On 15th August 2021, in the sprawling capital city of Afghanistan, after twenty years of the United States’ longest war, the Taliban, also known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in a lightning speed, swarmed, swept, and conquered the war-ravaged country. The sweeping victory was a surprise to all and sundry considering the easiness with which about 75,000 poorly armed and barely trained Taliban insurgents defeated over 300,000 Afghan troops that the American government and the coalition forces had spent billions of dollars to train and equip. It was a humiliating black Sunday for the American government that had spent about 2 trillion dollars to shape the Afghan government into a western pattern of democracy. However, when the victory-thirsty Taliban launched into Kabul, with a profound sense of anxiety, the American diplomats in Afghanistan hurriedly destroyed some sensitive documents, lowered the US flag, and hastily airlifted out of the once-secured US embassy to the Kabul airport for quick evacuation out of the country. It was indeed a scene of chaotic departure of Americans, coalition diplomats, and some Afghan people out of the Afghan airport – a scene that President Joe Biden could brood for so long.
The shocking humiliation and spectacular defeat were not new to the American government. A similar scenario had played itself during the Vietnam War that lasted from 1955 to 1975. At the peak of the ideological struggle or cold war that followed the 2nd World War, the areas made up of the present-day Vietnam country were balkanized into North Vietnam and South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh, a communist guerrilla leader ruled North Vietnam from Hanoi, while the Capitalist sponsored leader, Bao Dai, led South Vietnam from Saigon. In the struggle for supremacy, a full-blown war erupted. As would be expected the American government supported South Vietnam. The superior US military airpower didn’t consume the commitment of Ho Chi Minh’s diehard poorly equipped guerilla fighters. With President Nixon’s Watergate scandal, American cutdown of military aid to South Vietnam by about thirty percent, and the War Powers Act of 7th November 1973, which required the US Congress consultation before American soldiers would be sent to war overseas, the number of American military fighters in South Vietnam, which was about 500,000 troops around 1967, dwindled. President Gerald R. Ford, who took over from Nixon after his disgraceful resignation could do very little. All these, added to President Nguyen Van Thieu’s corrupt government in South Vietnam, and the disregard of the Paris Peace Accords of 1973 by North Vietnam, the North Vietnamese army launched a massive offensive attack that saw the collapse and sudden defeat of South Vietnam on 30th April 1975. In deep apprehension of a reprisal attack, the American foreign diplomats and workers were hurriedly evacuated from the rooftop of the American Embassy in Saigon, South Vietnam. The Taliban has almost repeated the same chaotic drama.
The Afghan guerrilla fighters were known for their endurance and resilience in fighting a long war. Apart from their maneuverability and mastery of the Afghan craggy mountains, they always believed and considered their fight as a holy war against the infidels and their puppets. This was evident when the Soviet Union, in reliance on Brezhnev doctrine, which called for Soviet’s intervention of any threatened socialist state, invaded Afghanistan on 24th December 1979. The relatively armed Afghan Mujahideen fought the Soviet Union until Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union unceremoniously evacuated all his troops out of Afghanistan on 15th February 1989.
From the events unfolding in Afghanistan, it is obvious that the American government miscalculated and underestimated the strength of the Taliban fighters. President Joe Biden had asserted a month ago that “there’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United State in Afghanistan” and that “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owing the whole country is highly unlikely.” But the Taliban showed the world how courage and commitment could lead to success. The poorly motivated Afghan military and police officers virtually melted away from their posts with little resistance to the Taliban invaders. The result showed that most of them recruited in the Afghan military were mainly interested to make ends meet rather than protecting their country from the insurgents. Such a scenario nearly repeated itself in the Middle East when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) invaded Iraqi on 4th June 2014. They easily conquered Samarra, Mosul, Kirkuk, Baiji, and Tikrit till they were halted on 13th June 2014 about 60 miles to Baghdad with the help of Quds Force, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Naqshbandi Army, and Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s militiamen. One wonders how the Iraqi Army that was trained, equipped, and funded by the American government since the invasion of Iraqi on 19th March 2003 would put weak resistance to the poorly equipped ISIL. It was said that some of the weapons used by ISIL in the war were American military weapons captured from the Iraqi military deserters.
The collapsed Afghan military was simply an army of convenience, lacking courage, commitment, loyalty, and patriotism. The Taliban knew that and waited patiently. The Doha Agreement at Qatar, between the Taliban and the American government on 29th February 2020 was far-reaching and to the advantage of the Taliban. American government under President Donald Trump, who underestimated the Taliban agreed to a full withdrawal of the American military from Afghanistan. The pact emboldened the Taliban to renege in discussion with the Afghan government and secretly trained for the full invasion of Afghanistan. They avoided attacking American troops, an action that gave them a false sense of normalcy and hope. By the time the American troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan, the Taliban seized the opportunity to rout and easily defeat the unpatriotic Afghan army. The controversial Afghan leader, President Ashraf Ghani, hastily departed his country and reportedly flew to Oman after he was denied entry into Tajikistan. Ghani’s excuse for relinquishing his power was “in order to avoid a flood of blood, I thought it was best to get out” of Afghanistan. It was a show of shame that Ghani, who coauthored with Clare Lockhart a book titled “FIXING FAILED STATES: A Framework of Rebuilding a Fractured World” would turn Afghanistan into a failed state. Afghan government lacked the charisma to motivate its troops. It relied majorly on foreign support for survival. The Afghan government was so immersed in corruption that it allowed the pastoral rural Afghans that should have supported it to fly to the patronage of the Taliban, who gave them hope and allegedly paid off more than six months arrears owed to some of the Afghan forces. In acknowledging the stunning fall of the Afghan government, Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of Taliban noted in Doha: “We have reached a victory that wasn’t expected.” According to him, “now it’s about how we serve and secure our people and ensure their future to the best of our ability.” It is not clear if the new Taliban government would return Afghanistan back to the medieval society where women’s rights are forbidden, western education is proscribed, and terrorism is fostered.
The Taliban victory should be a big lesson to many leaders of the world. It shows that an ideology could be delayed but not denied. It displays the fact that courage, commitment, and patriotism could not be bought. “The inability of Afghan security forces to defend their country has played a very powerful role in what we’ve seen over the last few weeks,” said the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. The victory shows that the foreign dependency for survival is not ultimate. It also demonstrates that you win when you dare. Americans could have lost Afghanistan to the Taliban but have not lost their pride. For one thing, American withdrawal from Afghanistan should have saved the country from endless wastages from the corrupt Afghan government unwilling to survive and flourish. Blinken told NBC News that “if the president [Biden] had decided to stay, all gloves would have been off. We would have been back at war with the Taliban attacking our forces. The offensive you have seen throughout the country almost certainly would have proceeded.” It is obvious that since the killing of Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the September 11 attack in the USA, that America has lost interest in staying longer in Afghanistan. The American government, as a matter of urgency, should reassure their allies, especially South Korea of their firm support. Any agreement with Kim Jong-un should never include American troops pulling out of South Korea. The world powers, especially the United States, France, and United Kingdom should team up in curbing the menace of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram in West Africa, and Al-Shabaab in East Africa. Many African countries facing the incursion of the insurgents should tighten their belts, reenergize their military forces, and avoid the repetition of the Taliban-like blistering conquest.
Picture credited to timesofisrael.com