Why did the U.S. leave Afghanistan? This is an important question that many experts on the Islamic world, and even the wider public, have been asking. The answer to this question becomes even more important when we realize that the U.S., in another blatant violation of its promises and contrary to the contents of its own cease-fire with the group, has been attacking Taliban positions with airstrikes in the areas surrounding Kandahar, Helmand, Kunduz, Jowzjan and others. The U.S. claims that these strikes only target the Taliban, but now that American B-52s are taking to Afghan airspace, dropping bombs on villages and targeted towns, both Taliban members and civilians in those areas will be killed and injured. So far in the U.S. bombardment, a large hospital by the name of Safian and a school called Mohammad Anwar Khan in Helmand have been destroyed.
According to promises made by U.S. President Joe Biden and General Kenneth McKenzie to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, American airstrikes will continue to increase. Given these circumstances, it is important to analyze the U.S.’s plans in Afghanistan so that we can play a positive role for our oppressed neighbor and aid the helpless people of Afghanistan.
Why Did the US Leave Afghanistan?
Honestly, why did the U.S. agree to withdraw from Afghanistan? Is the U.S. not aware that by withdrawing its support for the Kabul government, this government will likely collapse and the Taliban will once again take control of Afghanistan?* Is there some sort of hidden agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban, as many have been saying?
All evidence points to the U.S.’s main ally being the current Western-aligned government. Certainly this government is thousands of times better for and more cooperative with Washington than any other group in Afghanistan, so there’s no sensible reason for the U.S. to move against its ally. If we look at the details of the U.S. operation in Afghanistan, we can quickly see that the U.S.’s unsuccessful attempt to achieve victory and destroy its enemies has only led to them negotiating with the Taliban. The human cost of nearly 3,000 killed and 21,000 wounded, as well as the $21 trillion spent on the war in Afghanistan, was not something that the U.S. could accept without having some sort of outlook for victory in the country. On top of all this, you have to take into account the heavy pressure from U.S. public opinion for ending the war. According to one poll, 77% of Americans support pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.
The Americans’ Larger Goal
U.S. strategic documents show that U.S. leaders are extremely worried about the increasing power of their global and regional rivals, particularly China. In recent years, finding ways to strike out against China, Russia and Iran has been one of the fundamentals of U.S. policy. To accomplish this goal, what better tool than the contrived presence of Islamic State in Afghanistan? This branch of the Islamic State group is active in the north and northeast of Afghanistan, and could lead to unrest spreading into the Chinese Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang, or East Turkestan, which borders Afghanistan. By destabilizing Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, it could also enflame Russia’s sphere of influence.
According to Zamir Kabulov, Vladimir Putin’s special presidential envoy on Afghan affairs, and Maria Zakharova, Spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, this group was certainly created and strengthened with U.S. help in Afghanistan, and the Taliban has been the only one to confront the Islamic State group branch in Afghanistan militarily. In the war between the Islamic State group and the Taliban, U.S. forces and the Afghan military have preferred to attack Taliban targets, in effect helping the Islamic State group. Today the Taliban has taken many captives from the Islamic State group who hail from countries like France, Indonesia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, etc.; it is not reasonable to expect that these individuals were sent, managed and equipped without some sort of foreign aid.
So today the Americans, who have been forced to flee Afghanistan, are trying to bridge this historic defeat into a long-term victory for themselves. In order to carry out this project, firstly they need a large number of Taliban fighters, who are the main force acting against both the Islamic State group and the U.S. in Afghanistan, to be killed in the current conflict. Secondly, the U.S. hopes that a large number of the leaders and men close to the group known as the Mujahedeen will be destroyed. And finally, the U.S. needs military commanders from NATO member countries like Turkey to help transfer Islamic State group forces to Afghanistan and carry out the U.S. plan there. The chaos resulting from this war will also give the U.S. an opportunity to transfer and organize these Islamic State group troops.
If Turkey, whose Pan-Turkic ideals have led it to seek more influence in Central Asia and East Turkestan (Xinjiang), joins with other NATO members in this plan, it will undoubtedly further harm Turkey’s position in the region. But the U.S. is happy to weaken Turkey in the long term and make that country more dependent on the U.S. By using the Islamic State group, the U.S. can harm all countries in the region, including Turkey.
Biden’s Old Idea
On June 23 and 24, coinciding with Ghani’s trip to the U.S., U.S. drones targeted Taliban positions in Kandahar and Kunduz. During this trip Biden promised that the U.S. Army would provide decisive support to Afghan troops. On July 12, during a trip to Kabul, McKenzie repeated this same promise. When the Taliban ultimately closed in on Kandahar and other cities, we saw that the U.S. acted on this promise to provide air support to the Afghan army and the Ghani government.
The root of this decision can be found in Biden’s perspective on Afghanistan. In October 2020, before Biden was elected president of the U.S., an article written by Richard A. Clarke, a former adviser on the U.S. National Security Council, was published on the Middle East Institute website. This article contains some important insight on the topic.
In this article Clarke says that “the U.S. may have been better off never having occupied Afghanistan,” explaining, “In an attempt to redress the problem of insufficient U.S. forces, when he became president, Barack Obama raised the number of U.S. troops from about 30,000 to over 100,000. Vice President Joe Biden opposed the surge, saying that it would lead to increased U.S. casualties and that when the U.S. forces went back to lower levels, the Taliban would regain territory. Biden proved correct.
“Biden had advocated an approach that emphasized U.S. air-power, supporting U.S. Special Forces, some of which would be embedded with Afghan units. The U.S., NATO and the Kabul government would not secure and hold all of the countryside, but would prevent any Taliban threat to control a major city. In my view, that was a realistic strategy and one which we should have pursued in 2001 or in 2011 when Biden proposed it.”
Clarke also writes, “Having the Taliban militarily eject from Kabul and the other major cities the Afghans’ allies whom we supported for 20 years would further erode U.S. credibility globally, would result in the torture and death of many to whom we promised protection, and would create the circumstances in which terrorist groups could again use the country as a base for attacking elsewhere, including in the United States.
“If Biden is elected, he should revert to his original plan for Afghanistan in which we do not worry about what faction controls the vast empty spaces of the country. Under the Biden plan from 2011, we would continue to have a Special Forces and airpower presence.”
Now we see that the Americans have adopted this exact policy. Even in Herat, they are attacking residential areas to make it harder for the Taliban to take control of the city. Much evidence, including sermons by popular cleric Mujib Rahman Ansari and many of his listeners, indicates that a kind of popular support for the Taliban can be found among at least several tens of thousands of the residents of Herat. If the Taliban enters the city it could easily organize its supporters there. A similar situation is true in Lashkar Gah, Ghazni, Maidan Wardak, Zaranj and Sheberghan, and of course U.S. air strikes against the Taliban in residential areas will only cause a greater number to join the group.
In reality, since he was a senator Biden has nursed this outlook on Afghanistan and repeatedly referred to it. His idea is based around this fact: The presence of U.S. ground forces on Afghan soil causes more U.S. casualties, and the correct route for the U.S. is aerial support of the Afghan military, with the sole goal of maintaining control of the large cities.
The back and forth among U.S. politicians to withdraw from the Afghanistan quagmire and the death and destruction it has brought about caused Trump to give into negotiations with the Taliban and fix a date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Then, when Biden took Trump’s place, he saw the line that the Trump administration had drawn as compatible with his own ideas about Afghanistan, and is currently deftly carrying it out.
The U.S. hopes to use this situation and the spread of the Islamic State group to disrupt China and Russia’s plans, which matches with the U.S.’ new policy of focusing on the Pacific and limiting China. We see this plan in Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib’s trip to Lebanon, the Ghani government’s attempts to convince the U.K. to support them, as well as the U.S.’s attempts to station NATO troops in the Kabul Airport. If the U.S. is successful in implementing this plan in the long term, it hopes that eventually the Taliban and Mujahedeen will be weakened, the people will be tired and the Islamic State group’s mission in Afghanistan will end, allowing a team of Westernized, U.S.-educated politicians to lead Afghanistan with no real competition and decide the country’s fate for the foreseeable future. America has unduly spent nearly $45 million on its Fulbright project to train a new generation of Westernized Afghan leaders, and this is the U.S.’s long-term plan for them.
Of course, the old adage says that great empires are humiliated in Afghanistan, eventually leaving the country defeated. God willing, all of this spending and these sinister proposals will go nowhere. Erik Prince, founder of the appalling, criminal Blackwater corporation, has said, “The most expensive and most powerful army in the history of mankind was defeated by a bunch of shepherds.”** Abdul Rashid Dostum, the former vice president of Afghanistan, has asked why the U.S. has left its friends on their own in Afghanistan, questioning, “After all this, what will the U.S. generals say to their children and grandchildren? Will they say that they were defeated by a bunch of guys on motorcycles!?”
It is this truth that should not be hidden between the lines of news stories and analysis pieces. The U.S.’s worldly logic and failure to understand the Afghan people’s anti-colonialist spirit has led to its defeat and will, god willing, continue to cause its defeat. As Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on July 19: “It was this failure to understand that caused the U.S. to be humiliated in Afghanistan. Now, after all the past 20 years of fuss, and after turning guns and bombs and fire against undefended civilians, it finds itself in a quagmire, pulling its forces out. Of course the vigilant Afghan people must also be wary of the U.S.’s intelligence tools and the possibility of a soft war in their country, and consciously fight against it.”
*Editor’s Note: On Aug. 15, the Taliban assumed control of Kabul.
**Editor’s Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.