El colapso de Afganistán deja miles de millones de dólares de equipo en manos del Talibán. Imagen: EFE/EPA/STRINGER

Afghanistan Collapse Shows Biden’s Arrogant Incompetence

Twenty years of American presence end in failure

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The collapse of Afghanistan, sealed with the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, has marked the night of August 15, 2021, on the list of the most shameful failures of the American government, right next to that of April 30, 1975, when Saigon, then the capital of South Vietnam, fell.

In less than a week, the Taliban controlled almost the entire country, crushing without resistance the “Afghan” regime built as part of a geopolitical project in which Washington invested 20 years, more than $822 billion dollars and approximately 200,000 civilian and military lives (including thousands of American soldiers).

All for nothing. All for the Taliban to reconquer Afghanistan without facing any real resistance from the brand new 300,000-strong Afghan army (armed, trained and built at American taxpayers’ expense) that basically surrendered, while the Afghan “president”, Ashraf Ghani, was running off —or, rather, flying— to Tajikistan, in one of the last planes.

Behind the real human, military and geopolitical tragedy of Afghanistan’s shameful collapse, we can see both a direct culprit and a much deeper problem.

The immediate cause of Afghanistan’s collapse

The immediate culprit is Joe Biden, whose disastrous administration and obvious… let’s say… intellectual “deterioration” has sent the signal to the whole world that America is weak and therefore now is the time for its rivals to reposition themselves and regain the space they had lost in previous years.

Both the Taliban and Beijing heard that message loud and clear and acted accordingly. The Taliban took a photo with the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China. The image went around the world and became the final propaganda coup that crumbled any hope of resistance by the Afghan government and army.

Now, the problem is not the American withdrawal itself. The U.S. military’s exit had been agreed with the Taliban since last year. However, the Biden administration executed it with a clumsiness and bureaucratic arrogance that borders between incompetent and malignant.

In a mixture of optimism and Pilate-style hand-washing, Biden boasted (just over a month ago) that Afghanistan’s military had air power and 300,000 well-equipped troops, against a mere 75,000 Taliban soldiers. In a similar tone, three weeks ago, General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, claimed that “Afghan security forces are capable enough to fight and defend their country”, although “the strategic momentum appears, more or less, to be on the Taliban side.”

Yes, the Taliban had been making local gains for months, and (as Milley’s statement evidenced) Washington’s top brass knew that “strategic momentum” was on the Taliban’s side, but still the Biden administration bureaucratically indolently processed the escape of the thousands of Afghan translators and collaborators who had relied for those 20 years on the American military and made their successful operations possible.

Thousands of them are now stranded in Kabul, along with perhaps thousands of foreign nationals who were not evacuated in time, because the White House was too busy wasting time on frivolities.

Afghanistan’s collapse leaves the country in the hands of the Taliban, 20 years and $822 billion later. Image: (Image: EFE)

The underlying cause of Afghanistan’s collapse

The collapse of Afghanistan is a striking illustration of the failure of the neoconservative project, whose interventionism, promoted mainly by the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, promised to “export democracy” to countries that neither asked for it, nor want it, nor understand it.

Thus, in the bonfires that lit up the night of Kabul this August 15, not only did the Afghan government archives go up in flames, but the technocratic arrogance of Western intellectuals and governments, who wasted mountains of money and lives to return Afghanistan to basically where it was before the first American soldier arrived in 2001, also went up in ashes.

Meanwhile, the words of Kery James in his indispensable “Lettre à la République” echo in my mind: “Mais pensiez-vous qu’avec le temps Les négros muteraient et finiraient par devenir blancs ? Mais la nature humaine a balayé vos projets,” which roughly translates as, “Did you really think that in time blacks would change to become white? But human nature swept away your projects.”

The French rapper is absolutely right. Human nature is not a protocol that can be changed by decree and culture is not a simple disguise that the people of the world can abandon, to adopt Western visions and become “white.” People have their own ideas, their own values, their own priorities and their own realities, which cannot be changed automatically, neither by drones nor by dollars.

Yes, after twenty years of presence, 200,000 deaths and about 822,000 million dollars, Washington was able to buy a “government” and an “Afghan army of 300,000 people”, but it was not enough to buy the honesty and efficiency of that government, nor the loyalty of that army. They did not train leaders or soldiers, but actors, who are not willing to keep the mask on while Washington withdraws and the Taliban advance with Beijing’s blessing.

The consequences

The next dawn of Kabul will be a disaster for Washington. The 300,000 Afghan troops and their equipment (paid for by the American taxpayer) will swell the ranks of the Taliban, but the worst part of the tragedy will be those thousands of translators and collaborators whom the Biden administration has unforgivably betrayed, delaying their visas, condemning them to be left behind, at the mercy of the Taliban who despise them and will most likely kill them.

At the end of the day, it was the same technocratic arrogance, which wants to solve everything with processes and decrees, that inspired the invasion, inspired the wastefulness of the failed “reconstruction” and then inspired the hasty flight and shameful betrayal of those left behind.

That shame will remain.

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