These two decades prove that the United States fumbled in its entry into Afghanistan, unaware of the fact that enforcing its punitive intent would not be enough
On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Taliban triumphantly resurfaced on the Afghan scene. As if nothing had changed in the concentricity of history, the loop of mistakes that appears to refer back to the starting point arrives at a close. Not quite: In the interim of the war on terror, there have been two tectonic shifts and one change of course. China, India or Vietnam emerge; Asia comes to the fore. The Middle East implodes; Syria and Libya are pulverized; Lebanon is in decay and the Shia-Sunni divide is more acute than ever. The rise and fall of two blocs. And the United States pivots toward the Pacific, first moving away and then getting closer through the Indo-Pacific flank. The exit from Afghanistan responds to this new approach, leaving the Afghan-Pakistani-Taliban abysmal pit at the disposal of U.S. rivals China, Iran and Russia. Will they venture inside?
On the other hand, these 20 years prove that the United States fumbled in its entry into Afghanistan with its impromptu actions, betting on a resounding military response coupled with a massive deployment of financial resources, yet unaware that enforcing its punitive intent or spending billions of dollars would not be enough. Some internal factors were overlooked: the religious and tribal cohesion of the Pashtun people; the notion of “asabiyya,” or “group feeling,” analyzed by the Arab historian Ibn Khaldun, transferred to the communal religious sphere of Islam and reinforced, in this case, by the Deobandi Islamic current prompted by Pakistan, precisely as counterforce to a secularization that would strengthen local nationalisms.
This motivation, related to feelings and emotions, has no equivalent in Afghan nationalism; it is a unifying force against foreign invaders. At the same time, however, it is the seed of despotism and insurrections. A dynamic of constant internal conflict due to the inability to develop an efficient governance.
Faced with the need to establish some sort of relationship with the Taliban, the West is trapped in its humanitarian calling. Hence the urgency to set the conditions for an effective acknowledgement, which until yesterday could be glimpsed due to the promises of moderation. In vain. The announcement of the new interim government — exclusionary of minorities and women, with zero legitimacy — for the time being shuts the door even to any financial support, and highlights that the word of the Taliban has questionable value. And what of the promise of rejecting jihadi terrorism? By appointing a figure like Sirajuddin Haqqani as interior minister, who is wanted by the FBI and whose network is linked to al-Qaida, the fox is now guarding the henhouse. Developments will have to keep being evaluated, and meanwhile, inevitably, contacts will have to continue. Acknowledgement will have to wait. Twenty years after 9/11, the future is still unwritten.