Afghanistan; was the return of the Taliban inevitable?

What you need to know:

  • America and its allies had spent trillions of dollars, first in expelling the Taliban from power, and then attempting to rebuild the country into a democracy. 

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban was a surprise to many casual observers. 

America and its allies had spent trillions of dollars, first in expelling the Taliban from power, and then attempting to rebuild the country into a democracy. 

But there is hardly any doubt that it was inevitable. 
With the passing of time, it is easy to forget why in the first place, America invaded Afghanistan in 2001. 

On September 11, 2001 (9/11), there were four coordinated terrorist attacks on the US by the Wahhabi Islamist terrorist group, Al-Qaeda. 

Four airplanes were hijacked mid-air and flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and into a field. Of the 19 hijackers, 15 were from Saudi Arabia, 2 were from the United Arab Emirates, 1 from Egypt, and 1 from Lebanon.

Whereas none was from Afghanistan, the country had been an Al-Qaeda base offering a haven for the training of terrorists. This was despite America exerting diplomatic pressure on the Afghan government to expel Al-Qaeda from their training bases.

In the wake of 9/11, the US decided to invade Afghanistan, depose the Taliban from power and set up a new government. Beyond removing the Taliban, the West had other interests. Despite being a landlocked and mountainous country, Afghanistan neighbours Iran, Pakistan, and China, all countries that America wanted to keep an eye on. 

As history has always shown, when you disarm a soldier and leave him redundant that is recipe for an angry and hungry guerrilla. Many of the soldiers went to rural areas where they reorganised and bid their time. 

Secondly, unlike other militant groups that are driven by the need for money, the Taliban are driven by religious ideology. They are inspired by Sunni leaning dogma and desire to enforce religion as part of their political order. 

A person fighting for a religious cause (no matter the religion) fights to advance a cause he or she believes is worthy of expansion to all people of the world. 

Removing the person from power does not stop them from believing. And so, merely deposing of the Taliban would not be a solution. They resorted to every establishment’s nightmare, a guerrilla war. 

But it was their relationship with the population that should have warned the Americans that the nation would fall to the Taliban. 
Afghanistan is a poor mountainous country with hardly any industries and the people are dependent on the soil for a living. 

The climate favours the growth of opium, that red, yellow, purple or pale lilac flower that is a highly addictive narcotic when abused. It is also a key source for other narcotics such as morphine, heroin and codeine. The US had few options on how to deal with the opium fields. 

One was to leave them alone and allow the farmers sustain their livelihoods through them. That meant, however, that the now guerrilla Taliban would extort the farmers or join them in the lucrative trade. The second was to destroy the fields, leaving the Afghans with no option but to join the Taliban to survive. 

The third option, was to “modernise” agricultural practices in the country, so that the people abandon opium. America decided to supply fertilisers to the Afghans to grow wheat instead of opium. The farmers decided to sell the fertiliser to the Taliban, who used it to make explosives!

By mid-2019, the Afghan forces, trained and supported by the Americans, had suffered so many causalities that many of them were deserting. The government in power as so unpopular that it had virtually no control of the country. So devastating was the Taliban offensive that to save face, the Donald Trump government signed an agreement with the Taliban and the latter agreed not to attack NATO forces. 

The NATO forces, seeing that the war had become like the mathematical pi, random and endless, decided to withdraw their soldiers. They decided to count their losses and leave the now famed “Graveyard of Empires”. 
To any regular observer of global politics, it was inevitable that the Taliban would recapture power, and with lightning speed.

Herman Tuhairwe,             

Armchair commentator on global politics.   


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