The disorderly and daring exit of US troops from Kabul has produced substantially univocal comments about yet another US defeat. That’s it? Of course, the defeat is political and military, but the overall picture is more complex and articulated. The USA, in fact, tried – and failed – to win, but somehow they were even more interested in their presence in Afghanistan than they were in a military victory.
So let’s see the two aspects separately. From a political and military point of view, there can be no doubts: this is a defeat. Twenty years of occupation did not reach the declared objective (the defeat of the Taliban and the return of the country to the international community) and the substantial coincidence between the exit of the Americans and the entry of Islamic fighters into the capital tells the outcome of the mission.
In the era of fourth and fifth generation wars, the symbolic aspect, both for the icons of conflicts and for the narration of the same, have enormous weight. Well, from this point of view it appears to be a debacle, because it can certainly be said that the modalities of abandoning the Asian country were more similar to an escape than to an exit (moreover, the images of the escape contrast with the historical ones of the Soviet retreat, more military and orderly). The fact that it was agreed with the Taliban in the manner and timing, without sharing it with the allies on the ground, is just the umpteenth demonstration of the consideration given by the other 25 NATO countries.
Another symbolic aspect, but full of meaning, can be grasped in the dramatic scenes of people massed on planes to escape and who even, desperately, clung to the wheels of the aircraft inevitably falling to the ground from hundreds of meters in the air. It is about the role and fate of those who ally with the United States in military occupations. They are collaborators who, sometimes for political faith, much more often for money, do not hesitate to play important roles in logistics, espionage and assistance to the occupying troops. Well, when the US decides to abandon the land, they have no place of consideration: they are abandoned as useless tools and left exposed to the revenge of the enemies who will not forget which side they were on.
The symbols and the strength of the images therefore leave no room for different interpretations from those already seen in the past. The images of the helicopters rising from the roofs of the US embassy are reminiscent of the 1975 Saigon after the Paris accords. Which reminds everyone, allies and enemies alike, that the US since 1945 has shown that it is unable to win any war. With the exception of the invasion of the small island of Grenada and of Panama, where the overwhelming amount of soldiers and the aviation on civilian targets managed to prevail (and certainly not quickly), from Vietnam to Korea, from Iraq to Syria, and eventually to Afghanistan, the USA came out with their tails between their legs, having destroyed everything they could but never managing to win. The message is clear: no matter the very heavy technological gap in armaments, the economic, financial, political and diplomatic strength they are able to deploy. Their soldiers simply don’t win, unless it’s a Hollywood b-movie.
Why continue a war for 20 years that cannot be won?
However, speaking of a complete political and military defeat is – even if appropriate – not exhaustive. Because the United States intended to occupy the country to obtain geopolitical and financial advantages, not just to obtain a military victory, as everyone knows is impossible given the shape of the country and the popular support the Taliban enjoy, as much as it may sound strange. On the other hand, the massacres of civilians carried out by the Americans, which have accompanied ignorance in the hunt for the Taliban, have certainly not reduced the consensus for former theology students or increased the one for the NATO coalition.
The United States went to Afghanistan knowing that the Taliban had nothing to do with the attack on the Twin Towers. They knew perfectly well who the Taliban were, because they derived from the Mujahideen, also invented by the USA in an anti-Soviet function. They knew they were absolutely unrelated to 9/11 and if they really wanted to hit the attackers (all Saudis except one and Saudi was also Osama bin Ladin) they should have hit Ryad, a creator, financier and political supporter of the Taliban, as well as Al-Qaeda and of Isis.
And it was not only the Saudis: those who trained the Taliban troops and trained their intelligence were the Pakistani Secret Services, historical allies of the CIA, the same ones who sold them bin Ladin after giving him shelter for years. The US presence in Kabul therefore had nothing to do with the New York attack: it was an operation that triggered the large-scale re-entry of the US military force in support of the Central Asian control project as a containment measure of China and Russia.
The war had its economic implications, with trillions of dollars billed by the US military industry and by an increasingly broadly placed side of the economy. The business has been productive: the military-industrial complex, which remains to be the real driving force of the US economy, has had the opportunity to grind billions upon billions, to reduce the allied arsenals that will now have to be supplied, to make their armament that will now have to be modernized. Everything “made in the USA”, as a must for members of the Atlantic Alliance. Exceptions are not allowed, as Ankara well knows. To this we must add the imperious development of contractor companies, by now an authentic military and economic complement to every American adventure and its allies.
But the real core business was opium. Since the arrival of the Washington soldiers to date, the turnover from the production and sale of opiates (significantly heroin) has grown 40 times. This has definitely contributed to the introduction of more drugs and therefore to a lower price on the market; perhaps it is not by chance that the US is the largest drug user in the world. Moreover, the proceeds from drugs are certainly not fiscally traceable. This is an immense amount of money whose use must therefore not be authorized by the Senate and Congress and which is useful for the clandestine operations (the covert actions) that the CIA and the like use for their strategy of destabilization in the four corners of the planet.
The future of Afghanistan appears decidedly uncertain, the end of the NATO military occupation will not only lead to the disappearance of the military but also of the economic mortgage. The immense and never exploited mineral resources, oil and gas, lithium and rare earths, which Afghanistan has at its disposal, make the Central Asian country extremely interesting. In part, the new scenario is extremely penalizing for the US, which has never had the opportunity to start drilling and extraction of oil and gas precisely in the absence of absolute military control. Rare earths and lithium are also absolute values for both civil and military use, with the United States already suffering from the lack of control of Venezuela, Congo and China itself (which is very rich in rare earths), now appears in the front row in proposing itself to the Taliban as commercial partners, also taking into account the New Silk Road project which contains an important junction along the passage through Afghanistan.
A final aspect concerns the current overwhelming Western hypocrisy scattered like dust on the mainstream media. The concern for the fate of women – quite right, of course – has not been reflected in the 20 years of occupation. And if indeed the issue of women’s dignity and freedom were at the centre of Western concerns, then, coherently, we could withdraw from the next football World Cup scheduled in Qatar, which is a financier and supporter of the Taliban and who has the worst humiliation for the women, one of the hallmarks of its technological barbarism. We could say the same, if not more, with regard to Saudi Arabia, where a regime substantially similar to the one implemented by the Taliban is envisaged for women.
The Americans and Europeans, far from imposing sanctions (which are reserved only for their competitors or for socialist countries), on the contrary, are reinforcing the war apparatus of the reigned house of Ryad and of all the Gulf Emirates, which are the inspiration of the Taliban. There is no point in shouting at the terrorist threat when terrorism is your best ally. If you really want to isolate the Taliban like Isis or what remains of al-Queda, or Al-Nusra, just hit the Emirates of the Gulf. Without the sheikhs’ money, all these groups of medieval cutthroats would remain inert in their caves and the mercenaries accompanying them would make a quick return home, good for other wars.
Our media have two paths: if they do not want to say that our best allies are the political and financial leaders of international terrorism, the inspirers and organizers of the horror that covers with blood the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, at least stop pretending to worry about Afghanistan’s return to the Middle Ages. In the absence of decency, at least a bit of modest silence by the guardians of the sacred fire of Liberalism would be welcome.
The author, Fabrizio Casari, is a journalist and director of the independent news portal www.altrenotizie.org.
He has been dealing with foreign policy for roughly 36 years, with special reference to Latin America but also with attention to the Middle East.
In 2017 he wrote a book called Nicaragua, the last revolution.
Cover photo “Afghan graveyard” by The U.S. Army released under Creative Commons BY 2.0 license.