Balwan Nagial
Balwan Nagial

The defeat of The US in Afghanistan

History repeats itself. Two decades ago, the US-led forces defeated the Taliban in October 2001 in Afghanistan, and the Taliban has regained the lost power from the US. The US is challenged with a historic rout in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban. America’s longest war on terrorism has ended in chaos and confusion. Taliban, after capturing significant cities of Afghanistan, is now standing at the doors of Kabul. Ready to take over anytime. This reminds us of the fallout of the Vietnam war in 1975. Afghanistan has fallen within the four months of the announcement of withdrawal of troops by the US. It means Afghans did not have faith in the American sponsored government machinery. Furthermore, in contrast, the Taliban enjoyed the support of the people of Afghanistan.

The election of George W. Bush in 2000 in the US marked the beginning of this disaster. It was the beginning of the new century and a unipolar world after the end of the cold war. America’s defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan led to the financial crisis in 2008. Roughly after the departure of George W.Bush in 2008, the unipolarity ended, and the military of the US was contested by many in the world. America is now seen as a declining superpower. Now, its defeat in Afghanistan will be seen as a weakness of US power. Indeed, it questions the military and political capability of America.

The US was perceived as a declining power in the late 1970s. The loss of America’s presence in Iran after the successful Islamic Revolution in 1979 and the rise of the leftist in Nicaragua further strengthened the belief. Somehow, the Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan started the cold war again, which ended in 1991 when the former USSR broke.

If America could make such an enormous inaccuracy and suffer such an appalling defeat in Afghanistan, who will believe its decision in East Asia or the South China Sea.

Military power has been central to America’s global role since 1945. It played a significant role in the decline of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. America has long thought that pompous military strong point which was the primary factor in enabling it to get its way in the world. That is why its military expenditure has been far greater than that of any other country. The first significant setback to this philosophy was Vietnam. Now we have the examples of Iraq and Afghanistan. In each of these cases, America had a massive military benefit, but it proved entirely insufficient and ineffective in the situations. The significance was to win over the people, and military dominance could not win the divergent hearts and minds. The US pursued to placate the country overpoweringly by force. There was no serious attempt to increase the economic growth in a dreadfully developing country.

Why the US failed in Afghanistan? The world thought that the US was building a sustainable and capable Security Force in Afghanistan. As Iraqi divisions failed in quick succession when confronted with ISIS, Afghan Defence Forces have crumbled like a pack of cards.

  • From the beginning, almost two decades ago, the American military’s effort to counsel and guide Iraqi and Afghan forces was considered like a pickup game, informal, ad hoc, and absent of strategy.
  • Mostly, these men and women bravely made it up as they went along. The US training staff was mostly untrained personnel from administrative backgrounds and focused on tactical tasks, reporting progress in colourful charts.
  • The US did not positively build the Iraqi and Afghan forces as institutions. America failed to create the required infrastructure that dispensed effectively with military education, training, pay systems, career progression, personnel, accountability—all the things that make a professional security force.
  • Replacing teams through tours of six months to a year, the US Army could not solve the frustrating problems Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s armies and police faced.
  • There were widespread corruption, plunging morale, extensive drug use, terrible maintenance, and clumsy logistics.
  • The US should not have been involved in training the local police.
  • America filed to win the hearts and minds of the local populace.
  • The US-led forces lacked the professional and personal experience to build national institutions and systems. They never had a chance to make policing work. The US military could not overcome the national and institutional lack of experience.
  • If we look back, we can say the US also failed to institutionalise large-scale conventional forces until it was very late.

Conclusion: The victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan is now complete. The speed of the breakdown of the central government and its military has been spectacular and will branch never-ending inquests about what went wrong and who is to blame. However, the instantaneous state of affairs requires attention to curtail a massive humanitarian catastrophe.

The failure of Afghanistan’s American and European associates to defend it from the Taliban is apparent. Nevertheless, this guilt will be heightened if these countries once again fail to facilitate a mass evacuation of the Taliban’s most directly under threat.

The global community must state clearly to the Taliban that atrocities against women and girls will be met with harsh sanctions. Regional actors that have aided and abetted the Taliban over the past two decades should face similar consequences.

Those outside the Washington bubble have long understood the hollowness of American statements about democracy and human rights—but the long-term damage to the credibility of American rhetoric from the disaster will be felt for years to come. The Biden administration’s callous April announcement might be the straw that broke the camel’s back, but every US administration since 2001 is culpable and must be held accountable. America owes that much to Afghanistan.

This tragedy was a long time coming. The even greater tragedy will be if the US fails to learn suitable lessons from it. The militarised operations on the ‘war on terrorism’ abstracted precious attention and resources away from more proximate threats to human life, from global pandemics to climate change to domestic terrorism and political unrest. Dynamic engagement with allies globally and partners are now urgently needed to tackle the other challenges.

About the Author
Colonel Balwan Nagial retired from the Indian Army in 2019 after serving for thirty years. Managed administration, security, project mgt throughout his service. He loves writing and contributing in newspapers and magazines in India. He loves Israeli culture.
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