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Does the Great Retreat From Afghanistan Mark the End of the American Era?

A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters.



On Monday, August 9th, this year the U.S. Embassy in Kabul posted a question on Twitter. It asked its followers to tell whether the negotiating parties in Doha will have a political settlement? The message reflected the delusion of American policy.

With the Taliban sweeping across the country, capturing cities and administrative hubs, the prospect that diplomacy would work was illusory. By Thursday, the Afghan government controlled only 3 major cities. The sands of time were running out and the American president Joe Biden had no choice but to say that he was sending 3000 troops to help in the evacuation of American personal. He had no comprehension of what was happening because, by Sunday, it was all over. President Ghani had fled the country.

The U.S.-trained Afghan security forces simply vanished as the Taliban neared Kabul. American diplomats fled the U.S. Embassy and took shelter at the airport as they waited to be evacuated. The two-decade-long misadventure has ended. The result is a trillion-dollar throwaway into the gutter. The Afghans are left to skydive without a parachute.


Defeat and retreat

The fall of Kabul is not only an epic defeat but It signals the end of the era of U.S. global power. In the nineteen-forties, the United States rescued Western Europe from the powerful Nazi war machine. It also used its vast power to defeat the formidable Japanese empire. That was the time when under President Roosevelt the Americans showed mettle and willpower. Eighty years later, historians will write about the great retreat; when a ragtag army without any air cover or significant armor and artillery, defeated an army that was the most powerful in the world, in one of the poorest and destitute areas known.

Looking at Vietnam. On Sunday, social media showed photos of a desperate crowd climbing up a ladder to the rooftop of a building in Saigon to try and escape on the last helicopter in 1975. The other showed a Chinook helicopter over the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Sunday.

After World War II, the Americans never had the willpower to fight at any point. In 1984, the Reagan Administration withdrew the U.S. Marine peacekeepers from Beirut after a suicide bomber killed more than 244 military personnel. In 2011, the United States pulled out of Iraq, the result was the rise of ISIS. The repeated miscalculations are difficult to digest and all point to a dishonorable end.

The historic truth that will be written after a few decades will acknowledge that what George W. Bush dubbed the “war on terror" was lost. This despite having mobilized NATO and twenty-three countries to host U.S. forces. America could not counter the will and endurance of the Taliban and their Pakistani backers. Just sixty thousand core fighters of the Taliban defeated the mightiest war machine in history.

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There are many repercussions of this defeat. First, jihadism has won a key battle against democracy. The Taliban are likely, once again, to install Sharia as law of the land. Afghanistan could again become a haven for militants like Al Qaeda. Pakistan in particular has to be on guard against the Pakistan Taliban which is hell-bent on bringing about sharia and Islamic caliphate in Pakistan. The twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is next month and I am sure it's going to be a gloomy one.

Second, both Afghanistan and Iraq have proved that the United States can neither build nations nor create armies out of scratch. Everything is not about money and weapons but there is a need for strong willpower which was lacking in the Americans. The United States spent eighty-three billion dollars training and arming an Afghan force and all this money has gone down the drain

Third, America’s standing abroad is weakened. The Embassy in Kabul has been abandoned and the Stars and Stripes lowered. Washington will have a hard time mobilizing its allies in the years to come.

Yes, there were benefits from the United States presence like the creation of civil society, the education of girls, and independent media. It facilitated democratic elections and 37% of Afghan girls are now able to read. But with the Taliban in full flow women have pulled out their burqas again. All of this will be lost once the Taliban is fully in control.

The war has seen 47000 civilians dead and more than 2400 U.S. military personnel, the flower of American youth die. There are reports of hundreds of US contractors being killed. Almost one trillion dollars has been spent by the United States in 20 years and it appears all this for no purpose at all. Maybe if the Americans had attacked the sanctuaries of the Taliban in neighboring Pakistan and destroyed them it would have been a different ball game. But for reasons which have never been mentioned, they never did it and now they stand humiliated before the entire world.


America's eclipse: A shameful end

What has happened in Afghanistan is entirely due to the incompetence of Joe Biden. Granted that Donald Trump had made an agreement with the Taliban; the fact is at the critical moment, the man in charge is Joe Biden.

People are apt to forget that Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommended to Biden that 3,000 to 4,500 troops stay in Afghanistan. On 3 February, a congressionally appointed panel led by a retired four-star Marine general, Joseph Dunford, publicly recommended that Biden abandon the exit deadline of 1 May and further reduce US forces only as security conditions improved.

This just about shows that Biden did not want to listen to his military chiefs who had been in the field of battle. In the bargain, he brought American prestige to the nadir after World War II.

The images of hundreds of Afghans trying to cling to American planes to escape from the terror of the Taliban will forever remain in the minds of people. It will show the world that America abandoned its allies when they needed it most. Many of the American allies are openly stating that the Americans can never be trusted. I had written that Joe Biden would be the Bahadur Shah of the United States. Bahadur Shah succeeded Aurangzeb and presided over the liquidation of the Mogul empire.

The Taliban is looking reasonable on the first day of their occupation of Kabul but the fact remains the ideology they follow is regressive and they are going to rely on the sharia and the woman and minorities will suffer the most. I do not think progressive Muslims can ever support Taliban rule.

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