Although there was no uncertainty about the ongoing failure of the US to dislodge Taliban in Afghanistan after twenty years, President Biden addressed the withdrawal of US forces in his speech to the nation on August 16, 2021. People were in favour of his decision to end the war because of the agreement made between former US President, Mr. Donald Trump and the Taliban in February 2021. It is no secret that Joe Biden’s choice to exit the race was clearly the right one, and it had been a long time coming. Although it may have been frustrating for the nation to waste money and lives on a fruitless battle, it was for the best that he kept the war out of the hands of another president.
The problem was not the withdrawal itself, but the manner it was executed. Why would he believe that withdrawing soldiers without plans in place would be a good idea? People knew it was essential to deploy troops to protect the airport so the passengers and staff could be guaranteed safe passage. However, this came only after the chaotic state of Kabul frightened tens of thousands of Afghans and foreigners. Because the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations all committed mistakes, I think this final chapter continues that tradition. They know nothing about the Afghan people or the decade-long Soviet invasion in the 1980s, which ended with the Russians fleeing with their tails between their legs.
A Critical Error in Judgment from the Outset
Right after the ouster of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, with the aid of his Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and Vice-President, Dick Cheney, Bush rushed to invade Iraq in 2003. The Karzai-led transitional government did not accept his proposal to retain Taliban resistance. As president of Afghanistan, Karzai preceded Obama. He forgot about the Afghanistan war’s unfinished status and therefore left American troops with no plan to complete the mission, since neither he nor his senior commanders had prepared for how to conclude the operation after the successful removal of the Taliban from power.
The Citizens Are Being Forced to Live Under a Democratic Government
Electing to embark on a nation-building effort at the expense of establishing democracy was doomed from the start, and the results were disastrous. Democracy, human rights, and social transformation came to define the American ideal. Nevertheless, the United States decided to ignore the fact that a Western-style democracy would be a transitory solution for a country that had previously been a tribal society.
The United States must not participate in forcing democracy by any means as they have nothing to show for Vietnam, much alone the U.S.’s lengthy history of intervening in regime changes. Rather of influencing other nations by using soft power to establish a working democracy and human rights model, the US deploy a large military force to impose a new political order, only to return shortly afterwards and leave the country in the hands of insurgents.
Error in Military Estimation
Because the military leaders thought the battle was winnable and wanted to completely defeat the nation, the US military conducted three successive wars in Afghanistan under three consecutive presidents prior to Biden. The troops were sent to the battlefield in masse on the premise that victory over the Taliban was inevitable, but the field showed that their deployment was both wrong and misguided. These circumstances had the effect of exaggerating the military might of the Afghan National Army, leading to the defection of thousands of troops, and surrendering the weapons of many more to the Taliban. More than 2,300 U.S. military personnel were killed, and the Pentagon says $1 trillion was spent with little to show for it.
Ignoring the Taliban’s Resilience Will Lead to a Catastrophic Error
Every government before Biden’s failed to grasp or appreciate the country’s tribal nature, culture, and history, as well as the Taliban’s will to resist, which would devastate the country’s people. The Taliban in Afghanistan are homegrown warriors committed to safeguand and culture, who are inspired by a very devoted lifestyle based on Sharia law and a narrow interpretation of the Quran. According to them, they would never tolerate any foreign forces acting as if they were in charge, and they don’t see any reason to accept any foreign intervention, much alone a foreign invasion. They are willing to tolerate hard circumstances.
Unfortunately, despite Biden’s claims to the contrary, he still has no understanding of the Taliban’s dedication and resolve. Biden said little over a week ago that the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan was improbable, saying that the Afghan military had 300,000 well-equipped soldiers and an air force to battle the 75,000 Taliban fighters. Thus, Biden’s announcement of the early withdrawal allowed the Taliban additional time to prepare for their takeover. Afghanistan’s intelligence agencies had alerted the administration to the imminent collapse of the Afghan military and to the strong probability of the Taliban victory, but when it occurred, the Afghan government itself was unprepared for an attack on the Taliban.
It Was a Mistake to Leave Out the Tribal Chiefs
Despite the significance of tribal leaders in Afghanistan, all four of the administrations made the mistake of excluding them from discussions with the national government. The fighting would continue without the participation of tribal leaders. On the other hand, tribal leaders may have greater control over their people than the Taliban do. It is possible that the discussions might have turned out differently if the American delegation had included the chiefs.
There is an Increase in Corruption
Despite US efforts to revitalize the country and provide it a genuine government that responds to the people, corruption infected the top authorities and military personnel, destroying the nation from within. The United States recognizes that significant progress in social, economic, and political matters will not be possible until corruption is completely eliminated. The U.S. unfortunately did not insist that the country rid itself of all corrupt elements. The disastrous economic situation was responsible for billions of dollars in losses, numerous social programmes were undermined, and huge bribes were paid freely.
There is No Overarching Strategy
Because of mission creep, the United States’ goal changed from just ensuring the creation of a functional and stable democracy to also necessitating the implementation of such a system. Despite the fact that the Taliban have had many discussions with American officials on the subject of the eventual withdrawal of soldiers, the United States has failed to create a successful carrot-and-stick approach. While the United States did promise financial assistance to the Taliban in return for their compliance with specific human rights measures, they failed to follow through on any such deal.
Finally, to maintain peace and stability, Afghanistan need an active international involvement, as well as assistance from neighbouring nations and the international community. The US should assist to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. Moreover, the US should recognize the Taliban based on the gains the group has made in counterterrorism, human rights, and respect for the human condition. There must be a government in Afghanistan that can include all the people, because if that does not happen, Afghanistan’s humanitarian aid would end. Pakistan is taking part in negotiations on a common course of action in the area. However, Daesh’s presence in Afghanistan is a deadly spoiler to Indian goals there, and Indian and Pakistani interests in Afghanistan may not align. The area is not solely populated by Pakistan, thus it must compete with other key players. The Pakistani government must prepare for terrorism and other problems in a logical and national interest-driven way. Simultaneously, Pakistan should be preparing for a diplomatic failure and increased bloodshed in Afghanistan, which would lead to two significant spillovers: refugees fleeing into Pakistan and cross-border terrorism. The Taliban must show via their consistent efforts a genuine commitment to fighting terrorism.
*Gulshan Rafiq, Research Associate, Islamabad Policy Research Institute