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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.

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.


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 18, 2021:

Thank you Peggy for an excellent comment. As things stand Trump may have set the ball rolling for the deal with the Taliban but the man who is president is Biden and ultimate responsibility was his. He disregarded the advice of the generals and insisted on withdrawal. Now the fat is in the fire and the Taliban will nurture terrorism. Already the head of the Taliban in the press conference has said the Sharia law will be for the World in due course. Biden is president, he can't shirk his responsibility. People talk of the defeat of the Afghan army but it was always on the cards as it was demoralized after Trump started negotiations with the terrorist organization Taliban and EXCLUDED the Afghan government.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 18, 2021:

According to polls, most of the Americans wanted us out of Afghanistan. We had a small footprint there, but with powerful results. Why are we still based in Germany, Korea, and other places?

In my opinion, Trump made a bad bargain. He actually wanted to invite the Taliban to Camp David on the anniversary of 9-11. Thankfully, saner minds prevailed, and that did not happen.

President Biden extended the deadline set by Trump to pull out of Afghanistan. But plans to evacuate all those who put their lives on the line to aid our soldiers should have been set before most of our troops pulled out. We also left behind so much military hardware that is now in Taliban hands. I really fear that this will go down badly in the history books, and for the women and other innocents, my heart grieves.

My fear is that terrorists will now have a safe haven in which to launch further attacks. I pray that I am wrong.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2021:

Chitra, thank you, all of us are concerned about these events.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2021:

Pamela, thank you for your valued comment. The American president let down the free world.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2021:

Thank you Nikolas for sparing time and commenting.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2021:

Vanita, thank you for your comment. It is the first time that an organization designated as a Terrorist organization will now form the government. The blame for this is squarely on the shoulders of Americans. There is a great danger of terrorist activity filtering through to India and more so Pakistan must beware. The vandalizing of Ranjit Singh's statue at Lahore and the recent arrest of an eight-year boy on chargers off blasphemy has shocked many people.

Vanita Thakkar on August 17, 2021:

Very relevant and well written article. You have cited the concerns that most people are talking about.

There are widespread concerns over the condition of women and minority communities and law and order conditions that will emerge in Afghanistan. There are discussions going on about what impact these misdevelopments will have on the collective tolerance patterns, especially in the neighbouring regions.

The incident of breaking of the statue of Maharaja Ranjitsingh in Lahore has also raised questions, concerns and widespread indignation.

It is said that the silence / inertness of “good” people contributes as significantly to injustice as those who practice injustice. As per the reports on a TV news bulletin, most neighbouring countries - including Muslim countries, like Turkey, Pakistan, Iran and so on - have sealed their borders to prevent infiltration of the Afghan refugees ....

Gloomy facts.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 17, 2021:

The last few days have been very upsetting, rather frightening, as we watched the recent developments on television. I was expecting an article by you on this topic.

This is an extremely disturbing news, not for one particular region, but for the whole World peace.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 17, 2021:

You have summed up many valid points about this disastrous withdrawal of troops, MG. It surely shows poor judgment on the part of our president.

I am so concerned about the women and other people who are left in Afghanistan. I believe the bulk of Americans are unhappy with the images we now see on TV, and that is also based on a poll I read.

Nikolas Turustus on August 17, 2021:

The history is repeating, as for GB as for former USSR, and, also, USA. Though, the USA has a positive experience in spreading democracy in South Corea, Japan, and other countries.Yours

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2021:

Thank you, Bill, the political leadership has ignored the military leadership which would have won the war. When I was undergoing the staff course there was a discussion on Afghanistan and an American brigadier who was addressing us mentioned that the war could be won inside three months if the political leadership gave them the permission to wipe out the sanctuaries in Pakistan but for some reason, this never came and even now Biden ignored the advice of the generals who did not want a precipitous withdrawal.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 17, 2021:

Been there, done that, as you pointed out with the Vietnam War. As I said then, back in the early 70's, I say now: if American politicians are not willing to completely support a 100% military commitment, then we shouldn't be there or anywhere else at all. It is not fair to our military personnel, and it is not fair to the nations we are attempting to help. As my father used to say, shit or get off the toilet.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2021:

Thank you, Aslam, I appreciate your comment.

Mohammed Aslam on August 17, 2021:

I am from Bangladesh and I agree with your article. The Taliban should never have been allowed to come to power and I fear they will have a negative effect. Pakistan has a big hand in all this, after all their army committed untold atrocities on Bengali women during the occupation of Bangladesh.

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