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The West's 20 year old Afghan fiasco! The West's 20 year old Afghan fiasco!
by Christos Mouzeviris
2021-08-20 06:38:18
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After 20 years of military presence, the US and the remaining of its allies are finally pulling out of Afghanistan. Do they leave behind a democratic, free and modern country? Not at all. On the contrary, the Asian nation returns right where it all started: with the Taliban in power. Scenes that are reminiscent of the quick US retreat from Vietnam a few decades back, are flooding our news feeds and social media pages.

afh00001_400One cannot stop himself from feeling cheated, enraged or disappointed. Some others perhaps justified. What was the purpose of such long and costly operation, with a total cost of over 2 trillion dollars, plus 2,500 U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan, and nearly 4,000 more U.S. civilian contractors dead? In addition, an estimated 69,000 Afghan military police, 47,000 civilians killed, 51,000 dead opposition fighters, plus finally, the over 1000 NATO soldiers' deaths.

And it doesn't stop here. The cost so far to care for 20,000 U.S. casualties has been $300 billion, with another half-trillion or so expected to come. I can imagine this outcome must be particularly deflating for the war veterans, the families of those who lost their lives or got maimed for a more "democratic" Afghanistan. How can anyone justify this war, as being worthy and successful, especially for the Afghan people and those who fought on the ground. The funny thing is, that there are still those that call for help for Afghanistan or its people and defend Western involvement in the country.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, stated recently: "NATO Allies and partners went into Afghanistan after 9/11 to prevent the country from serving as a safe haven for international terrorists to attack us. In the last two decades, there have been no terrorist attacks on Allied soil organised from Afghanistan. Those now taking power have the responsibility to ensure that international terrorists do not regain a foothold." But those who are taking power now, ARE the international terrorists or so you told us before. What happened now, what terms you negotiated and from lions, they became lambs willing to negotiate with their former enemies, or listen to their demands all of a sudden?

Josep Borrell, the EU's top diplomat, says the bloc will have to speak to the Taliban as it has "won the war", in order to avoid a "humanitarian and migratory disaster". He denied that this amounts to recognition of the Islamist group. Evelyn Regner, the Chair of the European Parliament’s committee on women’s rights and gender equality said: “We must not turn a blind eye to a humanitarian crisis which will specifically affect women and girls in Afghanistan. All EU member states must work together to ensure the safe passage out of the country for anyone in danger. All further negotiations must guarantee the safety and well-being of Afghan women and girls.”

The above statements show an utter lack of touch with the reality, by the European officials. I mean calling for "safe passage" for anyone in danger, especially Afghan women is ridiculous. The country has a population of about 40 million people, roughly half of them are women and all of them are equally "in danger" by the Taliban regime. How exactly are we going to provide "safe passage" to all of them? How do we decide which female resident is more deserving than the other to be saved, from the Taliban? Do we evacuate all the women from Afghanistan?

And if we "speak" with the "winners" of this 20 year old war, then it is exactly recognition of their legitimate rule and of themselves as the new caretakers of the country. Why is this so hard to swallow and admit? If it was indeed a "victory", or rather an agreed and long debated hand-over from the West, back to the old leaders of this country, a regime that may I remind you that the US supported before against the Russian influence and expansion in the region.

Just watch any of the old Hollywood "Rambo" movies, to see Sylvester Stallone fighting side by side with the "freedom fighters", the Taliban, against the Soviet oppressors. The ultimate American marine and super-hero, protecting and empowering the region's underdog, against a hostile super-power. Fast forward a couple of decades, and from "freedom fighters" the Taliban became America's No 1 enemy and a terrorist group. But you see, when you nurture dragons to fight for you against your enemies, make sure you do not get burned by their fire when they become too big to handle.

That was never in America's plans, when they were engaging in full cold war with the Soviets. But what tells us that this time, as they hastily are abandoning the Afghans to their own fate again, that we will not have this regime gaining confidence by their apparent victory, thus becoming even more boastful and troublesome for the West some time in the future? After "milking" Afghanistan's resources, or using it as a stepping stone to promote Western/US interests in the region for the past two decades, it now became apparent that the costs surpass the benefits and the Americans decided to get out.

But has anyone understood why we went there in the first place, if not to make sure that Afghanistan never sees the rule of Taliban, or any such group again, thus making it a stable, democratic, "free" country which will never pose any threat to anyone, especially to us in the West? So to witness now the handing over of the state, back to the same "regime" we once supported and then tried to allegedly destroy, is farcical. I will not indulge any conspiracy theories about 9/11 in this article. But if the world's No 1 "superpower", plus all its allies which amount to the globe's top military force ever to come together, could not uproot the Taliban, a group of poppy growers, uneducated religious radicals (as we are left to believe) while not even having anywhere close to their disposal of the finances, resources in arms equipment and trained personnel as their adversaries, then this war was futile and a waste. Or someone is simply lying to us.

Perhaps of course, the West's aim was never to punish the Taliban for the 9/11 attacks, as they could have stroked hard a few targets, killed a number of them and their leader Osama Bin Laden and leave the country to its own devices much earlier. The real reason for such operation may be lost in the pages of history. But we are all going to be burdened, one way or another, for the "trigger happy" attitude of the USA leadership.

In the past, President George W. Bush, has claimed that "America is addicted to oil". I would add also, addicted to war and arms sales, conflict and destabilizing countries, or whole regions. And Europe as an ever willing accomplice, obviously to serve its own interests, even if it is just to receive US financial aid or a post colonial complex of superiority and entitlement, is not only involved, but called to deal with the messy aftermath.

Just as I mentioned above, just watch any US blockbuster movie and you will realize, that American mentality and public opinion is heavily influenced or brainwashed, to be accustomed to war and violence. Many of such films are funded by the military or the US arms industries, plus their actors have military background, themselves or their parents. The highest selling movies are those with war scenes, mafia, corruption, police shoot-outs, presidential assassination attempts, military, explosions, alien invasions, combat scenes, fire, destruction and death. One can find out a lot about weapons and their use, you often feel you are being trained to combat and how to handle guns and riffles in those movie scenes.

It is no wonder then that the US is a highly militarized nation that somehow, thinks itself as the world's leader and policeman. The reality for other countries though is, that not all of them want to play by one nation's rules. Not because of resistance necessarily, but because they simply do not have the same culture or way of viewing things. It will be much easier if we all agreed to disagree, yet despite our different viewpoints, we could all cooperate and work for the betterment of all humanity. And if indeed the Western way is the best way forward, it does not have to be imposed onto other cultures by force: nobody likes to be bombed into submission to change his point of view.

Thus sadly, the No 1 US export is war and violence, instability and financial bullying: and it doesn't deserve this type of fame. It has so much more to give to humanity, if they only could see it. Whether the country with the most billionaires in the globe, would put its wealth for the betterment of its own citizens first, then perhaps those of other nations, it could act as a greater role model for smaller countries to aspire. And of course, it would have so much positive impact in the world, plus eager followers across.

Clearly, first the American, then the European leadership and citizens alike, must rethink their input in this world and the relationship between them. The current US President, Joe Biden who promised that “America is back” after the retreat of the Trump years has embraced his predecessor’s policy of quitting Afghanistan and, critics argue, Trump’s “America first” worldview. Some US allies have suggested Biden’s decision renews questions over the United States as a dependable partner. Biden declared that “the buck stops with me” but pointed the finger elsewhere, including at Afghans he said were unwilling to fight. So where does this leave Europe and its own aspirations to be a world player, or its partnership with the US?

If the Afghan people allowed a small group of around 80,000 men, to take over a country of 40 million people so fast, plus of course what Biden said is true, then what type of help can Europe be pledging to Afghanistan and the region? Money? Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled with $169MILLION in his cash-stuffed helicopter and has been given asylum in Dubai on 'humanitarian grounds'. Military assistance? The Americans just pulled out, the Afghans have given up: can we go and save the day by ourselves? Or perhaps by accepting hundreds of thousands, even millions of Afghan refugees?

Europe and many other nations from across the world, allied to the USA, have offered their support and help, lost soldiers and were part of the two decades long occupation of Afghanistan. Will all of these countries, around 40 in number, become also part in the current situation and help in the expected refugee crisis, by willing to accept fleeing Afghan civilians? Will there be a global humanitarian effort, especially by those nations that assisted USA during the past 20 years in the region, or will the refugees be tossed from border to border until they reach Europe?

Our continent has been struggling since 2015 with another refugee crisis, from the Syrian (and not only) conflict, which tested the unity of the EU itself. It turned into a decisive no matter how indirect factor for Brexit and we still haven't managed to deal completely with the aftermath. Another refugee crisis may be the last drop in the glass, for the EU's cohesion. We know that there are plenty of willing countries, which weaponise the refugees to push for their own interests and agenda: Iran, Turkey and lately even Belarus. It is not a matter of if but when. What will be our resolve?

Ultimately, I think there is a lesson to be learned by the West's defeat in Afghanistan. First, that if you start wars and destabilize regions, you will always have to deal with such mess in the aftermath. We do not have to save the world, especially those who do not want to save themselves or change their ways. And the one way that will definitely not assist this change, is by bombing or invading them. Additionally, others do not have to be like us, nor accept our values in order to collaborate and trade with them. We do not condemn the Saudis for their record of women's rights, but we chose to scold the Taliban. We keep quiet about the lack of LGBT visibility and rights in Japan, but for Russia we opt for an utter hysteria. Different rules and approach, for different nations. How much more hypocritical can the West get?

On the contrary, early indications suggested that China — potentially supported by Russia, Pakistan and some other governments — would adopt a very different approach, according to diplomats and experts. Beijing was unlikely to deploy military force, seeking instead to use diplomatic and economic inducements to coax the Taliban on to a path of peaceful reconstruction. And that is how you win the world, by offering financial assistance, pouring billions into their economy despite their political or social views and beliefs. So once you establish good relations and get them hooked on your money, then you can manipulate them into becoming your staunch allies and supporters, or promoting your own values onto the dependant country. America on the contrary chooses to allow its arms industries to profit, to the detriment of its own citizens, yet with short term benefits for the rest of the nation and a plan for the day after.

We must grasp this opportunity, both the US and Europe, to reflect and outline a roadmap for the future. To reimage our relationship and that with the rest of the world. It's ok to step back for while and take stock, than losing our way while we strive always to not lose control and the leadership spot. The world is not comprised only be Western nations and why should it be. We are all on this planet together, there is no need for a "boss," that is such an immature and childish approach. The US can be excused for being a relative new nation for this demeanour, but what excuse does Europe have, with all the centuries of influencing and inspiring the planet?


       
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