By Ubaid Ahmed*
The conflict of prudence and passion runs through history. Translated into words of Bertrand Russell ‘it is not’ the conflict in which we ought to side wholly with either party. However, all wars must end. But what matters the most is the way they end. For their end is going to define the future global strategic geopolitical landscapes.
On 31st of August US ended its longest war in Afghanistan. The ‘longest war’ hounded four US presidents, who all reckoned the American setbacks, a notorious enemy, a constantly frustrated and weakened Afghan government and a ‘Non-NATO’ ally which allegedly provided a great deal with safe havens to the militants. Now calling the withdrawal Biden’s Saigon moment though relatable term to define the tragic end to the US longest war will not suffice the withdrawal. It involved four US presidents, two decades and roughly 83 million dollars. However, Biden must be lauded for pulling the plug for none prior to him dared pulling.
Nevertheless, what stands out to be the chronicled reality is the Afghan Peace deal signed in early 2020 that gave the impetus to the withdrawal and a quick Taliban take over. The then POTUS, Donald Trump signed the ‘Peace Deal’ and added, “if bad things happen we will go back with a force like no one has ever seen.” The deal, however, was nothing more than a piece of paper with fraught lacunae. The peace deal totally politically undermined the democratically elected government of Ashraf Ghani. The deal only offered more Time to the Taliban. Nobody was looking out for the Taliban advances and the geopolitical interests of Afghan government. The height of incongruity today at the part of the US is that the same Afghan government is wanted to exhibit resistance which was kept excluded from the negotiation process in Doha. Surprisingly it is also the same Afghan government which the US did not even bother notifying whence leaving Bagram Airbase in July. Rather than bridging the differences between Afghan government and Taliban and building confidence among the said parties, the deal did exactly the reverse.
As a matter of fact the Taliban’s quick takeover of the Kabul became possible because with the withdrawal the US also pulled the aerial support, intelligence and other contracting services. This clearly implies that Afghan military could not be any functional. Moreover, corruption already had deepen its roots, for soldiers were badly led and poorly paid. The Afghan government forces also met with shortage of supplies and food.
The complete collapse of Afghan Army and the Taliban takeover is quite intriguing and punctuated with series of coincidences. For instance more or less the same faces are into play yet again from Haqqanis to Abdullah Abdullah and Hamid Karzai. Amazingly, Abdullah Abdullah was neither harmed by the Al-Qaeda then nor by the Taliban now. The cost of war in terms of casualties suggests that more Afghans and Pashtuns have been dead than the foreign troops fighting the Taliban. Likewise, the US-Taliban bonhomie in fighting the ISKP also speaks volumes otherwise. There are numerous reports arguing how the US bolstered Taliban themselves with arms and ammunition in battling the ISKP. The commander CENTCOM, General Kenneth Franklin McKenzie himself has said that the Taliban were and are providing support to the US with coordinates and intelligence sharing regarding the ISKP.
Furthermore, the way events are unfolding under the Taliban regime it is difficult to imagine how the Taliban be trusted to ensure that other terror groups will not operate in Afghanistan. The ‘Longest War’ which was apparently started to end terrorism will now culminate in giving birth to more terrorism in its all new manifestations. It is worth mentioning that the Taliban regime now is also neighboring nuclear armed states and giving them a chance means giving them the leverage too to capitalize upon in the times to come. However, conceived out of the burning flames of ill-fated strategy of the US and allies this Taliban regime has got huge chunks of seized American ammunition with more refined strategies. Their operational art now combines more sophisticated information operations including the use of Twitter and thus will have far reaching implications both at the regional and global stage.
To sum it up, the Taliban’s lightening sweep stuns the world but at the same time it does open a Pandora box of questions ranging from prudence to passion. Here I leave it to the readers to decide themselves, ‘did the US surrender?’
*Ubaid Ahmed. Mphil Scholar, School of Politics & International Relations, Quaid e Azam University, Islamabad. He tweets @ubaidtweets and can be reached at [email protected]