Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: The Taliban, conquered by the US forces 20 years ago, is back in Kabul. It only took one week after the withdrawal of US forces to roll back the military gains of the Afghan Army. The actual cost of the Afghanistan war is estimated at 1 trillion dollars, 2400 lives lost, 12,000 wounded civilians and service members, and two generations of American soldiers with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). All to catch one man Osama Bin Ladin and liquidate the Al-Qaeda network, But once that mission was over, Americans did not come home. So now the very enemy they overthrew has taken back the nation they tried to “build” hopefully, this is a lesson learned, but they are still in Iraq with no hope of coming home.
The Talibs have 50-100 000 fighters against an Afghan Army of 300,000. They rely on guns and grenades and guerilla tactics. On the other hand, the Afghan Army is well-armed with military aircraft, special forces, and modern warfare machinery. However, when the day of reckoning came, the more equipped Army fell like Dominos.
Fatoumatta: It appears the war was not about military hardware or software. Here is my thinking: The Americans might have thought they helped Afghanistan by removing the Taliban from power. However, unfortunately, it seems they forgot to remove the Taliban from the minds of the Afghans. Attitudes and convictions will always triumph over military and economic power. Whereas the latter might hold sway for the short term, in the end, convictions guide people on where they want to go.
The above confirms that software matters more than hardware in any battle.
We must agree that democracy is not the panacea for all chaos in the world. Culture and history should guide people on what kind of leadership they want and deserve. The crusaders should be advised that any illusion of invasion will give way to self-determination, however long it takes.
The Afghanistan economy has depended on aid for over forty years. Nothing practically works in the country.
Fatoumatta: Afghanistan may not be the actual ‘graveyard of empires.’ However, it looks set to bury at least the American one by imploding the major narratives on which it has rested: invincibility, inevitability, prosperity, and competence. It has to be an irony above all ironies that the same man who, back in 1992, celebrated the demise of the Soviet “puppet regime” in Kabul ended up leading a US puppet regime there. Except, whereas former president of Afghanistan Dr. Najibullah ruled for three years between 1987 and 1992 after the last Soviet soldier crossed the Friendship Bridge into Uzbekistan ousted president Ashraf Ghani who fled even before the previous American boot left Afghan soil – reportedly forgetting bags of cash on the tarmac, no less. Ousted president Ashraf Ghani who fled Afghanistan with ‘bags of cash,’ wrote an article in 1989 predicting the end of the Soviet ‘puppet regime’ in Kabul.
Fatoumatta: What made the sudden and total collapse of the Afghan National Army (ANA) so devastating, however, is the explicit insistence of US leadership – from President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley – as late as two weeks ago, that it would never happen.
“There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy – of the United States from Afghanistan,” President Joe Biden told reporters on July 8. Except that is precisely what happened, and then some.
‘Saigon 1975’ is forever associated with the photo of desperate South Vietnamese mobbing a ‘Huey’ on the rooftop of the US embassy. There are several contenders for “Kabul 2021.” However, so far, the desperate Afghans clinging onto a US cargo plane – only to plummet to their deaths – seems a firm favorite.
“A thousand narratives collapsed in real-time,” as journalist and US Navy veteran Jack Posobiec put it. “DC theater gave way to reality.”
Afghanistan is often called the “graveyard of empires” because any outside power that tried to hold it eventually failed. However, that is not strictly speaking true – the British Empire survived the Kabul fiasco by a century, for example. Likewise, the idea that the USSR fell because of Afghanistan is a cynical narrative peddled by Washington’s Cold Warriors. However, in this case, it may turn out to be.
Generals and enlisted men alike can argue that the US forces never lost a battle in Afghanistan. However, there is no arguing with the fact that they lost the war. Moreover, the Afgan National Army folded despite tens of billions of dollars worth of US weapons and equipment and 20 years of training according to US standards.
Ever since the Soviet Union self-abolished in 1991, neoconservatives and neoliberals alike presented the American Empire as inevitable, its political and economic system as the “end of history,” and all resistance to it doomed to failure. Just one word, “Afghanistan,” punctures that bubble.
What Afghanistan’s Saigon moment teaches us about America’s ‘humanitarian wars.’
Fatoumatta: As for prosperity, the countless treasure looted from Americans and poured into Afghanistan did not make the country wealthy. However, it did keep a coterie of collaborators, transnational rent-seekers, and professional busybodies flush with cash and pretending to be helpful. They built nothing and left nothing but misery in their wake, sandcastles melting before a tsunami.
“Every image coming out of Afghanistan this past weekend was an advertisement for the incompetence, arrogance, and double-dealing nature of American foreign policy leaders,” wrote journalist Matt Taibbi.
He went on to explain that the “genuine shock” on Tony Blinken’s face when confronted with reality “should tell people around the world something important about the United States: in addition to all the other things about us that are dangerous, we lack self-knowledge.”
In other words, the US political establishment got so used to creating its reality and imposing it through media and entertainment upon its citizens as well as on foreigners that it simply does not know what to do when confronted with people on whom this trick does not work – in this case, the Taliban.
This sort of thinking was on display last week when a prominent “security expert” advised her colleagues to look away from the images from Afghanistan to avoid getting triggered or traumatized – as if what was happening would somehow stop or vanish if they just averted their gaze.
Except people around the world watched and took notes. Even things entirely consistent with US mentality – such as flying dogs on passenger planes while crowding local interpreters into cargo holds – sent an unmistakable message to any potential US’ ally.’
Fatoumatta: Now that the Taliban has retaken its governance architecture and heavy sanctions are expected from the western nations, the US, Germany, and their allies, how will the Taliban-led government survive?
How much can Pakistan do to help stabilize the economy of the country? Pakistan itself that is confronted with its contradictions, including sanctions from the West? Will Saudi Arabia, a US ally, provides support for the Taliban? I doubt this. What about the United Arab Emirates? It is too early in the day to predict how the emerging crisis in the country will escalate and the dimensions it will take. However, one thing is certain: there will be another round of humanitarian crises with more refugees seeking asylum abroad. History has the uncanny habit of repeating itself. It shall soon repeat itself like a movie before our very eyes.
Alagi Yorro Jallow