Updated: Aug 23, 2021
The defeat in Afghanistan is, like that in Vietnam, a turning-point. Many fear America’s foes will be emboldened; others hope it will now be more able to confront them
This briefing from the Economist in ISLAMABAD AND WASHINGTON, DC in their Edition of August 21st 2021 is brilliant.
“THE TALIBAN is not the North Vietnamese army,” declared President Joe Biden on July 8th, days after America abandoned Bagram air base, the hub of its war in Afghanistan for 20 years, without telling its Afghan commander. “They’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of the embassy of the United States from Afghanistan.” By August 15th Chinooks were rattling windows in Kabul, shuttling American diplomats from their hulking embassy. At the city’s airport, desperate Afghans swarmed the runway; some clung to the undercarriage of a C-17 transporter, falling to their deaths.
The chaos on the runway contrasted with the Taliban’s nearly bloodless capture of Kabul a day earlier. The Taliban now control more of Afghanistan than they did in 2001, when America swept them from power in response to the September 11th attacks. At the presidential palace in Kabul, Taliban fighters in dusty sandals seemed surprised at their victory as they posed around the desk abandoned by Ashraf Ghani, the country’s president. “We have reached a victory that wasn’t expected,” admitted Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s deputy leader.
In the tense drama around the airport, the foes have treated each other warily. The Taliban have so far allowed America to run evacuation flights, but have forced back crowds trying to get onto them. With thousands of Americans left in Kabul the situation could grow more dangerous. The Taliban may grow impatient with thousands of American and British troops on Afghan soil, and angry at America’s decision to block access to foreign reserves.
America’s flight from Kabul, like its departure from Saigon in 1975, is a defining geopolitical moment: the world’s mightiest country has again been defeated by a weaker enemy. In both cases—then as a senator, now as president—Joe Biden advocated a rapid exit. And then as now, fierce critics of America predicted that such a chaotic abandonment would alarm allies and embolden adversaries. Neighbouring states and rich countries farther away can expect an unsettling new influx of refugees. Global jihadists, thousands of whom are thought to be sheltered by the Taliban, will see a divine hand in the way holy warriors have defeated two superpowers in Afghanistan—first the Soviet Union in 1989 and now America.
For the full article in pdf please click here:
Here is another article in pdf on the same theme by Richard N. Haass for the Council on Foreign Relations based in New York dated 15th August 2021: