Afghanistan Maoists speak: On the situation of the Taleban
31 October 2005. A World to Win News Service.
Following is the second of a series of excerpts from a recent interview with a spokesman for the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan, founded in May 2004. It was conducted by Haghighat, the newspaper of the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist). Both parties are participants in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic centre of the world’s Maoists.
What is the situation of Taleban at the present time?
The people calling themselves Taleban today are only one part of the Taleban that was in power. Originally there were several factions. One was the faction of Mullah Omar, and the Taleban close to him, the most strictly fundamentalist current. Another faction was led by Mullah Rabbani, who were more moderate in religious terms by comparison. Later, after the Taleban seized power in Kabul, Mullah Rabbani became the equivalent of Prime Minister. Another group in Taleban close to Rabbani was Khodam al Froghan, which included older mullahs. The Taleban were mainly composed of mullahs and religious school students. The Taleban also received political and military backing from a group called Shah Navaz, supporters of the deposed monarch Zahir Shah [among them today’s president, Hazmid Karzai, and his father], and the Party of the Afghan Nation, a Pashtun bigot organisation. [The Pashtun are the country’s dominant nationality. The Taleban also represented Pashtun rule over the other nationalities.] After the Taleban seized power, they took a position against Zahir Shah. A short time later they proclaimed the Islamic Emirate [Islamic religious rule] and named Mullah Omar Amir al Momenine (the head of all believers). At that point Taleban was openly getting closer to Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.
In this new situation, the faction of Zahir Shah supporters, that is, technocrats [mainly in favour of ties with the US and the West] and the Pashtun khans [local feudal despots] who had been supporting the Taleban began to distance themselves from them. The US gradually distanced itself from the Taleban as well [Even though the US, acting through Pakistan, first brought them to power.] The Taleban assassinated Karzai’s father. After 11 September 2001, most of the other factions, including supporters of Mullah Rabbani, distanced themselves from Mullah Omar. Since the Taleban lost power, only a small part of their original forces, mainly the Mullah Omar faction, have continued to oppose the US and the new puppet regime. The other factions have been integrated into the new regime in various degrees.
From a military point of view, the war has been continued by a small part of the original Taleban. They suffered major losses during the US invasion. Some were scattered and disappeared. One section of those who fought the US at first left the Taleban and joined the government and became part of Karzai’s armed forces. So militarily and politically today’s Taleban is only one small piece of their original configuration.
Are there still many Taleban fighters?
We don’t know the exact number. The Americans have estimated their number at about 1,000 fighters. The Taleban themselves give no number but claim that they have forces in 30 out of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. They are fighting a scattered guerrilla war, with no specified areas. Sometimes they mount operations of 200-300 armed men, especially near the Pakistan border. Occasionally they seize an area in certain Pashtun districts. But they are not able to stay there very long. So in practical terms, the US and its allies occupy the whole country.
Are the Taleban present only in Pashtun areas?
Recently they seem to have a presence in other areas too. But even in those areas they rely on the local Pashtun population. When they were in power, the Taleban never appealed to anyone other than Pushtuns. And now their support is limited exclusively to Pashtuns.
How do the people see them?
The Pashtun masses are mainly against the occupiers and the puppet regime. The Taleban have been able to take advantage of this opposition – for example, to rely on them for logistics and to some extent recruit among them. But for various reasons, including the present Taleban slogans, the Pashtun masses don’t play an active part in the war. The fact is that the blind religious slogans that were once used against the Soviets and their puppet regime have little force against the US and its puppet regime. There are two reasons for that. One is that the US was closely allied with the Mojahedeen during the resistance against the Soviets [built as an anti-communist crusade, even though the USSR had long ceased to be socialist], and the US can’t be mistaken for communists. Secondly, the current puppet regime is an Islamic regime. These two factors work together and have weakened the religious motivation for resistance to the occupiers. The Taleban can’t rally support among the non-Pashtun masses, who are solidly against them. In fact, one reason for the extensive capitulation to occupiers and the puppet regime among non-Pashtun is a fear of a Taleban come-back. But among the non-Pashtuns, those who are against the occupiers and the puppet regime do not support Taleban.
Could the Taleban come back to power through the fight against the US invaders?
If we leave aside Gulbedin Hekmatyar [a Pashtun warlord and the leader of the notorious fundamentalist Islamic Party that has stayed outside the Karzai regime and the people close to him, who don’t amount to anything significant, the fact is that at the moment the Taleban are the only force fighting the US in Afghanistan. But their fight cannot grow and expand and move toward victory. They do not have the active support of the imperialist forces that oppose the US, they don’t have the support of the bulk of the local exploiting forces, and even as a reactionary resistance they are not likely to advance much more. Furthermore, they are severely restricted because they have identified themselves with Pashtun nationalism. It is extremely hard for them to work with and develop their forces among non-Pashtun people. As already mentioned, religious slogans are not very effective in the struggle against the US and non-communist and anti-communist forces and an Islamic republic. The Taleban’s war has little active support from the masses. Even the very religious Pashtun people who are to some extent close to them often don’t actively support them. In sum, their war has no clear perspective.
From this point of view, launching a revolutionary people’s war, which [in a time of occupation] means a war of national liberation, is necessary to lead the revolutionary popular and national resistance. More than that, it can be said that the future of the whole resistance against the occupiers and the puppet regime is tied to launching and advancing in that kind of war.