Summary: The fall of Afghanistan is an even more spectacular defeat of the U.S. and its allies than that of Vietnam in 1975 – Editors.
The fall of Afghanistan is an even more spectacular defeat of the U.S. and its allies than that of Vietnam in 1975. Not only was more money and time spent in Afghanistan, but the Americans genuinely had more allied nations in the country than they ever did in Vietnam. The South Vietnamese government also survived for two whole years after U.S. withdrawal. In contrast, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was not even complete when the government capitulated, with the army collapsing due to vast logistics issues, lack of air power, and Taliban deal making with some of the U.S.-backed leadership. This is perhaps one of the most lopsided defeats in not only U.S. but human history.
The Pakistan-backed Taliban made lighting gains across the whole of Afghanistan, the speed of which has surprised even them. Multiple intelligence assessments from the Biden administration did not predict the sudden collapse of the Afghan government. Biden himself stated earlier on in the year that it was highly unlikely the Taliban would control nearly all of Afghanistan.
Of course there has been and will be resistance to the Taliban, but the Taliban seizure of power is a terrible setback for all progressive movements and forces inside the country. It is a particularly cruel blow to women, who are sure to suffer a huge increase in oppression, and are beginning already to do so.
Resistance has also begun to form, whether in street demonstrations involving many young women — as well as men — that have been put down with gunfire, or in ethnic enclaves like Panjshir Valley. At a general level, it is unclear how the Taliban’s 50,000 fighters can dominate completely a country of nearly 40 million people.
We are already seeing post mortems by the U.S. analyst class claiming the problem with the Afghan War was that the U.S. tried to introduce the “foreign concept of democracy” into Afghanistan, much like they “tried to do in Vietnam.” Even in defeat, the imperial condescension is astounding. The overly centralized Constitution of Afghanistan drawn up by the Bonn Agreement in 2001, and adopted by the Loya Jirga in 2004, allowed the President to appoint local governors. For a nation with a vast array of different ethnicities and tribal groups, this. bred resentment, independent of pro-Taliban sentiment.
Biden is a remarkably cynical politician. He reportedly once told U.S.-installed President Hamid Karzai that he wouldn’t advocate confronting Pakistan because it is a hundred times more important to the U.S. than Afghanistan. Also bear in mind Biden at one point openly advocated for a sectarian and imperial partition of Iraq such that Iraqi politicians publicly denounced him too.
The U.S. empire is sick.
Despite anti-Taliban demonstrations and anti-Taliban militias forming nationwide, major cities fell anyway. For years the Americans and NATO have yelled at the Afghan presidents Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani to stop defending rural outposts with no military significance. They refused to listen because this would involve giving any form of terrain (even if uninhabited) to the Taliban, which would have come at a political cost. This continued strategy only worsened the Afghan military’s already strained logistics, given the ever-decreasing assistance from the U.S. and NATO Air Forces. This means the Taliban could simply surround the typical outpost and then the army would eventually run out of ammunition and even food. Then, even if the soldiers want to fight, without any supplies they are forced to surrender. This has happened thousands of times in the Afghan countryside and then happened to entire cities.
As Mazar i Sharif, one of the most heavily defended and demographically and historically anti-Taliban cities in Afghanistan fell, the virulently anti-Taliban warlords Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Mohammed Noor, who previously committed war crimes against Taliban prisoners, fled the country instead of continuing to fight.
Herat, a major city in the west that had spontaneous anti-Taliban demonstrations weeks ago and where anti-Taliban militias independent of the army arose, still fell without a shot being fired. The strongly anti-Taliban warlord Ismail Khan simply surrendered.
Kandahar is a major city in the south that was the former capital of the Taliban during their pre-American so called “Islamic Emirate.” It also fell despite stiff resistance from the elite Afghan commandos, airstrikes from the actually competent yet small Afghan Air Force, and even a handful of attacks from U.S aircraft stationed in Qatar.
With the worst defeat in American history under Biden’s watch, and the worst mass casualty event to the U.S. military in over a decade courtesy of ISIS, if an economic recession happens before 2024, Trump will have a significant chance of regaining the U.S. presidency. In his strangely isolationist yet pigheadedly violent manner he will claim the withdrawal was succeeding until the Biden administration. Trump took a similar path in his rhetoric during the 2016 presidential campaign. Then, he criticized the Iraq War for happening in the first place while condemning the Obama-Biden administration’s war effort against ISIS.
This emphasizes the importance of the left organizing properly to provide a humanist alternative to this sordid state of affairs called the American empire. Already there are ridiculous comparisons from the most ignorant of leftists between the Viet Cong/National Liberation Front of Vietnam and the theocratic rightwing Taliban. If leftists continue to alienate, then gaslight Afghan refugees as they enter the developed world, we shall not only be falsifiers of history but we will give Afghan victims of theocracy little choice but to ignore the left. If this occurs, yet another demographic group will be removed from our solidarity efforts against the evils of western imperialism, capitalism, and yes, Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) sub-imperialism. If we fail to push genuine humanism, then a rotation between Trumpism and Neoliberalism will remain the only choices — both of them reprehensible — for the American working class.
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talal on September 1, 2021 at 4:09 pm
An excellent analysis!
An excellent analysis!