The fall of Kabul on 15 August conjures up grim memories of Saigon in April 1975. People plunging to their deaths from departing C-17s reminds us of the estimated two to four hundred thousand South Vietnamese civilians who drowned on the high seas attempting to escape the communists. God only knows the carnage and mayhem that will follow in the wake of the Taliban’s victory. Spokesman Zabihullah announced the new regime will honour ‘women’s rights’ as long as women adhere to the Taliban’s ‘cultural values’. Let the stonings begin.
Biden’s attempt to blame Trump for the abrupt demise of ‘democratic’ Afghanistan is risible: ‘When I came into office, I inherited a deal Trump made with the Taliban’. Biden has a free hand to act in any way he likes given the Taliban defaulted on the Trump deal. Would an estimated 10,000 Americans be hiding in their Kabul homes fearing for their lives if Trump was still in the White House? Not likely. Supreme Leader Amir al-Mu’minin and co. would know what was in store for them if they tried double-crossing a commander-in-chief who not only said what he meant but knew what he said.
It was Trump, we might recall, who took out the Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on 27 October, 2019. And on January 3, 2020, when the opportunity presented itself, he did not hesitate to terminate with extreme prejudice the Iranian terrorist mastermind Qasem Soleimani. Biden might have been vice president at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid in Abbottabad in 2011, but history records a risk-adverse Joe counselling against sending in the Navy Seals.
The disintegration of the 300,000-strong US-trained Afghan National Army in 11 days is mind-boggling. It speaks to the reality that there was never an Afghan ‘national army’ in the same way there is no Afghan ‘nation’ in any normal understanding of that term. Afghanistan is the geographical location for an assortment of essentially warring tribes who make and break alliances of convenience as the situation requires.
Consequently, the only truly successful period in the Afghanistan War occurred between 7 October and 17 December, 2001, when America helped the mostly non-Pashtun tribes of the Northern Alliance rout the mostly Pashtun Taliban. With virtually no boots on the ground but a truckload of eyes in the sky, the US made Mohammed Omar’s regime pay the maximum price for aiding and abetting Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda in the lead up to and the aftermath of September 11.
That should have been the end of the story. But as Donald Trump would remind Americans, and is still reminding them, the Afghanistan War cost the United States some $300 million a day for twenty years. And that is not counting the cost of American (and Australian) lives lost, bodies maimed and minds traumatised forever: a trauma not likely to dimmish now ‘democratic’ Afghanistan has vanished.
The logic of Trump’s America First policy pointed to the drawing down of US troops, and yet it is unlikely that a Trump administration would allow the Taliban to take possession of US weaponry such as Black Hawk and other helicopters. Thanks to the incompetence of Joe Biden, the Taliban has ended up better equipped than ever.
The original purpose of US military intervention – to mete out justice for 9/11 and reduce the likelihood of another terrorist attack on American soil – has been lost. A re-emerging Northern Alliance, this time under the leadership of Ahmad Massoud, is now calling for US arms to resist the Taliban: ‘America can still be a great arsenal of democracy’. Déjà vu, anyone?
Given the defeatism affecting America today, the State Department will take little notice of Massoud’s entreaty. A Northern Alliance 2.0 challenging a Taliban 2.0 armed to the teeth with American military hardware, looks unlikely in the short term. A re-Talibanised Afghanistan, bolstered by Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency and Chinese investment, will be around for the long haul.
President Biden is the Zombie in the White House on two scores. First, he failed to secure the perimeter of Kabul before thousands of American, British and other Western civilians were evacuated. As recently as June, at the G7 Conference in Britain, he assured leaders that everything would remain ‘stable’ in Kabul during the US drawdown.
At almost the same moment as the Taliban made its move on Kabul, Biden was blithely assuring America all was in hand. Biden has been asleep at the wheel both figuratively and literally. In a recent poll taken by Rasmussen, only 39 per cent of likely voters believe Biden, obviously suffering from cognitive decline, remains in charge at the White House.
If this is the case, Biden’s presidency is likely a chimera on another count. Are we, in truth, witnessing Barack Obama’s third term? The resemblances are chilling. In 2011, for instance, Obama withdrew from Iraq without signing a Status of Forces Agreement with Baghdad. He scoffed at warnings that Isis was a threat to the region – until Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi captured Mosul.
Biden, like Obama before him, opened the floodgates on the southern US border, re-energised Palestinian terrorism with his outreach to the ‘resistance’ in the Territories and held out an olive branch to the mullahs in Tehran. Disconcertingly, in 2014 Obama ordered the release of the ‘Taliban Five’ in exchange for the deserter Bowe Bergdahl. Now we learn that one of those Guantanamo inmates, Khairullah Khairkhwa, has helped lead the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Biden’s version of ‘peace for our time’, then, turns out to be almost indistinguishable from Obama’s. The upside is that Obama’s calamitous foreign policy paved the way for Trump’s unlikely 2016 win. Perhaps Biden is currently writing a return-ticket to the White House for Trump or, at least, someone with a similar populist-patriotic viewpoint. Trump’s description of the Kabul fiasco will resonate for years: ‘The most embarrassing thing we have ever seen’.
To be fair, Biden did not veto the sale of advanced military technology to Taipei, a deal initiated in the final months of Trump’s presidency. Then again, Xi Jinping probably views Joe Biden as less of a threat than an opportunity.
Consider: Biden neglected to secure the perimeter of Kabul but is now going to secure the perimeter of the South China Sea? Yeah, sure.
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