Above Photo: CIA officer helps evacuees onto an Air America helicopter at 22 Gia Long Street, Saigon, April 29, 1975. (Hubert van Es/Wikipedia)
Though the Taliban may be unpopular with many Afghans at least they are Afghans and not a propped-up government under foreign occupation, writes Joe Lauria.
Biden administration officials on Thursday said they expected the Taliban to arrive in the Afghan capital in 30 days and were sending in troops to evacuate the U.S. embassy and U.S. civilians. Just three days later the Taliban surprised Washington by arriving in Kabul on Sunday. The Afghan president has fled the country.
How could the U.S. have gotten it so wrong? How did the U.S. spend $83 billion training and equipping the Afghan army and see it fail so spectacularly?
The answer is that the United States has never understood, or cared to understand, Afghanistan from the first day its troops arrived in 2001 to the last diplomat leaving the country.
No doubt many Afghans fear a resumption of Taliban rule after two decades, with its draconian rules against music, the cinema and girls going to school.
But there is a reason why the Afghan military dissolved before the advancing Taliban, putting up no resistance whatsoever, despite Washington banking on them holding out for at least a month: the Taliban may be rotten but they are Afghans. They may impose an unpopular, repressive regime but they are not a foreign occupation force.
‘Afghan People Will Never Allow It’
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai used to be derisively called the “Mayor of Kabul.” His authority stopped at the city’s gates. Even while in power he blasted the United States for not caring about the country. “The United States and NATO have not respected our sovereignty. Whenever they find it suitable to them, they have acted against it. This has been a serious point of contention between us…,” he said in 2013.
“They commit their violations against our sovereignty and conduct raids against our people, air raids and other attacks in the name of the fight on terrorism and in the name of the resolutions of the United Nations. This is against our wishes and repeatedly against our wishes,” Karzai said. “The United States and its allies, NATO, continue to demand even after signing the BSA [Bilateral Security Agreement] they will have the freedom to attack our people, our villages. The Afghan people will never allow it.”
The U.S. may condemn Taliban rule, but it was instrumental in its creation by supporting mujahideen in the 1980s against a secular, Soviet-backed government that supported women’s rights. After 2001, propping up rulers in Kabul and warlords with pallets of cash, while trying to militarily conquer the towns and villages scattered across a vast, mountainous land, was doomed to fail. And why should it have succeeded?
Keeping U.S. and NATO forces in the country at best would have prolonged an endless stalemate. Joe Biden is being grilled alive, even by establishment Democrats, for the events unfolding at this moment. It may even be political suicide. But it was the right move to finally pull out.
The Taliban may keep girls out of school and kill civilians, but the U.S. and its NATO allies slaughtered Afghan girls and many thousands of other innocent people in atrocities over its two decades of trying to control the graveyard of empires. Read WikiLeaks‘ Afghan War Diary.
Americans liked to call Afghanistan the Soviet Union’s Vietnam. Well, Afghanistan is now America’s second Vietnam.
The comparisons are even in the mainstream media: Propping up corrupt regimes in Saigon and Kabul; the Pentagon Papers and the Afghanistan Papers showing how U.S. leaders lied in exactly the same manner about how both wars were progressing; and the latest comparison: the evacuation of the embassies in Saigon and Kabul.
More than 45 years after the U.S. quit Saigon in humiliating defeat there are still questions asked about what the U.S. motive for the war really was. Was it economic, strategic, ideological or all three? The same question can be asked as the U.S. quits Kabul in humiliating defeat.
It seemed a main reason was control of Afghanistan’s vast, untapped mineral wealth. Why would the U.S. leave that behind? Perhaps one should not be surprised in the not-too-distant future to see U.S. companies negotiating for digging rights with the Taliban. In the 1990s, U.S. oil company Unocal flew Taliban leaders to Houston to work on a pipeline deal.
These sorts of things have always seemed more important to U.S. interests than schoolgirls reading a book.