The 21st Century War: The Taliban – Waiting to Strike

taliban

I went off the grid for a week to visit family and did not listen to or pay attention to world events or any events beyond my own personal world. By the time I returned home I entered a time warp – it was 2001 all over again. The U.S. was at war in Afghanistan and the Taliban was alive and well. What the fuck? Did Osama Bin Laden rise from the dead? He might as well have. What is going on? 

“The Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic force that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until being toppled by U.S. forces in 2001, entered the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday after sweeping through much of the country in recent days following a withdrawal of U.S. troops. The group that sheltered Osama bin Laden as he planned the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America poses a new threat to the entire political and social order supported by the U.S. and its allies as they end two decades of fighting in Afghanistan.” 

After twenty years of U.S. troop involvement in Afghanistan, two weeks before U.S. troops were supposed to finally withdraw completely, the Taliban took over completely.  A failed mission. It reminds me of VietNam – another failed war. We get into these wars, boys die, women are raped, and countries fall. 

It’s really not our fault. Or is it? It was a weak country to begin with. How strong was the Afghan military? Joe Biden inherited a deal Donald Trump made with the Taliban to withdraw troops or keep fighting the Taliban. 

The Taliban is back in Kabul. Afghans are once again sliding into a new dark age of repression and persecution of women. And the United States is beating a humiliating retreat, becoming the latest superpower humbled in Central Asia’s graveyard of empires.”

The Taliban never left. Like animals they retreated to hiding and waited for the right time to strike. They had to be planning it all along, waiting for us to leave as they hid in the countryside. 

“The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 ousted the insurgents from power, but they never left. After they blitzed across the country in recent days, the Western-backed government that has run the country for 20 years collapsed. Afghans, fearing for the future, are racing to the airport, one of the last routes out of the country.”

“The insurgents stormed across the country, capturing all major cities in a matter of days, as Afghan security forces trained and equipped by the U.S. and its allies melted away.

The Taliban are evil and were never going to give up. This would have happened five years ago or fifteen years in the future as Joe Biden said in his speech to the nation and the world at 3:45pm EST on August 16.  Some of the points Biden made are as follows: 

“The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” Biden said Monday, insisting that his administration was prepared for all scenarios but that the Afghan government and military were unwilling to defend their own country.”

“American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves,” he said, arguing that if their military was unable to mount any real resistance to the Taliban now, a few more years of U.S. troops on the ground would not have made any difference.”

And now Biden is taking flack for it. That is not fair. The Taliban would have sat in their caves 20 more years if they had to. 

“As the Taliban took hold of the country, Democrats on Capitol Hill and former Obama administration officials joined Republicans in publicly criticizing Biden’s handling of the situation. While most agreed with the decision to remove troops, they attacked Biden’s failure to help the thousands of Afghans who assisted U.S. forces exit the country before the Taliban took over, and the scramble to evacuate Americans from the country.”

In my humble opinion you can’t reason with deranged or evil and the Taliban are both: deranged and evil. Like the Nazis in WWII. Political leaders in Afghanistan gave up: they were weak or corrupt or both. It was a miscalculation or wishful thinking on Biden’s part to think that the U.S. could board planes and say goodbye quietly without issue and Afghanistan would be a bustling “western” nation. Biden was completing what Donald Trump started. It fell apart. Sadly on his watch. 

“Former President Donald Trump negotiated a deal while in office with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. military personnel by May 1 of this year. After he was inaugurated, Biden said the withdrawal would be completed by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks.”

“In July, Biden insisted that a Taliban takeover was not inevitable and said that the Afghan military was well equipped and trained to keep the Taliban at bay. “I trust the capacity of the Afghan military,” Biden said at the time.”

The Afghan military and President Ghani did not care enough to fight for their country, why should we? It’s not that we should stay. But the Taliban are no better than the Nazis! We don’t want Nazis around and we shouldn’t want the Taliban around – because their ideas creep into our country through social media. But is there really an answer to these never ending wars and how does anyone reason with these deranged groups of people?   

“With the Taliban sweeping across the country, storming one provincial capital after another, the prospect that diplomacy would work a year after U.S.-backed talks in Qatar began—and quickly stalled—was illusory. By Thursday, the Afghan government controlled only three major cities. President Joe Biden, the leader of the world’s most powerful nation, announced that he was dispatching three thousand U.S. troops to Afghanistan to pull hundreds of its diplomats and staff out of that Embassy. And, by Sunday, it was all over—before dusk. President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, his government collapsed, and the U.S.-trained Afghan security forces simply melted away as the Taliban moved into the capital.” 

I worry about the women and children who are now left behind to be subjected to brutality worse than a tortured dog. What happens to them? They need to get out if they can. 

“As the capital city falls into the hands of Islamist insurgents, those pleas for help may be too late. Numerous reports have emerged of the Taliban going door-to-door, drafting lists of women and girls aged between 12 and 45 years who are then forced to marry Islamist fighters. Women are being told they cannot leave home without a male escort, can no longer work or study or freely choose the clothes they want to wear. Schools, too, are being closed.”

“For a whole generation of Afghan women who entered public life – the lawmakers, journalists, local governors, doctors, nurses, teachers and public administrators – there’s much to lose.  While they strove, working alongside male colleagues and in communities unused to seeing women in positions of authority, to help build a democratically-run civil society, they also hoped to open up opportunities for later generations of women to succeed them.”

“As violence intensifies in Afghanistan, United Nations leaders are warning of a massive humanitarian crisis in the country that is having a devastating impact on civilians, particularly women and children.”

Since May, nearly 250,000 people have been forced from their homes; 80% of them are women and children, said Shabia Mantoo, a spokesperson for the U.N. refugee agency.

And with the COVID-19 pandemic still surging, U.N. officials also report seeing 100 deaths per day and 2,000 new positive cases of the coronavirus per day.

A report released last month from the United Nations also showed an increase in women and children killed and injured in May and June, which coincides with U.S. and other international troops starting to depart the region.

No man has the right to treat a woman or child like a subhuman. The rage it builds in me is beyond the pale. I want to shout it out loud to the Taliban and tell them to run and hide because if I had any power beyond the “pen” I would put them all in the ground and be the first to add dirt or castrate them for their deeds. But I do not have that power. I can only write about what is happening across the world.  

“Do senior officials from the U.S., China and Russia really plan to keep talking to the Taliban as if its fighters are not murdering civilians — including female activists — across Afghanistan, attacking schoolgirls and telling women they cannot leave the house without a man to accompany them?”

“Plenty of governments seem happy to break bread with Taliban negotiators since the U.S. under Donald Trump’s administration made a deal with them and President Joe Biden decided to honor it. In December 2001, the U.S. under George W. Bush pledged funds to support the women and children of Afghanistan. His wife Laura said, “The fight against terrorism is also the fight for the rights and dignity of women.” Any such promises are now hollow, exposed as disposable symbolism.” 

“Representatives of the hardline Islamist group met with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi last month and have recently been in Moscow, Tehran and Doha. And while they continue to travel freely (removed, temporarily, from a United Nations blacklist while peace talks are under way) their fighters have made rapid advances across the country, leaving a frightening toll of death and mayhem as U.S. and NATO troops prepare for a full withdrawal by Aug. 31.” 

I can now write about how the U.S. looks in the world’s eyes when other countries could have stepped in as well. Democracy looks weak. Bullies always seem to win the day. It happens in our own politics – January 6, 2021 was an attack by bullies: we attacked our own.  The Taliban are bullies. And bullies seem to win the day. Why is that?

“Along with women’s rights, democracy is perishing. It is clear the Taliban cannot win Afghanistan at the ballot box. An Asia Society survey of Afghans in 2019 — that last time such a poll was published — found the proportion of the population who say they have no sympathy with the Taliban grew to 85.1% from 82.4% in 2018, while those who have a lot or some sympathy for the radical Islamists was 13.4%, similar to 2018. Absent any political capital, they are now trying to take the country by force.”

“The problem is, the longer it takes for the international community to act, the further the Taliban will push into civilian areas, using people’s homes as staging posts for attacks and forcing children to act as human shields to protect them from air strikes as they move around the hinterland, warns Ahmad Shuja Jamal, director of international affairs and regional cooperation at the Afghan National Security Council. The UN Security Council meeting should have been the time when condemnations gave way to action in the face of these atrocities, Jamal said.”

​​”Beyond surveys, there are public outpourings that indicate Afghans do not want the Taliban to take them back to the dark ages. In a rallying cry of defiance and at great personal risk, men, women and children have been marching in the streets and climbing onto their rooftops to shout “Allahu Akbar” or “God is Great.”

So why did Afghanistan fall apart like a house of cards? Is this the American karma? Or democracy’s karma? All good intentions in these small crumbling countries taken over by thugs, the U.S. goes in with sophisticated troops and tanks only to leave as the countries fall to shambles and shame?

“It’s now part of an unnerving American pattern, dating back to the nineteen-seventies.”

“On Sunday, social-media posts of side-by-side photos evoked painful memories. One captured a desperate crowd climbing up a ladder to the rooftop of a building near the U.S. Embassy in Saigon to get on one of the last helicopters out in 1975, during the Ford Administration. The other showed a Chinook helicopter hovering over the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Sunday.”

“In 1984, the Reagan Administration withdrew the U.S. Marine peacekeepers from Beirut after a suicide bomber from a nascent cell of what became Hezbollah killed more than two hundred and forty military personnel—the largest loss for the Marines in a single incident since the Second World War.”

“In 2011, the United States pulled out of Iraq, opening the way for the emergence of isis.” 

The U.S. clearly can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear no matter how hard they try or how much money they spend. Maybe it’s not our job after all. But someone has to do it – that superhero phenomena. 

“Second, both Afghanistan and Iraq have proved that the United States can neither build nations nor create armies out of scratch, especially in countries that have a limited middle class and low education rates, over a decade or two. It takes generations. Not enough people have the knowledge or experience to navigate whole new ways of life, whatever they want in principle. Ethnic and sectarian divisions thwart attempts to overhaul political, social, and economic life all at the same time. The United States spent eighty-three billion dollars training and arming an Afghan force of some three hundred thousand—more than four times the size of the Taliban’s militia. “This army and this police force have been very, very effective in combat against the insurgents every single day,” Mark Milley told reporters back in 2013. He is now the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Yet, by March, when I was last in Kabul, the Taliban controlled half of the country. Between May and mid-August, it took the other half—most just during the past week. Last month, Biden said that he trusted “the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped and more competent in terms of conducting war.” In the end, the Taliban basically walked into Kabul—and the Presidential palace—on Sunday.”

 Maybe we are not as grounded  as we think we are. We have our own internal problems as it is. 

“Third, America’s standing abroad is profoundly weakened, symbolized by the U.S. Embassy’s lowering the Stars and Stripes for the final time on Sunday. Smoke was seen rising from the grounds of the Embassy—which cost almost eight hundred million dollars to expand just five years ago—as matériel was burned in the rush to exit. Washington will have a hard time mobilizing its allies to act in concert again—whether for the kind of broad and unified alliance, one of the largest in world history, that formed in Afghanistan after 9/11, or for the type of meagre cobbled-together “coalition of the willing” for the war in Iraq.” 

We are not the only ones who suffered such an embarrassing loss of face. The Soviet Union suffered such a fate in the late 1980s – I can only hope we recover better than them. 

“America’s Great Retreat is at least as humiliating as the Soviet Union’s withdrawal in 1989, an event that contributed to the end of its empire and Communist rule.”

“The Soviet Union is estimated to have spent about fifty billion dollars during the first seven of its ten years occupying the mountainous country.”

If there is a ‘saddest’ thing about this chaos -though the competition for ‘saddest’ is great – is that jihadism is alive and well around the globe. This political misstep may cost Joe Biden and enliven the jihadist goons. 

“The West believed that its armor and steel, backed by a generous infusion of aid, could defeat a hard-line ideology with a strong local following. The Taliban are likely, once again, to install Sharia as law of the land. Afghanistan will again, almost certainly, become a haven for like-minded militants, be they members of Al Qaeda or others in search of a haven or a sponsor.”

For those who escaped Afghanistan hanging onto the wings of planes or seated inside one  the trauma will be long lasting. The more who can get out the better. Our government must do what it takes to help put their lives back together. For a country that does not believe that healthcare is a human right and tent cities are the new normal Congress needs to get their priorities straight and realize they have just added a whole new population of people in need of services to the agenda. They must not be forgotten. That is the one thing about America: we are very quick to lend a hand across the pond until we bring people back home or allow them to take refuge here. Maybe that is the lesson or a lesson to be learned from this as well. 

“For the United States, the costs do not end with its withdrawal from either Afghanistan or Iraq. It could cost another two trillion dollars just to pay for the health care and disability of veterans from those wars. And those costs may not peak until 2048.” 

Author: Sherri Margolin (Dark Matters)

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