No 1597 17th August 2021
The astonishing collapse of US imperialism’s occupation of Afghanistan raises has revolutionary implications on a global scale. The defeat of the most powerful military alliance in history at the hands of an easily demonised Islamist guerilla-war rebellion is an inspiration for anti-imperialist struggle everywhere, and is potentially an even greater humiliation for the US than Vietnam. The mad scramble flight from Kabul and abandonment of Afghans who worked for the occupation is shattering Big Lie illusions that Western capitalism is bringing “freedom and democracy” to the world. Onrushing capitalist crisis will drive imperialism towards even greater disasters as the system heads unstoppably towards total Slump devastation and inter-imperialist war. Reactionary Taliban medievalism may just about hold out for the time being but anti-imperialist revolts will soon be forced by crisis to turn to communist revolution once again - and on a far larger world scale than even the mighty Soviet and Chinese Revolutions achieved.
The harrowing video footage of desperate Afghan civilians falling to their deaths after clinging onto the fuselages of fleeing US military planes, stories of people crushed under their wheels and killed in stampedes, and images of Apache helicopters aggressively flying over panicked crowds to clear them from Kabul airport are a fittingly disgraceful end to the US Empire’s disastrous two-decade long failure to control and “stabilise” Afghanistan.
The surrender of Kabul to Talibani forces is even more significant than Vietnam because a key aim of the military intervention in Afghanistan (and more explicitly with the “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq soon after) was to intimidate the whole planet into giving up any thoughts of challenging to American domination post-9/11, whether it comes from revolutionary or anti-imperialist resistance or arms-race economic rivalry.
It has totally and utterly failed.
If the US cannot even crush disparate incoherent bands of Taliban guerilla fighters, guided by a mystical ideology, after 20 years of pointless destruction and carnage at a cost $2 trillion and with up to 110,000 troop levels at its peak, what hope will it have of defeating more seriously revolutionary challenges from the Third World???
And what does it say to its imperialist trade war rivals about the unchallengeablity of US imperialist world dominance????
Inevitably, US-imperialist warmongering aggression (leading historically to all-out inter-imperialist warfare for the third time) and the imposition of capitalist slump conditions on the Third World (as a prelude to the economic devastation that will inevitably follow in the imperialist heartlands once capitalism finally collapses) triggers anti-imperialist revolts that draw in not only the proletarian masses, but also sections of the petty bourgeoisie and even some bourgeois elements.
Without a consciously Leninist revolutionary-socialist party to guide and lead the fight to defeat imperialism, workers are faced with an eclectic stew of competing incoherent ‘anti-imperialist’ perspectives and local prejudices (including Islamism) that falls short of the need to convert the anti-imperialist struggle into a conscious fight for socialist revolution once imperialism has been defeated, and may become a block on further revolutionary developments or even actively collude with imperialism to prevent the proletariat from taking power.
Socialism can only be achieved through the revolutionary defeat and total destruction of the monopoly imperialist bourgeoise.
Every humiliating setback, blow and defeat they receive teaches invaluable lessons to the international proletariat about imperialism and the revolutionary nature of all world developments and so are to be celebrated.
A defeat as significant as Afghanistan could have the potential to trigger a worldwide leap in revolutionary consciousness.
‘Defeat for imperialism’ was the slogan that needed to be put to the international working class when the US-led colonial-fascist onslaught on Afghanistan was launched in October 2001.
Instead, all the fake-”lefts” across the board capitulated to bourgeois-imperialism’s “condemnation of terror” moralising hypocrisy following the Sept 11 guerilla-war attacks on New York and Washington, and this capitulation to imperialist “fight war to stop terror” propagandising helped feed the racist-chauvinist atmosphere that led to the fascist slaughter and maiming of hundreds of thousands of Afghans over a twenty year period.
There was no question of giving support to barmy Islamic mysticism or its methods, but condemning Sept 11 effectively meant siding with merciless US-led blitzkrieg and torture.
The fake-“lefts’” futile ‘No to War’ pacifist-reformist objections that followed their ‘terror’ condemnations acted as a fig leaf hiding their servile submission to imperialist pressure.
As the EPSR argued at the time, no amount of peace campaigning, however well-meaning and sincere, could stop war - the Western imperialist Coalition had to be, and would eventually be, forced out by defeat.
The protests and petitioning did nothing to stop the near 20-year reign of arbitrary nazi terror imposed on Afghanistan by the imperialist Coalition forces, including death squad massacres, indiscriminate bombing of villages and wedding ceremonies, and torture and prison abuse in detention centres such as Bagram, the massacre of 3,000 surrendered Taliban fighters in Mazar-i-Sharif in 2001, the 2007 Shinwar killings, the “Kill Team” Maywand District murders in 2009, the Kandahar massacre of 16 civilians including 9 children in 2012, and much more, all committed by American, British, Australian, Canadian, and other imperialist forces, as well as the CIA-sponsored “Northern Alliance” militias other Afghan stooges.
As well as all this was the dislocation of millions of impoverished Afghans displaced by the warmongering, destruction of already fragile infrastructure and starvation, and forced to live on aid in harsh refugee camp conditions or eke out a living as despised asylum-seekers in the four corners of the globe.
The initial professed aim for the US invasion was to “hunt down Osama Bin Laden in his caves” and “root out the men of violence”. However, as the levels of destruction and mayhem caused by its blitzkrieg increased exponentially (creating thousands more terrorists in the process), imperialist propaganda soon began to emphasise ‘nation-building’, claiming that the intention was to establish bourgeois ‘democracy’, educate women, facilitate local enterprise, etc. But this ‘New Afghanistan’ posturing was a sick joke.
For more than a decade, the CIA had manipulated class sentiment in the rural peasant areas to stir up backward Islamic hostility against the modernising socialist reforms of the Soviet-backed PDPA (People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan), which came to power during the 1978 Saur Revolution and was transforming the country with education, health services,
Socialist advance celebrated in 1980s Afghanistan
industry, and social and emancipation reforms (including women’s advancement and compulsory education for girls as well as boys).
US imperialism and its stooge Pakistani military dictatorship financed, organised and armed feudal Mujahedeen counter-revolution to destroy all this development.
Savage White Terror was launched against the PDPA, its supporters, and the Soviet armies invited in to defend the modernising socialist gains of the revolution.
Once the socialist state had been toppled, the US abandoned Afghanistan and left it in festering chaotic mess of drug-dealing and gun-running banditry, tribalism and fratricidal warlordism.
The Taliban emerged in south Afghanistan out of this chaos, as a reaction to the banditry and criminality of the rival warlords to establish Sharia law.
Whilst its rise to power 1996 was a response to the dire material conditions left behind by US imperialism’s cynical abandonment of Afghanistan, its backward Islamic ideology is 1,300 years away from being a solution to intensifying capitalist crisis and nonstop imperialist warmongering.
The savage torture and butchery of Najibullah, the leader of the PDPA in September 1996, was totally reactionary, as was its wiping out what was left of the modernising gains of the Saur Revolution once in power. However, to conclude from this that its rise to power then only benefitted imperialism was to take a one-sided view of what was, and still is, a complex dialectical situation that ignores completely the capitalist-crisis context of a system heading unstoppably towards international slump and inter-imperialist war.
Despite their reactionary Islamic ideology, the Iranian Ayatollahs needed to use the most revolutionary and anti-imperialist language possible to ride the back of the revolutionary upheavals engulfing Iran in 1979 and establish their Islamic state before the revisionists in the Tudeh communist party saw the opportunity to lead a thoroughgoing socialist revolution.
They have continued to be pushed by spontaneous revolutionary ferment in the Middle East ever since to present an anti-imperialist front (to the point of providing practical support to various bourgeois-nationalist anti-imperialist fights in the region - Hezbollah, the Yemeni Houthis, etc, and defending itself and Syria from Zionist war provocations) in a desperate attempt to keep the working class contained because the alternative is to open the door to all-out proletarian socialist revolution across the region.
The Taliban was similarly pushed to take an anti-imperialist stand.
The international anti-imperialist struggle is inspired by imperialist defeats, regardless of who does the defeating.
However, to then go on to call for a ‘victory’ for the Taliban’s distorted national-liberation resistance movement (or any other national-liberation struggle that does not intend to immediately press ahead with the fight for socialist revolution) or to suggest that there is something ‘progressive’ to be found in it sends off the wrong signal entirely.
The Chinese workers state’s meeting with a Taliban delegation in Tianjin last month is a correct use of diplomacy to further its trade interests, particularly in regards to its Belt and Roads Initiative, and to defend its internal security by calling for the Taliban to end its support for the violent CIA-backed Uighur East Turkestan Islamic Movement separatists.
Chinese expansion of trade and influence in Afghanistan would be another major blow US imperialism, but it is a complete misunderstanding of the Leninist ‘defeat for imperialist’ slogan to stress that they (alongside Bonapartist-led oligarch-capitalist Russia)
are well placed to build on [the Taliban’s] victory, to the benefit of the entire region
as the museum-Stalinists in the CPGB-ML did in an online article recently.
This is entirely the wrong emphasis because it ignores completely the capitalist-crisis context in which the Afghan upheavals are taking place. It disarmingly suggests that ‘progress’ can be achieved in a capitalist system hurtling unstoppably towards devastating slump and world war.
Building on this defeat for imperialism by fighting to build a Leninist party of revolutionary theory in Afghanistan to reestablish socialism is the only way to achieve any real and sustainable benefit to the region.
Practical support from the Chinese workers’ state would accelerate this process, but its theoretical revisionist weakness in not spelling out the catastrophic nature of capitalism’s collapse and the need for revolution to build proletarian dictatorships needs to be polemicised against for holding back revolutionary understanding.
In the era of monopoly-imperialist crisis and war, progress for Afghanistan and the region as a whole can only be achieved through socialist revolution, under workers-state proletarian-dictatorship conditions.
Now, some may argue that as Afghanistan is one of the most backward and under-developed country in the world, further revolutionary developments would be required before it is ready for socialism. This is true up to a point, but it ignores the fact that there had already been a socialist revolution in 1979 which was achieving huge successes in many developmental areas before it was toppled, and was an inspiration to the region.
In his ‘Talk with a delegation of the Mongolian People’s Republic’ in 1921 [Collected Works vol 42], Lenin argued that, with the support of the Soviet Union and under the leadership of a revolutionary Bolshevik party, it was possible for Mongolia (then a vastly under-developed pre-feudal nation of largely nomadic cattle-herders) to follow a non-capitalist path of development until its state, economic and cultural development reaches a point when socialism can be achieved.
Despite its underdevelopment, Afghanistan is at a higher stage than pre-feudal Mongolia was 100 years ago, and it has a population that has already lived through a period of Soviet Union-supported non-capitalist development under the PDPA to raise Afghanistan out of feudal, (and in some areas pre-feudal) stupor and create the conditions in which socialism could be established.
This is all within living memory and US imperialism’s defeat now brings it sharply back into focus.
America’s panicked flight from Afghanistan alongside all the other imperialist powers has exposed its “freedom and democracy” fraud to the whole world.
The sense of betrayal from those who bought into this Big Lie and willingly stooged for the occupation, or saw it as a better bet than life under the puritanical Taliban is real.
Millions of young urban Afhgans with no memories of the harshness of life under the Taliban were told that the US was going to “transform Afghanistan into a modern sophisticated nation” with education for all, decent health services, equal rights, new markets for businesses, cultural facilities etc. Large numbers believed this and became actively involved in NGOs thinking that they were progressing society.
Young women who were encouraged to become educated, find jobs, “engage in the democratic process”, listen to music, play sport, etc, now fear a veiled life in under reactionary religious strictures.
All these hopes and ambitions have now been cruelly dashed. A mass of sophisticated and educated young Afghans with modernising ambitions for their country have been cut adrift.
By abandoning them to the Taliban’s medievalism and religious mysticism and civil war chaos, imperialism has taught them a brutal lesson in its own callous indifference and contempt and has potentially created its own grave-diggers.
The anger at the stooge occupation government’s failure to put up a fight to defend the cities was not a demand for more occupation, but a sign of all their illusions in capitalist ‘democracy’ and ‘progress’ falling away.
The outrage also at the sight of the wealthy who benefitted the most from stooging for imperialism fleeing the country gives a class perspective to this sense of betrayal.
There must also be anger amongst the shamed and humiliated Afghan national army personnel who found no inspiration in fighting and dying to defend the provincial cities for corrupt and totally unprincipled local government leaders. These cowardly opportunists immediately caved in when the Taliban arrived and bought their way out.
Reports of local volunteers organising self-defence militias to defend their cities in the vacuum caused by the flight of the Afghan army and local governments are interesting. Although there are a lot of backward elements in this, some of it has been reported to include people who worked for the former socialist state, which potentially has all sorts of revolutionary implications.
Claims from Taliban spokesmen in Doha, Qatar, that they will install an “inclusive government”, protect the rights of minorities and allow government schools and health services to stay open and women to work and be educated are barely credible when their local commanders insist on imposing strict Sharia laws.
These “pledges” are signs that things are not necessarily going the Taliban’s way, and that further revolutionary developments are potentially brewing under the surface.
They may have achieved ‘victory’ for now but they are on the wrong side of history by at least a millennia. Saudi Arabian feudalism only survives because it is financially propped up by imperialism, and because of the natural oil resources it possesses.
Without the trillions of dollars spent by the US to maintain the fraud that the occupation was about providing “progress” and “modernity” to Afghanistan, its economy and society will soon be ripped apart by capitalist crisis and chaos, even if some temporary developmental benefits are accrued from trading with China.
It worth speculating at this point on the possibility that imperialism deliberately conceded Afghanistan to the Taliban because it is now economically paralysed by crisis and cannot afford to continue propping it up, and so the decision was made to abandon Afghanistan to medievalism and civil war chaos as the best means of heading off revolution and hindering Chinese influence.
The US have been in talks with the Taliban in Doha for over a year and all sorts of secret deals may have been made to allow them to take over without a fight.
Humiliating defeat for barbaric imperialist warmongering and its colonial ‘nation-building’ lies will eventually force the world’s masses to take the path of conscious revolutionary party-building to overthrow the class rule of the international bourgeoisie.
And there is a growing stench of defeat and setback all round - the failure of its re-colonisation project to return Iraq to directly-controlled stoogery as it was under Saddam Hussein before he turned against imperialism, the continued resistance of the Arab Spring Houthi rebellion in Yemen against British imperialist-backed Saudi feudal reaction, the blistering blows against the 73-year-old Jewish-Zionist colonial occupation of Palestinian lands by the growing organisational, disciplinary and military sophistication and skill of the Hamas fighters in Gaza and the pro-Palestinian Hezbullah, the failure to bring down Assad’s Syrian bourgeois -nationalism, the rise of anti-Western / anti-Zionist Islamic insurgency across the Middle East, though north Africa and beyond, continued South American left-nationalist defiance, etc etc.
However, the CPGB-ML’s suggestion that US imperialism is
on a downward spiral from which there can be no return,
every failed adventure [in the Middle East] has seen US reputation in the world fall further and further into contempt, whilst that of China and Russia has grown steadily.
is disastrous because it suggests that imperialist warmongering and economic expansion is being contained just as monopoly imperialism’s crisis is preparing for the worst war and slump devastation in its entire degenerate history.
Their “era of imperial decline” complacency echoes Mao’s “imperialism is a paper tiger” bombast of an imperialist system just folding away without a fight.
Setbacks and defeats sharpen the contradictions in the capitalist system, but its incurable ‘overproduction’ economic crisis will plough on relentlessly and increase the momentum towards yet more devastating wars to come to destroy ‘surplus’ capital and head off revolution.
The nuclear-armed monopoly-imperialist bourgeoisie will not go down without a fight.
Already the berserker Trump-wing of the American ruling class is seething with anger at Biden for overseeing “one of the greatest defeats in American history” and calling on him to “resign in disgrace” (even though Trump negotiated the peace deal with the Taliban in February 2020 that began the process of withdrawal).
They are horrified at the revolutionary lessons this defeat is teaching world anti-imperialism. This is from the even more berserk John Bolton for example:
Biden’s unfolding Afghanistan tragedy is an embarrassment. US policy should be no aid whatsoever to any Afghan government that includes the Taliban. The strategic implications of this surrender will not be lost on Russia, China, Iran, & North Korea.
The CPGB-ML’s “downward spiral” and “falling US reputation” does not get any way get near to describing the revolutionary nature of these developments.
Nor does its observation of “the rising reputation of Russia and China”.
Linking Russia’s bourgeois-capitalist state to China’s workers state and presenting them as the same thing is gross confusion-mongering.
Defend the reputation of the Soviet Union’s entire seven-decade history and all that it achieved internally and internationally by all means - under the leaderships of Lenin, Stalin, Khruschev and beyond - but, crucially, address all the revisionist mistakes and failings that began with Stalin’s revisions of Lenin as crystallised in his 1952 Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR pamphlet and then degenerated into the disastrous “peaceful roads to socialism” delusions that led ultimately to the Soviet Union’s unnecessary and tragic liquidation by treacherous class-collaborating Gorbachevite brain-rot [See EPSR Book Vol 21 Unanswered Polemics against museum-Stalinism].
This is not only to be encouraged, it is necessary if the proletariat is to return to Leninist revolutionary theory party-building and leadership based on a correct understanding of world developments, what led to them and what will come next.
But give no illusions that modern capitalist Russia (built on a counter-revolution in 1991 and now playing a Bonapartist balancing act under Putin between the out-and-out capitalist gangsterism of the Yelstin era and the Russian proletariat’s heroic Soviet history, to prevent the re-emergence of Bolshevism) is the same thing, or has anything to do with ‘progress’.
China’s communist party-led economic development and global expansion is astonishing and will rightly inspire the world’s vast impoverished masses (though huge doubts and concerns remain over why it has encouraged consumerism and allowed the growth of large numbers of Chinese billionaires in the course of using capitalist market mechanisms to develop its socialist society - and the dangers this potentially holds for the workers state).
The firmness it is showing in suppressing counter-revolution (in Hong Kong and Xinjiang for example) is a healthy lesson for the international proletariat and is in itself a setback for imperialism.
However, it own dire revisionism is also disastrous for the working class, including its “condemnation” of an abstract notion of “terror” (including its participation in United Nations “counter-terrorism” initiatives) which fails to distinguish between its use as an inevitable early stage fight-back method in the anti-imperialist struggle (eg by the Taliban) and counter-revolutionary terror aimed at sabotaging and breaking up anti-imperialist struggle and the workers states.
All blows against imperialism exacerbate the splits and recriminations between the imperialist powers and help to create the conditions in which the world proletarian revolution begins to take shape.
Anger in Western imperialist capitals at the US for leading them into devastating defeat and demonstrating to the international working class that monopoly-imperialism’s world control can be beaten through revolutionary struggle is now breaking out into the open.
See for example how the palpable sense of failure and defeat has panicked these British-imperialist warmongering losers and turned them against the US losers:
Ben Wallace blasted Donald Trump today for agreeing a ‘rotten’ deal with the Taliban to withdraw US troops as British soldiers prepared to deploy to rescue remaining Britons in the war-ravaged country ahead of a nationwide advance by the extremists.
His comments came as the Taliban seized the key cities of Lashkar Gah - the capital of the southern province of Helmand - on Friday, and Kandahar on Thursday, tightening the group’s grip on the country.
The government has now effectively lost control of most of Afghanistan, following an eight-day blitz into urban centres by the Taliban that has also stunned Kabul’s American backers.
The government now controls just three major cities - including Kabul - but is unlikely to have the logistical manpower left to marshal a successful defence of the capital without the aid of foreign powers.
The Defence Secretary admitted UK troops could return to Afghanistan after the end of the 20-year occupation, warning ‘al Qaida will probably come back’ and it could again become a major breeding ground for Islamic extremist terrorists.
This morning he laid into the Republican former US leader, saying his February 2020 peace agreement with the Islamists was a ‘mistake’, as they made major advances following the departure of most allied forces.
Military veteran MPs blasted the UK and the Biden administration over the airlift operation today. The UK is sending 600 soldiers and the US 3,000 to evacuate their people in scenes likened to the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War.
The economic centre of Kandahar and Lashkar Gah - the capital of the southern province of Helmand where many British troops were stationed - were the latest to fall to the insurgency, prompting questions over how long the capital Kabul will hold out.
Conservative Tobias Ellwood, chairman on the Defence Select Committee, said on Twitter: ‘What would Churchill say? This is NOT our finest hour. What happened to GLOBAL BRITAIN and AMERICA IS BACK?
‘The largest high tech military alliance ever - defeated by an insurgency armed with mines, RPGs and AK47s. We can and must do better.’
And Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and a veteran of the conflict, said ‘the decision to withdraw is like a rug pulled from under the feet of our partners’.
‘A hasty exit is not a sign of success. Needing reinforcements to keep the door open as you leave is a sure sign of failure,’ he added.
Mr Wallace told Sky this morning: ‘I was public about it that at the time of the Trump deal - with obviously the Taliban - I felt that that was a mistake to have done it that way, that we will all as an international community pay the consequences of that, but when the United States as the framework nation took that decision, the way we were all configured, the way we had gone in meant that we had to leave as well.’
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether the UK could return for future military operations if al Qaida or other terrorist organisations rise in Afghanistan, he added: ‘If you want to cut out the short-term threat globally, wherever Britain has a threat to her interests and her people, we have a global counter-terrorism capability...
‘It is obviously not as perfect as being based in a country as we have been in Afghanistan but we retain military capability to deal with a threat where we face it or we have to deal with it under international law.
‘If there is an imminent threat emanating anywhere in the world. Britain, the United States, France, other countries have a capability to deal with that.’
He added: ‘I will always deploy either force or disruptive capabilities alongside other parts of the British state - or indeed a coalition - to protect our national security and our interests. We will always do that, we will reserve the right to do it, and that is a global capability.’
He said that Afghanistan’s second biggest city of Kandahar and the town of Lashkar Gah was ‘pretty much now in the hands of the Taliban.’ The latter fell after two weeks of heavy fighting, according to a police official on Friday.
Former international development minister Rory Stewart called the troop withdrawal ‘a total betrayal by the US and by the UK’ that risked triggering a civil war between rival warlords currently defending against the Taliban.
Johnny Mercer, a Conservative MP and former veterans minister who served in Afghanistan, called the withdrawal ‘a disgrace’.
‘I think it’s humiliating for the UK military, for the families who lost individuals over there but above all it’s a huge tragedy for the people of Afghanistan, who’ve been through so much over so many years,’ he told Times Radio.
‘We’ve chosen this defeat and it’s shameful.’
Ben Wallace’s bluster about Britain’s “global counter-terrorism capability” and willingness to “deploy either force or destructive capabilities” against “threats to Britain’s national interest” is in part a desperate attempt to maintain morale within ruling-class circles and show that “global Britain” still has a place in the world; but they are in a blind panic at the prospect of the US now going-it-alone and the consequences no longer being able to play second-fiddle will potentially have on its ability to withstand intensifying trade war.
Former international development minister and Middle East diplomat Rory Stewart seems to have sincerely fallen for the lie that the occupation was about “transforming lives” and that Britain had a “moral obligation” to intervene.
His sense of “betrayal” is an interesting reflection of the feelings of outrage and anger expressed by numerous veterans and families of slain military personnel in Britain and the US as they become aware that their “sacrifices” were for nothing:
Diane Whiteside from South Shore lost her son Trooper Christoper Whiteside, 20, when he was killed in the Helmand province by an improvised explosive device while serving in the Light Dragoons Battle Group in Afghanistan.
He died in July 2009, after joining the Army in July 2005 as an Infanteer in The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment (QLR).
Diane said she and her partner Malcolm felt strongly that no British soldier should ever be sent to Afghanistan again, and no other families should have to endure the turmoil of losing a loved one there.
She said: “We can’t watch the news at the moment, it’s too much to the core for us. I do think Christopher’s death was in vain, because when you think that nothing has been achieved, and we’re back to square one, it’s absolutely devastating.
“That wasn’t a clean war - it was a dirty war. I think they’ll end up going in again - and then there will be more families who will have to go through this.
“I personally think, and Malcolm agrees with me, that they shouldn’t go back for a war. It’s not our war. I have had to carry on for my youngest son Daniel, he was 16 when Chris died. I’ve had to stay strong.
“There have been too many lives lost for nothing.”
UK forces were deployed to Afghanistan in support of the UN-authorised, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission and as part of the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).
As of July 2015, a total of 454 British soldiers or MOD civilians died while serving in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001.
Of these, 405 were killed as a result of hostile action, according to the Ministry of Defence.
Some 49 are known to have died either as a result of illness, non-combat injuries or accidents, or have not yet officially been assigned a cause of death pending the outcome of an investigation.
Following a helicopter crash on October 11 2015, two further UK personnel died while serving in Afghanistan, taking the total number of military deaths to 456.
As Lilley, 41, reflects on President Joe Biden’s decision to end America’s military mission in Afghanistan on Aug. 31, he expresses love for his country, but disgust at its politicians and dismay at the blood and money squandered. Comrades were killed and maimed in wars he says were unwinnable, making him rethink his country and his life.
“A hundred percent we lost the war,” Lilley said. “The whole point was to get rid of the Taliban and we didn’t do that. The Taliban will take over.”
Biden says that the Afghan people must decide their own future and that America should not have to sacrifice another generation in an unwinnable war.
Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on America triggered a nearly 20-year conflict that led to more than 3,500 U.S. and allied military deaths, the deaths of more than 47,000 Afghan civilians, the killing of at least 66,000 Afghan troops, and over 2.7 million Afghans fleeing the county, according to the nonpartisan Costs of War project at Brown University.
“Was it worth it? It’s a big ass question,” said Lilley, who was on the front lines of America’s Global War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan for almost 16 years.
He said he deployed believing troops were there to defeat the enemy, stimulate the economy and uplift Afghanistan as a whole. They failed, he said.
“I don’t think one life was worth it on both sides,” Lilley said as he described his service and his perspective in an interview at his home in Garden Grove, southeast of Los Angeles.
Lilley is not alone in reflecting on the U.S. withdrawal after nearly 20 years of war. Many Americans are. The perspectives of Lilley and other veterans can help inform
Lilley’s opinions are his own and some veterans differ, just as Americans generally have different estimations about a war that improved women’s rights and led in 2011 to U.S. Navy SEALS killing al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
Biden’s withdrawal has bipartisan support. A July 12-13 Reuters/Ipsos poll showed only about three in 10 Democrats and four in 10 Republicans believe the military should remain.
Lilley and other Marines who served in Afghanistan and who spoke to Reuters compared it with the conflict in Vietnam. They say both wars had no clear objective, multiple U.S. presidents in charge, and a fierce and non-uniformed enemy.
Part of Lilley’s support network is Jordan Laird, 34, a former Marine scout sniper who described completing combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Laird and others called “Vietstan.”
“You have a deeper understanding of the plight of the Vietnam vets who came home with lost limbs and being completely and utterly tossed to one side,” said Laird, who now campaigns to improve veteran care.
He served in Sangin Valley in Helmand Province, one of the most fiercely contested parts of Afghanistan, from October 2010 to April 2011. In his first three months, he said, 25 members of Laird’s unit were killed in action and more than 200 were wounded. His best friend bled to death in his arms.
 Back from the battlefield, Lilley, physically fit and heavily tattooed, said he could not even look at the U.S. flag for several years because he felt so angry that his country had sent him and his colleagues to an unwinnable war. He says he has seen several mental health counselors, but his greatest support network is fellow veterans.
Lilley is vice president of the veteran-operated Reel Warrior Foundation, which gives veterans a chance to break from the struggles of re-adapting to civilian life by taking them on fishing trips.
He said he is disappointed that the United States does not seem to have learned lessons from Vietnam, where 58,000 American troops were killed in a war that failed to stop Communist North Vietnam taking over all of Vietnam.
“We should avoid war at all costs,” Lilley said. “Don’t rush into the racket of war, into the machine of making money, contracts. A lot of people made a lot of money off of this.”
He said it took him years to let go of his anger.
“I mean I knew what I was getting into, I mean I grew up on ‘Rambo.’ I wanted to honor my family in the sense my grandfather fought in World War Two, I wanted to go down that same route and do the selfless thing, but it turns into reality quickly.”
Another of Lilley’s Iraq and Afghanistan veteran buddies is Tristan Wimmer, also a Marine scout sniper. Wimmer’s brother Kiernan, also a Marine veteran, died by suicide in 2015 after receiving a traumatic brain injury in Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan.
Wimmer, 37, now runs “22 Jumps,” holding fundraising events where he does 22 parachute base jumps in a day to raise awareness about the scourge of veteran suicide. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimated in 2012 that 22 U.S. veterans die by suicide each day.
 Wimmer said of Afghanistan: “By any metric you choose to measure it, it was a fruitless effort. Getting rid of al Qaeda or the Taliban - we didn’t succeed. Increased peace and prosperity for the Afghan people? We didn’t succeed.
“In the process we sacrificed a lot of wealth, we sacrificed a lot of time, we sacrificed a lot of lives, not just American lives, but coalition lives and especially Afghan lives, to walk away essentially having accomplished not a lot. That’s a really hard thing to stomach.”
Many maimed and mentally scarred British army veterans have been “completely and utterly tossed to one side” by their own contemptuous ruling class as well, and forced to depend on donations and support from Armed Forces charities like “Help the Heroes”and the British Legion to survive.
The profile of both organisations were deliberately raised to create a jingoist “support our troops” atmosphere as the Afghan and Iraq wars raged, alongside National Arboretum commemorations, troop parades “for the fallen” in towns and cities up and down the country, the establishment of Armed Forces Day, near-obligatory poppy-wearing and two-minute silences, fascist Churchill five-pound notes, “British Values” school education brainwashing and general Union Jack flag-waving.
All of this will start to look completely hollow as the reality of ruling class indifference and callousness in abandoning their own veterans to capitalist austerity and bureaucratic callousness towards hits home:
Some ex-members of the armed forces are being failed so badly by the benefits system that they are surviving on food banks and living in poverty, a Mirror investigation can reveal.
Armed forces charities say 90% of veterans who try to claim Personal Independence Payments (PIP) for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are rejected.
The Mirror has heard of dozens of these cases. Some veterans told us they have even attempted suicide, faced homelessness or become reliant on food banks after being turned down for PIP, which can be 50% of their income.
Many developed PTSD because of their military careers, and now feel abandoned by the same government they once dedicated part of their lives to serving.
Larry Holmes, a veteran support officer at charity Help for Heroes, said: “Virtually every veteran with PTSD has issues being awarded PIP - I’d say 90% of them.”
Personal Independence Payments are in place to help people with long-term physical or mental health conditions or disabilities. The support can be up to £152.15 a week.
PTSD is one of the qualifying conditions to claim PIP, and veterans are diagnosed with this at above-average rates.
However, the benefit’s tough criteria makes it hard to get, even for civilians . Ex-members of the forces have specific issues that mean they are even more likely to get turned down.
One veteran, Stephen Naylor, 69, was recently rejected for PIP despite getting the benefit for almost 20 years.
He is now speaking up to try to get the benefits system changed for the better.
Naylor served in the Light Infantry, but got a traumatic brain injury and developed PTSD after being wounded in Northern Ireland in 1978.
Since 2000 he has received full PIP payments, as well as Disability Living Allowance. As well as dealing with PTSD for more than 30 years, Naylor has a number of other medical conditions and takes 30 tablets a day.
But in September 2019, the DWP told him both these payments would stop within a month. Help for Heroes helped Naylor appeal the decision, which took 20 months to be heard.
During that time he tried to take his own life twice.
Sadly DWP doubled down on their decision and the appeal failed.
DWP staff justified this by saying that because Naylor could walk 13 metres down a corridor, he must be able to walk 200 metres unaided - one of the tests for PIP.
And because he came across as a good communicator during a 20-minute interview, he was judged to have good enough social interaction skills not to deserve the benefits.
Naylor said: “I have to keep stopping all the time but they didn’t mention that. I have good days and bad days and sometimes I can’t get out of bed.
“I was gutted. I was ready to throw the towel in. I tried to commit suicide twice.
“I’ve been suffering in silence, and I know others have, which is why I’m now coming forward. They’re not taking my mental health into consideration. They think ‘he’s alright, he’ll manage’.
“I feel like I’m banging my head against a wall. I’m really bitter about it all but I’m fighting.”
He is now trying to live without the financial support he previously relied on, and hopes DWP will improve the assessment process to be more sympathetic to those with PTSD.
The agony and frustration expressed here is enough to push even some of the most Empire-corrupted layers of the British working class towards revolution.
Western imperialism set off all the chaos in Afghanistan in the 1980’s to prevent its workers state from becoming an inspiration in the region and to undermine all confidence generally in communist revolution as the only way out of capitalist slump and war.
The monopoly-imperialist ruling class is a 1,000 times more desperate now as the system lurches from crisis to ever-deepening crisis, culminating in the 2007-09 Great Crash that would have brought about the collapse of the entire capitalist system had it not been rescued by the insane printing of trillions of dollars in QE (quantitate easing) credit expansion to kick the can down the road, and had US imperialism not pushed the burdens of the crisis onto already on-the-edge Third World economies.
Much worse is yet to come, as signalled by the intensifying inflationary pressures which are threatening to spiral out of control and put an end to the period of low interest rates and quantitative easing in Western societies that have temporarily staved off a return to near-collapse conditions of 2008.
In Britain, the Bank of England is desperate to downplay the crisis, as seen in the Governor Andrew Bailey’s shifty response when asked in a Channel Four News interview if projected increases in inflation to 4% by the autumn means that workers should ask for a pay rise:
“It will be very important the increase in inflation is temporary, is seen to be temporary and does not become embedded”.
This nervy question-avoidance and wishful thinking is aimed at discouraging wage demands and calming the markets, but the crisis is already with us in intensifying trade wars, and it will lead the globe to inevitable financial collapse and world war, regardless of whether the capitalists manage to pull off yet more ‘clever’ measures to buy themselves more time or not.
In the Third World, rampant price inflation is already devastating the lives of millions.
Lebanon’s financial meltdown indicates where the rest of the world is heading. It was already deep in crisis before the emergence of Covid 19 and August 2020’s devastating port explosion.
Slump conditions there are accelerating rapidly:
Tensions over scarce fuel supplies in Lebanon descended into deadly violence involving guns, knives and a hand grenade on Monday, leaving three men dead, the country’s news agency reported.
Lebanon has faced months of severe fuel shortages that have prompted long lines at petrol stations and plunged the small country — dependent on private generators for power — into long hours of darkness.
The shortages are blamed on smuggling, hoarding and the cash-strapped government’s inability to secure deliveries of imported fuel. The crisis worsened when the government reduced subsidies on fuel amid a deepening financial crisis unfolding since 2019.
The Lebanese currency has plummeted, and it now sells at 20,000 Lebanese pounds to the United States dollar on the black market while the official rate is fixed at 1,500 pounds for $1. The price of a gallon of fuel has increased by more than 220 percent in the last year, triggering panic and a thriving black market.
The fuel crisis has turned violent before, with motorists clashing at petrol stations after long waits and fuel running out. But Monday’s deaths reflect growing frustration over a continued problem that has only gotten worse.
Lebanon’s National News Agency said that in one incident, a gunfight erupted over a fuel-sale deal, apparently following a disagreement — and the encounter left two men dead.
The violence started in the area of Badawi and extended to Bab al-Tibenneh in the northern city of Tripoli, it reported. Details of the disagreement were not immediately clear, but the agency said the men exchanged fire and at one point, a hand grenade was thrown.
Troops fanned out, deploying around the local hospital. There was heavy gunfire in the air during the men’s funeral. The person responsible for their killing handed himself in, local media reported.
The other clash started with a fistfight at a petrol station in Bakhoun, a village in the northern Dinniyeh region. A man was shot in the melee; he was taken to a hospital in the nearby town of Zgharta where he died of his wounds, the agency said. The shooter turned himself in to the authorities.
“The situation is very hard, and we can’t handle it much longer,” Fadi Abu Shakra, a spokesman for fuel distributors, told Al Jadeed TV, a local station.
Lebanon’s national electricity company, which is dependent on imported fuel, has expanded a rolling blackout system so that it now delivers only about one hour of electricity per day to homes and businesses.
Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister on Thursday called a decision by the central bank to end subsidies to fuel products “illegal,” and called for an emergency Cabinet meeting to discuss the move.
The Wednesday night announcement by the central bank is likely to send prices soaring in a country already in the throes of an unprecedented economic crisis.
The move had been anticipated for months as the bank’s reserves dry up, but on Thursday politicians distanced themselves and blamed central bank governor Riad Salameh.
Outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab, whose government has rarely held meetings since its resignation a year ago, called for an emergency meeting later on Thursday. He called on the finance minister to inform Salameh that his decision is “illegal.”
The central bank later issued another statement on Thursday, standing by its decision. It said that subsidies over the past weeks have only helped businessmen, not people in need. Despite subsidies worth $800 million in July alone, fuel products remained scarce in the market, it added.
The shortages are blamed on smuggling, hoarding and the cash-strapped government’s inability to secure deliveries of imported fuel.
Most petrol stations were closed on Thursday as it was not clear how much the price of gasoline and diesel will rise, with some experts saying it will increase five fold. Several major roads were closed by angry protesters opposed to the decision.
In June, parliament approved a ration card system that would give some 500,000 poor families an amount of money in U.S. dollars for a period of one year. It is not yet clear how the estimated $556 million project, which aims to replace the subsidy system, will be financed.
Diab’s office said work on the mechanism of the ration card is almost done and it will be implemented soon.
Last weekend’s fuel truck explosion underlines Lebanon’s agony as anger erupts after scores of desperate civilians in one of the poorest districts were killed or maimed as they queued for fuel seized from black marketeers by the military.
The situation in Lebanon is potentially explosive in a revolutionary sense, as it will soon be too in the Western imperialist heartlands once the working class their are driven into similar levels of desperation.
The savagery inflicted on Yemen by the British-backed feudal Saudi monarchy’s brutal war to suppress the north Yemeni Houthi rebellion shows how devastating capitalist crisis can and will get everywhere:
Instead of attending school, 15-year-old Harith Mansour spends his days wringing chickens’ necks, plucking feathers and bagging up fresh meat for customers of a small shop in Yemen’s capital Sanaa.
He is one of an unknown number of Yemen’s children working to keep their families fed and housed as the toll of six years of war pushes the country ever deeper into poverty and hunger.
“I had to take on this job because my father cannot cover household expenses by himself ... There isn’t enough for school or other things,” said Mansour, who stopped studying at eighth grade.
Elsewhere in the capital Abdo Muhammad Jamales, also 15 and clad in sandals and a shirt, cuts long steel rebars in the street for use in concrete structures.
Fighting in his home city of Hodeidah in western Yemen displaced his parents and eight siblings to the nearby countryside two years ago. With his father unwell and unable to work, Jamales and his brother moved to Sanaa.
Jamales earns 3,000-4,000 riyals ($6-7) a day but more than half goes on food and accommodation, with little left to send home.
“Before, I used to study and sit and, thank God, all was good: food and drink came easily. But now it is hard ... A flour sack costs 18,000-19,000 riyals. Before it was 5,000-8,000,” he said.
Price inflation in the war-battered economy is a major driver of Yemen’s persistent hunger crisis. The cost of a minimum food basket in Yemen has risen more than 20% this year, according to U.N. data.
Before the latest conflict erupted in late 2014, Yemen was working with the United Nations to reduce child labour. The minimum age for work was 14, and 18 for hazardous work.
But children’s organisation UNICEF says the war has more than doubled the number of children out of school to 2 million.
With family budgets at breaking point, girls are being married at earlier ages, boys recruited as soldiers and children sent out to work. More than 3,600 children were recruited into armed conflict in the past six years, the U.N. has said.
Zakaria Naguib, 16, started working in a metal workshop in Sanaa two years ago.
“It’s this situation (the war) which drove me to work ... this work gives us our daily bread,” Naguib said, as sparks from grinding steel flew around his unprotected face.
The dizzying pace of events leading up to and since America’s surrender can mean that any attempted analysis rapidly becomes out-of-date before it is finished, and the ability to explore all of its complex implications in full be restricted, but the international proletariat urgently needs clarification on all revolutionary developments to guide them towards the only means of ending capitalist misery - socialist revolution.
The only successfully proven guide towards a correct theoretical understanding has been the philosophic perspective of Marx, Engels and Lenin (and the EPSR).
The building a revolutionary party based on these foundations is needed to guide and lead the necessary polemical struggle for understanding on every single development thrown up by capitalism’s crisis, and in front of the working class.
Yemen’s agony will be replicated all over the world in the coming global economic collapse until the revolutionary defeat and destruction of the entire monopoly-imperialist system.
Hundreds of millions will be screaming out for understanding and leadership.
The revolutionary party needs building now.
Back to the top