"We can only hope and pray that the Taliban government learned its lessons well."
The 20-year war in Afghanistan — formally known as Operation Enduring Freedom launched in 2001 after the 9/11 World Trade Center bombing by the US and its NATO allies and joined later on by Canada, Australia and New Zealand to oust the then Taliban government,which was suspected of having harbored many of the perpetrators of that dastardly attack on American soil—ended last Sunday with the triumphant return of this Islamic movement to Kabul.
For the third century in a row, Afghanistan has once again cemented its place in the pantheon of international conflicts as the graveyard of empires, a distinction which no other country in modern history can lay claim to.
The United States and its allies are the latest to depart from what historians call the “colonial misadventure” in ignominy. Early on, in the 19th century, the British learned that lesson in the 1839-1842 war they launched from the comfort of their bases in the then undivided India. For 10 years after invading Afghanistan in 1979 to solidify their footprint within the Central Asian axis of nations, the Soviet Union learned its own bitter lesson and had to march off with nary a bang. At least, they were able to drive part of their tanks back to the USSR unlike the US and its allies who had to scramble their way out.
What makes this especially painful and embarrassing to the world’s remaining superpower is the manner by which the ending happened. It was swift and calculated, leaving the US and its allies scrambling to evacuate their citizens and a limited number of their Afghan enablers to safety.
So swift was the Taliban takeover that it took place less than a month after US President Joe Biden declared that “there was no way the Taliban would be able to march to Kabul at all as it was not like the North Vietnamese Army sending brigades into the US Embassy in Saigon in 1976”—or words to that effect. Well, they did even better. Not a single shot was fired when Taliban fighters entered the presidential palace and declared the war over. Even the fighters could not believe their luck—the touted 300,000 strong Afghan Defense Forces simply melted away leaving thousands of newly minted war materials to the tender mercies of the “invaders.” To top it all, they managed to do so while the “peace talks” to end all hostilities were ongoing in Qatar. Wow, what a disgraceful spectacle complete with the fleeing in a hurry like a thief in the night of the US-backed former President Ghani.
As one former US Marine officer who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan said he was hanging his head in shame at the sight of a totally disorganized and decidedly cowardly US-led departure, leaving the country in ruins and its people in complete subjugation.
“If they have any honor left in their bones,” the officer angrily bellowed in an interview with BBC News, “those who planned and executed this shameful departure should immediately resign or be court martialed and face the consequences of their idiocy.” Well, I am sure there will be time for laying the hands of justice on those who committed those grave mistakes.
For now, what is needed is to evacuate all those needing to be evacuated, restrain any acts of violence and vengeance and ensure the safety of those left behind. This task will now have to be organized under the aegis of the United Nations and those countries who have now recognized the Taliban government.
As for us, we can only hope and pray that the Taliban government learned its lessons well in governance and in its relations with the community of nations. One such lesson we are hopeful will be embedded is their disavowal of terrorism and its related underpinnings. We certainly call on the reinstalled Taliban regime to finally dismantle any terrorist bases and training camps in Afghanistan and give notice to the world that from hereon they will not allow any such operations in that benighted land.