Kabul surrenders. The Afghan government promises a peaceful transfer of power, the president has left the country. The Taliban can move into the capital without a fight. But even without fighting there will be a bloody reckoning. A horrific future lies ahead of Afghanistan. Many Afghans, especially many women, will find no way out, no way to escape.
It is a terrible moment. The world watches in disbelief as Afghanistan again comes under the rule of Talibans. Within a few days, one city after another fell into the hands of the religious warriors. Nobody, really nobody, had thought it possible that the Taliban would advance so quickly. The government soldiers did not oppose them, but fled in panic. And left behind a terribly rigid civilian population.
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Is Joe Biden responsible for this disaster? Did the US President cause the collapse with his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021? Would a continued presence of elite US units, combined with air strikes on the advancing Taliban, prevent their triumph? No, military resistance from outside would have delayed the advance, if at all, it would not have stopped it.
I’m not going to hand this war over to a fifth president
For a long time Biden no longer believed that the West could permanently stabilize Afghanistan. As early as 2009, when he was still Vice President under Barack Obama, he objected to a renewed increase in the US contingent. He did not see a reliable partner in the political leadership in Kabul. Elected US President, Biden made it clear that he would end America’s longest war. He has now reaffirmed this determination to withdraw, with the Kabul case in mind.
I was the fourth president to have US troops in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats. I’m not going to turn this war over to a fifth president
The United States, supported by NATO, intervened in Afghanistan 20 years ago for a specific reason: They wanted to take the Taliban-protected area of refuge from the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, which attacked New York and Washington, DC on September 11, 2001. This goal was achieved with the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011 at the latest. Nation building, on the other hand, has failed all along the line — the establishment of democratic, civil society structures, which should enable the women of Afghanistan in particular to lead a life in dignity and self-determination.
Nobody should downplay the goodwill and impressive commitment of all those who have tried to help Afghanistan on its way into the modern age: the soldiers, the humanitarian workers, the doctors and nurses, the entrepreneurs and diplomats. They have made great personal sacrifices, many having paid for their commitment with their lives. Nevertheless, the country is now falling back into Islamist despotism.
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Is that primarily or solely the fault of the West, which should never have been allowed to intervene in Afghanistan, which simply had no place in the Hindu Kush? That is how you can argue. But there were also many examples where help was received, where things were changing for the better. But these advances in schools, hospitals, universities and the media were apparently only possible with constant military protection . And the Americans — and also the Europeans — were not ready for an endless mission. It is ludicrous when individual politicians demand that military intervene again in order to push back the Taliban. There will be no mandate for this, regardless of whether in Washington, DC, or Berlin.
The army surrendered to the Taliban without resistance
Of course, the US and NATO operations should not have ended so hastily. But that doesn’t change a few basic facts. The Afghan army consists of 300,000 soldiers, at least on paper. There are only an estimated 75,000 Taliban fighters. The United States invested around $ 83 billion in equipment and training for the Afghan military — but in the end the army surrendered to the Taliban without resistance. The soldiers did not want to fight for a thoroughly corrupt government that sometimes did not even provide them with food at their locations.
An extension of the western troop presence by one, two or five more years would not have changed the bankruptcy of the political leadership in Kabul . It is not the West that has abandoned the Afghan people, but their own government with its incompetent army leadership.
Nevertheless, attempts must be made again and again to provide humanitarian aid. Also in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are now reestablishing their despotic regime. Human rights apply universally, nobody is allowed to stand idly by as a people is subjugated and disenfranchised. But outside help can only come by force of arms in an absolutely exceptional case. And she needs capable, credible partners inside.
The time will come to learn from the mistakes made in Afghanistan. Today the sadness prevails in the face of the tragedy of failure.
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Originally published at https://zaviews.blogspot.com.