Rasheeda Bhagat

Afghanistan tastes one more betrayal

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on August 30, 2021

Afghanistan Uncertain times   -  AFP

Bereft of US combat logistical support, the Afghan army was left to fend for themselves with disastrous consequences

Sometimes it takes among the lowliest to expose the underbelly of the mightiest, as has happened in Afghanistan. By withdrawing US troops, US President Joe Biden says he only carried out the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban in Doha last year.

But the manner in which the entire Afghan military establishment, built by the US with hundreds of billions of dollars, crumbled like a pack of cards, has left the world stunned.

And as it crumbled, the world’s mightiest superpower, which has been involved in Afghanistan directly for over 20 years, could only watch on helplessly, from the Kabul airport. Taliban’s smooth takeover of Afghanistan has resulted in a volley of finger pointing and blame game in Washington.

None of this rhetoric now matters for an entire country and its people who had put its hope on the US steering it towards stability and peace after decades of war and violence.

The Taliban first advanced elsewhere and then took over Kabul triumphantly, as the lame duck Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, stuffing as much money as he could in whatever containers he could muster.

Once he fled, the Afghan army put up no resistance whatsoever, and within five days, the Taliban beamed for the world images of its leaders feasting in the presidential palace. Juxtaposed against these images, were heart-rending scenes of Afghan women desperately trying to get out of Kabul. An unforgettable image was that of a woman behind a barbed fence begging the American/British troops guarding the airport to let her through.

There were also pictures of a baby being flung across the fence by parents who must have hoped against hope that their child might just manage to leave their beleaguered country, and get a life somewhere… anywhere.

History will wonder at the US government’s decision to not even allow 2,500 troops to remain in Afghanistan, the number stationed there when Biden became President. But the price the Afghan people, particularly its women, are paying and will continue to pay, under the Taliban regime, is humongous.

Why Afghan army failed

One of the hottest debated topics now is the Afghan military falling like nine pins, offering little resistance to the Taliban, particularly in Kabul.

Afghan soldiers, it has been charged, only fought for money. But if you dig a little deeper, the truth emerges of the shameful manner in which the US withdrawal was executed, literally leaving the Afghan army in the lurch.

How the Afghan military was let down by the US is related by an Afghan three-star General Sami Sadat. In a signed article in the New York Times, he says that after reading about the Afghan army’s abject capitulation before the Taliban, he says: “I am exhausted. I am frustrated. And I am angry,” because “we were betrayed”.

He says that for 11 months he had led 15,000 men in combat operations against the Taliban in southwestern Afghanistan, lost hundreds of officers and soldiers, and had managed to hold the Taliban back, inflicting “heavy casualties” on them, before he was asked to command the Afghan special forces in Kabul on August 15. But it was too late as the Taliban was already entering the capital.

Maintaining that he was not “absolving but only defending the honour or the Afghan troops” Sadat concedes that the Afghan army did have problems of “corruption and cronyism”. And the Afghan Army lost its will to fight, “because of the growing sense of abandonment by our American partners… Political divisions in Kabul and Washington strangled the army and limited our ability to do our jobs. Losing combat logistical support that the United States had provided for years crippled us, as did a lack of clear guidance from US and Afghan leadership.”

He says that the Trump-Taliban Doha agreement “curtailing offensive combat operations for US and allied troops” changed the rules of the game entirely. “The US air-support rules of engagement for Afghan security forces effectively changed overnight,” and emboldened the Taliban, who now sensed victory and knew they just had to play the waiting game.

Well, that game is now over… till the superpowers of the world, American, Russian, maybe even Chinese, begin another one.

 

Published on August 30, 2021

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