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Against all reason and The Afghan Debacle

by Otto Konig, Richard Detje & F Steinfeld
Like the chaotic flight of the U.S. Army from Vietnam in 1975, the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 highlights the failure of the geopolitically based "war and nation-building concept" of the U.S. and NATO countries. The assumption, questionable from the outset, that it would be possible to impose the so-called "Western value system" on a country in which 50 languages are spoken.
Against all reason
By Otto König/Richard Detje: On Anti-War Day 2021
[This article published on Aug 29, 2021 is translated from the German on the Internet, Sozialismus: Wider aller Vernunft.]

"Against all reason, German policy places itself in the service of a disastrous logic of rearmament and deterrence - a logic that is now once again shaping world events. The international arms race has reached inconceivable proportions," reads the DGB's call for this year's Anti-War Day 2021 on September 1.

On every September 1, the DGB and its member unions have also made it clear since 1957: The German trade unions stand for peace, democracy and freedom. Never again war, never again fascism!

At over 1.7 trillion U.S. dollars, global arms spending is higher than at any time since the Second World War. In Germany, too, decision-makers on military budgets have known only one path for years - and that is upward: from 24.3 billion euros (2000) to 32.5 billion euros (2014) and 38.5 billion (2018) to 52 billion euros (2021).

In view of the still unclear government constellation after the Bundestag elections, strategists at the Ministry of Defense developed massive pressure in spring 2021 to expand its own budgetary leeway and narrow that of the incoming federal government as much as possible. Armaments Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) pulled off a coup worth billions: in the last week of sessions before the summer break, the black-red federal government whipped 27 new armaments projects totaling almost 20 billion euros through the Bundestag's defense and budget committees.

Among the most comprehensive projects are:
the Future Combat Air System (FCAS),
the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft,
the Class 212 Common Design submarines (U212CD),
the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) for the development of a main battle tank and the upgrade of the PUMA infantry fighting vehicle.
These projects are associated with gigantic costs. Spending on the tank system alone is estimated to be 100 billion euros. Regarding the FCAS, the Handelsblatt even reported expenditures of "up to 500 billion euros ... by the middle of the century." In order to ensure that the particularly expensive Franco-German major projects can be financed, the Ministry of Defense is considering simply imposing their costs on other budget items.

A few days before the budget committee waved through the multi-billion armaments projects, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK) gave her third keynote speech on foreign policy to officers of the General Staff in Hamburg, in which she once again threatened the nuclear powers Russia and China and announced a further increase in the military budget. "Rising powers, revolutionary technologies, resurgent ideologies, demographics, pandemics and climate change" - all of these are giving rise to a global situation that is exerting high "pressure to adapt" on German security and defense policy. Defense in this understanding means: "Deterrence with the threat of military force in order to create space for political solutions. But if necessary, it also means using military force - fighting," the commander-in-chief said.

AKK also sees economic potential in arming the army. "It would be best if these technologies came from Germany, because they were developed and invented here," the ministrable arms lobbyist said. Germany must "actively shape" the rapid technological change in the world, she added. She made no calculated mention of the fact that German arms exports contribute to exacerbating crises and conflicts around the world.

"Wars are big business" characterize(d) developments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria or in the Sahel. Money machines for international arms manufacturers and their shareholders. From the beginning of 2002 - the start of the U.S. and NATO intervention in Afghanistan - until today, the German government alone has approved arms exports worth 418.8 million euros to the Central Asian country. In the legislative period now coming to an end, the country in the Hindu Kush was among the ten largest recipients of German armaments among developing countries, with 29.8 million euros.

While politicians and military elites close to them characterize interventions that violate international law, such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq, as "humanitarian acts" and justify them with the "defense of freedom, the rule of law and democracy," arms lobbyists obfuscate their claims to profit with slogans such as Germany must "do more for the security of Europe" and cannot "have its protective umbrella paid for by the USA. The DGB appeal rightly states: "It is high time to turn the tide! We urgently need the armaments billions for other purposes. In the wake of the Corona crisis (and currently the flood disaster - author's note), social inequalities and distribution conflicts have intensified in our country and worldwide".

The disastrous failure of the U.S. "war on terror" in Afghanistan, propagandistically sold as "Operation Enduring Freedom,"[1] should be a reason to question the enormous expansion of the German military budget. For the Bundeswehr's war in Afghanistan alone, the German government has spent around 12.2 billion euros from 2001 to the end of 2020.[2] The "Costs of War Project" puts U.S. spending from 2001 to 2021 at around $2.26 trillion. This does not include the amounts that Washington will have to pay to war veterans in the coming years and decades. Also missing are the interest amounts that will have to be raised in the future to service war-related loans (German Foreign Policy, July 1, 2021).

It is a "bitter realization" that "not everything has succeeded and has not been accomplished as we had planned," Chancellor Angela Merkel belittles the Waterloo of the "coalition of the willing," which cost the lives of a quarter of a million people[3] - not counting the injured, maimed and traumatized people, including tens of thousands of children. Berlin's official justifications for the Bundeswehr's deployment abroad, which the majority of members of the Bundestag repeatedly rubber-stamped, proved to be highly adaptable.

It began with then Defense Minister Peter Struck (SPD) saying, "The security of the Federal Republic of Germany will also be defended in the Hindu Kush." Later, the narrative was cultivated that it was a "humanitarian mission": the Bundeswehr was primarily drilling wells, was involved in building a contemporary education system and was committed to women's rights. However, this had nothing to do with freedom, democracy and human rights, which are always used to justify U.S.-led wars in the Islamic world - the "securing" of "supremacy in the Indo-Pacific region" was at the center of attention.[4] The German army was not involved in this mission.

Like the chaotic flight of the U.S. Army from Vietnam in 1975, the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 highlights the failure of the geopolitically based "war and nation-building concept" of the U.S. and NATO countries. The assumption, questionable from the outset, that it would be possible to impose the so-called "Western value system" on a country in which 50 languages are spoken, which looks back on a millennia-old cultural history, and which has slumped into poverty and socio-economic decline in recent decades, by means of a militarily flanked export of ideology, went up in smoke in August 2021. Indeed, from day one of this war, the U.S. and its allies have greased a vast corruption machine of warlords and politicians.

But the leading representatives of the political class and their advisers in Berlin are far from realizing the failure in Afghanistan. Because the deployment of the Bundeswehr has always been approved by a large cross-party parliamentary alliance - the CDU/CSU, the FDP, a majority of the SPD and the Greens - there is no self-critical debate about whether this war was necessary and justifiable at all. Instead, the head of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger, warns against "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" and condemning any military intervention from the outset. Yet it is long past time to finally bury the intervention doctrine, which has been marketed under the euphonious title "responsablility to protect"[5] since 2001, and to brand it for what it was from the beginning: a neocolonial project.

While the Bundeswehr has left the Central Asian country in flight in the wake of the U.S. troops, the German government is already sending soldiers to the next doomed mission, Minusma, in Mali. There, in the name of stability, the countless migration routes through the Sahara, which have existed since the heyday of the West African kingdoms 500 years ago, are to be dried up. In Mali, too, the situation is confusing, the adversary barely tangible and the local population's approval rating low. Worse still, troops are being trained in this African country, controlled by a democratically illegitimate coup government, while Islamists are expanding their influence. An African Afghanistan is on the horizon.

"Nothing is good in Afghanistan. (...) I am not naive. But weapons obviously don't create peace in Afghanistan either. We need more imagination for peace, for completely different ways of dealing with conflicts. That can sometimes have more effect than all the detached agreement with the supposedly so pragmatic call to arms," said Margot Käßmann, former chairwoman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, in 2010. She rightly demanded: "We need more imagination for peace, for completely different forms of managing conflicts. A debate on civil, social and economic management of global conflicts - and their causes - would be a start.

This is all the more true in 2021. It is to be hoped that the voters will understand: If humanity is to live together peacefully, a policy is called for that focuses on disarmament, détente and dialogue rather than on armament and deterrence. The insanity of armament must come to an end and any military intervention in crisis areas that is not covered by international law must be stopped. Therefore, on September 26, it is necessary to reject the foreign policy harebrains in all parties who rely on military build-up, armed force and foreign deployments of the German army (Bundeswehr).

"Set the course for a secure and peaceful future! Choose disarmament and détente!" is therefore rightly the motto of the German Trade Union Confederation's call for Anti-War Day 2021.

[1] The Bundeswehr has been participating in foreign missions since 1992. Since then, 114 German soldiers have lost their lives. The highest death toll to date was in Afghanistan, where 59 German soldiers lost their lives, 35 of them due to external causes.
[2] Response by the German government to the minor inquiry by Heike Hänsel, Christine Buchholz, Sevim Dağdelen, other members of parliament and the parliamentary group DIE LINKE. German Bundestag, printed matter 19/28361. Berlin, April 12, 2021.
[3] According to the Costs of War Project, as of mid-April 2021, some 241,000 people have died in Afghanistan and in neighboring areas of Pakistan to which the war has spilled over, including some 71,300 civilians and approximately 69,000 Afghan soldiers and police. The project also lists 2,442 U.S. soldiers killed, 1,144 military personnel of allied forces, and nearly 4,000 U.S. mercenaries killed, including other security personnel (CFP, 7/1/2021).
[4] Friedrich Steinfeld, Self-Delusion of the West. The Afghan Debacle, Sozialismus.deAktuell, 8/21/2021.
[5] The United Nations Security Council pursued the principle of "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) for the first time in the case of Libya. This involves the responsibility of the global community to ensure protection from human rights abuses - by force if necessary and against the will of a sovereign state. Today, Libya is a classic example of a failed state and a place of horror - a country where migrants from other parts of Africa are traded as slaves.
The Afghan Debacle
By Friedrich Steinfeld: Self-deception of the West
[This article published on Aug 21, 2021 is translated from the German on the Internet, Sozialismus: Das afghanische Debakel.]

After Al-Qaeda's terrorist attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, the U.S. and NATO allies such as Germany-with the approval of the Schröder/Fischer government-began the International War on Terrorism in Afghanistan to topple the then-Taliban government and fight the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, which was harbored by the Taliban in their Islamic Emirate.

At the end of 2014, the mandate for the NATO-led ISAF force expired and most of the foreign combat troops were withdrawn. A scaled-down NATO mission (including German servicepersons) remained in the country to continue supporting Afghan security forces. This reduced mission has now been terminated head over heels by the Western leadership under Joe Biden. The other allies had no choice but to withdraw their troops overnight as well, since their military presence depended on that of the United States.
As a result, the Taliban overran the entire country within a few weeks and captured the capital Kabul. The Afghan government forces, numbering about 300,000, had nothing to counter the Taliban's military offensive. They obviously knew the real balance of power and left the field to the Taliban more or less without a fight.
At least 80,000 people were killed in the 20-year war, and several million Afghans fled the war to other countries. According to U.S. President Joe Biden, the cost of the war amounted to one trillion U.S. dollars. The mission cost Germany several billion euros. In Afghanistan, in addition to economic and social chaos, there is a threat of massive backsliding, especially in the hard-won rights of women, e.g. in the issue of education, which is central for women, as well as a renewed massive flight of people seeking protection to neighboring countries and also to Europe.

Joe Biden stated that he was mistaken about the length of time the Afghan government would be able to survive politically. Otherwise, he pointed to the failure of the Afghan government, which had fled abroad instead of organizing resistance against the Taliban. The Afghan forces, trained at great expense by NATO and equipped with a lot of military material, had shown no fighting morale, he said. Just a few weeks ago, SPD Foreign Minister Maas said that a rapid takeover of the Taliban was beyond his expectations.

The edifice of illusions to which the West and NATO succumbed with military intervention and within the 20-year war effort has completely collapsed at breathtaking speed. The chaos of the troop withdrawal engineered by the Trump administration in negotiations with the Taliban in Doha and now precipitated by the Biden administration, as well as the evacuation operation of embassy personnel, aid workers on the ground and progressive political figures that began after troop withdrawal, ultimately reflects the disaster of NATO's entire military intervention in Afghanistan.
There was no exit strategy. Nor could there ever have been, given the special circumstances in the Hindu Kush. The military intervention and its humiliating end for the West were based on a mixture of Western imperial arrogance, a frightening lack of knowledge about the specific character of Afghan society, and chronic ignorance of factual developments during the war effort.
The end of the war effort in Afghanistan is not only reminiscent of the last days of the Vietnam War. Afghanistan's recent "war history" consists of various failed military interventions, beginning with the expulsion of English colonial troops in the 19th century and continuing through the USSR's failed intervention in Afghanistan (1979-1989) to NATO's intervention (2001-2021) as a result of 9/11.

The Afghan Trap
In 1857, Friedrich Engels had described the military adventure of the British "to place one of their creatures [Shah Shujah - F.S.] on the throne in Afghanistan" and the consequences for the British colonial power.[1] The mission failed mainly because the British had not correctly assessed the specific character of Afghan society, namely the predominance of tribal and clan structures, which gave this society enormous inner strength and resilience. Savings measures taken by the British to reduce their intervention costs also resulted in savings in the bribes spent on tribal chiefs. The patronage system set up by the British collapsed. When Afghan tribal leaders then united against the British and their representatives on the ground, the fate of the British intervention was sealed. After several military clashes, the British had to leave Kabul and marched to India via Jalalabad and Peshawar.

In its present borders, Afghanistan emerged in 1919 after the Third Anglo-Afghan War, which led to the recognition of Afghanistan as a sovereign and independent state by Great Britain. Modernization measures by Afghan governments, such as the introduction of compulsory education along the lines of Atatürk's reforms, which would have allowed girls to receive an education, led to nationwide uprisings in the 1920s and the overthrow of the then government of Amanullah Khan.

The Communist Democratic Party of Afghanistan, which came to power in 1978 by overthrowing the government of Mohammed Daoud Khan, pushed modernization through land reforms and literacy and education programs, meeting not only strong resistance from the rural population but also fierce opposition from large landowners and the Muslim clergy. The armed uprisings against the "infidels" eventually led to a civil war that could not be turned in favor of the Communists even by the military intervention of the Soviet Union (1979-1989).

The Islamist precursors of the Taliban (Mujahidin) had already been militarily supported by the USA before the intervention of the USSR, as the security advisor of then President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski (1928-2017), later publicly admitted in a newspaper interview (Le Nouvel Observateur, 15.12.1998) and sold this as a "brilliant idea" of having lured the Soviet Union into the "Afghan trap". Hundreds of thousands of Afghans and 6,000 Soviet citizens lost their lives in the course of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and millions of Afghans fled their country.

In the context of "9/11", the U.S. itself and its NATO allies (including the red-green Schröder/Fischer government) also fell into the Afghan trap a little later. Since Afghanistan had no particular economic significance, at least at the time, the U.S. military intervention served not only to combat international terrorism but also, and above all, to secure its then still unrestricted supremacy in the Indo-Pacific region. At the same time, those politically responsible for the intervention were under the illusion that such a society could be brought into modernity from the outside after the military defeat of Al Qaeda and the Taliban: "Nation building" and the delivery of the "beacon of democracy" were the high-profile slogans of this intervention.

Unsparing assessment in the U.S. Congress as early as 2017
Since 2008, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (Sigar), a U.S. Congressional oversight body for the American intervention in Afghanistan, has taken stock annually of the buildup of the armed forces there. In 2017, the report was more unsparing than ever before (see FAZ, Oct. 21, 2017): According to Sigar head John F. Sopko, the United States had completely underestimated the complexity and dimension of Afghanistan's reconstruction. They had failed to grasp the country in terms of its war history, tribal culture, poverty and underdevelopment, and instead focused very one-sidedly on military solutions. The development of state structures and a government that is accepted by the population and functions properly has been criminally neglected.

As a result, the army, police and intelligence services are unable to ensure public security. The corruption of Afghan leaders and the low combat morale of soldiers had been ignored. Human rights abuses and narcotics trafficking had been encouraged by alliances of U.S. forces with various warlords in the fight against terrorism. The capabilities of Afghanistan's official police and military institutions had been glossed over so that the bulk of U.S. troops could be withdrawn in 2014.

Let us take the crucial point of the report, the tunnel vision-like focus on military solutions instead of a sustainable fight against poverty and underdevelopment, and look at the current economic-social situation of the Afghan population on the basis of data mainly from the UN and the IMF (FAZ of Aug. 20 and Aug. 21, 2021):
Afghanistan's population is exploding from 13.3 million in 1980 to 38.9 million in 2020, and is projected to rise to 64.7 million by 2050. The birth rate is among the highest in the world.

Minors are the largest age group, accounting for 60% of the total population.

The majority of Afghans are destitute. Many are undernourished. After a significant decline in numbers between 2000 and 2010, the number of undernourished is again rising in waves. Between 2018-20, it was around 9.7 million, a relative decline in the context of population growth, but the proportion is still currently just over a quarter of the population.

The country's infrastructure is in a deplorable state. It lacks roads, schools, wells and stoves. The state so far supplies only 16 % of households with water.

The country will have a GDP of just under US$20 billion in 2020. Per capita income per year is $500. Because of the difficult economic situation, hardly any foreign companies invest in Afghanistan, not even in the extraction of mineral resources. The total export of goods in 2020 was US$777 million.

45% of the population still works in agriculture and generates 26% of GDP, which is also related to the geographic and climatic conditions there. Half of the farmers still engage in subsistence farming. The high proportion of undernourished people is therefore also related to the lack of an efficient agricultural sector. The import of food alone requires an amount equal to 300 % of the export of goods.

The current account deficit is 24.3% of GDP in 2020 and has so far been financed by various foreign financial assistance.

A 2016 EU study (see FAZ, Aug. 20, 2021, p. 11) shows that not even half of Afghan children and adolescents benefit from school education, while at the same time a serious disadvantage of girls is evident: 45.9% of boys, but only 21.7% of Afghan girls can go to school. 80% of women are illiterate. The figures may have improved in recent years, but there is still a serious educational deficit in Afghan society. The extremely low level of education is mainly related to the prevalence of patriarchal-repressive structures and a general lack of security for women. In 2018, Afghanistan ranked second among the most dangerous countries for women in the world. Nearly 90% of Afghan women have experienced human rights violations.

The available data shows one thing very clearly: even after 20 years of military intervention by the West in Afghanistan, the country is at an extremely low level of economic development. Poverty characterizes the daily lives of most people. The schooling of young people is catastrophic, and the situation of girls and women remains extremely precarious.

The key to understanding: Afghan tribal society
What are the reasons for Afghanistan's disastrous overall situation and the complete failure of Western military intervention? Afghanistan is not a country with a capitalist mode of production and a bourgeois-democratic society based on it, but belongs to the group of countries with pre-bourgeois modes of production, in which the individual is still more or less closely connected - depending on historical characteristics - with the structures of the community.

The key to understanding such communities lies in Afghan tribal society, which is ultimately based on kinship relations that are simultaneously linked to political, patriarchal and religious structures. There is no clear separation of social structures into an economic base and derived superstructure structures. In addition, there are specific geographic and climatic conditions. All in all, this conglomerate of different factors creates social cohesion structures that, as empirical experience impressively confirms, can hardly be changed from the outside.[2] Afghanistan is still a country made up of more than 50 countries.

To this day, Afghanistan is a tribal society consisting of more than 50 ethnic groups, in which the Pashtuns (about 40% of the population) form the largest tribe, itself again divided into sub-tribes, and also constitute the leading class. Ethnologists consider the Pashtuns, who also exist in Pakistan, to be the largest tribal society still existing in the world. The right to hospitality and asylum, but also honor, family, revenge and the complete subjugation of the defeated form the core of this tribal society's code of law and honor.
In the tribal assembly (jirga), which is strongly egalitarian, at least in its self-image, and in which all male members of the tribe (e.g., those affected by a conflict) participate, conflict solutions are sought according to the principle of consensus. The majority of Pashtuns are sedentary farmers and cattle breeders, but some are also nomads. After Islam successively displaced the old religions in various waves of conquest, 99 % of Afghanistan's population now professes Islam, predominantly the Sunni faith.

Despite all social obstacles, modernization processes have also taken place in Afghanistan, but they have remained essentially confined to the capital city of Kabul, where in the 1960s there was even an atmosphere of departure into modernity and women could move about in public without chadors and veils. In contrast, Afghan society in the countryside, where about 70 % of the population lives, has hardly changed at all, even though modernity is now at least partially present there virtually by means of the new social media. The contrast between urban and rural areas remains strong.
As a result of the various interventions by the great powers, the USSR and the USA, instead of a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and societal modernization, a militarization of Afghan society and, above all, a religious fundamentalization and radicalization (jihadization) within Afghan Muslims were brought about. At the same time, this promoted the division of Afghan society into a progressive, urban minority and a rural majority.

End of U.S. "imperial overstretch"
The end of NATO's military intervention in Afghanistan represents not only a humiliating defeat for the West and NATO, but at the same time "a caesura for international politics as a whole" (FAZ 12.8.2021). The only question is what this caesura stands for.
With the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the "unipolar" phase and the "imperial overstretch" of the U.S., which began with the implosion of the Soviet Union and the power bloc that belonged to it and manifested itself primarily in NATO's war missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, has come to an end. We are dealing with a change of epoch in the international order. Domestically, therefore, war fatigue has been spreading in the U.S. for a long time. Trump in particular was able to profit from this during his election in 2016, i.e. with his foreign policy promise to end all the endless and ridiculous U.S. wars in the world, of which the U.S. citizens:inside, who would have to pay for them, would not even know where the theaters of war were located.
But it is not just the domestic factor of war fatigue that is forcing the U.S. to end its military interventions. With the renewed geo-political upheavals and power shifts that began in the last quarter of the last century, a new geo-political player is emerging on the Asian horizon to challenge the West and, above all, the Western leading power:
The People's Republic of China.
The hasty termination of military intervention in Afghanistan is also related to the fact that the U.S. geo-political focus has fundamentally changed. Containing systemic rival China is increasingly tying up U.S. resources. In the new, systemic competition with the People's Republic, the U.S. is primarily concerned with preserving and expanding its technological leadership and, building on this, also with preserving and expanding its military dominance. Endless wars and their costs are therefore no more than a millstone on the leg of the leading Western power. They are no longer in the national interest of the USA, as Biden pointed out.

China and Iran in particular are already the winners of NATO's withdrawal from Afghanistan. Even before that, China and Iran had agreed on a massive strengthening of their economic ties, including Pakistan in this alliance. Even if China deals with its Muslim minority in a repressive manner, Chinese foreign policy and its "New Silk Road" project are not determined by imposing the Chinese system on other countries. In this respect, as has already been indicated, China will have no reservations about taking advantage of the opportunities for increased economic cooperation with Afghanistan that present themselves with the withdrawal of the West.

Meanwhile, not only is the situation at Kabul airport, the hub for the outbound flights of certain groups of people, coming to a head. There is also a threat of a massive deterioration in the social situation of the Afghan population left behind. The World Bank has calculated that aid to the country accounts for nearly 43% of its economic output of nearly $20 billion. The U.S. is blocking Afghan foreign reserves of seven billion U.S. dollars (out of a total of 9 billion U.S. dollars in foreign reserves), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is blocking special drawing rights for Afghanistan totaling 450 million U.S. dollars. Germany is also suspending development aid of 400 million euros annually in the short term. As a result of these and other financial blockages, Afghanistan is threatened with famine. Humanitarian aid from the West for Afghanistan under the Taliban should flow again only if the Taliban respect human rights and guarantee the rule of law.
Whether this will actually happen seems doubtful at present. As alternatives, the rural population will intensify opium cultivation; already, more than two-thirds of this basic substance for heroin comes from the Hindu Kush; last year alone, the area under cultivation grew by almost 40 %. NATO military equipment, which the Taliban have received en masse, will fuel the arms trade in the region. If Western aid fails to materialize, the Taliban will ultimately have no choice but to open up the country economically to China.
In the course of the digital and platform economy emerging in the economically developed countries, China will exploit the mineral resources (including lithium, copper, rare earths) suspected to be right on its doorstep in Afghanistan, which are of crucial importance precisely for the new social mode of operation of digitalization, and in return will financially support the Taliban regime, presumably with the strict condition not to export jihadism because it could also spread to the Chinese Muslim minority.

The political debate in Germany is currently focused on the responsibility for the chaotic end of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The military and political disaster that the West has wrought in Afghanistan, however, requires an intensive political reappraisal in its entirety, especially here in Germany. There is no question that the CDU/CSU, the SPD and the Greens, all of whom supported the war effort in Afghanistan, must take political responsibility for this complete foreign policy disaster. For the Left Party, this opens up an opportunity to sharpen its foreign policy profile.

A ruthless political reappraisal of the Afghanistan disaster?
The CDU/CSU's candidate for chancellor, Armin Laschet, described the failed mission in Afghanistan as "the biggest debacle NATO has suffered since its founding" (FAZ, Aug. 17, 2021). It marked a "change of epoch," he said. He also demanded a "ruthless analysis of mistakes." Whether this will happen is more than questionable. The epochal change mentioned by Laschet also underlies the foreign policy section of the CDU/CSU's election program, in which they place the emerging major conflict between the capitalist West and China at the center of their future foreign policy. In the multi-layered relations with China, it is primarily a matter of preserving and expanding the "technological leadership of the value-bound West."[3]

For this is not only crucial in economic terms, but at the same time also means global dominance at the military level, which is increasingly determined by IT technologies. Digitalization has therefore mutated into a "question of power" in the current global context, as SPD Foreign Minister Maas also recently asserted (FAZ, 13.7.2021). It can be assumed that after the Bundestag election campaign, the new government and the political parties supporting it will very quickly focus on the systemic competition with China, largely dropping the ruthless analysis of the Afghanistan disaster under the carpet.

The Afghanistan disaster is also putting political pressure on the Greens, who, along with the SPD, shared responsibility for this disaster with their approval of the NATO mission at the time. Although they have internalized the importance of democracy and human rights, they have largely lost the sense that liberal values are repeatedly instrumentalized by the capitalist West according to foreign policy interests. With their approval of NATO's wars against Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, they have clearly allowed themselves to be harnessed to the ideologization of Western foreign policy.
While most Green voters still believed in September 1998 that the Greens would never approve of a war, the SPD chancellor-designate Gerhard Schröder and the Greens' foreign minister-designate Joseph Fischer approved the planned war against Yugoslavia during a visit to Washington on October 9, 1998 - before they had been sworn in, before the Bundestag had decided on it, and without a UN mandate, as former Green politician Jutta Ditfurth points out in her critical view of the Greens' history.

"In just two weeks, the Green parliamentary group in the Bundestag shed its opposition to war like a dirty cloak ... Six months later, Foreign Minister Fischer sounded the steel storm sound of Ernst Jünger, whom he revered: 'The Greens want to govern, now they will be hardened - or burned to ashes.' On March 24, 1999, NATO bombed Yugoslavia. 78 days of war, 38,000 air sorties, 9,160 tons of bombs ... people died in meadows, in houses, in trains, on the run, in hospitals, factories, dormitories and schools. NATO declared itself a world war alliance, no more opposition came from the Greens. In November 2001, as part of the 'war on terror' and Operation Enduring Freedom, the Bundestag decided to send 1,200 Bundeswehr soldiers to a country that Germany had not attacked and had not declared war on: Afghanistan. On November 16, Chancellor Schröder linked the approval of the war mission to the vote of confidence. The Red-Green majority was narrow. With a no to the war, all the nice ministerial, state secretary and other posts would have been gone." (Jutta Ditfurth, The Greater Evil, in: konkret 6/2021)

The Greens became the decisive vehicle of a qualitative shift in German foreign policy toward Germany's participation in NATO military operations, something that did not exist until 1999. The Green Party's candidate for chancellor, Annalena Baerbock, still considers the invasion of NATO troops in Afghanistan in 2001 to be the right thing to do, as she emphasized again on Aug. 19, 2021, in the program "Maybrit Illner," and sees political failings only in the way this deployment was carried out. The Green leadership is thus far removed from a ruthless political reappraisal of this entanglement of the Greens in the imperialist policies of the West.
In terms of foreign policy, the Left Party has so far seemed rather "out of step with the times," as Paul Schäfer,[4] quoting Neues Deutschland, noted. For the FAZ, it has long since been established that the Left Party is a party "that no one needs anymore" (FAZ, 6.9.2021). DIE LINKE has so far retreated behind abstract, radical demands for the dissolution of NATO and the construction of a new global security architecture and remains profileless on central concrete foreign policy issues. The unresolved internal party conflicts and the lack of a clear foreign policy profile have so far led to a situation in which the party has either been conspicuous by its speechlessness in central foreign policy conflicts or by its uncritical positions, for example, toward traditional, politically repressive socialist regimes such as Venezuela or Cuba, or has lapsed into moral fundamentalism on the question of UN-legitimized foreign deployments of the German army (Bundeswehr).

However, the Afghanistan disaster also shows that the Left Party, with its consistent condemnation of this military intervention, is precisely not out of step with the times, but is politically completely correct. Instead of being repeatedly accused by the SPD and the Greens of lacking foreign policy competence, which prevents the formation of a Green-Red government at the federal level, the Left Party should go on the offensive and use the Afghan disaster as an example to clarify what a sustainable foreign policy must primarily be about, namely increased international cooperation and not the preservation and expansion of technological and military dominance by the West.

DIE LINKE would have to advocate a repositioning of the EU in the emerging "triad of competition" between Asia, the U.S. and Europe and position itself against the U.S. taking over Europe in the systemic competition with China in the sense of strategic autonomy.

Despite the Afghanistan disaster, however, it is also necessary to look at the military deployments of the West, which did not take place and therefore did not prevent a genocide - as in Rwanda in 1994. Instead of rejecting any kind of foreign deployment of the Bundeswehr, differentiation is absolutely necessary. A prerequisite for a foreign deployment of the Bundeswehr is, in principle, a mandate by the UN and a careful examination of whether all civilian options for conflict resolution between hostile population groups have actually been exhausted. In general, international crisis prevention as well as civil conflict and crisis management should be comprehensively strengthened first, instead of further military buildup.

[1] "The conquest of Afghanistan seemed to be completed, and a considerable part of the troops was sent back. But the Afghans were by no means content to be ruled by the Feringhi Kafirs (the European infidels), and during 1840 and 1841 insurrection followed insurrection in various parts of the country. The Anglo-Indian troops were forced to keep constantly on the move. But Macnaghten declared that this was the normal state of Afghan society, and wrote home that all was well and the force was consolidating. In vain were the warnings of the British Officiers and other political agents. Dost Muhammad had surrendered to the British in October 1840 and was sent to India; all uprisings during the summer of 1841 were successfully suppressed, and toward October Macnaghten, who had been appointed governor of Bombay, intended to leave for India with another force. That, however, was when the storm broke. The occupation of Afghanistan was costing the Indian Treasury 1,250,000 pounds sterling annually: 16,000 soldiers-the Anglo-Indian and Shah Shujah's troops-in Afghanistan had to be paid for; another 3,000 were in Sind and the Bolan Pass; Shah Shujah's royal pomp, the salaries of his officials, and all the expenses of his court and government were paid for by the Indian Treasury; and, finally, the Afghan chiefs were subsidized, or rather bribed, from the same source to prevent them from doing mischief. Macnaghten was told that it would be impossible to continue to maintain this large expenditure of money. He tried to make restrictions, but the only possible way to force them was to cut the grants to the chiefs. On the same day that he attempted this, the chiefs instigated a conspiracy to exterminate the British, and so it was Macnaghten himself who helped to unite those insurgent forces who had hitherto fought singly and in isolation and without agreement against the invaders; incidentally, it is also certain that hatred of British rule among the Afghans was at its height at this time." (Friedrich Engels, Afghanistan, in Marx-Engels-Werke [MEW] 14, pp. 78f.)
[2] See in more detail: Friedrich Steinfeld (2016): Religious and Political Fundamentalism on the Rise. Die Sehnsucht nach Identität, Hamburg, especially pp. 38ff. as well as 139ff.
[3] The Program for Stability and Renewal. Together for a Modern Germany, available on the Internet, p. 8.
[4] For a comprehensive and well-founded critique of the foreign policy image of DIE LINKE see Paul Schäfer: Progressive Außenpolitik, in: Supplement zu Heft 5/2021
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