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Afghanistan, America and the folly of being dragged into endless wars

OPINION
By Suleiman Shahbal | August 24th 2021

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint that was previously manned by American troops near the US embassy, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. [AP]

It’s 4am and CNN is interviewing an Afghani lady living in Colorado about the state of affairs in Kabul.

The lady is young, wearing a strapless dress with her hair uncovered. She seems oblivious that she looks half-naked to the average Afghani or Muslim watching her anywhere else in the world as she passionately describes the disaster befalling Afghanistan.

Does she reflect the views and aspirations of Afghanis? Are we watching a disaster or a victory for the Afghan people? Do the people scrambling to catch planes really reflect the despair of the majority? Have you noticed that there isn’t a single interview done in the rural areas? Are the rural folks despairing or celebrating the Taliban victory? What are the lessons of Afghanistan for Kenyans? Do we have an Afghanistan next door to us in Somalia and are we about to repeat the same mistakes there?

Afghanistan is a disaster. Over 20 years of senseless war, thousands of lives lost, two trillion dollars wasted in military spending that instead could have changed the lives of millions. What for? To protect democracy? What democracy? In a nation of over 48 million people, no election ever had more than 1.8 million votes cast and even these elections were often rigged. This “democracy” represented the will of less than 5 per cent of the people and created a kleptocracy that stole billions of shillings which are now invested in real estate in Dubai.

Afghanistan is a rural mountainous country where the majority live a life based on age-old traditions following a strict Islamic and tribal code. Even in the cities, most Afghanis follow the same traditions as the rural folks. The Taliban were willing to die fighting to preserve their traditions and culture against people who were forcing them to change to suit their perceptions of what is “democratically right”.

When it came to the will to fight, their resolve outlasted that of soldiers on a payroll. Otherwise, how do you explain the defeat of both the Soviet Union and the United States?

Let us not make that same mistake in Somalia. That society is very similar to Afghanistan. Let us not have the hubris to imagine we can recreate them in our image. Let us not use the excuse of fighting terrorism to put ourselves in a proxy war on behalf of any superpower. Superpowers have a tendency of paying the bills but walking away when their kids get killed. America pulled out its soldiers from Somalia after two of their helicopters were shot down and a few of their soldiers killed.

The generals need wars and will create many excuses to justify that. The best excuse is to convince us that they are at war to defend our freedoms and borders. That was the rationale for all the disastrous wars of Vietnam, Korea, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan. Military action is designed to force a political solution. If there is no political solution, then military force should be a deterrent only. If they hit us, we hit them twice as hard so they know that actions have consequences, but we should never be dragged into endless wars. Remember these famous words “those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them”.

 

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