It seems everyone is asking some version of the question “What happened in Afghanistan?” Of course, what happened is exactly what many predicted from the moment the invasion of that country was announced almost twenty years ago.Â While not everyone can be expected to understand the reasons why America’s defeat was a foregone conclusion, everyone, surely, must have heard of Afghanistan’s reputation as “the graveyard of empires.” The British council not conquer the land, nor the Soviets.Â The notion that an American exceptionalism extended to occupation of a land in which the usual tools of state control (such as last names, forget about Social Security numbers) are in rare use was absurd from the outset. As for the chaotic withdrawal, that was a given.Â Other withdrawals have been more chaotic. Not just Vietnam. Remember Dunkirk?
Americans never even have grasped why their government invaded Afghanistan in the first place. It was not about establishing democracy or about women’s rights.Â The reason that the U.S. government turned against the Taliban (a movement that they created in collaboration with the Saudis and Pakistanis) had zero to do with the reactionary interpretation of Islamic law they had been taught by the Saudis.Â (Actually, the Taliban version is even more harsh than that of their Saudi teachers.Â The Saudis have contact with their mothers, sisters and aunties which smooths the rough edged of their ideology.Â The original Taliban were students (that’s what the Arabic word talibÄn means) in orphanages who knew no female relatives.) The reason for the invasion was simply that the Taliban refused to extradite bin Ladin after 9/11, deeming the evidence the U.S. provided of his role in the attack unconvincing. That was it. On this account the invasion should have ended when bin Ladin was assassinated.
The mystery is not why the Taliban defeated the American’s puppet government.Â The mystery is how they managed to dislodge the government in a single day.Â This, I admit, surprised even me.Â In retrospect, however, I understand how it happened.Â I knew the government was corrupt, I just didn’t realize how corrupt. Now everyone knows.
So now the question on everyone’s mind is will the Taliban be as oppressive as they were the first time around.Â God knows best, but I doubt it.Â They are not as naÃ¯ve as they were the first time out. It noteworthy that violations of their promise of general amnesty have been so few that the warmongers in America have had to resort to trying to blame them for the attack at the Kabul airport by their sworn enemy, ISIS-K. The Taliban intend to rule over a society as divided and therefore (almost) as ungovernable by any of its domestic factions as it is by the foreigners who have tried and failed throughout history. They will either learn to moderate their domestic interventionism to the point at which the people tolerate it or the people will not tolerate it and they too shall join the great empires in the dustbin of history to which the people of Afghanistan have relegated them.
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute