Retreating from Afghanistan after 20 Years: Why US Invasions Continue To Fail

On July 2, U.S. troops completely withdrew from their largest base, Bagram Airfield, located 40 kilometers (24.9 miles) north of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.

Nineteen years and nine months have passed since the start of the invasion of Afghanistan on Oct. 17, 2001.

President Joe Biden announced the United States’ plans to completely remove troops this Sept. 11, which marks 20 years since the 9/11 terror attacks that sparked the attacks on Afghanistan.

What Biden refers to as “America’ longest war” is akin to the former Soviet Union’s retreat from Afghanistan, which came about as a result of an eight-year-long bitter fight until the end against Islamic guerillas, lasting from December 1979 to May 15, 1988. There is no doubt that the United States’ retreat will go down in history.

Full-Scale Withdrawal of US Troops Begins Years after 9/11

The U.S. attacks on Afghanistan were motivated by the goal of extraditing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, as he was viewed as the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In response to this, Taliban leaders denied claims that bin Laden was the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, citing the lack of proof to support these claims.

George W. Bush declared a war on terror. The U.S. led the U.N. Security Council to adopt U.N. Security Council Resolution 1368, and NATO invoked the right of collective self-defense. Subsequently, the U.S., the U.K. and other coalition forces launched an offensive on Oct. 7, 2001.

In about two months, the Taliban regime collapsed, and in November, representatives of the coalition of the willing and other Afghan forces agreed to establish a transitional government and convene a national grand council. In December, a transitional administrative structure was established and President Hamid Karzai took office in December 2004.

Despite this, while the [Taliban] attacks on Afghanistan continued, Afghanistan was subjected to an increase of military power from the U.S. In response, the Taliban increased the scope of its territory, putting the U.S. in dire straits.

At Its Peak, 90,000 People Were Deployed. The Possibility of the Taliban Regime’s Comeback

At the war’s peak, the U.S. deployed 90,000 troops, while other countries deployed around 4,000. The U.S. Army’s death rate was about 2,430 and injured personnel were estimated at 22,000. The estimated death rate for non-U.S. troops was 1,150.

On the other hand, while Taliban troops were estimated at 60,000, they gained support from civilians. It is estimated that the number of civilian troops that died was more than 10,000.

The coalition of the willing attempted to train about 170,000 Afghan government troops and 100,000 police officers, but there were many deserters. In addition to this, senior officers frequently embezzled their salaries.

It was reported that the United States’ direct expenditure on the war in Afghanistan was $770 billion. However, experts point out that the actual number is estimated to be three times higher when the costs of lifetime pensions for seriously injured personnel (amputees or those who have been blinded), future expenses such as medical treatment and interest on government bonds are considered.

Reports initially indicated that Biden would allow some troops to remain at Kabul Airport and the U.S. Embassy, but an official report indicates that all troops will be removed.

Regarding the removal of U.S. troops, Japanese news sources voice concern over the worsening of public safety in the region. However, the real cause for this deterioration in public order has been the continual occupation of U.S. troops in the region and their instigation of wars between the Taliban and other groups. Many civilians have been killed in mistaken bombings and other incidents.

Japanese media outlets have been echoing the U.S. viewpoint that the Taliban will make a comeback, which would disrupt the public order in Afghanistan.

It is inevitable that the Afghan government, which has been supported and sustained by the U.S. troops and the troops of NATO and other countries that have been sympathetic to the U.S. military, will suffer a collapse.

The Afghan government is financed almost entirely by foreign aid, with Japan contributing $6.8 billion (about 740 billion yen). In particular, Japan has been responsible for most of the salaries of some 90,000 police officers, as well as the refueling of U.S. warships and other vessels by the Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Economic aid was also used for public works and education, so even if all of the funds were not spent wastefully, this funding would have been a waste of time if the Taliban regime were to return to power after 20 years.

There is also the question of how the Taliban will deal with the Afghan government, government troops, senior members of the police force and U.S. military interpreters and other collaborators who have been abandoned by the U.S. Article 81 of the Japanese Penal Code stipulates that “anyone who conspires with a foreign state to cause the use of force against Japan shall be punished by death.”

As for the Taliban, if they fight and eliminate the Afghan government and police forces as soon as the U.S. troops leave, the U.S. will lose face and may have to intervene again, so they may take some time to wait for the government forces to collapse on their own before stepping back in.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. took in a large number of senior Vietnamese collaborators, but it is uncertain what the U.S. will do now that it is no longer as tolerant of immigrants as it was then.

Abandoning collaborators would lower the prestige of the U.S. and make it harder to gain the trust of collaborators from other countries in the future. People who fear reprisals from the Taliban will migrate to Tajikistan and other countries to the north; there is a good chance that a refugee problem will arise.

World Powers Great Britain, the Soviet Union and Now the US Lose Control: An Anticipated 3 Successive Defeats

In the first place, were the attacks on Afghanistan really motivated by the cause of justice?

The U.S. claimed that the Taliban were harboring the masterminds of the attack. Other countries, shocked by the massive terrorist attack, agreed with the U.S. The U.N. effectively approved the attack.

But if you think about it rationally, it stands to reason that evidence would be needed to extradite a criminal. It is quite possible that bin Laden knew about the terrorist plot in the U.S. But at the time, the U.S. was unable to provide detailed evidence, the when, where and to whom he gave instructions.

Japan’s extradition treaty requires that the extradition request be accompanied by evidence of the crime. It can be said that Afghanistan’s refusal of extradition was in line with the law.

Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, who was killed by a bullet while working in Afghanistan for medical and agricultural support, said before his death, “It is wrong to say that the Taliban is a fanatical group. They are just trying to follow the customs of the countryside.”

The Taliban regime has routinely followed international protocol on the bin Laden extradition issue.

Similar to how the U.S. is experiencing its most recent defeat, the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan also ended in defeat and resulted in its own collapse. It is safe to say that the U.S. failed to learn from the former Soviet Union’s mistake.

At the time, the Soviet Union feared that if the socialist government in Afghanistan, which had friendly relations with the Soviet Union, collapsed, Islam would spread to the Muslim-majority southern part of the Soviet Union.

But the Afghans have a history of fighting and winning three wars against the British, who tried to bring the region under their control in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The British were concerned that the Russian empire, which had expanded into Central Asia, would extend its ambitions to India, so they tried to preemptively establish a sphere of influence in Afghanistan.

In 1839, however, 16,000 British troops invaded from India and were annihilated. In 1919, the Afghans invaded India; British troops countered with air attacks, but eventually a cease-fire was reached, recognizing Afghanistan’s full independence.

Considering that Afghan men have carried guns since they were boys, and the constant skirmishes between villages and tribes, it is safe to say that they are natural-born guerrillas.

Afghanistan defeated the British empire at its peak, the Soviet Union at its largest, and now the U.S. forces as well.

No Less Painful for the US: Diminished International Prestige

The damages the U.S. has suffered are not insignificant.

The former Soviet Union dominated Eastern Europe and controlled the country via its military prestige from its hard-fought defeat of the powerful German army in World War II. But it lost this prestige when it was defeated by Afghan guerrillas.

Eastern European countries broke away, autonomous territories in the country moved toward independence, the people’s respect for the communist regime disappeared. Eventually the failure of the invasion of Afghanistan led to its collapse.

There is no doubt that the military prestige of winning World War II contributed to the U.S. becoming an ally of NATO countries, Japan and others. The defeat in Afghanistan will not be a fatal blow to the U.S. because the U.S. does not rely only on the prestige of military power like the former Soviet Union, but also has economic strengths such as huge financial institutions and high-tech information technology companies, as well as the global influence of the media.

But the history of repeated failed interventions has not only damaged the international prestige and credibility of the United States, but has also exhausted its economy and society. Withdrawal from Afghanistan will add another layer of diminished prestige.

The U.S. also suffered a major defeat in Vietnam when French troops were surrounded and surrendered at their stronghold of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. The U.S. then dared to fight North Vietnam and withdrew with 56,000 dead, turning the country from the world’s largest creditor to a debtor. This is in line with a Chinese proverb from the Han dynasty: “The toppling of a cart in front serves a warning for the cart behind.”

In the Iraq War, the U.S. also claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, ignored the March 2003 U.N. survey team’s report that there were none, and attacked and occupied Iraq, searching for weapons of mass destruction, but ultimately found none.

After seven and a half years of wreaking havoc in Iraq, we withdrew in September 2010, after the deaths of 4,419 U.S. servicemen and about 110,000 Iraqi civilians. The direct cost of the war reached $770 billion (about 85 trillion yen), but some estimates put the cost at $3 trillion (330 trillion yen), including lifetime compensation for seriously injured U.S. soldiers, interest on government bonds and other future expenses.

Why Are the Same Mistakes Repeated? Underestimating News Analysis and Bias

For a country that has the most powerful military and a strong information-gathering network, why does the U.S. continue to make the same mistakes?

It has been said that a major reason for this is the problem with the ability to analyze information and attitudes toward analyzing information.

The average U.S. intelligence budget in 2005 was reported at $440 billion, and has excellent intelligence gathering capabilities, with its highly accurate reconnaissance satellites, radio interceptor satellites, and huge cyber unit. However, the analysis of the information that was collected was often seen as too optimistic, resulting in biased decisions.

In intervening in Syria, the U.S. easily assumed that the Assad family, which controls Syria, belongs to the Alawites, an Islamic minority, while the majority of the population is Sunni, and that a military revolt would topple the Assad regime.

The Free Syrian Army was created in the hope that military personnel would defect, but few military personnel joined the Free Syrian Army, which was clearly backed by the U.S. and supports Israel. The core units of the Syrian army remained loyal.

As a result, the main rebel force became the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front. Since there was criticism in the U.S. for supporting al-Qaida, the U.S. sought out rebel groups not affiliated with al-Qaida, trained them at the CIA base in Jordan and provided them with equipment and funds. However, this was a group that had been excommunicated by al-Qaida for its violent nature, and later came to support an Islamic state. As the group became uncontrolled and expanded its sphere of influence in Iraq, the U.S. military had no choice but to fight them.

Many Syrians have formed pro-government militia forces in various parts of the country to deal with the brutality of Islamic militant forces, many of which are foreign mercenaries, comprising over 100,000 people. The Syrian army and militias have been steadily retaking lost ground, and the rebels have been cornered in parts of Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, near the border with Turkey. The failure of the U.S. attempt to overthrow the Assad regime was assured, and the U.S. suffered its third consecutive defeat: in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The U.S. State Department announced that 500,000 people of Albanian descent are missing or have been killed in Kosovo, eastern Serbia, in support of the uprising by Albanian migrants who formed the Kosovo Liberation Army to gain independence.

Then, to “prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” the U.S and NATO countries bombed Serbia heavily for 79 days starting in March 1999 and occupied Kosovo to look for evidence of mass killings.

However, only 2,108 bodies were found, and they were found to have died in the battle between the Kosovo Liberation Army and the Yugoslav government forces the previous year.

It was later discovered that the “mass murder of 500,000 people” was false information that Croatia, which was fighting Serbia in the civil war, had asked the U.S. public relations firm Ruder Finn to disseminate.

The bombing of Serbia killed 546 military personnel and about 2,000 civilians, but neither the U.S. opposition nor the media pursued the case, and the government did not reflect on it. Four years later, believing the false information that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. embarked on a war against Iraq, which resulted in the withdrawal from Iraq after seven years of hard struggle.

Middle East Intelligence Dependence on Israel: Information Submitted in Line with Administration’s Motives

Regarding the conflict in the Middle East, the U.S. relies on information from Israel; thus, its views are often biased. In addition, the U.S. has as many as 15 intelligence agencies, but when the administration’s central office demands, “Do you have any information on this particular issue?” they will find and produce information that will meet the demands of the administration.

These huge intelligence organizations tend to be the agencies that facilitate the assumptions of the administration and upper ranks in government.

It should also be noted that Americans have a habit of asserting their positions and looking for arguments for support their beliefs without doing much research. However, Americans are generally not interested in foreign affairs and history. As a result, they are easily deceived by false information and false “testimonies” from defectors who are trying to gain access to the U.S. authorities and use the power of the U.S. to return to their home countries.

In addition, since government officials are replaced every time there is a change of administration, the memory of the organization regarding the history and background of foreign relations tends to be disrupted.

Objectivity is the key to information analysis; like the weather bureau, the CIA should pursue accuracy in forecasting. However, since the CIA conducts all sorts of operations overseas and attacks with drones, I wonder if objectivity is compromised in the pursuit of success in these actual operations.

The U.S. has 400 million privately owned firearms; as symbolized by the fact that the U.S. ran out of bullets last spring when the COVID-19 pandemic began, there is a clear preference for relying on weapons, and public opinion tends to be in favor of military action.

Real security should be about peace. This involves reducing the number of enemies as much as possible and using military force for the defense of one’s own country. But the U.S. has always sought out potential enemies and focused on winning wars, launching “preventive wars” to eliminate in advance dangers that might occur in the future, which has sometimes increased the president’s approval ratings. Within the country, there is also a tendency for public opinion to change its way of thinking about security and to support “preventive war” to eliminate dangers that may occur in the future.

This may be one of the reasons why the U.S. has repeatedly failed in foreign interventions.

In Japan, there are calls for strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance. The U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, originally a defense alliance, is now being transformed into an offensive and defensive alliance. As I read the news of Japan’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, I can’t help but worry that Japan will become like a fighter plane that blindly follows a formation commander who can’t navigate, eventually running out of fuel and crash-landing together.

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