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Protests erupt across Afghanistan

Published Sep 15, 2010 4:50 PM

The threat to burn the Qur’an at a small church in Gainesville, Fla., on the ninth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center stirred up worldwide outrage, especially in Muslim countries in Central and South Asia.

Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 12.

Demonstrations erupted in Pakistan, India, Indonesia and Palestine even after the church in question, under tremendous pressure from the U.S. political and military establishment, said it would not go ahead with the planned burning.

The biggest and most militant protests occurred in Afghanistan, where the Qur’an has had a significant moral and political impact for centuries. Afghanistan’s occupation by troops of the very country where the burning was planned made the protests more significant.

Not only have the Afghan peoples rejected foreign occupation, but the U.S. drone attacks that kill whole families have aroused great popular anger. At the end of August, for example, in northeast Afghanistan, a nighttime raid by NATO commandos left eight civilians dead and 12 wounded.

The local governor, Mohammed Ismail, said a group of tribal elders he had sent to the village had returned with details. Among the dead were two women and a child. ‘’It was a cruel act against the civilians,’’ he said.

The mass media in the U.S. have tried to blame these political protests on the Taliban, pointing to major demonstrations in the city of Jalalabad and south of Kabul, where the Taliban have a major presence. CBS reported Sept. 9 that the Taliban were distributing leaflets to imams south of Kabul to read at Friday prayer service.

But a crowd estimated at 10,000 protested Sept. 10 on the streets of Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan, and one young protester was shot dead when a smaller group attacked a German-run NATO base there, hurling stones at the outpost. (Reuters, Sept. 11) What is significant, in addition to the death of a youth, is that Badakhshan is an area where the Taliban have had a very small presence.

The protests continued the next day. Four demonstrators were seriously wounded when Afghan police opened fire as thousands tried to storm several government buildings in Pul-e-Alam, the capital of Logar province, south of Kabul, a provincial official told Reuters.

Protesters also gathered in the capital, Kabul, and in four other provinces, mainly in the west of the country.

In western Ghor province, one of the poorest regions of Afghanistan, about 2,000 people marched in four districts of the province to condemn the planned Qur’an burning. In Farah, another western province on the border with Iran, hundreds gathered in Bala Blok district shouting anti-U.S. slogans. (Agence France Press, Sept. 10)

BBC television showed demonstrators in the main northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif marching through the streets with their fists high and burning a U.S. flag on the grounds of the historic Blue Mosque.

A former Afghan prime minister, Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, said of the demonstrations: “This shows that the disaffection of the Afghans toward Americans is very, very strong. It’s the result of all those killings of civilians they keep doing.” (New York Times, Sept. 10)

The U.S. campaign supposedly “to win the hearts and minds” of the Afghans has failed. The opposition to U.S. imperialism’s occupation can organize quickly and politically to bring the masses out into the streets. While the Taliban are obviously a major part of this opposition, other forces are also involved. But it is in Washington’s interest in prosecuting its war against the Afghan peoples to put the Taliban front and center because they have been so thoroughly demonized for their socially reactionary positions.

For example, the U.S. puts forward the claim that the main source of funding for the Taliban is their control of the opium-growing regions in Helmand and other southern provinces. However, a recent article in Le Monde Diplomatique, which relies on a U.S. House of Representatives report — “Warlord, Inc.: Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan” — makes it clear that a major source of Taliban funding is the payments they get from U.S. subcontractors for delivering supplies to the 200 or so bases the U.S. has in the country.

U.S. imperialism, a technological colossus, is confronting severe political difficulties and a military stalemate in impoverished Afghanistan all because of the resistance of the population to the war and occupation.