Afghanistan: A Sad Story

Thoughts Aug 7, 2021

TLDR of some counterintuitive facts: ​

  • 77% of Afghan people supported the US invasion.​
  • The US invaded to avenge 9/11. There’s not enough oil there.​
  • The US did war crimes, some serious development but failed to build a self-sustaining nation as they got distracted with Iraq in 2003.​
  • Afghan people have been intercours'ed by the British, Soviets, local tribal leaders, Taliban and US, one after the other.
  • Taliban means "student" in Arabic. They were the fatherless refugee children orphaned in the Soviet war, raised in Wahhabist schools of Pakistan funded by Saudi Arabia.​
  • Taliban committed at least 15 massacres and genocides targeting Shia and Hazara (Muslims) when they were in power. This is why people are desperate to flee.
  • Taliban assassinated the one honest leader (Massoud) who promoted peaceful democracy, as they couldn't bribe him.​
  • Trump cut a secret deal with the Taliban to withdraw by May 1st. ​
  • Afghan state failed because military was “incompetent fools, corrupt to the patrol level”, 30% of police became bandits, public lost trust in govt.​

Afghanistan is made of a lot of different ethnicities and tribes in rural areas scattered across mountains. British drew their borders arbitrarily. Their biggest ethnicity: Pashtun is split between Pakistan and Afghanistan. So people don’t respect that border and keep moving back and forth. This allowed the Taliban to regroup and train in Pakistan easily. Khyber pass, an extremely strategic path through Hindu Kush mountains through which, Indo-Aryans, Genghis Khan, Persians, Mughals and British invaded India, was later used by American troops and Taliban to enter Afghanistan. ​

Following British independence in 1919, the king tried to modernize the country by educating everyone (including women) and abolishing women's face veil. These liberal reforms led to a civil war with tribal leaders. After few more kings, in 1964 Afghanistan became more democratic, allowing multiple parties. One party (PDPA) took the power in a non-violent coup and started implementing communism, with the support of Soviet Russia.​

That "democratic party" banned forced marriages and promoted the education & job security of women. They also tortured and killed local Muslim leaders and forced atheism. This and dependence on the Soviet Union angered the people. Islamist riots by Afghan Mujahedeen (armed tribal leaders) broke out. The Soviet Union invaded to quell the rebellion, killed millions and raped women. They systematically depopulated rural areas with landmines and even toy grenades targeted at children. In response, the US supplied anti-aircraft guns to Mujahedeen. After 9 years, in 1989, as USSR collapsed, the Soviets withdrew in defeat, much like the US does now. ​

History of Afghanistan - Wikipedia

People cheered, considering Mujahedeen as liberators. They then became warlords, tore up their areas and started a civil war between themselves. Half of Kabul was reduced to rubble. UN tried to form a coalition govt of them in 1992 and failed. Fatherless children from the Soviet war grew up in refugee camps in Pakistan, and were indoctrinated into wahhabism by madarasas funded by Saudi Arabia. They called themselves Taliban, that is students. Pakistan opened the refugee camps, in 1994, they invaded Afghanistan. ​ People welcomed them as liberators.

In 1996, the Taliban seized Kabul with the support of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and brought the sharia rule. They forbade women from leaving homes and studying. They committed at least 15 systematic massacres and genocides targeting the Shia and Hazara, torturing and killing 4000 at a time. Ahmed Shah Massoud, a respected tribal leader, railed up enough opposition, set up democratic institutions and promoted women rights. Taliban tried to bribe him by giving the Prime Minister position, but he declined and asked for a democratic solution. He addressed the EU in 2001, stating that the Taliban and Al Qaeda had introduced "a very wrong perception of Islam". The Taliban assassinated him in 2001.​

On 11/9/2001, Afghan-based Al-Qaeda attacked the world trade centre. Taliban gave Osama Bin Laden safe harbour and in return US-led forces invaded Afghanistan. There isn’t enough oil there though. In December 2001, the Taliban government was toppled. 77% of Afghan people supported the American invasion [source 1] [source 2].​

NATO started building a government [source], training the Afghan army and police and implementing reforms. Women education rose from 0% to 60% (2016), free media and platforms for public debate were established. Infant mortality rates fell by half. In 2005, fewer than 1 in 4 Afghans had access to electricity. By 2019, nearly all did. The Afghan geography makes centralized control impossible. Most of the country being over 2000m in elevation makes the road networks non-existent. The US started rebuilding the Soviet-built circular highway with the help of the world bank, Saudi Arabia and Iran (wow), to unify the country. Then they got occupied with Iraq, Taliban strengthened themselves and started blowing up the highway and construction workers.​

Afghan society is geared more towards family and tribe than having a “unified afghan” feeling. The popular people who got Afghan govt positions were corrupt tribal warlords. In the leaked secret documents, the US military officials call Afghan soldiers "incompetent fools and corrupt to the patrol level” and blame themselves “we moved too slowly initially when Taliban were defeated. When they rebounded, we trained too quickly” (and quality fell) [source]. The US built an Afghan military that dwarfs the military of even developed countries. The US spent 20 years and 2 trillion dollars there, which mostly went to corrupt Afghan officers. 30% of the new police escaped with their weapons to put up their private checkpoints, becoming bandits, robbing people. The rural public lost trust in the centralized govt, police and military.​

Meanwhile, the Taliban regrouped in Pakistan and started attacking and controlling the strategic choke points. The US conducted war crimes, torture and killings of Taliban prisoners and suspects. The US killed 9 children in 2003 and 100 civilians (mostly children) in 2009. This turned the international perception and rural Afghans against the US occupation. Of civilian casualties, 40% was due to the US & Afghan govt and 60% was due to the Taliban. ​

After Osama was killed in 2011, the occupation became unpopular among the US public. They didn’t want their children being killed in an unrelated conflict. The US govt also did not have a clear objective after killing Osama. As a last attempt, Obama tried a "surge" of troop inflow, but the Taliban just surged their attacks. Obama started pulling out. Trump stroke a secret deal with the Taliban, without even consulting the Afghan govt they built, that the US would pull out by May 1st 2021. He reduced the 15,500 troops to 2,500. Biden says US succeeded in its objective: avenging 9/11 and making sure the region doesn't breed terrorism targeting mainland USA. Given Afghanistan is now a Taliban controlled terrorist state, US might have failed in that objective too.​

An exit strategy wasn’t planned. When the Taliban attacked this year, with only 2500 US troops, Biden had to either send more resources and restart the war or stop the war by pulling out immediately, he decided on the latter [source]. The US military shut off the lights in their airbase and slipped disgracefully without informing the Afghan army. The president fled the country betraying his people. The incompetent and corrupt Afghan govt and army collapsed like a house of cards and most of them switched sides to the Taliban for bribes.​

Now people are desperate to flee through the borders and Kabul airport, fearing the extremist rule, genocides and massacres of the Taliban. The US has a deal with the Taliban to continue the evacuation of allies and special visa Afghans. US & French ambassadors fled, but the UK ambassador stays back writing visas for the Afghan translators, helping them escape. China quickly joined hands with the Taliban and India is shocked to have a terrorist country in its footsteps. The future of Afghanistan and its people is as uncertain as ever before.​

​​Disclaimer: I'm no expert. Feel free to mention any missing points in the comments, will add them.

Abarajithan Gn
Afghanistan: A Sad Story - Who is responsible?​​TLDR of some counterintuitive facts: ​-- 77% of Afghan people supported the US invasion.​-- US invaded to avenge 9/11. There’s not enough oil...
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