By Mario Hernandez
This August 25 interview with Claudio Katz, Argentinian member of Left Economists and political analyst, was posted on lahaine.org and translated by Michael Otto.
Mario Hernandez: The images of Saigon come to mind, concerning the situation in Afghanistan. Only the images, because I don’t have the same ideological identification with the Taliban. But undoubtedly this withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan reminds us of the defeat of imperialism in Vietnam. What do you think about it?
Claudio Katz: First the obvious: it is a new defeat, a fiasco and a total humiliation of American imperialism. The army they had trained with the special forces deserted; their puppet government disintegrated, and there was an abrupt flight from everyone who worked for the Pentagon. The images you evoke are pathetic, of helicopters, of airports overwhelmed by a mass of people desperate to escape. A striking image.
I would say that we must not forget that the negotiations with the Taliban which [President] Joe Biden was performing, and which Donald Trump had started, collapsed, because those presidents had already concluded long ago that the United States had lost the war. They expected to keep contingents of American troops in place, but everything remained in the air. It was a crushing defeat.
The United States has been unable to win a war for two decades in which it has deployed 200,000 troops and spent $ 35 billion a year.
First, what is relevant is that this lightning withdrawal demolishes all the lies the United States has been propagating for so many years. We now know that they did not invade in retaliation for the attack on the Twin Towers – because this crime was committed by a Saudi network – and not by an Afghan network. Osama Bin Laden [head of al-Qaida] was not an Afghan. And Biden admitted that the United States never intended to create a democracy. This is what we have always known.
The United States occupied Afghanistan because of the strategic location of this country, very close to China and Russia, crisscrossed by all routes through Central Asia. The United States did not go there to modernize the country. They set up military bases financed on the ground by the production of opium and heroin, which developed considerably during all these years of NATO presence.
The aim was not to fight terrorism either. We remember that the mujahedin that preceded the Taliban were manufactured by the CIA in 1978 to destroy a secular, progressive Afghan government and ally of the USSR.
And, of course, the United States has never stood up for women, even as in recent years it has dealt with the Taliban, who operate a network of buying and selling women with unimaginable degradation.
What Washington really wanted to do with the Taliban was to achieve a similar coexistence as it has with the theocratic regime in Saudi Arabia, which oppresses women in a way very similar to that of the Taliban.
The abrupt retirement has created a crisis scenario where everyone blames each other. Boris Johnson disagrees with Biden. Trump has resurfaced and the Yankee generals don’t know what to say. The United States faces a dilemma: either maintain a firm position to see if it can regain lost international space. – or seek to negotiate with the Taliban, which could help the United States save face by fabricating the image that it has changed and is becoming more reasonable.
Let’s see what the Taliban are doing, because there is a new generation of leaders. Let’s see if they disguise their fanaticism or plunge the country back into the Middle Ages, dominated by the most reactionary religious law.
The less isolated Taliban
I think these Taliban today are not as isolated as the Taliban of the previous generation. They have many agreements with Russia. Putin is very pragmatic and he has made arrangements with the Taliban because he wants to keep them away from terrorist groups closer to Saudi Arabia. Above all, the Taliban have signed many agreements in recent years with China. The country has already been incorporated as a de facto member of the Silk Road.
MH: Because it is a strategic location.
CK: To let the pipeline pass, in a way. So I would say that the fall of Kabul is a geopolitical fact, with consequences that we will see later. In the immediate term, this seriously affected Biden’s domestic agenda, which was for Keynesian revival and the coordination of an international bloc against China. But to carry out his program, he needed political oxygen, and this oxygen was sucked from him with this defeat in Afghanistan.
I would like to make one last point. You have to be very careful with the analogy that is made all the time with Saigon in 1975.
MH: I’m only talking about the pictures.
CK: Precisely because of that. Because there are a lot of images that look the same. The abrupt departure from the two locations is so similar, even the very role-playing game Biden did, promising the Saigon escape wouldn’t be repeated. But as you well warned, be careful with the comparison because the only thing they have in common is imperialist failure. Everything else is totally different.
In Vietnam, the revolutionary forces have triumphed, and in Afghanistan, it is the reactionary militias. The Taliban are the absolute opposite of the Vietcong. It is a band of troglodyte clerics, who are the opposite of a liberating army. The medieval oppression they promote is the antithesis of an emancipatory project of communism. What we have is a defeat of imperialism, not a triumph of anti-imperialism in this case.
Likewise for Latin America, this is good news, because any defeat of imperialism on a global scale expands the scope for autonomous action within our region, as it restricts the aggressive capacity of the United States. .