By Sajjad Shaukat Pak VT
After rapidly overrunning provincial hubs, Taliban fighters on August 15, this year entered the Afghan capital Kabul and seized power, taking control of Afghanistan for the first time in almost 20 years, while Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and the United States, including other NATO countries already withdrew almost all of their military forces after the decades-long war.
Kabul’s international airport where the US forces along with British troops had presence in order to evacuate rapidly the remaining military personnel of the NATO and other Afghan citizens who have helped foreign troops. The airport has seen days of chaos, as thousands rushed the airport to enter the planes. In various events of firing, more than 20 civilians have been killed.
The Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State group (Also known as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL), known as the Islamic State Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), claimed responsibility for the airport bombing.
However, after taking over Afghanistan, the Taliban announced a general amnesty for government officials and their rivals, encouraged women to participate in its prospective government—allowing them to get the education and pledged that Afghan soil would not be a springboard for harming any country.
In this regard, a spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid said on August 17, 2021 at a news conference that they “are working to form a government” and elaborated: “I would like to assure the international community, including the U.S. that nobody will be harmed in Afghanistan…the Taliban’s aim is to make sure “Afghanistan is no longer a battlefield of conflict.”
This has, practically, been seen by the international community, when women returned to their jobs at government and private institutes, including media outlets.
In this respect, Afghan news outlet Tolo News posted footage on August 17, this year, which displayed its female anchor, Beheshta Arghand, interviewing a spokesman of the Taliban Afghanistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and ISIS which were being backed by RAW, CIA and Mossad have claimed responsibility for several terror assaults inside Pakistan and Afghanistan.
While, a senior leader of the Haqqani Network group, Anas Haqqani, met former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, the ousted government’s main peace envoy Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and leader of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar amid efforts to set up an inclusive government.
In a major development, the Taliban and the Northern Alliance agreed not to attack each other and the peace agreement will be announced during a press conference by the leaders of both sides, as Afghan sources indicated.
Despite the Taliban’s assurances and affirmations of maintaining peace and respecting human rights, especially of women and clarifying that Afghan soil would not be used for any terrorist outfits like Al-Qaeda and the ISIS, America and some of its Western allies, including their media have launched a propaganda campaign against the Taliban. Thus, particularly, Biden administration wants to divert attention from America’s defeat in Afghanistan.
These US-led entities are pointing out harshness of the Taliban who were in power in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, while women were denied employment and education opportunities. As directly or indirectly world’s mainstream media is under the control of Zionist-Israeli Jews, hence, as part of propaganda, these media outlets are also displaying previous videos of the Taliban, exaggerating their brutal past practices, especially against women.
Now, Taliban have changed. But, these US-led entities continue creating fear among other Afghan people, including various ethnic minorities in order cause unrest or civil war in the country to give a major setback to the Taliban-controlled government.
Regarding Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan, Ahmad Muwaffaq Zaidan, an expert on Afghan affairs and author of the book, “The Long Summer of Afghanistan,” told Anadolu Agency in an interview: “The Taliban today are different from what they were 20 years ago following their rigorous contact with the world…The scenes we have seen in how Taliban entered Kabul and other cities…dealing with state institutions, are reassuring to both Afghan people and the world…Compare this entry with the barbarism of (the international coalition led by Washington) entering Baghdad (in 2003), and even with protesters entering Capitol Hall (Congress building) during the days of (former US President Donald) Trump.”
According to Zaidan, the Taliban’s three characteristics of “patient, steadfast, and dangerous negotiator” played a critical role in their victory, “end of the American era” and the “humiliation” of the West.”
In a related development, an emergency meeting of the G7 leaders on August 24, 2021, chaired by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to hold the Taliban accountable for their actions in Afghanistan vis a vis protection of women’s rights and prevention of terrorism.
The Biden administration also froze about $9.5 billion of the Afghan government’s reserves in US banks on the same day after the Taliban seized Kabul. Some Western donors already halted their support for Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest countries. IMF said on August 18, this year that Afghanistan will not be able to access IMF resources, including a new allocation of Special Drawing Rights reserves, if major governments fail to recognise the new leadership of the Taliban.
Taking cognizance of the US-led some Western entities’ negative reaction regarding the Taliban’s seizure of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China have urged the world to support the Afghans at this critical juncture.
During their interaction with foreign leaders, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi urged the US-led international community to support the people of Afghanistan—both to address their humanitarian needs and help in the economic rebuilding of the nation, providing economic assistance to Afghans—safety and security of Afghans and stabilisation of the situation in Afghanistan—peace and reconciliation and an inclusive political solution—a peaceful and stable Afghanistan for Pakistan and for regional stability—the recent statements made by the current Afghan leadership are encouraging.
Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa also expressed similar thoughts.
The top officials of the Western countries also thanked Pakistan’s rulers for the country’s help in the evacuation and facilitation of foreign diplomats and nationals from Kabul airport.
Earlier, Qureshi met with a delegation of Afghan political leaders in the Pakistani capital Islamabad. A Pakistani foreign ministry statement indicated: “The foreign minister underlined that the region could not afford continued instability in Afghanistan…international community’s continued engagement in the efforts for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan would be important as it was a shared responsibility.”
In a telephone call with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said: “The world should guide and support Afghanistan as it transitions to a new government instead of putting more pressure on it.”
In a televised press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin on August 20, this year stated: “Other countries should not impose their own values…standards of political life and behaviour on the people of war-torn Afghanistan… the reality is that the Taliban has taken control of most of the country that we must proceed, preventing the collapse of the Afghan state.”
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi described the US ‘defeat’ in Afghanistan a chance for lasting peace and called Iran-a brother and neighbouring nation for national reconciliation in Afghanistan—explaining Iran will support efforts to restore stability in Afghanistan as a first priority. Like other countries, he also described the Americans’ rapid pullout as a “military failure” that should “turn to an opportunity for restoring life, security and stable peace.”
In a televised national address on August 16, this year, American President Joe Biden defended the chaotic military pullout from Afghanistan, as he fired scorching criticism at the country’s former Western-backed leadership for failing to resist the Taliban. He elaborated: “I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces.” He further said that the decision to leave Afghanistan is “the right one for America”, and the collapse of the Afghan government amid the Taliban’s rapid advance “did unfold more quickly than we anticipated”. Biden added: “American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.”
Regarding former Afghan government and forces, Biden stated: “We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future.”
Biden maintained that “I’ve argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on counterterrorism, not counter-insurgency or nation building.”
Nevertheless, Biden’s contradictory and confused statements show American double game which resulted into humiliated defeat of the US and victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In this context, under the caption ‘A Debacle for Biden as the Taliban Take Afghanistan’, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) wrote on August 19, 2021:
“President Biden is expressing no regrets for the catastrophic and humiliating U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Instead, in a national address, he doubled down on the “choice” he said he faced: “Following through” on the Trump Administration’s withdrawal deal with the Taliban, or “escalating the conflict.” That is a false choice, as the President had options…U.S. presence in the country to keep the Taliban at bay. Now his decision to follow through has led to a debacle as the U.S. conducts a chaotic evacuation and Afghan citizens flood the capital’s airport in desperation.”
But, as part of the anti-Taliban propaganda, WSJ wrote:
“The humanitarian tragedy of the Taliban’s takeover will extend past its initial fight for control…The translators and other Afghan citizens who have helped American troops and will now be targeted by the Taliban…our columnist Sadanand Dhume write of the radical group’s repression of women and dissenters. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other American progressives know the takeover is a setback for human rights…There’s also the damage to America’s credibility. H.R. McMaster and Bradley Bowman write about the gap between Washington’s perception of the Afghanistan situation and reality. European allies are scrambling to deal with the fallout.”
Apart from facing severe criticism at home, Biden’s unilateral decision of withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan was also disapproved by America’s NATO allies, other Western countries who held him accountable for the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan.
Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan is a failure of the international community”, Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace stated that the West’s intervention was a job only half-done.
NATO allies urged the member states to rethink on alliance after Biden’s “unilateral” Afghanistan exit.
EU defence and security officials remarked that it has weakened NATO and raised questions about Europe’s security dependence on Washington. This kind of troop withdrawal caused chaos. Unfortunately, the West, and Europe in particular, are showing that they are weaker globally. Twenty years of sacrifice is what it is.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg insisted that there had been “no willingness from other European Countries or from Canada to fill in for the US once it announced withdrawal plan. The failure of the alliance’s training programme was also one big question…Why were the forces we trained and equipped and supported over so many years… not able to stand up against Taliban in a stronger and better way than they did?”
Some high officials of the Biden administration justified the Taliban’s control of Afghanistan and exit of the US-led NATO troops by saying that it was intelligence failure, particularly of CIA. But, analysts opine that Biden understood the risks of withdrawing from Afghanistan— that the US president was “functioning as his own principal analyst”.
It is notable that the Troika Plus, comprising Pakistan, the US, Russia and China, had been meeting regularly in recent months to make a joint push for seeking an end to the war in Afghanistan.
Unlike the previous meetings, an urgent meeting of the Troika Plus which also included the representatives of the former Afghan government and Chairman High Peace Council Abdullah Abdullah and the Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar held in Doha, Qatar on August 13, 2021 to discuss the emerging security situation in Afghanistan.
The move came as the Taliban militants had moved at speed, seizing new territories, as US and other foreign troops started withdrawing. The US intelligence assessment suggested that the Taliban could take over Kabul within 90 days. Against that backdrop, the Troika Plus meeting conveyed the message to the Taliban and the Afghan government representatives in clear terms that the time was running out and both sides had to come up with a workable road map to prevent further chaos in the war-ravaged country and to start the intra-Afghan dialogue.
Nonetheless, that gathering in Doha proves that it was not intelligence failure of America, and American top civil and military officials, including CIA operative were aware of the fact that the Taliban militants would take over the entire Afghanistan.
In fact, US President Biden announced on April 14, this year that he would begin withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan from May 1, setting a deadline for unconditional withdrawal of all 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan by September 11 to end America’s longest war by implementing the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha on February 29, 2020. While setting aside the completion of various phases of the US-Taliban deal, America had started withdrawing its forces. Following President Biden’s decision, other NATO allies also began withdrawing their military from Afghanistan from May 1.
President Biden’s withdrawal decision had rejected all calls of some top American and Western officials to keep forces in Afghanistan and to help resolve that nation’s internal conflict by advancing the Afghan peace process, intra-Afghan dialogue etc.
Republicans and some Democrats said that it could embolden the Taliban.
Indicating various dimensions of Biden’s hastily declaration, Western media had reported: “President Biden’s promise to remove US troops from Afghanistan by September 11 is to end America’s longest war…When the US left Iraq, the power vacuum helped lead to the rise of ISIS there. Biden said that no amount of US forces can deter the Taliban or end the war…the Taliban is moving closer to a military victory…The war in Afghanistan shattered Biden’s faith in American military power…Afghanistan will be plunged into civil war, with northern warlords resisting the Taliban’s advance just as they did in the late 1990s.”
The Council of Foreign Relations had said: “A complete US military withdrawal comes with major risks; the Taliban could expand its control over Afghanistan, and the Afghan government could collapse.”
It is mentionable that The Washington Post pointed out on December 19, 2019: “A confidential trove of government documents reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.”
The grim tragedy the United States suffered on September 11, 2001 through terror-attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon resulted into the death of more than 5500 persons. In the aftermath, the US held Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden responsible for the incident, and attacked Afghanistan where he had taken shelter though Bin Laden denied any involvement in those terror-assaults.
Pakistan joined the US-led Global War on Terror (GWoT) owing to its fragile economy and hostile factor of India. Pakistan was granted the status of non-NATO ally by America due to the early successes, achieved by Pakistan’s Army and country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) against the Al-Qaeda militants.
When the US-led NATO forces felt that they are failing in coping with the stiff resistance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, especially American high officials and their media started a blame game against Pak Army and ISI of supporting cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan. They constantly emphasized upon Islamabad to do more against the militants and continued the CIA-operated drone attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas by ignoring the internal backlash in the country.
After the end of the Cold War, America left both Pakistan and Afghanistan to face the fallout of the Afghan war 1.
It is of particular attention that the former Soviet Union which had subjugated ethnic and religious communities in various provinces and regions through its military, disintegrated in 1991. Even, its nuclear weapons could not save its collapse. One of the major causes of the disintegration of the former Russian Empire was that its greater defence expenditures exceeded to the maximum, resulting in economic crises inside the country. In this regard, about a prolonged war in Afghanistan, the former President Gorbachev had declared it as the ‘bleeding wound’, While learning no lesson in one way or the other, the US has been acting upon the similar policies which led to the demise of the Soviet Union.
Before the control of Afghanistan by the Taliban militants, in case of Asia and particularly South Asia, well-entrenched in Afghanistan and some Gulf states, intelligence agencies such as CIA, Indian RAW, Israeli Mossad and British MI6 had been assisting various terror-outfits, including Al-Qaeda and especially ISIL and their linked groups in order to achieve the covert goals of the Israeli-led America against Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Somalia, Yemen etc. and even Afghanistan which are still being destabilised by various forms of terrorism-related assaults.
In this connection, a news item was published by all the leading dailies of Pakistan on October 8, 2017 about the statement of Afghanistan’s former President Karzai who, while dismissing criticism of Moscow’s ties with the Taliban and echoing Russian claims of American support to the ISIS terrorists, told Voice of America (VOC) that “the United States has links with terrorist ‘Islamic State’, also known as Daesh…Daesh a tool of US…After it [the US] dropped the [mother of all] bomb on Afghanistan, it did not eliminate Daesh…the terrorist group has been supplied weapons by the United States forces…The US Army helicopters and army bases are being used to provide assistance to ISIS terrorists…I do not differentiate at all between Daesh and America…Reports of American assistance to the terrorists are coming from all over the country.” (It also includes Karzai’s revelations to VOC of April 20, 2017 and Newsweek’s report of the same day).
Particularly, based in Afghanistan, CIA, RAW and Mossad were in collusion, and were using the terrorists of ISIS and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) especially in weakening Pakistan and Afghanistan as part of the double game of their countries. TTP and ISIS have claimed responsibility for several terror assaults inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. India and Israel wanted to prolong the stay of the US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan which had become the center of their covert activities. President Trump and President Biden were also doing the same in connivance with New Delhi and Tel Aviv.
Internally, Pakistan’s Armed Forces and intelligence agency ISI have successfully broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists. Peace has been restored in the Balochistan province and Karachi, including other vulnerable regions.
But, in the recent past, terrorist attacks in Pakistan’s various provinces, especially in Balochistan show that the CIA-led RAW, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Mossad are destabilising Pakistan. These entities want to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is part of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative or BRI, as Washington and New Delhi have already opposed this project.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed stated on August 9, 2021: “India’s RAW and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security have started a campaign of terrorism in Pakistan…India, Israel and NDS together want to play with the peace and security of the country.”
And Pakistan is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World. Therefore, it has become special target of some Western entities.
In November, 2020 at a joint press conference and a joint press briefing, DG of ISPR Major-General Babar Iftikhar and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi unveiled a dossier containing “irrefutable evidence” of India’s sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Munir Akram handed over the dossier to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
In its 27th report, dated February 3, 2021 and the 28th report, recently published, the UN Security Council’s monitoring team for tracking terrorist groups confirmed Pakistan’s dossier. The reports focused on the global threat posed by Al-Qaeda, Daesh and related groups and drew attention to the increasing cross-border terrorist threat to Pakistan from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, operating from Afghan soil.
The country’s security agencies arrested the terrorists involved in a blast which occurred on June 23, 2021 near the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed’s house in Johar Town, Lahore. Addressing a press conference, Punjab Inspector General of Police Inam Ghani provided details of the blast and proved that the mastermind behind the blast was an Indian citizen, having clear links with RAW.
Foreign Minister Qureshi remarked that if the international community had taken timely notice of Islamabad’s concerns over New Delhi’s involvement in terrorist activities across Pakistan, Lahore’s Johar Town blast and several terrorist incidents in Balochistan would not have taken place.
In the meantime, reliable sources in Pakistan suggest that Taliban leaders have assured that Afghan soil will not be used for militant groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, ISIL, Al-Qaeda and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) which threaten Pakistan and China.
Reacting to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement casting doubt on the sustainability of a new regime in Afghanistan, in an exclusive conversation with Radio Pakistan correspondent on August 26, 2021, Taliban leader Shahabuddin Dilwar stated: “India will soon know that the Taliban can run the country’s affairs smoothly…Pakistan is a neighbour of Afghanistan and a friendly country.” Dilawar thanked Pakistan for hosting over three million Afghan refugees.
As a matter of fact, besides affecting NATO countries and America’s other Western allies, the US cost of Global War on Terror, particularly in Afghanistan had rapidly increased. It also includes other states like Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Nigeria, Philippines and elsewhere in the world where American military and CIA are directly or indirectly involved.
The US-led troops, assisted by CIA carried out indiscriminate mass round-ups in catching up suspected Muslim men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq, including some Arab countries without evidence. Besides Guantanamo Bay and Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, CIA torture cells were present in several Muslim countries and were also set up in ships where US secret agencies, including FBI and military personnel employed various methods of torture on the militants and suspected persons like physical violence and even murder. However, this setup further enhanced America’s cost of this different war.
Especially, after the victory of the Taliban, BBC and other Western media also focused on the US/NATO cost of war in Afghanistan.
On August 16, 2021, Forbes Com Wrote: “In the 20 years since September 11, 2001, the United States has spent more than $2 trillion on the war in Afghanistan. That’s $300 million dollars per day, every day…Or $50,000 for each of Afghanistan’s 40 million people…$800 billion in direct war-fighting costs and $85 billion to train the vanquished Afghan army…U.S. taxpayers have been giving Afghan soldiers $750 million a year in payroll….Brown University’s Costs of War Project estimates the total spending at $2.26 trillion…The cost so far to care for 20,000 U.S. casualties has been $300 billion, with another half-trillion or so expected to come…Naturally, the United States has financed the Afghan war with borrowed money. Brown University researchers estimate that more than $500 billion in interest has already been paid (included in the $2.26 trillion total sum), and they figure that by 2050 the cost of interest alone on our Afghan war debt could reach $6.5 trillion. That amounts to $20,000 for each and every U.S. citizen.”
According to the BBC, “It is difficult to assess the overall cost because accounting methods vary between government departments, and they also change over time, leading to different overall estimates. The UK and Germany – who had the largest numbers of troops in Afghanistan after the US – spent an estimated $30bn and $19bn respectively over the course of the war. So far this year, Nato has sent $72m worth of supplies and equipment to Afghanistan. The bulk of the money spent in Afghanistan has been on counter-insurgency operations, and on the needs of troops such as food, clothing, medical care, special pay and benefits. Official data shows that since 2002, the US has also spent about $143.27bn on reconstruction activities in Afghanistan. More than half ($88.32bn) was spent on building up Afghan security forces, including the Afghan National Army and police force. Nearly $36bn has been allocated for governance and development…Some of this money has been lost to waste, fraud and abuse over the years…Since the war against the Taliban began in 2001, there have been more than 3,500 coalition deaths, of which more than 2,300 have been US soldiers.”
Quoting a report of Washington think tank-the Center for Strategic and International Studies, CNBC and the New York Times revealed in November 14, 2018: “The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria…have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001…In addition to the money spent by the Pentagon, Crawford says the report captures the war-related spending by the Department of State, past and obligated spending for war veterans’ care, interest on the debt incurred to pay for the wars, and…response to terrorism by the Department of Homeland Security…What’s more, longer wars will also increase the number of service members who will ultimately claim veterans benefits and disability payments. The U.S. government spent $4.1 trillion during fiscal year 2018, which ended Sept. 30, according to the Treasury Department. Indeed, the West has largely failed to address the root causes of terrorism that perpetuate seemingly endless waves of fighters who are increasingly turning to armed drones, artificial intelligence and encrypted communications to foil the allies’ conventional military superiority.”
President Trump had ordered a withdrawal of the roughly 2,000 American troops from Syria, as American backed rebel groups and ISIS terrorists had been defeated and almost entire Syria had been liberated by the Russian-led coalition.
It is noteworthy that on November 28, 2018, rebuking the President Trump and his pro-Saudi policy, the US Senate through a decisive majority voted to advance a measure to end US military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
Trump had taken all the above mentioned decisions owing to the rapid increase in America’s cost of these conflicts abroad. But, he was too late. So is the case of President Biden in case of Afghanistan.
Although President Trump had started America’s disengagement from Global War on Terror, yet he had founded the downfall of the United States. The cost of these long-term military engagements purely in terms of dollar have accelerated multiple problems of Americans, including casualties and frustration found in troops and their families, which further added to the internal problems of America, especially backfiring on the ordinary Americans. And coronavirus pandemic has given a greater blow to the US economy.
It is worth-mentioning that the US is homeland of various communities, divided on ethnic, religious and linguistic lines, having affiliations with their own groups. In this connection, in his book, “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity,” Samuel Huntington opines, America was founded by British settlers who brought with them a distinct culture…the English language, Protestant values, individualism, religious commitment…the waves of immigrants later came to the United States gradually accepted these values and assimilated into America’s Anglo-Protestant culture. More recently, however, our national identity has been eroded by the problems of assimilating massive immigration from Latin America; especially Mexico might lead to the bifurcation of the United States.”
Returning to our main discussion, President Gorbachev had called Afghanistan a ‘bleeding wound’, which culminated into collapse of the former Russia. In the same sense, Afghanistan proved ‘bleeding wound’ of the US which is moving it on the Soviet Union’s tract of disintegration.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations
Email: [email protected]