Beyond the News - FACT Analysis

How did America go wrong in Afghanistan?

US soldiers take up their positions as they secure the airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. (Photo by SHAKIB RAHMANI / AFP)
Harjap Singh Aujla

After the most heinous terror attack on September 11th 2001 in the financial capital of the world New York City and the political capital of the United States of America Washington D.C., entire America was furious for swift retribution. Common folks all over the US were clamoring for an exemplary sort of punitive action against the perpetrators of the crime, their instigators, and shelter givers in Afghanistan. The then President of America George W. Bush Junior was very unpopular in the country. Half of America was believing that the American election was rigged and that the counting of votes was not completed in Florida and the result of the presidential election was hurriedly announced without completing all the essential formalities.

To some extent the people were right too, but after this attack the nation got unitedly behind the beleaguered American President and they expected something exemplary from him.

India advised the American Government to trust the Northern Alliance and pull their military weight fully behind them. Of course America used the soldiers of Northern Alliance to enter the city of Kabul first and then elsewhere in Afghanistan. Once the first group of Northern Alliance had entered Kabul and found no trace of Taliban in the Afghan Capital, the American troops followed them. Similar episodes happened in the other cities and theatres of war too. But once the Americans got the firm foothold in Afghanistan, under the influence of Pakistan, America’s loyalty shifted in favor of Pakhtoons (or Pushtoons), who form the bulk of Taliban militants. America in reality never wanted to prefer the most loyal soldiers of Northern Alliance. Even in the democratically held elections, America’s sympathy was for the Pushtoons preferred by Pakistan. Both Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani were the protégés of America. America accepted some kind of election rigging by the establishment in favor of both candidates. The complaints of aggrieved loser Abdullah Abdulah of Northern Alliance were summarily dismissed.

It has come to light that America depended a lot on the private contractors for providing the essential supplies to the Afghan people and the Afghan and the American armed forces. There is no doubt that  America has an inherent weakness for the big wigs of private sector. They award most of the contracts to the private players for works, which can be performed ideally departmentally. There are reports that some of the training programs for the Afghan Army and air force were entrusted to the private sector contractors and they did not perform their job satisfactorily. The Americans prepared an army of three hundred thousand soldiers including a decent force of pilots for the fighters, bombers and other supporting activities, but when the need arose, they miserably failed to perform. This is a big embarrassment for the only super power of the world. Such incidents to some extent occurred in Iraq too, where the elected government is of the Shiites, but America handed over the most sophisticated weapons to the Sunnis. This has led to a lot of incidents of terror by a number of Sunni militants.

American armed forces have a faulty tradition of leaving all their military hardware behind in fully operational condition from where they withdraw. When they leave, they just leave every usable piece of equipment behind. They simply board the evacuation planes. Even personal weapons are left behind in fully usable condition. This includes their most sophisticated guns, transportation vehicles and communication equipment. All these were initially left behind for the so called Afghan armed forces, but when the Afghan soldiers surrendered without a fight in province after province, it is obvious that all these weapons and other sophisticated equipment would have fallen into the hands of the Taliban and due to the fault of the American armed forces, they will become the best-equipped soldiers. In order to make a quick buck, the Taliban can sell these very sophisticated weapons and vehicles to the Pakistanis and the Chinese. The Chinese can make mass-scale copies of these for their own use.

As I pointed out in the beginning, the only resistance even now is coming from the remnants of the famous Northern Alliance in the Punjshir Valley. The Vice President of Afghanistan Abdullah Saleh aided by Ahmed Masood, the son of legendry commander of Northern Alliance Ahmed Shah Masood, now claims to be the de-facto President of Afghanistan, when the current president has abdicated and fled from the country. Legally in accordance with the Afghan Constitution, he is right. He is supported by several young self respecting hold-outs. The veteran Uzbek commander Abdul Rashid Dostum has joined hands with the forces of Abdullah Saleh and Ahmed Masood. The rest of the Afghans in most of Afghanistan have now tamely capitulated to the unpredictable militants of Talibans, although there are some well organized protesters in Jalalabad, Khost and Mazar-E- Sharif.

Some of the stuff left behind by the retreating American forces for the Taliban to use is as follows:

A number of world’s best Blackhawk helicopters are now at the disposal of Taliban, which are not available to 166 countries in the world. An estimate of the most lethal weaponry now available to the Taliban is $20 billion. There are eleven most modern military bases available to the Taliban. The US handed over to the so-called Afghan security forces as many as six A-29 light attack aircraft, 174 High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles called Humvees. In addition 10000, 2.75 inch high explosive rockets, 60000 40mm high explosive rounds, 900000 rounds of 7.62 mm bullets. Afghan Air Force operates 3 types of helicopters, which include 45 UH-60 Blackhawks, 50 MD-530s and 56 Mi-17 helicopters (23 in number), C – 130 Hercules transport aircraft, C – 208 utility aircraft and AC-208 fixed wing aircraft. In addition America has spent billions of dollars to build basic infrastructure all over Afghanistan.

America has spent millions of dollars in Afghanistan, which have gone down the drain now. They messed up while withdrawing from Iraq and this is the repeat of their follies committed earlier. America has lost face, the West will not accept their leadership in future.

(harjapaujla@gmail.com)

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