Afghan War: A Story of “Reasons to Believe” and the Historic Defeat

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By Agha Iqrar Haroon

On July 9, 2021, in Congress Standing Committee, the US President Joe Biden categorically said that the US-allied forces did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build and it is up to the Afghan people to decide their future and how they want to run their country.

Alas, the US shared this secret with the US taxpayers after ruining over 2.65 trillion USD and killing over 160,000 innocent civilians. The US military men causalities are not very high in the Afghan War as compared to 58,000 in the Vietnam war. Less than 2,500 US soldiers gave their lives for this war without clear goals. If the goal was dismantling Al Qaeda so it was achieved years ago. If Al Qaeda is still present, then why are the United States and its allied forces leaving Afghanistan? After dismantling Al Qaeda, the US-allied forces stayed long to ensure “women empowerment”, installation of the democratic system, providing better health conditions, achieving high literacy rate, ensuring gender equality, and placing a system where human rights are protected. Were these targets achieved?

President Biden is not ready to send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome. Will other nations of the US-allied forces ask their leaders why did their leaders send their children to a senseless war? The ISAF has a long list of countries and they are also answerable to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan that why did they play havoc with their future for 20 long years when their countries and their leaders had no idea in what kind of war they had thrown their children into? The diction of “Collateral Damage” killed only civilians and would anybody audit the impact of this phenomenon and would avoid using this diction again in the future?

President Biden judged that it was not in the national interest of the United States of America to continue fighting this war indefinitely. Should the US Congress not call all three presidents (Bush, Obama, and Trump) so ask them why did they continue a war that was not in the national interest of the United States? and why the US interests were a top priority and global and regional interests were not counted for? Pakistan is the most wounded country due to this Operation Enduring Freedom that cost the lives of over 70,000 innocent civilians and Pakistan’s economy went to drain due to the war in its neighborhood.

President Biden stated that the Afghan leaders have to come together to decide the future of the country; meanwhile, the US will continue to provide civilian and humanitarian assistance including speaking for the rights of women and girls. No doubt this is a sane approach but the point had been a bone of contention between the US-Taliban peace talks for years because the Taliban are (were) of the view that let Afghans live alone and let them decide what kind of social and political systems they wish in their own country.

President Biden also mentioned the following points during his presentation to the US Congress Standing Committee and these points are also important to remember. I am reproducing his viewpoint hereunder so researchers have an idea of what kind of justifications came from the United States while leaving Afghanistan after 20 years of war. He said:

  • The US “military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31st.”

  • Once the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan had been made, it was important to “move swiftly to conduct the main elements of the drawdown…speed is safety.”

  • The US will continue to provide security assistance to Afghanistan and “ensure they [Afghanistan] have the capacity to maintain their air force.”

  • The US will maintain its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and is coordinating with its international partners “in order to continue to secure the international airport.”

  • “Countries in the region have an essential role to play.”

  • The US will continue to work for the release of hostage Mark Frerichs.

  • The US has “dramatically accelerated” the processing time for issuance of Special Immigrant Visas to Afghan nationals who worked with US forces in Afghanistan.

  • The administration has identified “US facilities outside of the continental United States, as well as in third countries” to host Afghans as their SIVs are processed. Relocation flights for such Afghans will begin this month.

  • [To critics advocating a short-term extension in US military presence] 20 years of US involvement in Afghanistan and the “current security situation” only confirm that “just one more year” of fighting in Afghanistan “is not a solution but a recipe for being there indefinitely.”

  • Critics who argue that the US should stay in Afghanistan since “we have not taken losses in this last year” forget that this is a result of the Doha agreement – which was “the reason the Taliban had ceased major attacks against US forces.”

  • If the US had announced that it was “going back on that agreement…the Taliban would have again begun to target our forces. The status quo was not an option.”

  • “So let me ask those who wanted us to stay: How many thousands more of America’s daughters and sons are you willing to risk? How long would you have them stay?”

  • “Already we have members of our military whose parents fought in Afghanistan 20 years ago. Would you send their children and their grandchildren as well?  Would you send your own son or daughter?”

  • “I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome”

  • The US “cannot remain tethered to policies creating a response to a world as it was 20 years ago.”

  • The terrorist threat today has “metastasized beyond Afghanistan.” The US is therefore repositioning its resources to “meet the threats where they are now significantly higher: in South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.”

  • “We are developing a counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region, and act quickly and decisively if needed.”

  • The US also needs to focus its “core strengths” on “strategic competition with China and other nations that are really going to determine our future.”

His comments at the Standing Committee are an eye-opener for all other countries who joined the War on Terror that it was a war for the United States and by the United States and all member states were ruthlessly used for US interests. NATO is a byword for the United States so there is no question for answering why did NATO members join this endless war but the countries of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) should review this position and the cost they gave to this war and should go through a retrospective approach.

It is not confirming when and where the US would wage a new war by using the diction of Democracy, Human Rights, and Gender equality. Libya is already ruined, Syria and Iraq face the brunt, Afghanistan defeated NATO forces but there are many countries who can be the next target in South Asia, Africa and even in Central Asia where, according to the US parameters, human rights are denied and where the US will have “Reasons to Believe” that terrorism is flourishing. God knows when “Reason to Believe” diction would be contested by the US-allied countries before jumping into US wars. We should remember the US-allied forces had Reasons to Believe that Al Qaeda had Dirty Bomb, Saddam Hussain had Weapons of Mass destruction (WMD), Syria was using Chemical Weapons, and Libyans were planning to attack US interests.

Note: Agha Iqrar Haroon is a senior journalist from Pakistan working in the field since 1988. He covered the Afghan war during 1995-97 and then during 2001-2006 while working with national and international media outlets including WTN News Agency, ETN News Agency, the News International, Abu Dhabi Television, and Al-Jazeera News.

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