Afghanistan is now effectively under the control of the Taliban as the US prepares to evacuate its remaining troops and diplomats. The militant group declared its victory after capturing the Presidential palace as the US-backed Afghan government including President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. Taliban taking over Afghanistan has been the saddest news for masses who cared about the citizens. The Taliban told the media that they will soon announce the formation of a new government in Afghanistan. Afraid of the thought, the civilians flooded Kabul’s International Airport in a desperate attempt to escape.
The US and other western countries have also been extracting their nationals and diplomats. There is a worldwide concern for the safety of women and how civilization as a whole would now fare in Afghanistan. As the US gave up on its 20-year crusade of “fighting terrorism” without any results, there was bound to be anger, frustration, and resentment across the world.
However, the fall of Kabul at the hands of Afghanistan with this ease doesn’t seem an easy pill to swallow, given how much the US has invested in building an independent civilian government in Afghanistan. Therefore, certain questions seem inevitable here.
Why Afghan Military Failed to Resist Taliban Taking over Afghanistan?
The first common question was how an army better equipped with arms didn’t put up any resistance against the Taliban. The militants took over 27 out of 34 districts in the past 10 days while the Afghan army kept on retreating. According to reports, one soldier said that everyone surrendered their weapons because there was no help from the central government.
US President Joe Biden previously claimed that Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) were capable to prevent Taliban taking over Afghanistan. However, more than 300,000 troops with high-end American technology failed to do so. The number of Taliban troops varies from report to report but it is safe to say that active fighters are somewhere between 80,000 to 85,000. Yet Taliban claimed the majority of the districts without even a fight.
Afghan army was well equipped but marred with the allegations of corruption and dependent on NATO’s support. On the other hand, Taliban fighters were at least ideologically motivated despite being poorly equipped. Reportedly, the US started the multi-trillion-dollar training of Afghan forces in 2002 which later included police as well. The critics slammed the US for miscalculating the battle-readiness of Afghan forces before quitting.
What was the US Doing There for 2 Decades if Not Working on Capacity Building?
The circumstances don’t look good for the human rights in Afghanistan and also for the reputation of the US, which has spent more than 2 trillion USD on this war. A subsequent question arises what made the US spend this much money and still not get anything substantial to show for. It is true that there are schools for girls and democratic institutions but only the infrastructure does not make civilization.
The US reportedly spent 87 billion USD on the enhancement of Afghan military power. However, the data of US spending in this war was not transparent throughout the years. According to a 2018 report by Defense Department, almost 60% of the money was only a cost of training, armored vehicles, fuel, and facilities. Whatever the financial cost may be, the human cost is devastating. According to reports, more than 47,000 Afghani civilians, around 66,000 Afghan forces including the army and the police, and 51,191 Taliban and other militants lost their lives. Other casualties included around 450 aid workers, 70 journalists, 1,100 allied forces, 3,800 US contractors approximately.
Critics hold the US accountable for underestimating the Taliban and overestimating the Afghani forces. It left the world with the misleading impression that Afghans would handle the Taliban. One of the reasons why there is an extreme lack of understanding of the Taliban issue is because of the limited press interference. Security forces always kept things hidden perhaps in order to conceal their own corrupt actions.
Where Did the US Intelligence went Wrong?
It is a massive blowback for the US especially President Biden who is receiving jabs from the left, the right, and everything in between. The world remembers how he said that this withdrawal was nothing like the 1975 Vietnam. However, there are striking parallels that one cannot ignore. Last month, when asked about the similarities in both wars, he denied that Afghanistan withdrawal was not as humiliating as Vietnam one. He boasted about the strength of Afghan security forces and the government. He assured the public that this government will not collapse like the Vietnamese one. Furthermore, he mentioned that there wouldn’t be airlifts from the roof of an embassy as well. Fast forward one month, the outcome was the same as what Biden tried to deny. There was little to no resistance against the Taliban forces and US embassy staff also needed to be evacuated via helicopter.
Biden was forced to send about 6000 additional troops in assisting evacuation efforts. Some critics have also pointed out ex-President Donald Trump’s deal with the Taliban as problematic. They have also partially blamed him for the Taliban taking over Afghanistan. It appears that ANDSF soldiers also started to realize that fighting for President Ashraf Ghani was not worth dying for.
Why Did Kabul fell So Easily to Taliban?
Taliban taking over Afghanistan rapidly shows that they are as strategic as they are battle-hardened. The current affair not only shows their strength but also skills to make deals and force surrenders. The Afghan forces previously had help with airstrikes and missiles from the US while trying to defend Lashkar Gah. However, after the US withdrawal, Afghan forces had to resist the Taliban with face-to-face combat. So, Lashkar Gah soon fell to the Taliban with over 200 ANSDF units surrendering to the group. Even the feared warlords and so-called mafioso of Afghanistan also fled their respective cities after the Taliban made advancements.
They approached targets individually including soldiers, low-level government officials, ministers, and governors to cut favorable deals. Heavy marketing campaigns by Pro-Taliban activists also kept the morale high for the Taliban and intimidated Afghan forces. They celebrated the US-Taliban peace deal, acting like its goals have been accomplished.
Now What’s Next for the World?
The Taliban have officially cemented themselves as a threatening force that has downed the military soldiers of Afghanistan and the US. It is a difficult fact for the US to digest. Afghani citizens on the other hand have to live this fact anyway. Even their neighbor Pakistan has closed its border and refused to provide shelter to the endangered citizens. Other countries that previously hosted Afghan citizens were also being forced out. Almost all NATO members said that they will allow only those in the country who helped their forces. Reportedly, the US has been secretly begging the Asian and Balkan countries to accept Afghan refugees. Canada agreed to welcome 20,000 preferably women, human rights advocates, LGBTQ representatives, and others on the Taliban’s radar. Iran has also set up a temporary refugee camp on the condition that they would return when things become normal.
However, things don’t seem to get “normal” anymore as the Taliban’s ideology is widely rejected in the region. Critics fear that the ultimate victim of the Taliban taking over Afghanistan would be women. It would cut down their daily life activities, education, healthcare, and free will. Improving the lives of women was one of the few notable progresses the US made in Afghanistan. It appears to be getting reversed now. Hundred of civilians protested against the militants by chanting Allah hu Akbar when Taliban were gaining important ground. When the media asked the Taliban, they said that women will not be forced to cover themselves. However, one cannot believe the Taliban for their words.