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The Financial Express

Nothing surprising about Taliban victory


Nothing surprising about Taliban victory

The way the US-backed Afghan government simply disintegrated even before an encounter with the Taliban insurgents has been surprising, even shocking, to some in the Western capitals watching the developments in that country over the years.

For how could the Taliban win the last phase of the protracted Afghan war without any resistance from the forces of the US-backed Kabul government? What puzzles many including experts is the way 18 provincial capitals were captured within a span of 10 days between August 6 and 15 as two, three, even four of those provincial headquarters collapsed in a single day before the advancing Taliban army. There was great fear across the globe over the imagined destruction and bloodshed in the battle for Kabul. US military analysts predicted that it would take two to three months for the Taliban insurgents to take the Afghan capital, Kabul. But nothing like it happened. The Taliban just walked in Kabul without a single shot fired as it was the case with most other provincial headquarters in last few days of the war.

But were not Washington and its NATO allies who had been fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan since 2001 aware of this from the very beginning? In fact, they knew better than anyone else about the Afghan mindset because they created and used the Taliban to drive the then-Soviet Russia out of Afghanistan. They knew that any government installed by outsiders in Kabul is hated by the Afghan people. And such foreign-backed government can sustain in power as long as their masters are physically present in that country with their superior weaponry and military might. The British knew this since the colonial times when the Afghans gave them a bloody nose as they tried to interfere in their internal affairs. As they (the British) were with the Americans in this latest Afghan war, they could have shared their historical experience with the Americans to make them wiser. And the Americans, on the other hand, from their experience in Vietnam should also have known better than going to Afghanistan. However, there is a difference between the two experiences. For the Vietnamese experience is a universal one in that any people, notwithstanding their particular history and national characteristics, will resist foreign domination and fight for their freedom. But there are also especial cases like the Afghan one. And any student of Afghan history knows that. The British knew that since the 19th century. The Russians also knew that since the time of the Tsars. But they (the Russians) made the mistake of entering that country by the end of December, 1979 and stayed there installing one government after another of their choice until they had finally to leave Afghanistan in February 1989.

Americans should have learnt that history. Particularly, when the Americans trained and armed the Afghan mujahideen in their struggle against the Soviet invaders for over nine years, they (the Americans) should have known about the Afghan psyche better. But perhaps being outsiders helping the Afghans fight the Soviets, America lacked the direct experience of encountering the Afghans. But they should have gathered that experience by the time their main enemy, the al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, who was the purported mastermind of the 9/11's terror attack on America, was killed in 2011 by American agents in Pakistan. And everyone knows that America's excuse for invading Afghanistan in October 2001 was that it (Afghanistan) gave shelter to Osama bin Laden. But then why did they continue to stay in that country after having achieved their goal of killing Laden? Apparently, like the Soviets wanted to teach the Afghans communism, America also tried to 'civilise' the Afghans through training them in democracy with the help of their appointed men in Kabul. So, they remained in that country for about another ten years to 'enlighten' the Afghans as well as pouring in billions of dollars (according them around 89 billion) to train and equip an Afghan army with the latest technology in the US arsenal so that it might protect the government in Kabul as chosen by the Americans. But the Americans missed the main point-the Afghans had never in history tolerated any government imposed on them by outsiders. So, it is no surprise that this time also the Afghans resisted and finally dislodged the government of Ashraf Ghani.

But how did that happened in practice? The 300, 000-strong Afghan National Army that the US helped to build had always had questionable allegiance to the government in Kabul. Firstly, the men who commanded this army were a bunch of corrupt people, not unlike their political bosses in the Kabul government. So, they never meant business as they commanded their army to fight the Taliban or any other insurgents of local origin. In fact, they knew full well that the war against the local guerrillas with foreign assistance was unwinnable. So, they did not miss the opportunity of pocketing as much as possible from the largesse coming from Washington in the name of training and equipping the Afghan national army. From top to bottom the so-called Afghan national army was corrupt. The foot soldiers were not paid their salaries for months as the generals and their cohorts stole those. There were even non-existent soldiers getting paid from the state coffers. The same had been happening in the entire administration run from Kabul. They were all having a field day sharing the booty in the form of American dollars coming as assistance. So, why should one be surprised if the soldiers including their commanders on the battlefronts were continuously swapping allegiance with the Taliban, selling their weapons to the latter in exchange for money?

To cut a long story short, the collapse of the Kabul government like a house of cards was a forgone conclusion. Any force fighting against a foreign-installed government in Kabul would enjoy the support of the general public. The Taliban were also no exception.

 

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