BY SIDNEY PYCROFT
President Biden, seen here in Geneva in June 2021, has received criticism for the manner of the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
At long last, the American Empire and the West are finally leaving Afghanistan, and like all imperial withdrawals, the end product is a disaster – the graveyard of empires has claimed another victim. Finally one of the most useless, immoral, costly, and needlessly deadly wars has ended. Is it Biden’s Vietnam and Fall of Saigon? Yes, obviously, but Saigon was inevitable, he could have stuck to the plan and avoided this disastrous humiliation of America – but what did you expect when you elected this life-long failure? People can argue the how, and I will address this later, but I want to explore the why's – why leaving is good, why 20 years were wasted, and why people are demanding further action, as if enough money, lives, and dignity haven’t already been buried in the graveyard of empires.
The simple fact is, it’s over, and that is a good thing. The rest is Afghanistan’s, and the region’s, problem. The West must stop embarrassing itself and allowing itself to be trolled by China over Taiwan, the Taliban over freedom of speech, and Al-Qaeda. The pivot to retroactively redefine the war as one for social liberation and weaponise the rights of women and girls is disgusting propaganda, it was never about this, it was about war and money plain and simple – any attempt to say otherwise is just an attempt to spur imperial engagement and is horrifically disrespectful.
First, let us survey the history of this graveyard. Afghanistan has garnered a reputation for being the place empires go to fail, historians wring their hands over its accuracy, but they’re missing the point. The Disaster of Afghanistan, also known as the First Anglo-Afghan War of 1830-1842, one of the first major conflicts in the Great Game between Britain and Russia, saw the occupying British Indian force almost annihilated during the 1842 retreat from Kabul. The Third Anglo-Afghan War of 1919 where Afghanistan invaded British India ended in Britain recognising Afghanistan as an independent nation and the Durand Line reaffirmed as the Afghan-British Raj border.
Then the Soviet-Afghan War of 1979-1989 was another travesty. The Afghan Communist Party (PDPA) staged a coup with the 1978 Saur Revolution which was massively unpopular with the rural masses because of the radical modernisation and land reforms. The party fractured into Khalqists and Parchamites. The PDPA General Secretary, Nur Mohammed Taraki, was assassinated and replaced with Hafizullah Amin. But Leonid Brezhnev feared he would flip to America and deployed the 40th Soviet Army, staging a coup that killed Amin and installed loyalist Babrak Karmal. But after a decade it came to nothing, the Soviets were unable to do anything but withdraw in disgrace, letting the civil war rage on. The Soviet collapse happened a mere two years later in 1991.
This war is the root of the current problem. Roots the US planted. Operation Cyclone was a CIA program to arm and finance the Afghan Mujahideen (Britain’s MI6 was also involved). This saw money and arms funnelled to militant Islamist groups, and jihadist ones, to fight against the Soviets. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was also involved. There are also allegations the aid led to Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda as their origin is in this war. The Taliban was founded in 1994, five years after the war, supported by Pakistan. Their leaders were veterans of various Mujahideen factions from the war. The stage is set – all sides funded and supported by the CIA with the ISI the puppet-masters in the background. Pakistan is no ally, it's ludicrous we continue to treat them as such, but the same can be said for the CIA.
Nothing in history points to a victory in Afghanistan, even when the leadership is killed and replaced. The resulting group usually splinters and Pakistan, Russia, and America wade in to take sides. America had to imperially occupy Afghanistan for 20 years to just hold the Taliban at bay. The Taliban had a fanatic zeal and willingness to die for their vision – meaning no matter the lives or money spent, they cannot be defeated; you cannot defeat a hydra by sniping heads in turn.
To leave was right, it was all a diversion anyway. Bin Laden was the ostensible invasion reason, but why did America stay after killing him? The 9/11 attackers were mostly Saudi, so why did they let Saudi Arabia off scot-free? Pakistan and their ISI are known to fund terrorist, jihadist, groups, but that’s also ignored, why? Why did they stay after Bin Laden’s death? Julian Assange was right in 2011 when he said the real reason for the war was “to use Afghanistan to wash money out of the tax bases of the US and Europe through Afghanistan and back into the hands of a transnational security elite. The goal is an endless war, not a successful war”.
The American left’s ideology is inherently universalistic and imperialistic, the American neo-cons who span the Democrat and GOP establishment, which may as well be a singular party, are wedded to war for their moral crusade, which they share with the left, and their pockets. Hence they all hate Assange, he cut through their masks. To make money off security crises you need security crises, and the CIA has always obliged. The Military-Industrial Complex can’t send innocents off into the meat grinder forever for their benefit. Trump made the bold decision to give the public their wish and end this tragedy. But Biden foolishly delayed the end from May to September, ignoring all warnings about the uselessness of the Afghan army and imminent collapse. Many cite the quietness from the Taliban as the reason to have stayed just a little longer – when this was due to them knowing America would be gone soon, they had to be patient, but Biden blew this trust and provoked them, and I cannot fathom why.
The Taliban are laughing in people’s faces. Perhaps America is the paper tiger, not China. The reason 20 years of work and imposition of American liberalism on Afghanistan folded in mere days was a combination of four things: liberalism is a foreign ideology, its inherent weakness as a social-relational structure, the Taliban’s overwhelming fanaticism and zeal, and the essential hollowness of liberalism when exposed to its polar opposite.
America should get out, stay out, and never go back to Afghanistan. But the forces which propagated the war and stand to lose their benefits are still here. I am glad we have left, but this is not the end of the War on Terror. Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange have both sounded the alarm that the war has increasingly turned domestic, the PATRIOT Act was fundamentally domestic after all, and now without Afghanistan to be the security crisis, we will see the focus shift further inwards. The War on Terror is coming home, argues Greenwald. Sadly, it appears to be true.
Image - Flickr (U.S. Embassy Bern, Switzerland)