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Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert “Bob” Gates already warned in June that a U.S. troop withdrawal would lead to a collapse of the Afghan government.
Top American military commanders similarly warned president Joe Biden.
Without American and NATO airpower and logistical planning, Afghan troops couldn’t halt the Taliban’s offensive.
Likewise, the Waziristan agreements signed between the former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf and local Pakistani tribes in September of 2006 enabled the Taliban to retrench, organize, maintain ties of solidarity that ultimately take back Afghanistan.
Finally, the announcement of the Trump-Taliban agreement and its final implementation by Joe Biden demoralized Afghan soldiers whose spirits had already deteriorated due to high-levels of corruption by Afghan political and military officials — who failed to pay the soldiers’ security forces’ salaries.
By contrast, Taliban fighters felt increasingly motivated to recover their country from a corrupt government, and the nationalistic opposition to foreign occupation.
Taliban fighters were also driven by a solid religious drive.
However, this writer’s focus, in this piece, is on the implications of this very problematic situation.
The United States went to Afghanistan to fight terrorists and those who harbor them.
The Taliban refused to deliver al-Qaida terrorists living in Afghanistan, and that prompted the U.S. invasion.
The U.S. goal was quickly accomplished as al-Qaida and the Taliban went on the run.
However, the U.S. then moved into a second phase to build the Afghan nation and install democracy. That was accomplished to a certain extent as women, generally oppressed by the Taliban, could attend school, receive an education, and enjoy specific rights.
Likewise, 70% of the population has access to information inclusive of the internet.
Many refugees who fled Afghanistan after the first Taliban takeover returned to the country.
Yet, Afghanistan remains poor, in economic terms, with 47% of the population living below poverty and high infant mortality rates.
Poppy production increases as economic opportunities remain scarce.
The Afghan government installed in the aftermath of the U.S. intervention displayed a high level of corruption.
Former president Hamid Karzai committed electoral fraud.
Corruption reigned supreme in Afghan institutions and amongst government employees.
Illegal land-grabs by individuals with ties to security forces was commonplace.
Anarchy, crime, and drug trafficking prevailed.
In 2009 then Vice-President Biden abruptly left a meeting with Karzai in despair over Afghani corruption.
It seems that the United States and its western allies have not been able and will not be able to reverse these scenarios of chaos and corruption.
Nation-building is not possible either, not in Afghanistan or Central America.
Understand, the instances of post-World War Germany and Japan are exceptions, not the rule, and are not likely to be repeated.
However, is the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan vital to U.S. security?
President George W. Bush initially defined the war in Afghanistan as a war of “self-defense and not a war of revenge.”
Bush 43 intended to change the image of the United States following Reagan’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 1983 after a deadly terrorist attack. George W. Bush resented al-Qaida’s annoying statements; those labelling the U.S. as a “paper tiger,” incapable of resisting a challenge.
Bush planned to destroy al-Qaida and those who harbor them.
But, remember, the U.S. is also a democratic society, one in which public opinion counts.
The war in Iraq sparked some adverse reactions in American society.
Opposition to the war came not only from the Left.
Some conservative Republicans also felt the U.S. shouldn’t be involved in external conflicts and less so in nation-building.
Subsequent U.S. presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump ran for the presidency, in part, on the idea of putting an end to American wars abroad.
Obama’s flawed nuclear agreement with Iran (the JCPOA) and clumsy normalization with Cuba, as well as Trump’s defective agreement with the Taliban, reflect this mindset.
So, does the Afghanistan withdrawal affect our long-term security?
Could we have stayed in Afghanistan. Or, was it another Vietnam?
As Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has pointed out, there were no more than 3,000 American troops in Afghanistan providing training and supporting Afghan forces, and there were minimal American casualties by the time Biden assumed the Oval Office.
Indeed, the U.S. and its western allies provided logistical support and air power, but most of the work on the field was conducted by Afghans, who still had control of the major cities.
For decades, the United States has maintained troops in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and other countries.
It’s true that in Afghanistan, U.S. troops might have been targets of Taliban guerilla attacks.
But the Afghan military mainly was fighting them.
The anti-war hysteria prevalent in the American street and in both political parties led to a feckless withdrawal.
U.S. soldiers were motivated to serve in Afghanistan.
They knew why they were there and remained concerned about Afghans who assisted in war efforts. A soldier enlists in the army and is aware of the risks.
Soldiering is a selfless profession requiring individual sacrifice in the name of larger goals.
An artist or social justice activist may not not understand this motivation.
Now, we go back to the problem former President Bush presented in 2001:
Do the Taliban’s return to Afghanistan and its quick takeover of the country send a solid message to terrorist organizations, Muslim extremists, and Iran — that they can also succeed if they wish?
Have these rogue elements been emboldened?
Does America look like a paper tiger at a time when President Joe Biden pledged to contain China and Russia?
Is America’s foreign policy losing credibility and strength?
Unfortunately, the answer to these three questions is most likely a resounding “Yes!”
Luis Fleischman is a professor of Sociology at Palm Beach State College and the co-founder of the think tank the Palm Beach Center for Democracy and Policy Research. He is also the author of “Latin America in the Post-Chávez Era: The Security Threat to the United States” and “The Middle East Riddle: A Study of the Middle East Peace Process and Israeli-Arab Relations in Changing Times.”
Published in newsmax.com Thursday August 26, 2021.
“The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author”.