The Taliban has announced the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan after they took control of Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, unlike the late Afghan President Dr Muhammad Najibullah Ahmadzai who refused to leave. Najibullah was later tortured and killed by the Taliban in September 1996 after the fall of Kabul. Najibullah was hailed as an Afghan hero for his stand against the Taliban. However, Ghani leaves behind a legacy of broken promises and cowardness. Just before Kabul fell to the Taliban, Ghani addressed the Afghan nation in a pre-recorded video saying he will continue to fight the Taliban and stop the imposed conflict on the Afghan people. The next few hours panned out nothing like he had promised as he left for Tajikistan.
It must be recognized that Ghani was just a pawn. The United States really messed up and miscalculated the pace at which the Taliban swept through the country. Certain quarters allege that Washington had planned this all along and expected the tame surrender of the Afghan Armed Forces. The claims that the US’ sudden withdrawal was actually intended to use the Taliban as a deterrent to China’s advances into Southwest Asia are absurd at best. Such propaganda soundbites sound like pathetic attempts at face-saving when by Sunday, leading figures in the US administration had acknowledged the utter speed of the Afghan security forces’ debacle had come as a surprise. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN that the Taliban takeover has happened more quickly than they had anticipated. It is nothing but downright ridiculous to give the Pentagon credit for what has unfolded in the past week or so.
One outright loser in this scenario is US President Joe Biden who presented himself as a seasoned expert in international relations during his run for the presidency. Since the day he entered the White House, he has talked down the prospect of the Taliban taking over once US Allied troops leave Afghanistan. Biden probably knew that there was no easy way out of Afghanistan as he inherited it from his Republican predecessor Donald Trump. Trump set the table for the US exit from Afghanistan before he stepped down from the Oval Office. It is improbable to imagine that Trump planned to corner Biden into taking the blame for Washington’s retreat from Afghanistan but then that sounds exactly like something Trump would do and take advantage of in his bid for the White House in 2024. He has already asked Biden to resign and only time will tell if Biden will be reelected but it is certain that Trump will take the incumbent to cleaners if the republican decides to run.
Consequently, Biden had been under extensive domestic pressure to finally end the 20-year war since the day he took the oath. The majority of the American public finds it unnecessary to risk any more lives or spend billions of more dollars on a country which they believe the US should have left in 2011 after Osama Bin Laden was killed. Certainly, Biden’s President Barack Obama missed a trick but it seems like he did not want to be known as the commander in chief who ran away from Afghanistan.
In hindsight, Biden should be – quite weirdly – lauded for his courage for accepting that his name will be listed along with ex-President Gerald Ford under whose presidency the Fall of Saigon took place. The American media is absolutely grilling Biden for what they are calling a ‘clearly botched’ drop scene of the Afghan campaign. Biden was arguably desperate for a landmark success and just as starting a war wins elections, he had to gamble on ending this war to protect his fragile majority in both chambers of the US Congress in next year’s midterms. Ending the war always had bipartisan support, but Biden is really under fire for his chaotic withdrawal policy.
The end of America’s longest war was written but it was supposed to happen quietly. However, the embarrassing American departure from Kabul will echo for generations, especially after Biden himself claimed in early July that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan will be different from the urgent evacuation from Saigon in the final days of the Vietnam war.
How cruel can history be!