Dilemma of Two Decades – “The Fall Of Kabul”


Syeda Durr-e-Shahwar
“Plus ca change Plus cest la meme” – “the more things change the more they stay the same”, is the crux of Afghanistan show of last two decades. The outcome of the war cannot be measured on the conventional grounds as the US did not lose the war in the sense that it was defeated and occupied, but it lost the war in the sense of validity, i.e. the US technically did not achieve the war goals. Besides, the costs have been astonishing: two and -a-half-thousand Americans died, 20,000 injured, a trillion dollars or more devoured and …. ta-da….. ‘Boys’ are back to power victoriously, snarking in face of America. Even if we consider that removing AL-Qaeda not the Taliban from the face of the Earth was the US goal then still it was not among the slightest intentions of US policy to bring Taliban back to power in Afghanistan. Of the possibility that if ‘Boys’ are in power, then this could only be the blessings of US ; or might be the strategic policy of America has found new moves in the gambit and hence felt unthreatened from Taliban anymore. Whatever the case, it is safer to believe in discernible then to believe in covert and act accordingly. Considering the optics, there are certain reasons behind the fall of Kabul. The writers around the world have flooded the print and e-media profoundly. The most consensual of all the reasons that can be found are: US incapability to understand the psychology of Afghan soil; US idealistic and somewhat misconceived conceptualization of contemporary wars; the incompetence at the hands of planning and execution of military engagement by US; and Taliban’s steady devotion to their objectives. America’s poor understanding of Afghanistan’s soil and political reality of the country is one of the major causes. The reputation of Afghanistan’s territory for thwarting the expansionist ambitions was not clandestine, US, however, ignored the fact. According to Thomas Barefield, the fact behind the repute is “by making the country so ungovernable, that they wanted to leave and this strategy eventually “came to hunt the Afghan themselves” as each conflict left state institutions weaker and rising groups more brutal. It is quite relatable to the political dynamics of the region historically. Afghani soil’s, according to Henry Kessinger, “fractiousness, inaccessibility and absence of Central authority made it an attractive base for terrorists” and these are the same reasons that the invaders hardly became successful fighting with these clan based decisive forces with thousands of trans-national fighter’s support at the back. Secondly, and most probably America is still cherishing its victorious dreams of conventional war of WWII, whereas, as per Dominic Tierneys – political scientist, “almost all wars are now civil wars and, complex arenas of counterinsurgency and terrorism”. The poor military planning and the rushed and chaotic evacuation of US from Afghanistan clearly depict its chance- medley. US might had been waiting for a ceremony which could mark – a fair winner and a fair looser. Thirdly, the Taliban’s understanding of these local networks comprising of complex loyalties was far greater. The unwavering commitment of Taliban was more nuanced than US. It was the war on their soil but for US it was just like a war on another planet. It also brings to mind an old adage that “you have the watches but we have the time” an Afghan proverb now famous in context of capabilities vs commitment in this war. Fourthly, behind the Taliban’s gaining momentum, is the erosion of public trust in the government, due mainly to Corruption. As quoted by Kori Schake, a 2016 report by the Office of special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction that “Corrupt Officials at all levels of government victimized and alienated the Afghan population. Substantial US funds found their way to insurgent groups”. The corruption among military as well as Afghan police was rampant and it led the corrupt officials to skim around $300 million. The Taliban’s taking control of provinces and zero resistance from the check posts were the clear indication that tables have been turned long ago especially by gradual shift of public opinion. Last but not the least was the Trump agreement with the Taliban which proved to be a death blow. The release of 5k Taliban fighters and to cease targeting US Personnel without any concession for Afghan forces were parts of the agreement too and it clearly led to the demoralization of Afghan military. Hence, this has to go down in history as a major US failure (till we witness some long term benefits) after its defeats in Vietnam and Iraq war. The US has been added as another empire in the list of “Graveyard of empires” a sobriquet famous for Afghanistan.A probable shift in understanding the nomenclature of “Taliban” is also underway and a public opinion of “heroic” Taliban’s might take some place in history literature in future. We probably would see inscribed on somewhere; ‘there was a war between a mountainous, rugged, and uncivilized nation- lesser in human and ammunition resource, and a super power of the world who had immense capabilities and the ‘unrefined’ won the war’.