THE UNMENTIONED WORD IN AMERICA’S AFGHAN DEBACLE

A lot of words have been written about America’s “humiliating defeat” in Afghanistan.

The pundits have been wondering how it was possible for the “greatest power on earth” to be pushed by a half-literate country ruled mainly by medieval “mujahideen” authorities, to make mistakes that have demonstrated that it is a giant with clay feet.

Many of the pundits know the answer, but have turned a blind eye to it. They have concentrated, instead, on President Joe Biden’s “impetuosity” in ordering American troops to leave Afghanistan by 31 August 2021. The missing word is opium/heroin.

Certainly, Biden was inept in announcing a withdrawal date before he had pulled out the interpreters and other Afghan “collaborators” who had assisted the Americans and their allies – Britain,. Germany and France – in their war against the Taliban, over the past 2 decades. Biden should have known that the Taliban would treat these Afghans as “traitors” and try to slaughter them before the US could take them to safety.

But naively, Biden was convinced by his officials that secret talks they had been holding with the Taliban in Qatar had prepared the ground for Taliban “co-operation” in the pull-out. After 20 years of operating in Afghanistan, American officials could rely on pledges of co-operation by the Taliban? And the cost? About 200 people – including 13 Americans – killed by suicide bombers at Kabul airport and its environs.

Mind you, the deed was not done by the Taliban itself, but by a body known as I S-K, which is a rival of the Taliban’s. But the Taliban had created the conditions for the slaughter by setting up road-blocks at which they had been inspecting the documentation of the would-be emigrants, congregated on the approaches to the airport.

Of course, the Americans had not anticipated the speed at which Kabul fell to the Taliban. But that they refused to allow free passage to the airport for the Afghans of concern to the US and its allies, proved that whatever agreement they had allegedly come to in the secret talks with the Americans, was written on water.

The killings at Kabul airport have, of course, blown open the whole issue of America’s involvement in Afghanistan. I said earlier that opium/heroin was not being used in relation to the US campaign in the country.

When the US involvement began the Afghan mujahedin, whose most prominent group was the Taliban, has been fighting against the Society Union, using the proceeds from opium sales to buy arms and pay their anti-Soviet fighters. The CIA, which led the American operation to assist the Afghans against the Soviets, did not mind the Afghans depending on their opium-driven economy at that time. But once the Soviets had been defeated, the Americans began to pour money into Afghanistan, hoping to divert the mullahs’ dependence on the proceeds of opium/heroin, to US largesse.

One writer, contemplating the impending defeat of America in Afghanistan, summed up the situation beautifully, QUOTE: ”How could the world’s sole superpower have battled continuously for more than 16 years – deploying more than 100,000 troops at the conflict’s peak, sacrificing the lives of nearly 2,300 soldiers, spending more than $1trillion on its military operations, lavishing a record $100bn more on “nation-building”, and helping to “fund and train an army of 350,000 Afghan allies” [and still lose]?UNQUOTE

The answer, it seems to me, is this: if you compromise your country’s integrity, by ignoring illegalities being committed by its “allies”, you lose their respect and ultimately, their trust. Any intelligent Afghans who know the history of how the US at first assisted General Manuel Noriega to become dictator of Panama, and then turned round to hunt and throw him into prison for dealing in opium/heroin, would not have been wrong to imagine that the same fate as Noriega’s might be visited upon them in years to come. Because many important Afghans also derive most of their income from opium/heroin. Some commentators regard the drugs as Afghanistan’s economic backbone.

Certainly, the US fully knew the type of person Noriega was before becoming his ally, and the hypocrisy practised by the US in its dealings with him would count in the eyes of people like Afghans whose strong religious or traditional beliefs steer them towards notions of honour and loyalty.

In all this, President Biden is the man most to be pitied. He quite correctly deduced that the United States had spent too much money and lost too many lives over too many years in Afghanistan in exchange for too little. In his eyes, the conflict there could go on indefinitely, although America’s primary objective of stopping jihadists like Osama Bin Laden from operating in Afghanistan and harming the UD, seemed to have been achieved.

But having come to that decision, Biden could not get the US military machine to come on board and implement it expertly. The biggest mistake they made was to close Bagram air base and pull out of it before they had managed to transport the Afghans of concern to the Americans, to countries willing to accept them.

In an opinion piece written by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, the paper asked:

QUOTE “Who Abandoned Bagram Air Base? Biden says the military, but the military says he gave them little choice. The terrorist threat to U.S. troops, civilians and Afghans continues to loom over the frantic evacuation of Kabul airport. Thursday’s (27 August 2021) suicide bombing, which killed 13 Americans and nearly 200 Afghans, has been claimed by an Islamic State affiliate, which is plotting more.

“Why are American troops in such a difficult-to-defend position? The evacuation is taking place at an urban airport with a civilian wing, and perimeter security is being provided, unbelievably, by the Taliban. Only about 40 miles away is Bagram airfield, the military base that the U.S. vacated in the dead of night in July, without even warning America’s Afghan allies.

“President Biden on Thursday essentially blamed his generals for the Bagram pull-out. “They concluded—the military—that Bagram was not much value added, that it was much wiser to focus on Kabul,” he said. “And so, I followed that recommendation.”

“What Mr. Biden neglected to mention is that the President sets the constraints under which the military draws up plans and evaluates options….

“When the decision [to abandon Bagram] was made, which was long before the Afghan government fell, the military thought using Kabul airport did not entail substantially higher risk… That mission of withdrawal was Mr. Biden’s bad call….. The way U.S. forces quietly slipped out of Bagram was also demoralizing for the Afghan army and probably contributed to its collapse. The Associated Press spoke to soldiers wandering the base the next day. “They lost all the goodwill of 20 years,” one said, “by leaving the way they did, in the night, without telling the Afghan soldiers who were outside patrolling the area.”

The Wall Street Journal concluded: “The wreck of Mr. Biden’s Afghan withdrawal is damaging enough. But he compounds the harm to his credibility, and America’s, when he refuses to acknowledge mistakes and spins defeat as a victory for realism”.UNQUOTE

By CAMERON DUODU

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