The fall of Kabul | By Imtiaz Rafi Butt


The fall of Kabul

AUGUST 15, 2021, marks an important day in the history of the United States and Afghanistan.

It took four Presidents of the United States, over 3000 US soldier casualties, around 45000 Afghan civilian deaths and trillions of dollars for Washington to realize its failure.

After 20 years, the American Government has managed to replace the Taliban with an even stronger Taliban regime. The whole world has been shocked by the ultimate disaster in Kabul.

It has reminded people of the US failure in Vietnam from the 1970s and truly, the Americans have not learned anylesson.

The Government that took 20 years in the making and trillions of dollars with over 300,000 armed Afghan soldiers with an air force, surrendered to the Taliban in less than 2 months.

President Joe Biden came on TV and had announced that Kabul will not fall to the Taliban just two weeks before he came on TV, admitted that he was wrong and sent 5000 troops to evacuate diplomats and allies from Kabul airport.

As the world saw in horror, U.S military jets kept flying from Kabul airport with military dogs instead of the men and women who had been their allies in Afghanistan since 2001.

A lesson for many other nations who wish to follow the league of alliance with the United States. The whole nation is today under the mercy of the Taliban, history has repeated itself.

Many lessons can be drawn from this phenomenal and astounding incident. Firstly, that puppet government is never feasible. Imperialism only ends in defeat and suffering for everyone involved.

The Afghan Government installed by the Americans and NATO Alliance was corrupt to the core, inefficient and disengaged from the popular support of the masses.

The Afghan Army was armed to the teeth with American equipment but their hearts were not with the leaders of the Afghan Government and at the first sight of defeat, Ashraf Ghani, the President, fled like a traitor out of the books.

The Americans had no knowledge of nation-building and the failure of the Afghan Government stands testimony to that. The people of Afghanistan had no will to resist the onslaught of the Taliban.

The Afghan Army enjoyed no support from the masses, especially those who are now seeking shelter and refuge in other countries.

Many Afghans were inclined to blame the Taliban take over on Americans and the Pakistanis instead of dealing with the challenge head-on.

History will keep reminding the people of Afghanistan for their failure to resist the Taliban offensive. Secondly, the Afghan Government was corrupt and failed to deliver to the people of Afghanistan in the 20 years given to them.

The leaders of the Afghan Government resorted to filling their own off-shore bank accounts, blaming others instead of consolidating their national structures.

They were unable to develop a structure of governance even after two decades and so it was bound to fail and the Americans were aware of it.

But they were caught between two hard choices, accepting failure in Afghanistan or continuing to spend trillions of dollars and having their soldiers killed in an endless war.

Thirdly, the Taliban, even if the majority of the world disagrees with their methods, ethics and medieval philosophy especially when it comes to women and human rights, they are resilient and focused.

After the invasion of 2001, the Taliban became an insurgent group in their own country. They resisted against the most powerful nation with the best equipped army in the world and survived for 20 years.

They were able to do so because of two factors; one, their ability to adapt and their cohesion with Pashtun culture and secondly, their vision of establishing an Islamic republic, a religious ideal that the people of Afghanistan can relate to.

These three lessons are the verdict of history and for times to come and these three factors have determined the victory of the Taliban and the humiliation of a former superpower of the world.

The fall of Kabul was a writing on the wall and one which only the Taliban could see with their determination.

Winston Churchill once said, “the Americans will do the right thing, when they have already tried everything else”. And this applies to the American strategy in Afghanistan.

After a disaster in Vietnam, a blunder in Iraq and now a defeat after the longest war the Americans have ever fought, the Pentagon decides to do the right thing.

Joe Biden came to TV to say that the fate of Afghanistan lies in the hands of the people of Afghanistan and not the Americans, it took 20 years to realize this.

It can be expected that after over 3000 dead U.S soldiers, countless injured and trillions of tax dollars wasted, the Americans will avoid future adventures and deployment on ground with soldiers.

The new strategists are of the view that from now onwards, the Americans will rely on airpower through jets, drones and missiles instead of ground troops, another knee-jerk after the retreat from Kabul.

As another right-move to do, Joe Biden has called the G-7 meeting to review the current situation in Afghanistan and co-operation thereof.

Where the Americans have failed, the Chinese and Russians have been quick to fill the void. Failure of the Americans is a sure win for both.

The Chinese are now committed to entering Afghanistan not through force but through investment, industry and economic development.

The Taliban have already showed willingness to work with the Chinese and joining their One Belt One Road project. The Iranians were engaged with the Taliban in talks even before Kabul has fallen.

And in a similar fashion, Russians have vowed to recognize the Taliban and work towards their development as long as they do not harbour International Terrorist Organizations, which points towards the future outlook of Afghanistan.

The Taliban have taken a moderate stance after the Fall of Kabul. The Taliban announced amnesty for all forces, government servants and people who were a part of the former Afghan Government.

It can be argued that this is only a facade to lure international funding, support, co-operation and avoiding international isolation and it remains to be seen.

The power of the Taliban is now unquestioned but they have assured a better method of governance compared to the one they had in 2001.

The Taliban Amir ul Momineen Haibatullah has given statement that rights of the women will be protected and they can continue to study and work as per Shariah Law.

Pakistan under the leadership of Imran Khan has strongly opposed a military solution to Afghanistan.

That idea of Pakistan has been realized. The only option is dialogue, development and negotiations.

That idea of development will now come from Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Russia and China bloc of alliance. The role of Superpower has been handed over.

It can be hoped that the chain of development, progress and uplift that China has initiated will absorb the people of Afghanistan in a new era of prosperity and peace.

It has been over four decades that the children of Afghanistan have been subjected to ruin by international powers like the (former) Soviet Union, United States and their allies, perhaps the one superpower that will bring jobs, development, education, peace and security to this region of the world will be the true superpower of the modern world.

—The writer is Chairman, Jinnah Rafi Foundation, based in Lahore.

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