism through the direct establishment of their own organs of state power. The choice would then be clear: capitalism with its lockdowns and wars, or socialism which is determined to wipe fascism and terror from the pages of history.