August 17, 2021
Kabul has fallen, the Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan abandoning his people in the midst of firefights and easy takeover by the Taliban, a terror group that lost leadership after US invasion 20 years ago. The ease at which the formidable fighters took control of the capital city without resistance from the Afghan military, caught the US by surprise, while some are quick to blame the Biden administration for what they termed a “messy withdrawal,” by the US government.
With the dust still settling on reality, it does no good to lay blame on the United States without understanding its purpose and mission in Afghanistan. What led to the withdrawal by the Biden administration was negotiated with the Taliban under the Trump leadership. In fact, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban now in control of the country, was in Pakistani jail until 2018 when he was freed.
During the Taliban’s 20-year exile, Baradar was known as a potent military leader and a political operator on the wing of the “Quetta Shura,” a Taliban regrouped leadership in exile that formed a resistance to control by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), while at the same time maintaining political contacts in Kabul.
The Obama administration knew of the danger posed by Baradar and his military experience. As a result, in 2010 the CIA tracked Baradar down to Karachi and asked ISI to arrest him. The Pakistanis held on to him since 2010 until 2018, when the Trump administration asked the Pakistanis to release him so he could lead negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar. The belief was he would settle with the Afghan leadership for a coalition government. Baradar signed the agreement with the US in February 2020, in what the Trump administration celebrated as a breakthrough towards peace but which now turned out to be a starting point for a Taliban takeover.
With the future of Afghanistan now in Taliban’ control, the US has no choice but to leave the fate of the nation in the hands of its people. America can’t fight a war in perpetuity. While the invasion of Iraq is debatable as a war of opportunity, Afghanistan was a legitimate war. The United States invaded the landlocked country as a result of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, after US intelligence revealed that Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind was being protected by the Taliban. The host refused to hand him over leading to what became the 20-year-old war.
The US mission for the invasion was to get Bin Laden, secure America’ homeland by combating terrorism, while making sure no future attacks on US soil came from Afghanistan and finally, to help the Afghan people form a stable government. The United States has achieved its aims in Afghanistan, Bin Laden is gone, there have been no major attacks on US soil since 9/11, a government with a new constitution was formed in Afghanistan and despite instability created by the Taliban, the country was held together by US forces for 20 years, until a sudden overthrow of the government by the Taliban after US forces left the country.
There are areas where the US suffered shortcomings for example, in twenty years, US intelligence could not figure out the source of weapons to the Taliban. Who is supplying them with ammunitions? Is any country bankrolling or aiding the group? And why is the US unable to block the source of cash to the terrorist organization? Also, what intelligence did the US rely on that did not reveal a quick takeover by the Taliban?
Despite these shortcomings, if anyone is to blame for the recent crisis, it is the Afghan forces who refused to fight, while the Taliban captured major cities once under government’ control. The idea that the Afghan military succumbed due to lack of air support from US military is laughable. The Taliban had no air support but yet able to overrun a well trained army. The Taliban is made of about 75,000 fighters and still able to defeat a 300,000 strong Afghan military.
For twenty years, about 300,000 Afghan forces received the best military trainings in warfare from the Americans. The US government invested more than $2 trillion on the war in Afghanistan, left the country with one of the best Air Force in the world and on top of that, more than 2,400 US soldiers died in the country with thousands maimed and living with permanent injuries. Many US soldiers who survived the war are suffering from PTSD, while some are having a hard time dealing with the psychological effects of war.
The Afghan government and its forces have the responsibility to protect their people and defend the country, but, despite all trainings and investments, they breached their duties to the Afghan people by abandoning their posts and caving to the Taliban. It is impossible to not feel horrible by the situation, only history would judge this failure by the Afghan government and its forces, as the ultimate betrayal.
The American people are tired, staying in Afghanistan is not what they want as many now believe leaving Afghanistan was the right decision.
At this stage the only way forward is clear, if an Islamic state is what Afghanistan want, it is time to let them have it. However, a line must be drawn if innocent civilian especially, women and children begin to die, then, a multinational force may be necessary to find a solution in the country.
What is clear as a lesson for the rest of the world is that a Western/American style of democracy, is unworkable in Afghanistan. For decades, the Afghans fought the British, the Soviets and now the Americans to reject foreign intervention, it is time to let them choose their own direction.
The United States must do everything possible to evacuate all Afghans that served the Americans, while its forces were on the grounds in Afghanistan. Leaving them behind to die is equivalent to the Afghan forces abandoning their posts in the face of a Taliban takeover.
The Taliban have a story to tell, they are probably feeling victorious but it is premature. The United States and its Western allies hold the leverage and must deny the Taliban legitimacy or any recognition if it embarks on brutal leadership and human rights violation.
Adeyemi Oshunrinade is an expert in law, foreign relations and the United Nations. He is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ Constitutional Law-First Amendment ‘Criminal Law-Homicide’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ available on Amazon. Follow on Twitter @san0670.