Afghanistan’s Reversion to Taliban Rule is a Tragedy

by Anne Jaclard

The US withdrawal from its 20-year occupation of Afghanistan has enabled the Taliban to take over the entire country and impose its strict form of fundamentalist religion. Incredibly, the US military withdrew without planning how it would save the tens of thousands of Afghans who have worked for it as translators, drivers, etc., and who are now being slaughtered by the new rulers. The US is belatedly trying to get them and US civilians out of the country, as towns, cities, and the national government have all surrendered to the Taliban within the last few weeks.

Rule by the Taliban is an incomparable tragedy for the Afghan people. We know what happened when the Taliban controlled the country previously. Its brand of fundamentalist Islam means that men will be murdered and women and girls will be enslaved. Females will be forbidden to go to school or work, and will lack even a semblance of protection from being married off as children and enslaved by their husbands, fathers and in-laws. There is already a humanitarian crisis, as nearly 400,000 people have fled their homes seeking safety.

Local feminist groups such as RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan), which always functioned underground, and internationally-funded groups who run women’s shelters and schools, such as Women for Afghan Women, will be shut down, and their staffs and clients will probably be killed.

Women for Afghan Women has issued an appeal for funds to save lives; you can donate through its website.

The Bitter Fruits of Imperialism

This is not to say that the US should have continued its occupation. It never should have invaded 20 years ago nor occupied the country ever since. It always should have gotten out. Anti-imperialism is a principle of Marxist-Humanism. But it is incredible how badly the US withdrawal is being carried out, without first saving the thousands of Afghans who worked for the US forces and other people who are most vulnerable, such as the feminists and trade unionists. Those not already killed in the last few weeks will be killed now. In addition, of course, the US is endangering the remaining US military and embassy personnel and the troops being sent in to rescue them.

How could Biden have been so misadvised as to what would happen when the US withdrew? He announced the withdrawal of the US months ago, and had nearly completed it, all apparently without any plan to save the translators and other workers, nor even the US embassy’s personnel. Whereas he can’t be blamed for the colossal failure of the US nation-building effort over the past 20 years, which wasted trillions of dollars on a government that never governed, the failure to plan a safe withdrawal is on him and his advisers.

Cheerleaders for US imperialism will say the US should have remained in occupation and will make hay out the tragedy. Republican reactionaries (is there any other kind of Republican now?) will make hay out of Biden’s incompetence. And while US intelligence and security efforts have recently prioritized the fight against domestic terrorism coming from Trumpites and other right-wingers, we can expect that they will now focus once again solely on foreign Islamicists.

The international ramifications of the US withdrawal are staggering. The Taliban will likely harbor international terrorists and destabilize neighboring countries. Pakistan never stopped exerting its power in Afghanistan; Iran is very involved too, as are other Gulf states, not to mention China and Russia. Each one of them will be arming and aiding factions of the Taliban and of the warlords who may well fight Taliban rule, as they have in the past.

It is totally insufficient to oppose US imperialism alone, especially these days, when every decent-sized nation is an imperialist. Most importantly, it is insufficient to oppose only the outside aggressor when your own rulers and would-be rulers are oppressing you. What made Afghan feminists such as Malalai Joya great was their opposition to the US occupation, and the civilian government installed by the US, and the Taliban, and the warlords. I heard Joya speak in 2010; she made this point, and I discussed it from the floor (see this MHI editorial, especially the last three paragraphs).

I’m sickened by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that “the Afghan people and its army will have to take matters in their own hands,” when the army and government have already collapsed. The Afghan people never had a chance to try to take matters in their own hands.


  1. Right from the start, this article points out that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan will result in Taliban political rule over the whole country and, with it, the imposition of its strict fundamentalist religion. Make no mistake, this is a humanitarian tragedy where men, women, and children will be killed, enslaved and stripped of their fundamental freedoms. And that’s for starters.

    In response, many on the so-called left view this situation as “regrettable” but, ultimately, the responsibility of the victims of this tragedy for being unwilling or unable to avert this disaster– a classic case of blame the victim – which the POTUS is happy to say publicly, and not just in the anonymity of social media, to justify his action (or inaction).

    Nowhere in the article is there an attempt to justify the US occupation of Afghanistan or, for that matter, the continuation of the occupation. Saying that the US has blood on its hands for the whole situation and, in particular, for the “withdrawal process”, is not an endorsement of this humanitarian tragedy.

    Let us remember that Obama did not think Afghanistan was a “dumb war”. Rather, Obama called Iraq Bush’s “dumb war” and many on the left went along with US intervention in Afghanistan, chasing “terrorists” in an “eternal” war that involved unlimited wastes of money and loss of lives on all sides. Who helped enable that?

    The article is a plea for humanism, for sanity and solidarity in a world in crisis. How could anyone think differently? How could anyone be so blinded by a knee jerk “anti-US imperialism” that they interpret this humanitarian cry as a “cover” for the US government? The choices are not more US and ally occupation on one hand or the Taliban on the other. Rather, the choice is either a world where social and political freedoms are promoted and protected as a pathway for building a new society or more of the same – capitalist barbarity as on display in Afghanistan.

  2. Following the disaster in Afghanistan, the EU is now thinking about what they should be able to do in the future. Although they do not quite use the following words, the tune is striking: “in the future, the EU must be able to send troops WITHOUT the bureaucratic hassle that ties down decision-making”.

    Nothing has been learnt. The old logic is “send the troops and sort out a country”. What the Afghanistan disaster has shown, beyond doubt, is that military intervention can have an effect, BUT once the gun barrels are gone, a relapse to the previous state occurs. This happens when military force fails, as is the case in Afghanistan, to change a society from within. So any achievements will wither away now that the gun barrels are gone. In other words, the achievements in Afghanistan were only upheld by military force.

    This should have been sufficient to stop the intervention 20 years ago. And this should serve as a lesson for possible future interventions, i.e., don’t take your army to a foreign land just because you are more powerful than that land.

  3. This article was written just as the US was pulling out. In the end, it left tens of thousands of Afghan civilians behind, many of them activists, feminists, educators and journalists, including many to whom it had granted special visas to enter the US, but who are now prevented from leaving Afghanistan and are in hiding from Taliban killing.

    Since then, women have conducted protests in the streets against Taliban rule. They have been brutally suppressed. Rebels are also fighting the Taliban militarily in the north. and RAWA’s site,

    The so-called “left” in the US and elsewhere, or people who care, should send money and figure out how else they can aid women’s and other groups so that resisters can stay alive and remain active in some measure.

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