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Questions and Answers
6 October 2001
How can one analyse the evolution of Afghanistan since the
invasion and the victory of the Taliban?
The PDPA (the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan - Afghan
Communist Party) which had a strong base in the army and air
out a coup d'etat in 1978, toppling the corrupt regime of Daoud. The
people welcomed the change. The PDPA was initially popular. It
social reforms and democracy. But the latter promise was never
though important educational reforms were pushed through such as
education and schools for girls. In the cities girls and boys began
attend the same schools. Medical care was improved as well, but a
factional struggle led to the victory of a Pol-Pot faction led by
Hafizullah Amin who embarked on a campaign of massive
the United States decided to destabilise the regime by arming the
ultra-religious tribes and using the Pakistan Army as a conduit to
the religious extremists. The Americans were laying a bear-trap
and the Soviet
leadership fell into it. They sent the Red Army to topple Amin and
the PDPA regime by force. This further exacerbated the crisis and
United States gave the call for a jihad against communism. The
military thought it would help the jihad if a Saudi prince came to
the struggle, but volunteers from that quarter were not forthcoming.
the Saudi regime suggested Ossama Bin Laden to the CIA. He
recruited, trained and sent to Afghanistan where he fought well. In
action Bin Laden led his men to attack a mixed school (boys and
kill all the teachers. The US watched this approvingly. The rest is
history. The Soviet Union was defeated and withdrew its forces in
civil war followed and a coalition government consisting of forces
to Iran, Tadjikistan and Pakistan came to power. Instability reigned.
Pakistan hurled the Taliban (students) it had trained in special
seminaries into the battle with open support from the Pakistan
Army. Kabul was
captured and gradually the regime extended its rule to the rest of
country. American think-tanks till a few months ago were talking of
the Taliban to further destabilize the Central Asian Republics! Now
and Pakistan are waging war to topple a regime they created. Who
history had ceased to be ironical?
. What is specific about the Islamism of the Taliban?
It is a virulent, sectarian, ultra-puritanical strain heavily influenced
by Wahhabism---the official state religion of Saudi Arabia. It was
religious instructors who trained the Taliban. They believe in a
jihad against infidels and other Muslims (especially the Shias). Bin
Laden, too, is a staunch Wahhabi. They would like a return to what
was Islam in the 7th century, during the leadership of Mohammed.
don't understand is that Mohammed was a very flexible prophet-
as Maxime Rodinson explains in his excellent biography.
. What was the strategic aim of the United States in basing
the most hard-line wing of the Islamic resistance to the USSR, and
generally groups such as that of Bin Laden in the Arab-Muslim
Throughout the Cold War the United States used Islam as a
communism and revolution. This occurred everywhere in the
not just in South Asia. So we can say that the Islamism we
witness is a
product of imperialism and modernity.
. The key to what will happen in the region is Pakistan. What
regime is it, what are its goals and what are the contradictions it
It is a military regime, but not a vicious one like its predecessor. It
a regime which wants to supervise neo-liberalism in Pakistan. The
course, is divided, but the exact strength of pro-Taliban currents
the Army is a matter of dispute. It could be anything between 15 -
percent. The Islamists are very weak in Pakistani society as a
important to understand this fact. In successive elections, less
have voted for zealotry in Pakistan than in Israel. That's why the
Pakistan Taliban decided to make 'entryism' inside the Army. If the
spills too much blood in Afghanistan then the consequences could
within the Pakistan Army in a year's time.
. For the moment President Musharraf seems to want to line up
the US. Is it possible that Pakistan would be a logistical support to
American intervention against Aghanistan?
Pakistan has agreed to give logistical support. In fact the Pakistan
is necessary for the whole operation. The United States planes and
will be stationed in the Gwadur base in Baluchistan which they built
during the Cold War. Don't forget that Pakistan was a cold war ally
of the United
States from 1954-1992. Both sides know each other well. The
elite is delighted that the country's debt (36 billion dollars) has
cancelled and more money has been pledged. In return for this
prepared to see the Taliban defeated and disarmed. Trouble will
too many bearded men are killed. In my opinion one reason for the
action is that the Pakistan Army is trying to make sure that the
do not resist the United States. The advice being given to the
shave your beards and keep your powder dry. The West will go
away and then
we'll see. Islamabad detests the Northern Alliance which it
the Taliban when it took Kabul. I cannot stress enough that the
sustained on every level by Pakistan. What is switched on can
switched off. The problem for Pakistan is that a wing of the Taliban
defected to Bin Laden and his praetorian guard of Arab anarcho-
These guys will probably fight back whatever the odds.
· If the conflict becomes regional what effects would this have on
situation in the region and the attitude of countries like India, China
All three countries are delighted by the 'war against terrorism'. They
all Americans now! India wants to crush the opposition Kashmir.
Turkish military wants to a final solution to the 'Kurdish problem'.
already destroyed Chechynia. China has the green light to do what
wants. So it suits them all, but a great deal depends on how this
Are we witnessing yet another boost in and acceptance of US
or is the Empire about to triumph itself to death?
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