Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Catherine Shakdam

Safar 01, 1438 2016-11-01

News & Analysis

by Catherine Shakdam (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 9, Safar, 1438)

After spending more than a trillion dollars in Afghanistan, the Americans are not closer to vanquishing the Taliban. The resistance group has emerged stronger and now occupies large swathes of territory.

While US officials have over the years loudly proclaimed their “victory” over the demon otherwise referred to as radicalism in Afghanistan, whether in the form of the dreaded Taliban, or the ignominious al-Qaeda, the truth remains somewhat elusive.

“Al-Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated,” President Barack Obama proudly proclaimed during his foreign policy debate with then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. The US Department of State even claimed al-Qaeda was “severely degraded” in its 2016 country report on terrorism.

Fast forward to the present and the Taliban, far from being “defeated” are spreading across much of the country. They have made spectacular gains in Kunduz as well as in and around the southern provinces that are their home bases. Their reach is spreading to more parts of the country while the US-established regime remains confined to Kabul, and that too, barely.

For all the framing and staging Washington has choreographed over the years, Afghanistan is no closer to “liberation” or being pacified than it was 15 years ago. Indeed, it can be argued that the perpetual state of war, violence, and instability that the Afghans have had to endure, have turned into a new and dangerous institutional reality.

How do you teach people the concept of freedom when several generations have known only political and socio-religious oppression? Then again we might want to consider that America’s intervention in Central Asia had more to do with ethno-political engineering than defeating terror. If we look objectively at this conflict and if we in fact agree that little to no effort was ever made for reconstruction — at least not where it matters and how it matters, that is, the social empowerment, industrial development, education, health, tactical military cooperation — then Afghanistan looks very much like a land under brutal military occupation.

Seen through this lens, the Afghan debacle perhaps makes sense. Rather than assume America’s failure in Central Asia, are we not in fact looking at a very successful occupation framed as liberation played to the tune of engineered Islamic radicalism — this new asymmetrical weapon of war Washington has played with over the decade with great finesse?

“The US government and the military has downplayed al-Qaeda’s presence for more than six years, despite evidence that al-Qaeda has remained entrenched in Afghanistan some 15 years after the 9/11 attacks,” The Long War Journal noted in October.

Taliban presence in Afghanistan, 2016.

Commander of all US military forces in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson admitted that al-Qaeda is increasingly taking advantage of the security vacuum in Afghanistan in remote parts of the country, confirming that the radical group had secured “unprecedented gains” against the US-backed Afghan Security Forces since 2014, when Washington “officially” withdrew its forces from direct military combat operations. But what does that mean exactly?

For one it means that the US utterly and very publicly failed in its self-declared task of stabilisation and terror containment. Let us not even mention democracy building because we would then truly venture too far out on the delusional path.

Afghanistan today is no safer than it was back in 2001. If anything, it stands much weakened and drained, a shell of its former self, a land defiled by Western imperialism and enslaved by the US military interventionist complex.

It is a far cry from the vibrant nation it once was, when it still towered over Central Asia exuding confidence and showing true independence. Afgha-nistan has been turned into a dark and miserable Western military outpost, sold to the demons of Wahhabism so that the corporate controlled media would have a narrative to spin.

In recent comments to the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Prince Ali Seraj of Afghanistan raised some very pertinent points. He said, “Our once proud and united nation is now tearing at the seams. Our educated young are fleeing in great numbers to countries far beyond our borders. The decade long enemies of our nation, the Taliban, supported by neighbouring countries, are taking control of major areas of different provinces.”

He went on, “In short, brothers and sisters, this Great Land, which we call home and one which is our inheritance from our forefathers, who fought for its independence and one which was bestowed upon us as a Gift by Al-Mighty Allah, is in grave danger.”

What is this grave danger that Afghanistan’s royal prince is referring to? One would think that danger has long been a reality of the war-torn nation — a birthright almost. There are still many grave dangers that lurk in the shadows that we have failed to fully grasp, let alone face up to.

America is turning the Taliban into a tolerable asset against an even more unpalatable enemy: Da‘ish. Welcome to mainstream radicalism and the whitewashing of terror!

“Taliban are supporting the local residents and local forces against the IS [Da‘ish] aggression in Pachiragam,” Taliban expert Wahid Muzhda told the Voice of America from Kabul on October 21, where he is monitoring news of the conflict. “They are not assisting the government forces but standing for the locals,” he added.

That is an interesting twist — one which echoes the very narrative Western capitals have served the world regarding Syria: that compromises have to be made with certain radical elements to promote the greater good.

But such strategy only serves to legitimise extremism, and reframe the very ideology that the US has vowed to destroy whatever the cost, and wherever it may hide, all in the name of freedom and liberty.

Once considered the demons, the Taliban are being reformed into a controllable tool Washington will wield to advance its “righteous” agenda against the terrible threat that Da‘ish presents to humanity.

No one of course is making mention of those powerful patrons standing behind Da‘ish and Co. That part of the story, no one is allowed to tell!

Afghanistan has failed by design. Afghanistan was turned into a wasteland so that America would suffer no contention to its military out-posting activities, while hugging selfless righteousness as a narrative of choice.

Who said Rome was dead?

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