US President Joe Biden has purged the air. No, it was not an act of nation building. It was a war against one of the most resilient fighting forces in the world to obtain compensation against future terrorist attacks and perhaps to teach them a hard lesson. A balance sheet in May 2018, however, revealed that not only the Taliban, the Haqqani network and al-Qaeda have made a comeback, but also that ISIS has gained a foothold in the country.
Insurgents were present in more than half of Afghanistan’s 398 districts, with several provinces at risk of falling into Taliban hands. What was the longest war for then? President Biden has admitted he was right in his decision to end the longest war in US history. But he regretted, with condescending contemplation, that even two decades of support had failed to transform the Afghan army into a force capable of securing his own country. “We gave them all the tools they could need.
We paid their salaries. Scheduled for maintenance of their planes, ”Biden said. “We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we couldn’t provide was the will to fight for that future. And he talks about fighting with a group that by a broader consensus is seen as stronger now than at any time since 2001, a group that has resisted counterinsurgency operations by the most powerful security alliance. around the world, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and three US administrations in a war that has claimed endless lives.
With as many as 85,000 full-time fighters, the Taliban controlled a fifth of the country and continued to launch attacks, both defeated and reinforced by their experience fighting with one of the most powerful military coalition forces and technologically advanced in the world.
“The Afghans found it difficult to accept the claim that the most powerful country in the world, the United States, was incapable of stabilizing Afghanistan”, (“A few thousand Taliban had ‘nothing to defeat’ for America; of them in a week ‘”), writes Sharifullah Dorani in his 2019 book America in Afghanistan: Foreign Policy and Decision Making from Bush to Obama to Trump after deliberating with a large cross-section of people, asking why “mind-boggling” changes have taken place in US policy in Afghanistan for 16 and a half years.
The group of contradictions ~ a witch’s brew, nothing less ~ consisted of “the innate Afghan characteristics / complexities / differences, as argued by US policymakers, encompassed Afghanistan deeply suffering from decades of civil war, religious extremism, drug mafia, interference from neighbors (Pakistanis in particular, with whom Afghanistan shared 2,500 miles of porous border), poverty, unemployment, lack of education and the presence of different groups ethnic, linguistic, sectarian, tribal and political ”, antagonistic to each other for centuries.
It was compounded by the fact that the Taliban insurgency was indigenous and belonged to the largest ethnic group (the Pashtuns) while the government in Kabul was largely “made up of minorities”. America has failed because of its deep cultural ignorance of Afghanistan, but it cannot be said that it is very sensitive to cultures other than its own. Many Pashtun leaders and intellectuals lament how their lands have been turned into a war-ground for a global conflict for some of the world’s most powerful regular and private armies, and how their people remain one of the most maligned in the 21st century.
Pashtun nationalism is a powerful force and the Pashtuns are not only the predominant ethnic group in much of southern and eastern Afghanistan, but are also a major ethnic group in northern and western Pakistan. . The reason Afghanistan is often dubbed the ‘land of the Pashtuns’ is that the Afghan identity has always been synonymous with ‘Pashtun’, even though the outside world calls its people indiscriminately ethnic origin and tends to confuse an Afghan national identity with the Pashtuns. identity.
It might be a cruel irony that if the South Vietnamese Thieu government lasted three years (1972-5) after the withdrawal of the American ground forces (and the Moscow-dependent Najib regime in Kabul also lasted three more years ~ 1989 -92 ~ before collapsing), the coalition government of President Ashraf Ghani did not last a week independently. And in seeking to hide their failure by spin, the Americans are now accusing the Afghans of lacking the will to fight the Taliban, fighting which they, the most powerful nation in the world, have spent nearly two decades without being able to neutralize them. In a statement released by President Biden, we learned that the United States has invested nearly $ 1 trillion, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in United States history.
“One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would have made no difference if the Afghan army cannot or does not want to hold its own country,” Biden said, justifying his position seeking to put end to “an endless American war”. presence in the midst of a civil conflict in another country ”. If so, what then justifies its long stay of two decades with each year of occupation adding to its litany of misfortunes?
According to sources from the Ministry of Defense, updated in October-November 2019, since 2001, an estimated 157,000 people have been killed in the war in Afghanistan, including some 64,124 Afghan security forces, 43,074 Afghan civilians, 42,100 Taliban and other insurgent fighters, 2,300 US military personnel, 3,814 US contractors, 1,145 NATO and coalition soldiers, 424 aid workers, 67 journalists and media professionals are among them. Last year alone, 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war, according to the United Nations. What explains such a monumental loss of material and human resources? Why did he not leave Afghanistan sooner?
The rhetorical question that follows ~ whether the takeover of Russia in 1978 to implement revolutionary social and economic policies by a communist regime was a disaster, its withdrawal in 1989 not only sparked a period of civil war and destroyed the official structure of the state. but also gave birth to the Taliban and their reactionary Islamist regime; but how is the American occupation different, now that all its pretense of moral demagoguery is fading?
The bottom line is this: The United States took four presidents, thousands of lives, billions of dollars, and nearly two decades of torment and dissipation to replace the Taliban with the Taliban and push Afghanistan out of the way. one civil war to another in the making. Worse yet, he now refuses to take responsibility. Then there is the problem of the lack of contextual understanding. Former President Donald Trump was “convinced” that the war in Afghanistan was a “waste” of American money and lives and, therefore, was not in the national interest of the United States. Even though the United States spent billions of dollars, lost thousands of lives, the “ungrateful” Afghans hated America.
Even though the American forces trained the Afghan security forces, they killed their trainers. That the school built by the Americans today would be destroyed by the insurgents the next day.
But how did he come to such a pass? When in 2001, the doors of the American embassy in Kabul, which had remained closed since the murder of its ambassador Adolph Dubs in 1979, opened – even though America seemed to have abandoned Afghanistan after the disintegration of the Union Soviet Union and the Mujahedin overthrow of the Communist government of President Mohammad Najibullah – thousands of American troops entered Afghanistan as part of President George W. Bush’s Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), the jubilation was palpable.
Western leaders, especially President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, have cradled Afghans in the dream of a disinfected Taliban utopia and an unblemished haven of freedom from civil war, terrorism, criminality and abuse of power by strongmen (or warlords), lawlessness and corruption, poverty and unemployment, the opium trade and the oppression of women; the international community would help the Afghans to form a government with strong institutions to establish peace, prosperity, stability and democracy and thus live happily ever after.
But what happened on the ground? All constituent parties ~ the United States and its allies, the Afghan government, Afghan paramilitary groups, the Pakistani government, the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban and many other insurgent groups ~ as the fighting intensified in most of Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan ~ carried out military operations that massively killed civilians, who on a daily basis were killed or injured on both sides either by savage Taliban attacks or by the Afghan government or the American counterterrorism campaigns.
In view of the enormous death toll among civilians, the “war on terror” has become, in effect, a war against civilians. The systematic and deliberate use of illegal practices by the US military, Afghan security forces and paramilitary groups has proven that the propaganda about establishing a human rights-based system is a sham. The reckless use of US air power, which killed dozens of civilians, and the apparent lack of sensitivity of US troops to local perceptions, laws and customs were particularly damaging; for example, when US special forces, during routine searches of Afghan villages for weapons and members of resistance groups, physically abused villagers, damaged personal property and subjected women to body searches.
Now, the sick haste to leave Afghanistan, the chaos at Kabul airport resulting in the deaths of civilians all desperate to leave the graveyard of the abandoned empires of God and America, the flight of President Ashraf Ghani, the American officials burning sensitive documents and evacuating the embassy for the airport, the abandonment of all Western diplomatic missions and the return of the Taliban to fill the vacuum left by the Americans do not bode well for the “success” of the civilization process of America, if there is one.
While leaving Afghanistan in the strategic embrace of the Middle Empire makes the failure even more colossal, leaving it to the savagery of the Taliban is an act of monumental betrayal.
(The writer is a Kolkata-based commentator on politics, development and cultural issues)