Why did the West’s Afghanistan policy fail so spectacularly? Was it doomed from the very beginning, and have any lessons been learned? More to the point, did the end of one 20-year war pave the way for another?
One year after the fall of Kabul and the Taliban’s return to power, these and other questions are hanging in the air. They remain unanswered, partly because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and renewed Sino-American tensions have consumed much of the oxygen, but also because they are too painful to consider. It has been easier for the international community simply to forget about Afghanistan altogether.
Contrary to simplistic arguments one hears in the United States, the immediate reason for the Afghan regime’s collapse was not that Afghan soldiers didn’t want to fight for their country. In fact, tens of thousands had fought and died trying to stop the Taliban, only for the US suddenly to withdraw all political and material support for their fight. The regime collapsed because America had decided to get out, the consequences be damned.
As we have since learned (again) in Ukraine, an army’s ability to fight depends on the belief that victory is indeed possible, even if the odds are against it. Once the US had signaled its intention to withdraw completely from Afghanistan, it embarked on a rushed evacuation. In short order, the Afghan army lost access even to the repair and logistics personnel needed to maintain the complicated weapons systems that had been supplied to it. No wonder morale among Afghan troops collapsed. When the US cut and ran, Afghan soldiers took it as a signal to do the same. [Continue reading…]
Nearly 80 family members of 9/11 victims urge President Joe Biden to reverse his order and send back billions in Afghanistan’s U.S.-held frozen assets.
“Any use of the $7 billion to pay off 9/11 family member judgments is legally suspect and morally wrong,” they wrote in a letter addressed to the president today. “Order and affirm that the Afghanistan central bank funds belong to the Afghan people and the Afghan people alone,” adding that Afghans need the money much more than they do.
The letter, sent to a senior White House aide is the latest backlash to the president’s February executive order holding on to $7 billion in American-based assets owned by Afghanistan’s Central Bank. The administration feared the Taliban would use the money following its sweep to power last year, so the U.S. seized it temporarily. [Continue reading…]