Afghan fiasco – the end of a unipolar world?

Handover ceremony at Camp Anthonic, from US Army to Afghan Special Forces, Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 2, 2021.

Anyone who ever tried to invade Afghanistan was inevitably defeated. The multiethnic mountainous country has become a grave for the British, the Russians, and now for the Americans and their European allies. To make matters worse, the hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan laid bare the political weakness and inconsistency of the White House that could not create a sense of uncertainty in the camp of its most loyal allies.

Along with the defeat of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the 2001 US military operation in Afghanistan to avenge the radical Islamists terrorist attacks on American soil was a demonstration of Washington’s military effectiveness and diplomacy. In record time and with minimal losses, the United States established control over most of Afghanistan. However, the Republican administration of President George W. Bush was already at a loss as to what to do next. In 1945, the liberated Europe was offered the “Marshall Plan.” In 2001 and 2003, the liberated Afghanistan and Iraq were offered nothing. It seemed that successive US presidential administrations had simply forgotten the principle of “the well-fed will not rebel,” and were doing everything to prevent the Afghan economy, if it ever existed, from becoming viable. The warlords who had sided with the forces of the “Northern Alliance” shamelessly plundered the provinces, which they were appointed to govern. The on-and-off guerrilla warfare and the “fight against drug trafficking” have left an estimated 1 million civilians dead. UAV operators and Air Force pilots killed and shot at will anyone who looked suspicious, while the special services of Afghan and Western allies tortured and killed with impunity anyone who they believed was in any way linked to the extremists. All this was playing right into the hands of the Taliban. In Islam they love those who become martyrs for the sake of their faith…

Winning the war in Afghanistan is almost mission impossible. The main enemy facing the soldiers of the international coalition is not a Taliban fighter with an assault rifle in hand, but the very way of life of the Afghan people, only a tiny fraction of whom embrace Western values. The Soviet Union tried to fight traditional values ​​by building schools and hospitals. The Americans and their coalition partners focused on helping the Afghan army. They also allocated huge funds for humanitarian projects only to see that money being eaten up by endemic Afghan corruption, which quickly infected US military officials themselves. How else to explain that, according to the most optimistic estimates by international organizations, from 2001 to 2020, the production of drugs in the country jumped from 180 tons to 10,000 tons?

Afghan peasants switched to drug production out of desperation. They had no other options. All they got was an army of corrupt managers who roused hatred among the people. Government contracts worth billions of dollars enriched members of the US top military brass, who turned a blind eye to such sallies by their subordinates as drug trafficking, the creation of field brothels and torture for pleasure. In fact, the army began to rapidly degrade and decay. Degraded as it was, it was still able, with little help from allies, to keep the country under control, not letting it slide into chaos and forcing the Afghan army to help itself. However, that very same US army failed to effectively fight drug trafficking or prevent jihadists from entering the country from Pakistan.

As a result, the impoverished civilian population fiercely hated both the occupiers and their own elites, as well as Western values ​​in the form of women’s rights, education and medicine. Therefore, never becoming allies for the Afghan people, the Americans were suffering losses in the guerrilla war. And the generation, who could have been re-educated, was becoming suicide bombers and militants, increasing the number of coffins flying home draped in the star-spangled flag.

As a result, by the time Trump became president, the situation had already crossed the point of no return. It was imperative to change the entire military administration and the Afghan elite, crack down hard on corruption and wait another ten years for the reforms to bear fruit. Maybe in 2030, maybe in 2040, a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan would become the best monument of American democracy. Most likely, it would be possible to convince the American electorate of the impossibility of leaving the country and handing it over to the Taliban, who are responsible for the deaths of thousands of peaceful Americans. There was no such political will though. Neither were competent and honest managers capable of transforming Afghanistan into a legal, viable state. As a result, the lives of American soldiers who died for democracy and billions of dollars of American taxpayers were not just wasted. They were wasted on national disgrace. Moreover, the West will now have to conduct a dialogue with the Taliban and rub shoulders with the leaders of the radical Islamists who have the blood of American and European civilians on their hands. All the sacrifices were in vain, terrorism won, not by military force, but due to inconsistency, incompetence and sheer inability to calculate the consequences, which is unacceptable for a great power. In fact, the Biden administration has admitted its inability to defend the Western world against the chaos of radical Islamism. Obviously, the world needs a new protector, or a world policeman…

Author: Slavisha Batko Milacic – I live in Podgorica (capital of Montenegro), I am 30 years old, and I graduated history at University of Montenegro. My specialist graduate thesis was: “Foreign Policy of Russia from 1905 to 1917”. I have been doing analytics for years, writing in English and Serbian about the situation in the Balkans and Europe.


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