Those of us who know Afghanistan are not surprised by the resurgence of the Taliban although it is happening much quicker than the six months we predicted it would take. One of the reasons the takeover is happening so quickly is the suppression of anti-Taliban tribal leaders that happened during the U.S. forces occupation of the area. By believing they were creating an Army of Afghanistan the U.S. lessened the ability of the regional warlords to arm and train their own armies thus making the Afghanistan army the only force with which the government could resist the Taliban. But, as we pointed out earlier, there is no national identity in Afghanistan for which to contest the area so the Afghan soldiers have simply faded back into the mountains and assumed their former places as members of this or that tribe. We also noted that the national government of Afghanistan was made up of mostly Pashtuns which, coincidently, comprises the majority of the Taliban.
The Taliban simply gathered together in Waziristan and waited for the U.S. to begin to withdraw forces and they came in behind those forces to face almost no opposition from the Afghan army. Now possessed of all the U.S. weaponry abandoned by the Afghan army the Taliban is well-equipped and will present a formidable force in the future. So, the U.S. has probably done more to form a united Afghanistan than any of the other countries in the region’s history. Afghanistan is about to see its first actual one country rule but it will be because by disarming the other tribes the U.S. has allowed the Pashtuns to become the prevalent force in the area. Given the support of their cousins in Waziristan, Afghanistan is about to become another Islamic Republic once again thanks to the inability of the U.S. government to either appreciate history or form a coherent and workable foreign policy initiative. This is because U.S. foreign policy is based too much on idealism and too little on practicality. We assume other people think like we do and want the same things we do and that simply is not true. We have an overpowering need to be “Liked” rather than respected in world affairs and there is a tendency to believe that other governments are like people and have personalities and such. Nothing could be further from the truth and to quote Lord Palmerston, “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”
In addition to my essay on Afghanistan the reader should consult my essay Total War and various other of my writings wherein I point out the pitfalls of idealism in the real world. Even the most ardent democratic idealist (that’s democratic as in democracy not party) should have been able to understand that you cannot change a fourteenth century culture into a twenty-first century democracy when the language of the area doesn’t even have a word for democracy. What is happening in Afghanistan can be laid at the doorstep of those who believe they can change human nature simply by dictating such change. As I pointed out in my first published work “The Train,” when discussing Vietnam, “Democracy cannot exist without an established middle class.” Vietnam did not have one and Afghanistan certainly does not have one, hence democracy is not a form of government that will work there.
Unable to learn from history it appears U.S. leaders are doomed to chase their own tails in a Santayana Loop. All those deaths and all that money simply to secure an Islamic Republic that is anti-U.S. There were those who foresaw this, but they were like prophets crying in the wilderness.
I shared this with Vance. We are both appreciating your writing. I say appreciating
rather than enjoying because while I believe you are correct, I don’t like the situation.
“The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”
– President Joe Biden, at a July 8, 2021, news conference