Taliban
Taliban in Kunduz city, northern Afghanistan on Aug. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Abdullah Sahil)

The historical vectors are moving with conviction and purpose; the weak and lacking in conviction are in retreat and the gun is doing the talking.  The government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the security services and the Afghan National Army, seem to be either huddled in despair, capitulating or fleeing before the inexorable advance of the Taliban.  They have the upper hand, the cards, the means, storming through and winning half of the country.

For months, it was assumed that the Taliban would not have the means to capture cities.  The National Army would be able to garrison and lord in the cities, offering protection.  In July, US President Joseph Biden claimed that, while he did not trust the Taliban, he did “trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more re- – more competent in terms of conducting war.”

Then, the cities started falling. Kandahar, Ghazni, Herat.  On August 14, Taliban fighters captured Mazar-i-Sharif, finding itself ever closer to the capital.  Members of the Afghan army and security personnel had reportedly made a highway dash north to Uzbekistan.

The US is hurriedly deploying 5,000 troops in an exercise of circularity, given that they were already leaving in numbers even prior to July 2.  As Biden tried to explain on August 14, the troops would ensure “we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of US personnel and other allied personnel, and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.”

His statement, for the most part, was a spiritless effort to justify some continued role of the US in Afghanistan even as it cuts the cord to their corrupt clients in Kabul.  The Armed Forces and Intelligence Community had been “ordered” to keep an eye on “future terrorist threats from Afghanistan.”  Secretary State Anthony Blinken had been “directed to support President Ghani and other Afghan leaders” in their efforts to avoid “further bloodshed and pursue a political settlement.”  There was some finger wagging regarding the Taliban, warning that any military acts against US personnel or its mission would “be met with a swift and strong US military response.”

Within the crumbling layers of the Kabul government, there is much quaking, shifting and internal bloodletting. As has been pointed out by Candace Rondeaux, “the greater threat to Afghanistan’s stability has always been the fecklessness of so many in positions of power in the Afghan government.”

The defence minister Hayatullah Hayat has been given the heave-ho by Ghani, to be replaced by General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi on Wednesday.  Khan is a testament that current events in Afghanistan are always reminders of history: he was a former member of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, a body that was favoured by the now defunct Soviet Union.

US forces find themselves again being drawn into the maelstrom.  There are the warnings, almost shrill, that forces must recommit, and decisions reversed.  Former CIA director General David Petraeus wishes for a proper re-deployment of troops to prevent the consignment of a “country of 40 million people to a medieval, theocratic, ultra-conservative Islamist emirate.”  The editors of the conservative National Review envisage the creation of a “launchpad of a global movement that had for years been kept at bay by the presence of US forces – most recently a small, relatively low-cost contingent”.

Such sentiments are also being echoed in Britain, which is also sending 600 troops.  Conservative chairman of the Commons Foreign Select Committee Tom Tugendhat reminisced that, “We got to the point where the insurgent forces were outmatched and a standoff saw civic institutions grow.”  The chair of the Defence Select Committee, Tobias Ellwood, told the BBC that the UK “should really be reconsidering what’s going on”, warning that the withdrawal would precipitate a “massive humanitarian disaster” and permit terrorism to “raise its ugly head again”.

This is charmless window dressing.  When chaos is spoken of in tones of panic, it is often forgotten how significant Washington’s own disruptive role has been.  The US continues its less than angelic streak in Afghanistan, funding cut throat militias – many co-opted by the Ghani government – for the simple vulgar purpose that they are against the Taliban.  (This is unlikely to change in the long term.)

Characters such as the blood soaked Abdul Rashid Dostum, a notorious warlord who has had it all ways, promises to remain in the mix.  Last year, he felt that loyalty to the Ghani government needed some recognition.  His absurd promotion to the rank of marshal was considered fitting, and did nothing to hide a butcher’s record almost without peer.  With a crude Falstaffian wisdom, Dostum is a character who knows that cowardice is useful to draw upon when facing a losing cause.  As Taliban fighters made their way unopposed into Mazar-i-Sharif, he was fleeing to safety.

A blind eye has been given to other militias who threaten to cause mischief in due course, a point which only serves to strengthen the Taliban’s cause.  One of them is Iran’s Shia Fatemiyoun militia.  In February 2020, Rahmatullah Nabil, head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency through periods over the last decade, told Radio Free Europe that the Fatemiyoun did not pose an “immediate threat to Afghan national security”.  Call it what you will: having such agents milling about in the landscape does every little bit to add to the chaos so lamented by the commentariat.

Any victory for the Taliban will be premised upon the fundamental failure of a rotten centre, the decay of which has been encouraged for years behind the mirage of development, the building of schools and women’s rights.  The pantomime that is Afghan governance has always existed on borrowed time.

The Biden administration, short of reawakening a bloodlust to re-intervene, will let it be, subject to stints of interference from special forces, contractors and adventurers.  The intelligence community generationally obsessed with being in Afghanistan will continue to have the president’s ear, and hope to haunt him during the course of his sedated premiership. But not even they could prevent a moment of candour from Biden on Saturday.  “One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country.”

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com


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One Comment

  1. samir sardana says:

    And what are the Indians waiting for ? Not sending in the IAF ?

    The USA is leaving Afghans in precisely the situation that the Americans wanted – a nation of squabbling warlords,antagonistc tribes and a resurgent Taliban.If the US wanted they could have bombed the Taliban,and at least delayed the Taliban wave until September – but they did NOT.

    The US wants to put the fear of death into Ghani and his merry men, and the warlords – to push them into a coalition – desired by the USA, and funded by the USA.

    Ultimately that will also fail,and the nation will be divided into “zones of influence”,with the maximum spread with the Taliban,and the Taliban controlling the supply chains to all oteher zones.So you will have a interlocked and connected matrix,which is spun by the USA ,every few months, by some “event” – to keep the players ,in their place – strategic disequilibrium – where all players are off balance – but will not collapse.

    The Taliban will earn toll revenues from infra (built by the hapless Indians),and tax revenues from tradea,s CORRUPTION WILL DECLINE SHARPLY – and that is enough to finance the Islamic state.The BONUS will be Chinese investments into Taliban ,for minerals and the royalty,transit fees and profit taxes ,which will then get the Taliban, the funds to build an Airforce,which will then take over Afghanistan

    The Mongols will redeem the Islamic state of the Taliban,as a part of the Ghazwa E Hind and other prophecies.In Return,Taliban will offer no sanctuary to East Turkmenisation and Xinjiang fighters ! Using the Chinese to deal with the Taliban is the best option,as they are a new face with NO HISTORY OF GENOCIDE AND PERFIDY IN AFGHANISTAN !

    It is a NEW DAWN and the rise of the 1st REAL ISLAMIC NATION – which will be the most prosperous in the world (among Muslim nations) as the population is just 40 million and the nation has Trillions of USD of Minerals and will earn Billions of USD,via transit fees for the logistics and hydrocarbon corridors !

    And that will lead to the revival of the Islamic nation (based on shariat) across all Muslim nations.It will be the 1st AND ONLY VIABLE TO THE DUBIOUS ELECTORAL DEMOCRACIES OF MUSLIM NATIONS.

    WHAT CAN THE INDIAN WEASELS DO ? THEY COULD NOT PROTECT THEIR INFRA OR THEIR MI-24 CHOPPERS OR THEIR TRAINED AFGHAN ARMY OR NAJIBULLAH or CHABAHAR ?

    THE INDIAN ARMY IS A PANSY FORCE – WHICH EVOKES NO FEAR OR RESPECT IN ENEMIES ! KILLING KASHMIRIS IS EASY, AND SO IS FIGHTING OUTNUMBERED KASHMIRI MJAHIDEEN,ON A SUICIDE MISSION, ARMED WITH AK-47 AND LIMITED AMMO AND NO KEVLAR ! AND STILL THE INDIAN PANSY CALLS ITSELF BATTLE HARDENED !

    THE SAME APPLIES TO THE IAF ! IT HAS NO ROLE IN AFGHAN ! THE GOI MIGHT HAVE ALREADY CUT A DEAL WITH THE TALIBAN – TO NOT SEND IN THE ARMY OR IAF , AND NOT O TAID GHANI – AND IN LIEU,THEREOF,TALIBAN DOES NOT DESTROY INDIAN ASSETS AND DOES NOT ENTER KASHMIR !

    THE INDIANS CANT EVEN KEEP THEIR MIGs FROM CRASHING – AND HOW DEEP CAN THE IAF GO INTO AFGHAN AND FROM WHERE – WHOSE AIRSPACE AND WHOSE REFUELLING AND WHOSE CARRIERS ? WHOEVER AIDS THE INDIANS WILL BE BOMBED BY THE TALIBAN ! dindooohindoo

    IN ESSENCE,HINDOOS HAVE NO ROLE OR PLACE IN AFGHANISTAN ! BY RACE AND RELIGION THE PERSIANS,CENTRAL ASIANS,TURKS AND PAKISTANIS ,HAVE A ROLE ,AND AN AXE TO GRIND ! INDIANS ARE HISTORY – THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY !

    THE US WILL GET TALIBAN TO KABUL ,BUT IN A GRADUATED MANNER – TO REALISE THE ROLE AND POWER OF THE US – AND IN RETURN,,TALIBAN HAS TO GIVE NO SPACE TO AL QAEDA ,AND BE MORE HUMANISTIC !

    PEOPLE IN AFGHANISTAN WILL SEE THE MAGICAL NEW FACE OF TOLERANCE OF THE TALIBAN ,TO EVERYTHING EXCEPT CORRUPTION , VULGARITY AND BLASPHEMY !

    AND ULTIMATELY, THE TALIBAN WILL LIBERATE KASHMIR WITH THE MONGOLS AND PAKISTANIS – NOT ONLY, DUE TO PROVIDENCE – BUT BECAUSE IDEOLOGY TRUMPS ALL TACTICAL ALLIANCES ,AND THE TALIBAN THRUST INTO KASHMIR, IS THE ISLAMIC SALVATION OF THE TALIBAN AND THE LAND OF THE LOST TRIBES OF ISRAEL , ID.EST AFGHANISTAN !