US President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan by September 11 is commendable. He has shown the courage to admit defeat. Instead of prolonging a war which America is in no position to win, to cut losses and bring the boys home seems sensible. The US had sent the troops after the 9/11 attacks since its mastermind Osama bin Laden was operating from there. That was a legitimate pursuit. The Taliban rulers were sent packing.
However, the Americans were once again duped by Pakistan. They failed to finish the Taliban who regrouped with the help of the ISI. Even though it was clear that without slapping down on Pakistan’s duplicity the Taliban would be hard to defeat, the Americans poured in men and materials, paying billions in cash to Pakistan for the use of their land and airspace for transporting heavy war materials and other supplies. There could not be a more self-defeating operation. Yet, once bin Laden was killed in a Pakistani garrison, even then the Americans failed to cut their losses and return home.
By then, it was clear the Taliban could not be uprooted from the countryside while the puppet regime only controlled Kabul and some other urban centres. From 2001 to 2011 when bin Laden was eliminated, the Americans had spent a whole decade in Afghanistan without anyone in the state department confident enough to say that troop withdrawal would not result in the return of the Taliban.
Another decade later in 2021, the US finally seems resigned to that ugly outcome. Regardless of the pretence that the civilian regime would continue to have a stake in running Afghanistan, once the Americans leave the Taliban writ alone would run. Given how weak the civilian government is, how the Taliban have continued to perpetrate terrorist violence even as they hold talks with the Americans, the writing is on the wall. Islamist terrorists and their spiritual soulmates, the ISI will once again torment Afghanistan and the small freedoms and liberties enjoyed by Afghan men and women since the US intervention two decades ago will completely vanish.
Once again, the ISI would begin to plot jihadi attacks against India from the Afghan soil. India may have done a lot of development work in Afghanistan in the last two decades but the barbaric Islamists will remain prisoners to the ISI’s anti-India designs.
Meanwhile, it is significant that after the World War-II, Americans have rarely, if ever, succeeded in accomplishing whatever objective they set out to achieve through armed interventions abroad. Their losses in West Asia are too recent to require iteration here. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya et al, the history of US military participation in foreign conflicts is a long series of setbacks. The costs in human and material terms are so huge that any honest appraisal by an independent group would fault successive US administrations, both Democratic and Republican, for pursuing a failed foreign policy. Playing the role of a global policeman without achieving long-term goals has left America weak and bleeding.
As the Americans played the global policeman its rivals concentrated on growing their economies and militaries. As a result, you witness a far more confident Russia, the successor state to the collapsed Soviet Union, under Putin, and Xi Jinping’s China increasingly stepping on the American toes. Confidence stemming from a vastly enhanced military and economic power has found Putin messing up the American plot in Syria, stepping in once Obama failed to keep his threat to smack down on President Bashar Assad should he cross the 'red line' which he did when he used chemical weapons against the US-backed rebels.
Now, a very brutal Assad is firmly in control of a war-ravaged Syria. How long the Americans hold out in Iraq is not clear but the truth is that the country is in a mess and, not unlike Afghanistan, awaits the departure of foreign troops before erupting into a sectarian conflict of its own. Iran has a huge stake in Iraq and has played the spoiler for the Americans.
Even in Iran, the Chinese foray dictates that Americans will have to revive the nuclear deal Trump had cancelled unless it wants Beijing and Russia to egg on the Ayatollahs in Teheran to press full steam ahead and make the Islamist nuclear bomb. The growing threat a resurgent Russia and a belligerent China pose to America is cause enough for the US to concentrate its firepower, engage in rebuilding its economy and consolidating its position as the number one military and economic power.
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