Afghanistan is often referred to as the graveyard of empires. But in America’s case, it also dug its own grave.
Joe Biden, the fourth U.S. President to oversee the American war in Afghanistan, announced this week the end of that operation. He claimed with an impossibly straight face, “the United States did what we came to do… get the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11”. Now, it’s time to bring the troops home.
In other words, according to President Biden, after waging a war for 20 years in Central Asia, it is time to hail “mission accomplished”.
Contrary to previous presidential iterations, he said the U.S. did not come to “nation build” and that from now on “it’s up to the Afghans to make decisions about the future of their country.” That almost sounds like the Americans liberated the Afghan nation to choose its destiny – instead of the appalling reality that the country is being abandoned for the giant mess that it has become under Washington’s tutelage.
The truth is the United States is scurrying out of Afghanistan like a rat from a sinking ship. Two decades of war costing trillions of dollars and millions of casualties have destroyed a nation. Another nation in a long list of others destroyed by another criminal American war.
In contrast to Biden’s fantasy world, most of the U.S. troops secretly vacated Afghanistan last week from the sprawling Bagram airbase north of the capital Kabul. The Americans fled in the dark of night without even notifying the Afghan army which it supports against the insurgent Taliban militants. The Taliban are now poised to over-run the whole country and oust the Washington-backed puppet administration in Kabul. When the Americans invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago, the Taliban rulers were routed. They are set to return to power, although President Biden this week defied reality by claiming that the U.S.-backed Kabul regime would not fall. He declared that U.S. “support for Afghanistan would endure”, his words dripping with nauseating cynicism.
Washington’s war in Afghanistan is known as “America’s longest war”. It lasted twice as long as the Vietnam War. The shambolic hasty exit from Afghanistan evokes memories of the Fall of Saigon in 1975 when residual American troops and CIA agents clambered onto helicopters in a final retreat before the Vietnamese communist victory of liberation.
However, Washington’s military entanglement in Afghanistan actually goes back 40 years when it began clandestine arming of tribal militia – the Mujahideen – in 1979 for an insurgency against a communist government allied with the Soviet Union. It was a deliberate ploy by the Americans to set a trap for Moscow and to give it “their Vietnam” in the words of Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security advisor to President Carter. The Soviets intervened to support the Kabul government at the end of 1979 and a withering proxy war ensued for 10 years. The arming of the Mujahideen was meant to “bleed the Soviets as much and for as long as possible”, Brzezinski would later boast. It is notable how Western media refer to the “Soviet invasion” of Afghanistan while the American military, we are told, went to the country to “liberate it from terrorism”.
Arguably, the Americans succeeded in their Machiavellian plot. The proxy war was a factor in the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, two years after the Red Army withdrew from Afghanistan in an orderly fashion, unlike the abrupt American evacuation. The Soviet-backed government in Kabul eventually fell in 1992 paving the way for the rise of the Taliban out of the Mujahideen. It is worth considering how Afghanistan might have developed otherwise if the Americans had not instigated the proxy war against the Soviet Union.
What the Americans created in Afghanistan was a cauldron of Islamist extremism, aided and abetted by British and Pakistani intelligence as well as massive Saudi funding. The offshoots of Mujahideen, Taliban, Al Qaeda and Islamic State, among others, can all be traced to the root of American Cold War machinations in Afghanistan. The consequences of terrorism have been devastating for the world. The American Doctor Frankenstein has used these terror proxy armies for regime change across the Middle East and North Africa while also avowedly waging a global war against the same terrorists. The “war on terror” came out of the Americans cultivating and arming jihadists in Afghanistan for their geopolitical chess game against the Soviet Union.
President Biden’s claim of “mission accomplished” is an absurd distortion of reality. No doubt too, Hollywood is working on the further whitewashing of history with epic tales of American virtue and courage.
Afghanistan is eviscerated and more unstable than ever, a breeding ground for extremism that threatens the security of Central Asia, including that of Russia and China.
In a twisted sinister way, the regional instability bequeathed by the Americans to Russia and China may give the planners in Washington some satisfaction. Forty years of covert and overt war was a boon for the intelligence-military-industrial complex. Now having decided to quit the game, the American planners can take grim consolation that the wreckage in Central Asia will henceforth haunt geopolitical rivals in Moscow and Beijing.
America’s longest war came with a horrendous cost to Afghans and ordinary Americans. The financial cost has been ruinous for both nations. Just about every intrigue that Washington has inflicted has rebounded in self-defeating damage. The quagmire intended for the Soviet Union ended up being an even bigger quagmire for the Americans. Biden’s pretense of victory is a shameless lie covering up decades of criminality.
Afghanistan is often referred to as the graveyard of empires. The British colonialists failed as did the Soviets. But in America’s case, it also dug its own grave.