|Afghan Taliban at the presidential palace in Kabul, Aug 15, 2021|
The US debacle in Afghanistan is a result of an enormous disconnect which, at its core, is cultural in nature.The concept of culture is key to understanding what occurred over the past 2 decades of US involvement in the country.Two cultures require examination.One is a Washington, DC-Beltway culture, namely an American-centric view of the world, that was prevented the US from achieving a successful outcome in Afghanistan. The other is Afghan culture which was never fully grasped by four American administrations, from George W. Bush through Joe Biden.
|Afghans trying to reach Kabul International Airport|
Following communism’s collapse, US foreign policymakers coalesced around the notion of a “Pax Americana.”This view of US global hegemony was reinforced by the idea of the “end of history,” the Washington Consensus, and a neoliberal approach to governance, based on the assertion that free markets and a “night watchman state” would surely produce prosperous democracies throughout the world.Post-communist US foreign policy also contained a residue of Cold War era “modernization theory” of the 1950s and 1960s where the US tried to convince former colonial countries that adopting a capitalist road of development would lead to greater success than following the competing Soviet model.
Afghanistan in the first place.When the Soviets invaded the country in 1979 to prop up an allied communist regime, Afghan warlords mobilized to fight the invaders.Many radical Islamists flocked to Afghanistan to join the struggle against the “apostate and atheist invaders.”
exceptionally brutal rule which soon was rejected by large swaths of Afghan society.
an independent country, the ISI and Pakistan government have responded by arguing that they are helping to create a Pashtun state in neighboring Afghanistan.Further, by having a friendly regime in power in Kabul, one dominated by Pashtuns, the Pakistani military and political establishment has felt the country obtains greater strategic depth to the West in face of the threat from India.
|2002 Loya Jirga which chose Hamid Karzai as president|
|Mohammed Zaher Shah, Afghanistan monarch, 1933-1973|
|Women parliamentarians in the Afghan National Parliament|
|President Ashraf Ghani meeting with Joe Biden, June 2021|
national army.More than 70,000 members of the Afghan national army and police were killed in fighting the Taliban, 20 times the number of US soldiers.However, the key to preventing the Taliban to seize large cities and provincial capitals was US air support.
|One of Afghanistan's non-functioning schools|
“Our secretary of state signed a surrender agreement with the Taliban,”
excessive bureaucratic hurdles in their way.This is not to disagree that the SIV process was always fraught with administrative backlogs and inefficiency, but that the Trump administration made the situation much worse.
represents a powerful and radical wing of the movement. Indeed, the Haqqani network, located in Pakistan, was designated a Foreign Terorrist Organization by the US in 2012.
Indeed, the Haqqani network, located in Pakistan, was designated a Foreign Terorrist Organization by the US in 2012.
US-Taliban relations moving forward
The Biden administration was unable to evacuate all Afghans who worked with the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, nor the many members of NGOs and civil society organizations who face threats from Taliban rule. Laser focus must be placed on assisting those Afghans at risk to leave the country. Because the US has frozen $9.4 billion of Afghan assets, this aid must be used to force the Taliban leadership to live up to its promise to allow anyone who seeks to leave safe passage to do so.
Given the dire economic and climate induced problems facing Afghanistan, it is doubtful that it will become any more of a base for terrorist groups than it was before the Taliban takeover. Indeed, the Taliban face a threat from the ISIS-Khorisan Province terrorist organization which attacked Kabul Airport on August 26th, killing 13 US soldiers and 200 Afghan civilians.
In Afghanistan's new reality, China and Russia now have concerns they both need to face. Increasing instability in Afghanistan under Taliban rule will pose new threats not only for the country itself, but the wider Central Asia region. US withdrawal from Afghanistan is not a zero-sum game with the US the sole loser and its major adversaries, China and Russia, the winners.