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A Call for Clarity on the War in Afghanistan

It will take time and complexity, as well as trial and error, to help rebuild Afghanistan for ordinary Afghans, and by extension make Americans safer.

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This is why grassroots political and feminist activists have called for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from their country. After eight years of American-enabled oppression, they would rather fight for their liberation without our help. The anti-fundamentalist progressive organization, Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), has called for an immediate end to the war. Echoing their call is independent dissident member of Parliament Malalai Joya, who tells her story in her new political memoir, A Woman Among Warlords . The members of RAWA and women like Joya are openly targeted by the U.S.-backed Afghan government for their feminism and political activism. RAWA and Joya have worked on the ground, risking their lives for political change and echo the vast majority of poor and ordinary Afghan women. It's they whom we ought to listen to and express solidarity with. If American progressives think they know better than Afghanistan's brave feminist activists on how liberation can be achieved, we're just as guilty as the U.S. government for subjecting them to the mercy of women-hating criminals.

No Negotiations with Fundamentalist Criminals

Some on the left have made the case that the Afghanistan war can come to an end through a negotiated peace process where everyone has a seat at the table, including women. But this ensures that only those within the corrupt clique of Afghan politics remain involved in the future of Afghanistan - such as a few female allies of the fundamentalists who are plentiful in the current government.

Joya struggled her way into getting a "seat at the table" through the 2005 elections. For representing her people's views that war criminals ought to be brought to justice, she has been rewarded with death threats, assassination attempts, and the loss of her electoral title. Asking ordinary women and men to have a seat at a negotiating table with war criminals is akin to asking them to silence themselves or mark their foreheads with a target.

The reason why democratic forces in Afghanistan are completely underground and constantly living in fear of being killed is that time and again the U.S. government has insisted on bringing warlords and even Taliban leaders to the negotiating table. Asking the Obama administration to sponsor a "peace process" between civilian representatives and our warlord allies whose private militias we have armed, is the same as asking for exactly what President George W. Bush did eight years ago in Bonn, Germany after the fall of the Taliban. That process predictably led to the establishment of today's corrupt government. In fact, the Obama administration is very likely to patch up the recent failed presidential elections in the same way: by creating a power-sharing deal between two corrupt sides and their proxies and claiming that all sides were represented at the negotiating table.

Given our violent role in Afghanistan over the past three decades, the United States has scant credibility in sponsoring any kind of "peace" process. The most responsible action the U.S. can take is to end its occupation immediately, and clean up its mess.

Let's Call for an Immediate End to the U.S. Occupation

Those who make the case that withdrawing U.S. troops will unleash another bloody civil war where Afghan women and men will be at the mercy of the Taliban and warlords, are raising the exact same justification made for the war in 2001: that it's our moral duty to protect Afghans from fundamentalist violence. This logic ignores the fact that we have nurtured and created the very fundamentalist violence that targets Afghans as explained above. By empowering war criminals and protecting a corrupt government that has forgiven the crimes of all sides including the Taliban, and that even includes some Taliban leaders, all we have done is complicate a war that was on-going. "A member of RAWA who goes by the pseudonym Zoya in a U.S. speaking tour last month made it clear that it's hard to imagine things getting worse if the U.S. does pull out immediately. The damage isn't being prevented by the United States - it's being carried out by the United States.

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