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Return of Taliban in Afghanistan, a sharp rebuke to America’s inflated Prestige

Saturday, August 21, 2021

With the Taliban on the roll, and back in power ruling Afghanistan, it’s evidently settled that the U.S. has lost the longest war after Vietnam in humiliation being reflected in the crescendo of domestic blame-game, and among allies who hanged on US wings and praying. From a strategic view, Joe Biden can now shift focus on Covid19, China and Climate Change.

But regardless, many expect the US not to leave Afghanistan alone any time soon, and Afghans should be ready for an extended fight after the formal withdrawal. From experience, the US will try to regain control through air war, sponsoring proxies, economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure to placate its injured ego and doomed military pursuit.

The U.S. said the 9/11 attacks was a criminal act and promised to prosecute suspects under national and international laws. But instead of setting up an international tribunal and seek the arrest of the alleged perpetrators, it invaded and occupied Afghanistan resulting in the deaths, injuries, starvation and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Afghans, and destruction of Afghanistan. The humanitarian catastrophe was this week by images of desperate Afghans dropping dead on the runway of Kabul airport off a US military transport plane that hurriedly lifted off ground.

The U.S. achieved nothing politically after two decades of gigantic expenditure, and its army is now on the strategic defensive and withdrawal as was in Vietnam, 1975. The chaotic empire is in a fall and chaotic retreat. With over one hundred thousand pairs of boots on the ground, CIA, units of night stalkers, cave diggers and blusters, Navy SEALS, Special Forces, heavy bombers, helicopter gunships, drones and other modern warfare high tech weapons, the U.S. failed to defeat tribal fighters armed only with light weapons, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and bravery. It is a heavy blow to American prestige after the disastrous wars in Iraq, Syria and Libya where technically the empire isn’t in war. 

The Taliban were resilient against U.S. occupation thriving on Afghanistan poor governance structures and desolate economy. At its peak, Washington poured 100,000 men. It now has 6,000 soldiers to guard its flag, and embassy staff at Kabul airport to enable a chaotic retreat. This defeat should teach lackluster Africans how to deal with imperialism, although diminishing powers. It’s also lesson to Western powers that they must be responsible and never to repeat their arrogance and mistakes elsewhere under any circumstances or pretexts, because thousands of innocent people including their own get killed unjustly. 

 

Two decades of trying to reshape Afghan politics, military, government, culture and social dynamics has fallen flat, and the West should know that they have no right or capacity anymore to make countries in their image. Hawks in the U.S. may call the withdrawal a mistake by President Biden, but the extended occupation was the biggest mistake, illegal, and unjust after-all. The defeat underscores why the US and allies should acknowledge their blood-drenched record, and the failure to "democratize" Iraq and Afghanistan after colossal wastage of time and resources.

Some observers are shocked that the Taliban came in a blitz since they thought that the Afghan government and its 300,000 soldier propped by the West would stand ground after U.S. withdrawal. These predictions were presumptuous and deserve debunking. US air power was crucial in helping Kabul retain control over the country as they bombed the Taliban whenever it massed forces anywhere within Afghanistan that posed a threat to the government.

But that air power was indiscriminate causing many collateral damage, became a double edged sword  and turned many Afghans from the US and Afghan government towards the Taliban and hence why the Afghan army simply melted away or surrendered to the Taliban. Also, a significant number of the Afghan army wasn’t as qualified as their supporters thought in spite of hundreds of billions of US dollars invested in their training and material support. Some reports indicate infiltration, ghost soldiers that inflated the numbers, and corruption including people who joined for pay-cheque rather than loyalty and commitment. The Afghan army has been a paper tiger all along.

In any case, Iraq and Afghanistan were a cesspool for the U.S. military-industrial complex. The U.S. military withdrawal while long overdue, in hindsight, should not have had an exact departure date since this emboldened the Taliban to prepare the offensive to fill the void created. But some cynics think that the Biden administration purposefully left Afghanistan in this style to provoke a dark scenario of terrorist threats for ulterior reasons unrelated to its stated goals, perhaps hoping to cause problems for Iran, China and Russia.

The rapid collapse of a puppet Afghan government and the chaotic retreat is powerful and reflects poorly on the U.S. as a fading nation whose hegemony is diminished than two decades ago with U.S. is now regarded as untrustworthy having abandoned Afghans who helped it. Afghanistan, as a shared graveyard between two rival empires-USSR and US, isn’t an honorable badge to wear in the eyes of many Americans.