America’s mission in Afghanistan was doomed from outset

Taliban forces patrol in front of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 2, 2021. [Reuters]

Consider this before settling for direct procurement on tenders America’s mission in Afghanistan was doomed from outset

That Afghanistan is currently staring at an uncertain and indefinable future under the sturdier comeback of Taliban is a complete irony and anticlimax to the heavy security and democracy investments and costs - human and material - that were jointly expended there by several Western powers in the last two decades.

The crumbling of this landlocked country located in between Central Asia and South Asia happened so fast that it even frenziedly and fatally complicated the evacuation process of Western civilians and the local enablers of the Western forces who appeared to be possible targets for reprisals by Taliban if they remained behind.

On the other hand, Taliban insurgents enjoyed their smooth and easy takeover of Afghan areas, partly using abandoned American armories and vehicles until they happily arrived at the presidential palace in Kabul whose occupant Ashraf Ghani had, in advance, sensed danger and flew into exile allegedly with millions of dollars in cash.

But on reflection, Afghanistan was not going to work for the Western authorities purely because of the miscarriage in the tactics that were adopted. One of the main mistakes by the West in Afghanistan was the actuated desire to exact revenge for the 9/11 terror attack in New York using a full-blown and stretched military offensive that went to mess up the initial victories from the work of a small US team.

Special Forces and CIA paramilitaries had sturdily partnered with the Northern Alliance that was under the leadership of the likes of the late former Defence minister Ahmed Shah Masud between 2001 and 2002 in a bid to surgically and disruptively hunt down the Al Qaida and Taliban leadership and foot-soldiers.

Asked by a journalist to share his view on Afghanistan, a CIA officer who commanded that initial post 9/11 US covert action, had expressed blues and equated the new status quo with a Greek tragedy in which the people of Afghanistan hopelessly stood between a mistaken US tactic and a feckless, corrupt Afghan regime.

The former spy also said never had he been more doubtful about positive change in the state of affairs in Afghanistan. That was almost a decade ago, yet the prognostication was so prescient about what is now unfolding before our eyes today. 

With time also, the protraction and the ravages of war generated a sense of burden, fatigue and damage for locals and the neighbouring geopolitical landscape from which the West drew support such as Pakistan, hence encumbering the political and public goodwill for the success of the mission. 

The other major mistake was that the partly - ideological battle lacked adequate cultural competency about Afghans such that the West improvidently took a “democracy-spreading” experiment to a deeply religious and tribal society that rely on a traditional and decentralised system of authority to function.

Worse, it set up a local kleptocracy, complete with a perfidious and rapacious security force to deliver on the promise of creating a mainstream social order and control. What was the result? Doom and dollars!

Mr Hassab is a sociopolitical commentator