Is Afghanistan A Quagmire Of International Politics? – OpEd


Many incidents in Afghanistan have been rocking the world for several days. The horrific scenes of Afghans rushing out of Kabul Airport, crowding on the same plane to depart the country, many young Afghans being dropped off a plane are being widely reported in the international media. Besides, IS’s suicide bombings during the rescue operation have trembled the international community. And so on August 31, the US-led Western forces declared the end of their bloody war in Afghanistan after two decades. In this way, they shoved Afghanistan towards an uncertain future.

This uncertain future began when US President Biden announced the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Biden’s announcement was so blessed for the Taliban that they began occupying Afghanistan at lightning speed. As a result, the Taliban were able to invade Afghanistan in less than two weeks.

Moreover, the Taliban’s strategy was so flourishing that the West didn’t get enough time to evacuate Afghanistan. So the Afghan campaign was a shameful defeat for the USA & the Westerners. 

Exactly two decades ago, America and its allies launched an operation in Afghanistan to avenge the 9/11 attack. Through the War on Terror campaign, the Westerners quickly overthrew al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime that sheltered them in Afghanistan. Later, the Western forces spent a lot of money to restore peace and establish democracy in Afghanistan. They’ve even invested billions of dollars in Afghan forces to keep Afghanistan free of the Taliban. Despite all this, peace hasn’t returned to Afghanistan, bloody violence hasn’t terminated. The Taliban, which has been combatting the Western forces for two decades have taken over Afghanistan once again. 

As the saying goes, no one learns from history. The USA also made a historic fault by ignoring history. I say this because the previous history of foreign powers in Afghanistan isn’t satisfactory. Even before the USA, foreign powers have appeared in Afghanistan. The aggression of Alexander the Great, the Persian Empire, the Mongols, Britain, or the Soviet Union all failed to colonize Afghanistan. That’s why Afghanistan is called the ‘Graveyard of Empires’. Now the USA is buried in that cemetery. 

However, if we put history aside and analyze the Afghan issue through reality, we can see the miscalculation of the Western world on the Afghan question. Today’s Afghan crisis is the outcome of it. 

One of those miscalculations was not understanding the Taliban’s capabilities. The Americans knew that the Taliban would emerge soon after their departure. US intelligence report claims the Taliban will take 18 months to occupy Afghanistan. But to everyone’s surprise, they captured the whole of Afghanistan in just two weeks. So underestimating the Taliban’s capabilities was a huge strategic failure of the Westerners. 

Furthermore, over-valuing the Afghan forces was another miscalculation of the Westerners. In addition, over the past two decades, America has spent trillions of dollars training Afghan forces with modern weapons. Despite this, Afghan armies failed to tackle the Taliban. As a result, the Taliban battalions easily apprehended Afghanistan without wasting a single bullet.

Additionally, having faith in former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was another great fault. For many years, the West aided huge sums of money to the Ashraf administration to maintain stability in Afghanistan. But the root of the Ashraf Ghani administration’s corruption was so deep that they failed to utilize that aid. As a result, Afghan forces were deployed to the battlefield without any logistical backup. Due to which Afghan forces became demoralized. 

Nonetheless, Biden didn’t have any specific plans before proclaiming the withdrawal of troops, evacuation of Afghans & Americans continued without prior management. The IS bombings at Kabul Airport proved how messy Biden’s plan was. As a result, 180 people, including 13 US troops, were assassinated. 

Most importantly, imposing Western ideology on the Afghans was the biggest blunder ever. After the 9/11 incident, America and its allies pretend that the operation was crucial to establish liberal democracy and the rule of law in Afghanistan. Additionally, America has spent 3 trillion dollars and Britain has financed 37 billion dollars in the name of so-called country reconstruction and nation-building. Despite this, the Westerners have failed to alter Afghans’ mentality. Because no great power has been able to shake the independent attitude of Afghans to date. 

It’s needless to say that the Taliban are quite successful where the Western world has failed. The Taliban we see now is different from the Taliban before 9/11. They’ve run shadow governments in areas under their control. Talibans often mobilized public support against the Afghan government’s corruption & anarchy. 

They also fabricated a circumstance of terror against the military and government forces. Talibans’ this strategy is closely relevant to Sun Tzu’s war theory. In his book ‘Art of War’, he mentioned manipulating social status and military power to spread panic in the enemy camps. So Sun Tzu’s theory has been instrumental in the success of the Taliban.

Notwithstanding, Talibans now prefer to be part of regional and international politics rather than isolation. They’ve realized that Afghans can’t be ruled by extremism. 

They’re now working in search of global recognition. It seems that Russia, China and Pakistan are going to recognize Talibans. As Afghanistan becomes more crucial in Asian geopolitics, the three countries want to take advantage of it. 

China’s interests in Afghanistan are largely economic. It desires to grasp Afghanistan’s precious raw materials. It often claims to expand the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project by using Afghanistan as a route between South Asia and Central Asia. Moreover, China seeks assurances that Talibans won’t advocate Uyghur separatists. 

On the other hand, Pakistan has been endorsing the Taliban from the beginning. The recent meeting of the ISI chief with the Taliban indicates that. Also, Pakistan wishes to provide all kinds of assistance to the Talibans. 

Russia is following in the footsteps of Pakistan and China. They’ve already met with a Taliban delegation in Moscow. 

But India, Turkey, Iran, the USA & the Western world aren’t ready to acknowledge the Taliban right now. They expect to move forward considering the fulfillment of the Taliban’s promises. 

Nonetheless, in the days ahead, Talibans will face many troubles also. The first challenge is obtaining Afghan people’s support. We know there are many ethnic groups in Afghanistan. Talibans represent the majority of Pashtuns. Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks also inhabit there. They’ll take a big test of the Taliban’s acceptability. 

Besides, maintaining human rights & women’s rights will be a great challenge for the Taliban also.

Moreover, it won’t be easy for the Taliban to maintain the stability of the country’s economy and security. 

Additionally, many are skeptical about whether Biden’s decision to exit Afghanistan was the right decision. According to Western analysts, Biden’s decision has created a security dilemma in Asia, but it’s reasonable for the USA. He realizes neither “nation-building” nor democracy is possible in Afghanistan. He also comprehends that prolonging the Afghan War means wasting more money, sacrificing more bloodshed. So he told the Afghans to continue their struggle. 

But there’re deep doubts about whether the Afghans will be able to keep going their struggle. Because the West’s evacuation of Afghanistan & the rise of the Taliban is a huge blow to Afghans. The emergence of the Taliban doesn’t imply that the upcoming days will be safe. Additionally, there’s no guarantee that al-Qaeda or IS won’t emerge in Afghanistan.

 Now the future of Afghanistan depends on how Talibans treat Afghans. At the same time, Talibans must understand that they can no longer impose their will on the Afghan people. Because no force has been able to rule Afghanistan permanently by forcing the Afghans. 

*Ashiq Iqbal Jishad is pursuing undergraduate education from the Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka. His research interests include migration, transatlantic relations, Eurasian issues, European Union, and NATO affairs.

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