Skip to main content

Twenty Years Later

America has decided to withdraw from the conflict in Afghanistan; during the past twenty years, there have been an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 casualties among opponent militias and the Afghan population, as well as about 5,000 Western casualties among the US mission, the NATO mission and private military contracting forces. An intervention that began in 2001 as a response to the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th has, over two decades, turned into a war without end, in which the United States has seen its credibility as a world power and guarantor of global order put to the test. This is precisely why the decision to withdraw is controversial, in Washington and in other capitals. It has the air of a surrender in the face of domestic opinion marked by war-weariness; it is not known whether the conflict will really end; it is not known who will fill the void left by the United States and NATO, and how; the knock-on effects that the Afghan shock will have in Central Asia and the Greater Middle East, the seismic fault line that runs from the Mediterranean Sea to the borders of China, are ignored. It is no coincidence that the Uighur question is now being used as a new tool and pretext in the confrontation between powers.

One thing is certain: these twenty years have profoundly changed the balance of power in the world and in regional areas; China now aspires to compete on an equal footing with the United States, as can be seen from the agreement between Beijing and Tehran; other medium-sized powers are on the move, and Russia and Turkey are once again players in Middle Eastern crises and conflicts.

Beware: the word in Washington is that getting out of the Afghan quagmire after two decades will allow America to focus its efforts on the challenge of the next twenty years: China — as expected. It is by no means certain that the war in Afghanistan is over, but it is certain that decades of conflict and unprecedented tensions lie ahead. The contention between powers has not been so acute and uncertain since the end of the Second Imperialist World War. It is up to conscious workers to look at all fronts of their struggle. A class-based defence starts with the basic battles for wages, working hours and even the right to organise, but it must be ready to face the storms that are looming in the global struggle. An internationalist consciousness is a vital necessity.

Twenty Years Later. (2021, May). Internationalism, 12.