By Akin Ojumu

Convoluted pomposity. Uninformed hubris. That’s what comes to mind listening to the outrage of the American media and cynical warmongering politicians to the rapid collapse of the Afghan military as Taliban forces overrun the country following the pull out of the armed forces of western nations. The western press, by their self-righteous indignation to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, reveals how little they know of the history of the Afghan people and their failure to feel the pulse of the Pashtuns who live in the mountainous villages of Afghanistan. The lament of the American political class over the catastrophic collapse of the Afghan government is a hypocritical shedding of crocodile tears.

The premise for the US and allied Western nations' 20-year occupation of Afghanistan was that they were going to build an Afghan government and an Afghan military that is strong enough to stand on its own two feet. Western nations deluded themselves into thinking they could just walk into this ungovernable and unconquerable nation, pour trillions of dollars into it, and expect they'll be able to impose their will, culture, and style of government on a people who have shown, over the course of its history, that they possess an indomitable spirit.

There’s a good reason Afghanistan is called the graveyard of empires. Over the course of many centuries, kings and kingdoms have come and gone, and all of them have failed in their desire to conquer this nation of mountains and their attempts to subdue these people of the hills have been totally futile. Those who know history understand that the knees of the Afghan people will not bend to the will of foreign invaders, no matter how powerful.

Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States by Al Qaeda, the US invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban who had harbored Al Qaeda in the country from where the terrorist attacks were launched. The US went on to install an Afghan government that took the reign in Kabul. The American backed Afghan government was composed of a corrupt elite who did not enjoy much support or command any loyalty from the Afghan people. The United States spent 20 years to prop up a government that was corrupt, incompetent, inept, and unpopular.

Despite 20 years of military and police training provided by the United States, the Afghan government, its military, and internal security apparatus collapsed spectacularly in a matter of weeks after President Biden announced a date of American pullout from Afghanistan. In a negotiated surrender that started in the rural villages and proceeded to the provincial cities and all the way to the nation’s capital in Kabul, the Taliban forces matched in and took over as Afghan government forces handed over their weapons in exchange for cash.

Some have described the collapse of the Afghan military as the most spectacular military defeat in history. Others have criticized the Biden administration for cutting and running. These folks argued that if the US had stayed just a little while longer, the Afghan government would have been made stronger and its military much more powerful to withstand the Taliban forces.

That's all bunkum. Those who make such arguments are wrong. The US war in Afghanistan was, is, and always has been an unwinnable war. The proponents of such inanity should ask Genghis Khan of the Mongols, the British East India Company of the 19th century, the mighty military of the Soviet Union how that worked out for them. Sadly, many of those lobbing such criticisms are mere mouthpieces for the military industrial complex, big corporate entities who raked in billions of dollars in profit during the 20-year occupation of Afghanistan and would rather have the US remain in the country permanently because it’s in their best financial interest and it serves their bottomline.

According to Forbes Magazine, “in the 20 years since September 11, 2001, the United States has spent more than $2 trillion on the war in Afghanistan. That’s $300 million dollars per day, every day, for two decades. Or $50,000 for each of Afghanistan's 40 million people. In baser terms, Uncle Sam has spent more keeping the Taliban at bay than the net worths of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and the 30 richest billionaires in America, combined.”

It continued, “And the costs are even greater in terms of lives lost. There have been 2,500 U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan, and nearly 4,000 more U.S. civilian contractors killed. That pales in comparison to the estimated 69,000 Afghan military police, 47,000 civilians killed, plus 51,000 dead opposition fighters. The cost so far to care for 20,000 U.S. casualties has been $300 billion, with another half-trillion or so expected to come.”

For 20 years, the US military, the greatest military fighting force the world has ever seen and with some of the best military strategists ever, provided the Afghan military the first-class military training and top of the line military hardware and war machine costing over $85 billion. Yet, with all the training and the equipment, the Afghan military surrendered to the Taliban forces without putting up a fight, and never firing a bullet.

How many more lives will have to be lost before the American people say enough is enough? How many more American treasures will have to be poured into the bottomless pit of Afghanistan before the US government calls it quits? What is a good time for America to leave? When will the Afghan government and military be strong enough to stand for their country and defend their people?

Despite trillions of dollars poured into the country by the US government, Afghanistan remains dirt poor. Twenty years of lives and limbs of the men and women of the US military lost just to turn the Afghan military into an elite fighting force able to stand on their own and capable of withstanding any onslaught have all been in vain. At the sight of the Taliban, the Afghan soldiers dropped their weapons and fled.

Anatol Lieven reporting in the Politico wrote:

“Afghan society has been described to me as a “permanent conversation.” Alliances shift, and people, families and tribes make rational calculations based on the risk they face. America’s commanders and officials either completely failed to understand these aspects of Afghan reality or failed to report them honestly to U.S. administrations, Congress and the general public.”

The saying, “In politics, there are no permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests,” is an apt description of Afghan society. The failure of the US government, its western allies, and the western news media to understand the perpetually shifting alliances and perennial deal making within Afghan society is very much similar to the failure of invading ancient empires who tried but failed to conquer Afghanistan. Among these rugged people, kinship and tribal connections are worth their weight in gold, for they often take precedence over formal political loyalties.

The 20 years the US spent pouring resources into Afghanistan failed because the American government used all that money to prop up a soulless and corrupt ruling class who did not have the allegiance of the Afghan people. The powerful elite enriched themselves at the expense of the ordinary people.

Using public funds, they built golden castles fit for kings while the rest of the country lived in squalor, riddled with sickness and diseases. Mansions known as “poppy palaces” rose from the rubble to house opium kingpins. The corruption was so prevalent and widespread that they stopped hiding their deeds. According to the Washington Post, “Dark money sloshed all around. Afghanistan’s largest bank liquefied into a cesspool of fraud. Travelers lugged suitcases loaded with $1 million, or more, on flights leaving Kabul.”

The ruling Afghan elite were not only unscrupulous in the handling of the nation’s resources, but they were also sexual predators who sexually abused young boys with the promotion of a practice known as Bacha bazi. The powerful Afghan men who ran Afghanistan with the backing of the US government operated a state sanctioned pedophile ring.

Bacha bazi, or 'boy play,' is an Afghan practice whereby wealthy, powerful men, including politicians, military and police officers, etc., buy and keep adolescent boys – known as dancing boys – for entertainment and sex. The boys are trained to dance seductively at male-only parties and are often sexually abused. These boys, known as bacha bareesh, or ‘beardless boys’, are generally between ten and eighteen years old, and tend to come from poor backgrounds. Parents are persuaded to hand over their sons for financial reimbursement, with the promise that they will be given work and an education and some of boys are forcefully taken away from their parents and conscripted into permanent sexual indentured servitude.

While western government and the news media like to tell the world about the evil of the Taliban and write ad nauseum about the Islamic fundamentalist group’s inhuman behavior, how it subjugates women and opposes western-style education, the superpowers of the western world turned blind eye on the predatory activities of the people they installed in power in Afghanistan and the moralizing western press failed to report on the atrocities committed by the Afghan ruling class who steal young boys from their parents and turn them into sex slaves.

In the 20-year occupation of Afghanistan, the American government, its western allies, and the foreign aid workers made a decision to ignore the sexual enslavement of young boys and instead they chose to focus on the liberation of women. Even as molested young boys cry out in agony, American soldiers and Marines were instructed not to intervene. The Washington Post reported that, “Instead of weeding out pedophiles, the American military was arming them in some cases and placing them as the commanders of villages – and doing little when they began abusing children.”

But the Afghan people could see through the hypocrisy of the western world. It was clear to the Afghans that western nations were more interested in promoting their self-interest and not the interest of little Afghan boys. They understood that foreign aid workers do not care about the bacha bareesh, they were more focused on their agenda of westernizing Afghan women. In order not to offend the powerful people in government in Afghanistan, the American government did nothing to stop powerful Afghan men from turning little boys into sex slaves.

You cannot build a skyscraper on a faulty foundation, sooner or later it’ll come crashing down. The American government and its western allies built an Afghan government on a foundation of corruption, incompetence, ineptitude, and sexual deviancy. The result, after 20 years, is the collapse that is occurring before our eyes. The American government tried to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people by backing a profiteering ruling class that the Afghan people did not trust and which they despised. The Afghan reciprocated by embracing the Taliban, whom they consider the lesser of two evils. Just as the western nations made a choice to turn blind eye on the crookedness of the Afghan ruling elite, the Afghan people also made a choice; they chose the Taliban despite the notoriety of the Islamic fundamentalist. The Afghan people would rather be subject to the Taliban than be ruled by a bunch of pedophiles.

Those who fault the Biden administration for the manner in which American forces withdrew from Afghanistan ignore the fact that no matter how you leave, the result would have still remained the same. There really is no honorable exit from an unwinnable war. Past US presidents understood this fact but lacked the courage to do what they knew was right. Instead, they pass the problem on to the next administration. George W Bush pushed it on Barack Obama, who in turn kicked it to Donald Trump, who gladly left the mess for Joe Biden to handle. Not afraid to take the blame, Joe Biden decided it was time to cut our losses and leave Afghanistan.

The American people are bothered by the images coming out of Afghanistan, and rightly so. It is understandable that they are disturbed to see the US embassy in Kabul being evacuated in a manner reminiscent of the evacuation of the US embassy in Saigon, Vietnam. Such images are bound to evoke a feeling of defeat and weakness. Any American with an ounce of national pride will naturally feel that way.

That being said, a feeling doesn’t necessarily equate reality. Americans should not allow their feelings to override their objectivity, and they shouldn’t let national pride cloud their better judgement. It is a gross mischaracterization to equate the US leaving Afghanistan with what happened in Vietnam 46 years ago.

Here is the simple fact, the Taliban did not and cannot defeat the United States military. What happened in Afghanistan was that the Afghan government and the Afghan military simply lacked the will to fight for their country. They chickened out and surrendered to the Taliban.

President Biden described the lack of will of the Afghan military remarkably well in his address to the nation on Monday, August 16, 2021. He said,

“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. We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong – incredibly well equipped – a force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies. We gave them every tool they could need. We paid their salaries, provided for the maintenance of their air force – something the Taliban doesn’t have. The Taliban does not have an air force. We provided close air support. We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.”

What the American people are failing to grasp is that the Afghan people have indeed determined their own future. It just happens not to be the future the United States would want it to be. The Afghan made a choice, they chose the Taliban over a corrupt government of kleptocrats and sexual predators. The sooner the American people and the rest of the world accept that fact the better it is for everyone.


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