The US leaves Afghanistan: Is it abandonment, defeat or realization? My blog in the Times of India

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/mynuscript/the-us-leaves-afghanistan-is-it-abandonment-defeat-or-realization-36917/

Over the last two or three weeks, a stunned world has watched the Taliban sweep almost unopposed across the length and breadth of Afghanistan, while the US scrambles to evacuate its citizens, troops and allies from the country.

In almost all such cases, the US automatically becomes the world’s scapegoat. It is being blamed for the rise of the Taliban, for the dismal performance of the country’s armed forces in the face of the Taliban’s onslaught, for its chaotic inefficiency in governing, for the corruption of the Afghan government – and then quitting the country without completing the job of rebuilding it. Every possible opprobrium is being heaped on the US – from being called a loser, quitter, betrayer, a failure – for having robbed Afghanistan of a glorious future that was apparently just right around the corner.

The US invaded Afghanistan primarily because the Taliban leadership was hiding and protecting the perpetrator of the 9/11 terror attack, Osama Bin Ladin and dozens of his Al Queda militia and refused to hand them over. But it got into nation-building, while fighting the Taliban and keeping them out of the country. It is reported that the US has spent almost $2 trillion in the 20-year long war in Afghanistan.

It was only after Osama Bin Ladin was killed in Pakistan in 2010 that voices grew in war-weary America to make tracks back home. Obama, Trump and even bush have wanted to leave Afghanistan but feared the public backlash. In early 2020, Trump negotiated the withdrawal terms with the Taliban and Biden has finally implemented it now.

In mid-July, in answer to a media question, Biden said that the fall of Kabul was not inevitable and the 300,000 strong Afghan militaries were well trained by the US, had the weaponry and resources to stave off any attack by the Taliban.

Today, Biden is reeling from the shock of the Afghan military’s meek capitulation and surrender to the Taliban as it barreled its way towards Kabul. All the weaponry, the tanks, the planes, the missile launchers have been abandoned by the fleeing soldiers and are now in the hands of the Taliban. The cowardice of the military is only matched by the corruption and sleaze in the Afghan government. Both these parties have enjoyed and exploited the largesse of the United States for 20 long years, and have nothing to show for it.

Frankly, Americans have still a lot to learn when it comes to high context cultures. Americans tend to be naive, idealistic, generous, and a bit dumb when it comes to understanding cultural differences. Actually, they are the best type of benefactor one can wish for, the kind who lays golden eggs. If I was the Afghan leadership, I would have grabbed all those eggs with both hands, and used it to change the outlook, mindset and future of my country, the way the Germans, Japanese, and Koreans did. But the Afghans had a 20-year long $2 trillion chance and muffed it.

To me, it seems, that some cultures just do not understand or want democracy, at least not in the way and manner Western countries want it, where freedom and independence is paramount and government interference is resented vehemently. But it is different for other countries. For some it is the need for a religious government, for some, it is stability that is the priority, for some it is corruption and some really don’t care all that much.

It is just not the Afghan military was weak or the government was corrupt, it is also that the Taliban and its Sharia way of life have widespread support in the country. That is the way they like to live. It is their choice. The consequences too will be theirs.

As far as the US is concerned, I think two very important pennies are finally beginning to drop.

The first penny is that Democracy and Western values cannot be forced down the gullet of unwilling populations. Every country, every culture has to find its core values and live by them. I think with Trump first and now with Biden, the era of American political evangelism is hopefully drawing to a close. Trump despised going to war and so does Biden.

The second penny is probably more crucial. The simultaneous invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were not only a belief in the invincibility of the US military, but also a test of a horribly fallacious theory that the US should be able to fight a war on two fronts. Why such a theory was born and why it needed to be tested is beyond me. But whatever it was, I think it is now beginning to sink in that the US military, however great and mighty, is not all it is cut out to be. After all, which war has the US won in the last seven or eight decades after World War II? For all its bluster and bravado, whether it was Vietnam, Korea, and now Iraq and Afghanistan, the US has returned with its tail between its legs. We are now just one in three military superpowers, two of whom are far more ruthless and unscrupulous than the US will ever be. These two are enough to keep us occupied for the foreseeable future. And other smaller powers are no pushovers either, they know their strengths and how to use it. The world has changed drastically and the sooner the US realizes that it is better.

And now for the criticism that the US and Biden are facing. Let me just say this to the world.

The US is wrong when it invades, wrong when it withdraws, wrong when it stays, wrong when it leaves, wrong when it wins, wrong when it loses, wrong when it succeeds and wrong when it fails. The world’s most convenient punching bag, the best whipping boy. Go ahead, knock yourself out.

Yes, the US had no business going to Afghanistan in 2001. We have paid for it in lives and blood and money. But let us not pretend that Afghanistan was an oasis of wealth, unity, peace, and harmony before the US came. Let us not pretend that there was no Taliban, no Al Queda and no ISIS. Let us not pretend that there is no corruption in Afghanistan and everything was hunky-dory. The mess Afghanistan is in now is of its own making – it gobbled up all the golden eggs and throttled the hen that laid them. I am mighty glad that Biden had the courage of conviction to say ‘Enough is enough”. I am glad the US packed its bags and came back home. If anything, the US has left Afghanistan a better place than it was. How long it is allowed to stay that way is anybody’s guess.

My best advice for US foreign policy is the same as Covid advice: Stay indoors. Work from home. Build your own immunity. Keep safe distance from the world. Wear a gag. Mind your own business.

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