The 2021 Taliban “Victory”: A U.S.-backed Coup

A lot is being written about the Taliban’s sudden victory in Afghanistan. Let me be clear: this is not a defeat for U.S. imperialism, it is a thinly veiled coup d’état on behalf of U.S. imperialism.

It took the Taliban 2 years (1994-96) to capture Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, from the ragtag assembly of anti-communist warlords and drug dealers that called themselves the government of Afghanistan. Against these warlords and drug dealers, even with the active support of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, the Taliban never succeeded in conquering all of Afghanistan: Afghanistan’s ancient northern province of Badakhshan remained outside the Taliban’s control during the 5 years they controlled Afghanistan (1996-2001).

Now, after 20 years of illegal U.S. military occupation, we’re to believe that the Taliban have conquered Afghanistan in a few months, capturing not only the capital but more territory than they ever did between 1994-2001, including Badakhshan. This they did with no overt (but almost certainly covert) support from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, while fighting a regime the U.S. and other Western states have spent billions of dollars arming, training, and supplying for 20 years.

The Taliban have also noticeably changed their tactics. Instead of castrating and murdering the Afghan president and hanging his corpse from a light pole, like they did to Mohammed Najibullah after seizing him from a UN compound, Afghan President Ashraf Ghaini was allowed to flee to a neighbouring country while the Taliban awaited a “peaceful transfer” of power. After Kabul fell, the Taliban reached an agreement with the U.S. Pentagon in Qatar for the evacuation of foreign nationals, and NATO has maintained control of the international airport and its diplomatic mission.

The Fall of Kabul is being compared to the Fall of Saigon in 1975; but the two can’t readily be compared. In 1975, the Vietnamese liberation forces attacked Saigon’s defenses, including the airport, typical of a military confrontation between enemy combatants. In Afghanistan, the Taliban awaited a “peaceful transfer” of power and not only didn’t attempt to attack the militarily strategic airport but voluntarily agreed for it to remain under “enemy” control (i.e., the U.S. and NATO).

This is not Saigon 1975. The Fall of Kabul smells like a pre-planned U.S.-backed coup d’état against the Afghan regime.

And why not?

The Afghan regime didn’t offer U.S. imperialism much bang-for-its-buck. For all the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. imperialists in arming, training, and supplying the Afghan regime, the regime was inefficient, incompetent, composed of mostly former Taliban members and not-so-former drug traffickers, and unable to wield effective control of the country. U.S. imperialism needs a stable, low-cost regime to do its bidding, and this the Afghan regime couldn’t do.

But the Taliban can. The Taliban is able to do everything the U.S.-backed Afghan regime did more effectively and with less resources, offering U.S. imperialism an effective and cheaper means for the same end. Besides, there are no fundamentally antagonistic differences between the Taliban and US imperialism. As long as the Taliban doesn’t cross certain red lines — like killing the Afghan president or closing the international airport, all things they did in 1996 — there is no objective reason why U.S. imperialism can’t come to an understanding with the Taliban. The U.S. has a long history of siding with reactionary and ruthless dictatorships: Mobuto in the Congo, Marcos in the Philippines, Suharto in Indonesia, Pinochet in Chile, etc. As oppressive, and reactionary as the Taliban are, they are hardly any less oppressive and reactionary than the Saudis are. If U.S. imperialism can accept the House of Saud, with their oppressive and medieval laws, then it can most certainly accept the Saudis’ much poorer Afghan proteges.

The Taliban can also offer something that the Afghan regime never could: Pakistani support. Despite all the support the Afghan regime received from U.S. imperialism, Pakistan would never accept it. Pakistan was the only country to vote against Afghanistan’s acceptance into the UN, and upon independence Afghanistan immediately made irredentist claims to Pakistani territory, since Afghanistan has never formally accepted the Durand Line. Moreover, Pakistan has always been hostile to any Afghan government too friendly with its archrival India, which the U.S.-backed Afghan regime was. Any Afghan government not to Pakistan’s liking would require extensive — and indefinite — support to counter Pakistani interference, or would necessitate U.S. imperialism’s greater involvement in Pakistani affairs, neither of which are very appealing to U.S. imperialists. Thus, from a long-term perspective it would make logical sense for U.S. imperialists to abandon their puppet regime in favour of an agreement between the U.S., Pakistan, and Pakistan’s favourite Afghan proxy, the Taliban.

Finally, this is 2021, not 1996 or 2001. Long-range, relatively inexpensive means of maintaining military control of a state have been developed. If you can’t tell, I am referring to Obama’s favourite harbinger of death, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (drone). U.S. imperialists no longer need to resort to more costly and publicly risky military alternatives, like launching cruise missiles (1998), supporting an ineffective and costly regime, or active troop deployment. The U.S. still controls Afghanistan’s skies — and the Taliban have agreed to that, hence NATO’s continued control of Kabul’s international airport.

The above evidence clearly indicates this is a U.S.-backed coup d’état, not a surprise Taliban “victory”.  

Image: “A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Taliban fighters entered the outskirts of the Afghan capital on Sunday, further tightening their grip on the country as panicked workers fled government offices and helicopters landed at the U.S. Embassy.” Source:

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