In a defiant speech in the White House on September 1, US President Joe Biden declared the US withdrawal from Afghanistan a “success”.
“With 20 years of war, strife and pain and sacrifice behind us, it is time to look to the future, not the past,” said Biden. “I believe this is the right decision, a wise decision, and the best decision for America.”
Biden said he would “not prolong this war forever” and “prolong an exit forever,” but quickly added that US counter-terrorism operations would continue: “We just don’t have to wage a ground war to do this to do”. . “
In the days leading up to their departure, the US launched a second drone attack against members of Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) in retaliation for the suicide attack on Kabul airport on Dec.
10 civilians, including eight children, were killed in the operation.
The day before the US military withdrawal was complete, when the last plane left Kabul Airport, the US embassy closed and relocated its offices to Qatar. Military equipment was destroyed so the new government could not use it.
After 20 years of occupation, the most powerful military and financial power in world history returned defeated when the Taliban fired solemn bullets into the air.
“We have been fighting for this day for 20 years: to end this war and the attack by foreigners on us and to found our own Islamic government,” said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid.
“This victory belongs to all of us,” said Mujahid, standing on the tarmac from which the last US plane had flown just hours earlier.
At a press conference in Kabul on September 1, a Taliban official said that the new rulers would seek peace and cooperation with all countries, including the United States.
On September 8, the Taliban announced the formation of a transitional government with hardliners from the organization. The 33-strong cabinet consists mainly of Pashtuns, with the exception of two Tajiks and one Uzbeks. Unsurprisingly, there are no women or former government officials.
The withdrawal was not a “success,” as Biden explained. The winner is the Afghan people, not just the Taliban.
Big challenges lie ahead, however, as political groups vie for power and generations of educated young people, especially women, seek their place in a country free from foreign occupation.
The withdrawal was primarily a political defeat in the two decades-long war on terror that made the military-industrial complex a dominant force in US politics.
The withdrawal from Afghanistan is necessary in order to deal with new enemies like China, Biden stated in his “success speech”.
The US withdrawal was also a military defeat for the Afghan army and police, who fled city after city when the Taliban invaded. The puppet government and its army were created by the US occupiers. They had no motivation to continue fighting without US protection.
Only in this context was it a military defeat for the US and NATO forces. Washington’s only choice, Biden said, was to send more troops into the country. This would have required the deployment of up to 500,000 soldiers to occupy every town and village in order to suppress the resistance.
It would have failed.
In 2001, the al-Qaida troops and the Taliban were no match for the invaders. They have been routed. Many leaders were killed. Tens of thousands of civilians died.
The Taliban called for peace. The US refused. She immediately turned her attention to Iraq, which was unrelated to the 9/11 attacks. Saddam Hussein hated al-Qaeda.
Within Afghanistan, resistance forces melted into the villages or left the country, and many went to Pakistan.
The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of War, an indictment against US war policies, was published as a book in August. Inside, Washington Post Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Craig Whitlock describes how three consecutive presidents and their military commanders deceived the public year after year about the longest war in US history. The Pentagon, along with Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and now Biden, knew that the war was not to be won.
Around 20 years later, the formerly overthrown Taliban regime is stronger than ever.
A large majority of the Afghan population agreed to the rejection of the nationalist-Islamic formation against foreign occupation, although the ideology of the Taliban received only limited support.
Today the Taliban are broader than they were in 1996, when they were stationed in southern Afghanistan under the Pashtun ethnic group (almost 40% of the country’s population). It now includes leaders in most of the regions that were once dominated by the corrupt warlords.
Demographics have also changed since the US-led invasion in 2001. The average Afghan is 18 years old and two-thirds of the country is under 25. You don’t know how the Taliban ruled 20 years ago.
Young women and men in urban areas have lived in a society that is corrupt but allows for Western freedoms. They carried cell phones and plans for a better future.
On September 3, women organized a protest march in Kabul demanding that the Taliban guarantee their rights. According to CNN: “Despite the risk, a group called the Women’s Political Participation Network marched on the streets in front of the Afghan Ministry of Finance, chanting slogans and holding up signs demanding participation in the Afghan government and calling for constitutional law.”
The day before, women demonstrated in Herat in the west of the country and demanded the right to education and work.
The Taliban leaders are familiar with these social changes. Mixed messages came from Taliban officials about the future role of women.
Nobody knows exactly what the “new” Taliban are and what they can do.
Refugees, people wishing to leave the country and Afghans returning to their homeland from neighboring countries are an immediate problem.
The Taliban announced an amnesty for those who worked for the US and NATO forces, but many do not believe it. Civilians were beaten and killed.
The Taliban reject a Western parliamentary system. Their concept of rule includes a spiritual leader based in Kandahar and a political leadership in Kabul. This is how it was organized from 1996 to 2001.
Although the group quickly took final control of the country, the Taliban spent more than a decade preparing for takeover. The Taliban steadily expanded a shadow government called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and appointed officials down to the district level to prepare for the moment when it was back in power.
Sheikh Hibatullah Akhundzada is now the supreme authority of the new Islamic government, with a theocratic role like that of the supreme leader of Iran. He was a former Minister of Justice under the former Taliban regime. Taliban founder Mullah Omar died in 2013 and his successor was killed by a US drone in 2015.
Mullah Hassan Akhund has been appointed interim prime minister. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder of the Taliban, and Maulvi Adul Salam Hanafi, a former member of the Taliban’s negotiating team in Qatar, have both been appointed deputy prime ministers.
As winter approaches, the Taliban seek humanitarian aid. The US and NATO are trying to use the carrot-and-stick approach to the new administration.
The United Nations has resumed relief flights in some regions, and Western Union is allowing money transfers from families and businesses.
The country is suffering from a drought, and is threatened with famine and famine.
About $ 7 billion in Afghan reserves in the New York Federal Reserve were frozen by Biden on August 15. Those funds need to be released back along with $ 3.1 billion in U.S. bills and bonds and $ 2.4 billion in World Bank Reserve Advisory and Management Partnership assets, $ 1.2 billion in gold and $ 300,000 in cash.
Another $ 1.3 billion is held in international accounts. The money and assets belong to the new government.
The Taliban and other declared enemies of the US are stronger today than they were in 2001. Remnants of al-Qaeda still exist as allies of IS.
The Taliban reject the ideology of the Islamic State. It tries to unite all Muslims (Sunnis, Shiites, Sufis and seculars). ISIS regards non-Sunnis as “heretics” who should be killed. For this reason, the US military is open to cooperation with the Taliban in the fight against IS in Afghanistan.
The Danish Afghan journalist Nagieb Khaja, who was once kidnapped by the Taliban and later embedded with them for a coverage assignment, said Democracy Now! that the Taliban today have many factions. According to Khaja, the leadership is more aware of the various concerns, including regarding the role of women, but some groups in areas like Kandahar are more “old school”.
It has not yet been decided who will win, although the tough transitional government could be a clue.
A Taliban spokesman said women are not allowed to hold senior positions in government, but are allowed to receive Sharia training.
But as Yasmeen Afghan from Kabul writes, “women – especially the new generation of young Afghans – will not bow to the brutalities of the Taliban and fight for their rights”.
Solidarity with those who are leaving the country is important. Afghans who have worked for NATO forces must be able to travel freely, and all refugees should be allowed to enter the US and other countries.
What happens next depends on both the Taliban and the former occupiers.
Many human rights groups are still on the ground and have access to those in need.
It’s a fluid political situation. It would be a mistake to pretend someone knows what’s next.
However, international solidarity with the Afghan people must never diminish.