Does the great withdrawal from Afghanistan mark the end of the American era?

The story will definitely notice this absurdly poorly timed tweet. Monday, August 9, US Embassy in Kabul posed a question to his 400,000 followers: “This #PeaceMonday we would like to hear from you. What do you want to tell the negotiating parties in Doha about your hopes for a political solution? #PeaceForAfghanistan.” The message reflected the delusion of American politics. As the Taliban swept across the country, storming one provincial capital after another, the prospect of diplomacy working a year after US-backed talks in Qatar began – and quickly stalled – was illusory. On Thursday, the Afghan government controlled only three major cities. President Joe Biden, the leader of the world’s most powerful nation, announced that he was sending 3,000 American troops to Afghanistan to pull hundreds of its diplomats and staff out of that embassy. And on Sunday it was all over – before dusk. President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, his government collapsed, and the US-trained Afghan security forces simply melted away as the Taliban moved into the capital. US diplomats – after evacuating the fortress-like US embassy – were forced to shelter in place at the airport while waiting to be evacuated. America’s two-decade-long disaster in Afghanistan is over. To Americans, Afghanistan looks a little, maybe a lot, like a toss a trillion dollars. Meanwhile, Afghans are left in free fall.

It’s not just an epic defeat for the United States. The fall of Kabul can serve as a book support for the era of US global power. In the 19-40s, the United States launched Great Rescue to help liberate Western Europe from the powerful Nazi war machine. It then used its enormous land, sea and air power to defeat the formidable Japanese empire in East Asia. Eighty years later, the United States is engaged in what historians may one day call a Great Retreat from a ragtag militia that has no air force or significant armor and artillery, in one of the poorest countries in the world.

It is now part of a nerve-wracking American pattern dating back to the 1970s. On Sunday, postings on social media of side-by-side images evoked painful memories. One caught a desperate crowd climbing a ladder to the roof of a building near the U.S. Embassy in Saigon to board one of the last helicopters out in 1975 under the Ford Administration. The other showed a Chinook helicopter hovering over the US Embassy in Kabul on Sunday. “This is obviously not Saigon,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken tried to argue Sunday on ABC’s This Week. It was not washed. And there are other episodes. In 1984, the Reagan administration withdrew U.S. Marines from Beirut after a suicide bomber from an incipient cell in what became Hezbollah killed more than 200 military personnel – the largest loss to Marines in a single incident since World War II. . In 2011, the United States withdrew from Iraq, paving the way for the emergence of ISIS. The repeated miscalculations challenge fundamental Washington policies as well as U.S. military strategies and intelligence capabilities. Why was this looming accident – or any of the previous ones – not foreseen? Or are the exits better planned? Or the land not left in the hands of a former enemy? That’s a dishonest conclusion.

Regardless of the historical truth decades from now, the United States of the world today will be widely perceived as having lost what George W. Bush called the “war on terror” – despite having mobilized NATO for its first deployment outside Europe or North America, one hundred and thirty-six countries to provide various types of military assistance and twenty-three countries to host US forces stationed in offensive operations. America’s enormous tools and tactics proved to be ill-equipped to counter the will and perseverance of the Taliban and their Pakistani supporters. In the long run, its missiles and warplanes were unable to defeat a movement of sixty thousand nuclear warriors in a country about the size of Texas.

There are many consequences that will last long after the US withdrawal. First, jihadism has won an important battle against democracy. The West believed that its armor and steel, backed by a generous supply of aid, could defeat a hard line ideology with a strong local following. The Taliban is likely to re-install sharia as the law of the land. Afghanistan will again, almost certainly, become a haven for like-minded militants, whether they are members of Al Qaeda or others in search of a refuge or a sponsor. It’s a bleak prospect as the Americans prepare to mark the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks next month. Since 2001, Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other jihadi extremists have seeded franchises on all six inhabited continents. Last month, the United States sanctioned one ISIS branch as far away as Mozambique, the former Portuguese colony in southern Africa, where nearly sixty percent of the population are Christians.

Second, both Afghanistan and Iraq have proven that the United States can neither build nations nor create armies from scratch, especially in countries that have a limited middle class and low education rates, over a decade or two. It takes generations. Not enough people have the knowledge or experience to navigate completely new ways of living, whatever they want in principle. Ethnic and sectarian divisions prevent attempts to revise political, social and economic life at the same time. The United States spent eighty-three billion dollars training and arming an Afghan force of about 300,000 – more than four times the size of the Taliban militia. “This army and this police force have been very, very effective in the fight against the rebels every single day,” Mark Milley told reporters back in 2013. He is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But in March, when I was last in Kabul, the Taliban controlled half of the country. Between May and mid-August, it took the second half – mostly only during the past week. Last month, Biden said he relied on “the Afghan military’s capabilities, which are better trained, better equipped and more competent in waging war.” Eventually, the Taliban basically entered Kabul – and the presidential palace – on Sunday.

Third, the US position abroad is deeply weakened, symbolized by the US Embassy’s lowering of Stars and Stripes for the last time on Sunday. Smoke was seen rising from the embassy’s area – which cost nearly eight hundred million dollars to expand just five years ago – as equipment was burned in a hurry to leave it. Washington will have a hard time mobilizing its allies to act together again – whether for the kind of broad and united alliances, one of the largest in world history formed in Afghanistan after 9/11, or for that type lean cobblestone- together “coalition of the willing” for the war in Iraq. The United States is still the dominant power in the West, but largely by default. There are not many other powers or leaders that offer alternatives. It’s hard to see how the United States will save its reputation or position soon.

America’s Great Retreat is at least as humiliating as the withdrawal of the Soviet Union in 1989, an event that contributed to the end of its empire and communist rule. The United States was in Afghanistan twice as long and spent far more. The Soviet Union is estimated to have spent about fifty billion dollars during the first seven of its ten years of occupying the mountainous country. Yes, the United States promoted the birth of a rich civil society, the education of girls, and an independent medium. It facilitated democratic elections more than once and witnessed the transfer of power. 37 percent of Afghan girls are now able to read, according to Human Rights Watch. That TOLO the channel hosted eighteen seasons of “Afghan Star,” a song contest similar to “American Idol.” Zahra Elham, a 20-year member of Afghanistan’s Hazara minority, became the first woman to win in 2019. But countless Afghans encouraged by the United States are desperately searching for ways out of the country as the Taliban move in. Women have withdrawn. out of their blue burkas again. And the enduring imagery of the Americans flying out on their helicopters will be no different than Soviet troops marching across the Friendship Bridge from Afghanistan to the then Soviet Union on February 15, 1989. Both great powers withdrew as losers, with their tails between . their legs and leaves chaos.


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