Afghanistan: US Flees and Everyone Is Frightened

In a short period of time the American defeat will be complete after 20 years of war and a trillion-dollar investment. A quarter of a million people have paid with their lives as the Taliban advance in three directions toward the capital city of Kabul. Both the British and the Russians learned by sacrificing their lives in previous centuries that Afghanistan is a graveyard for the armies of superpowers. The Chinese are operating now with great caution. This is a major earthquake in Central Asia, and the shock wave will not be slow in reaching Israel.*

From his perspective, Joe Biden correctly decided there was no longer any reason to be in Afghanistan. He wanted only to prevent a humiliating scene similar to the hysterical evacuation of the embassy in Saigon with the U.S. collapse in Vietnam. He did not face public pressure from Americans, and it wouldn’t have been difficult to continue down the path of futile struggle to build a functioning government in the country. He simply was fed up with the generals and their advice, and he needed the money for other things.

Biden knows that the country that rules Central Asia, with Afghanistan at its center, holds the upper hand to compete globally. He read the thick volumes on geopolitics by Halford Mackinder and personally heard Zbigniew Brzezinski disseminate this doctrine to White House presidents. Biden appeared quite confident that no other superpower would gamble on trying to gain superiority in this arena.

The Afghan army, with the advanced weapons America supplied to it and two decades of training, is at least three times larger than the Taliban militias, but it did not provide any real combat support to any of the provinces. President Ashraf Ghani, cunning and corrupt, replaced all the senior commanders instantly and promised “to organize the ranks,” but no one was impressed. In Herat, the third largest city in Afghanistan, almost all the soldiers from Division 207 fled in their armored vehicles directly to Iran. The Iranians, of course, took the combat equipment and are making efforts to return the Afghans to their homeland after removing their uniforms.

What Happens Now?

Assuming that the Taliban are planning to reestablish their Islamic emirate, they will have to decide whether to accept the request by Zalmay Khalilzad (an Afghan American diplomat and also an old friend of Israel), Biden’s envoy for negotiations, to prevent al-Qaida from renewing its terrorist operations from Afghan territory. It will be more complicated to restrain Islamic State activists in the Khorasan Province, which is already conducting attacks in-country aimed at establishing its hold.

Pakistan, which used its intelligence services to raise and nurture the Taliban, now fears their victory could provide momentum to their twin movement, which is operating violently inside Pakistan. Pakistan is urging its ally, China, to take responsibility, but the leaders in Beijing are already fashioning an understanding with the Taliban so that the Taliban do not support the Muslim Uighur underground movement, in exchange for generous economic aid.

India has no intention of compromising its presence and influence in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is fearful of Afghanistan, which has already joined with China and Pakistan. India’s other neighbors, mainly Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, have already asked Vladimir Putin to send forces to their borders. They are ready to exchange American air force bases for help in deterring the Taliban, and it is not clear how Biden will respond.

Iran sees the Taliban, Sunni extremists, as a great threat, although the Iranian Revolutionary Guard aided the Taliban in shedding American blood. Now the Iranians, in a ridiculous burst of flattery, are falling all over the senior Taliban leadership. From their perspective, there is now the danger of a wave of another million-plus refugees, and the Iranian army is pressed, having been deployed along the length of the long joint border with Afghanistan.

With the exception of Qatar, which has always supported the Taliban, the rest of the Arab world, along with Israel, fear a Taliban victory over the Americans will stir up Islamist elements, which were in retreat, and that the U.S. will not be there to give support. A similar situation occurred when the Russians were expelled from Afghanistan.

The vacuum that Biden is creating will likely form a turbulent whirlpool that will suck in many, without any of them having a real chance to domesticate the Taliban.

*Editor’s note: The Taliban assumed control over Afghanistan on Aug. 16, after the original article was written and published.

About this publication

About Charles Railey 12 Articles
I recently retired from the federal government, having worked for many years on Middle East issues and regional media. My fascination with the region has never changed and this is one reason why the work of Watching America caught my eye. I live in the DC area with my wife, two grown children, and three cats.

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