A farm reaps what it sows. So does a country. So does Afghanistan. And so does the United States. The direction a country takes comes from past roots, and, as with a plant, if those roots have not been nourished and tended properly, a country can grow sick, weak, and often die. We’ve seen it happen with many countries and cultures throughout history. Greece, Rome, Nazi Germany, Czarist and Communist Russia, Vietnam, China, Fascist Spain, Italy, Portugal, and, Trump America.
The U.S. and its NATO allies have finally pulled out of Afghanistan. The Taliban have reconquered the country and are once again in charge. It is not the fault of any country except Afghanistan for that happening. President Obama poured 300,000 troops into that country in an attempt to bolster its military and its government in a monumental effort to strengthen and stabilize Afghanistan. Ultimately that effort failed, but Barack gets an A for trying. Even Trump gets a high mark for attempting to negotiate with the Taliban to bring some semblance of order to this chaotic country. And no one can blame Biden for wanting to exit this “forever war.” It was none of these presidents’ fault for the Taliban taking back control. The root causes lie in the history of this war-torn nation, which goes back to 1880 as a nation, but marks its origins to the Bronze Age some 5000 years ago. It was once known as central Asia’s roundabout, for its diverse trade routes leading in various directions. For that reason it was strategically important, and, so, fought over by many cultural groups for thousands of years. In the modern age, the Russians were the first foreign power to try and muscle its way into control of the many cultural groups that made up this country. They failed and were followed by the Brits who also failed, followed by the Americans in 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in an attempt to root out Osama bin Laden and his al Queda terrorists who were responsible for 9/11. That invasion failed when bin Laden escaped, but for some reasons, the Americans stayed. But rather than concentrate on building a strong Afghanistan, President Bush took his eyes off the prize by shifting most of his efforts to his ill fated war on Iraq in 2003.
Are you still with me? It is complicated, isn’t it? But you can see how the radical-Islamic Taliban filled numerous vacuums over the years, and with financing from foreign interests like Iran were able to build a formidable military force and recruit thousands. And remember, the Taliban are Afghans, mostly from rural areas, and not some foreign power so they have much support within the country. Despite their brutal reputation for fundamentalist extremism, their consistent argument about driving foreigners out of their country is a powerful one.
Now, we and the rest of the “civilized” world look at that war weary country, lament its fate, and hold our collective heads in our collective hands, fearing the worst. The Taliban, with its harsh, medieval Sharia Law, has proven to be quite cruel after taking power in the past. But given its history, and the history of central Asia, that should be no surprise. What I can fault is the lack of planning for a calm transition/evacuation after allied troops were pulled out. Both Trump and Biden received poor advice and intelligence around the strength and intent of the Taliban once U.S. troops were removed. It took them all of nine days to conquer the entire country, throwing the populace into a panic. This showed a lack of competence and empathy on both presidents’ part–much expected of Trump but certainty not of Joe Biden. He should have known better and planned for a more orderly and timely evacuation.
Afghanistan now is sowing what it has reaped, and there isn’t much, other than weak words and ineffective economic sanctions the West can do about it. Its fate is in the hands of its people alone, as history has shown. And history has certainly shown how people can and do rise up and overthrow a government that is not acting in the country’s best interest.
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