Honestly, I’m not surprised at all. The only surprise is the speed at which the elected government crumbled against the Talibani onslaught.
We should all note a few important points here:
The invading American forces weren’t there to secure the Afghani forces and people against their various Jihadist groups. Their primary aim was to fight these groups for the sake of their own country and people. It was retaliatory in nature. This is in stark contrast to the other “invasions” of the US in that the primary motive here directly aligns with American interests and not indirectly with power projection, ideology and the like, as it does in the other places like Iraq, Korea, etc.
The US’s strategy for all these years has evolved into something of a proxy war against the Jihadist forces in Afghanistan. It has hoped to fight them using Afghanistan’s own military forces. This is usually the strategy they use elsewhere as well. However, Afghanistan has had a history of weak and corrupt governments. There is no concept of nationhood or unity amongst the different Afghani people groups like in other places. Their only uniting ideology is Islam and that is the one thing that the Jihadists have exploited well. The US forces had always been fighting a losing battle in that regard.
The US has also made really bad moves in their entire process of trying to get Afghanistan rid of such Jihadist groups. First, they partnered with Pakistan, a country where both its government and people are ideologically poised against the US. They could’ve easily partnered with India or Iran or even China. But they didn’t. And it has cost them really badly. They partnered with the only country that actively seeks the destabilisation of Afghanistan to fight their battles.
The Americans also have very poor understanding of less westernised places of the world, particularly in Asia where they have had the least success rate, militaristically speaking. This is much more of a psychological problem for the Americans, where they see all people through their own western lens of good or bad or useless. For example, a highly rigid, conservative, social system will not have the people thinking about “freedom” with the same perceptions as that of some average westerner. In India, for example, many people are fine with having the government be more restrictive and dictatorial, given the influence of India’s pre-colonial education system that psychologically manipulated Indian children into becoming better workers than leaders.
The other important thing to note here is the pace at which the Taliban has been able to “conquer” key territories in Afghanistan. This possibly indicates that the majority of the Afghani people already align with the Taliban either out of fear, or due to ideology or whatever it is they use to take that stance. However, the possibility still remains that the US-backed democratic government never stood a chance if it weren’t for the sheer presence of the US forces in Afghanistan. A number of countries in that region were already sure of the government falling and were already making relations with the Taliban. I also have a theory that the US already predicted this and hence didn’t really do much to prevent it.
Now, from the perspective of the US itself, it is possible that they already saw this happening, which is why they withdrew their forces without much political garrisoning. I think they expect the Taliban of 2020 to be more “modern” and less barbaric with their rule, given how much the Taliban themselves are keen on portraying their rule and ideological ambition as a fairly modern, less barbaric, and less oppressive one. They have been holding more talks, more “political rallies” of sorts, more interviews with foreign media and the like. It is not far from reality to theorise that the US leadership actually thought this would be better than a democratic government that was perpetually failing, without draining away at the US’s coffers.
It can also be theorised that the Taliban was planning out its entire strategy from the day the US announced its withdrawal from Afghanistan, possibly even before that. They probably convinced and made deals with the most important people there, possibly important religious leaders, warlords, politicians, foreign powers, etc, over the course of the entire period so that the process would be less costly and much easier. Since the western media and US spokespersons were predicting at least 30–90 days before Kabul fell, this theorisation is more valid – the fact that US intelligence did not know of possible Talibani motives and advances or had just ignored them since they would be withdrawing anyway.
Ultimately, most people and governments had already seen this coming. They all knew how the Afghanistan that outsiders see as a political entity on the world stage is just a highly fragmented society of different groups who don’t see themselves in the same ways that we outsiders do. This means that until one conquers all of those tiny, fragmented and divided people groups individually, one cannot hope to unify and conquer all of Afghanistan.
The writer has a PG degree in Political Science from Central University of Kashmir. [email protected]