In response to the heart-breaking attack on the US Twin Towers on 11th September 2001, the Bush administration’s armed forces invaded Afghanistan. Within two months of the start of the operation on 7th October 2001, the US overthrew the former Taliban government and occupied Afghanistan. They then maintained this occupation through a twenty-year-long tyrannical rule and tried to impose their Western-style culture and way of life on the Afghan people. To achieve this, they wasted a lot of money, weapons, equipment and manpower. But in this costly war, the US failed miserably in the final trial and withdrew the last of its troops from Afghanistan on 31st August 2021 under the guise of a face-to-face agreement. But why did four US presidents wage this bloody and expensive war for over two decades?
The US has spent more than 60% of its reconstruction money on building the Afghan army and security forces. Until the last year, the total expenditure of the US in this sector was about $8.9 billion. An additional $3.3 billion has been pledged to the Afghan army this year. The number of people in the country’s security forces, including the Afghan army and police, was just over 300,000 on paper. An air force had been created. The US and the Afghan government were very proud of their commando unit and the cadets had been taken to the US for training. But when the Taliban intensified its fight after signing the peace deal with the US, the weaknesses in the Afghan security forces were exposed and the Taliban took over the entire country within days of the withdrawal. People in the US now realise that 20 years ago their government did not go to Afghanistan to protect human rights, but rather to achieve political ends. Now that political priorities have changed and cost-benefit calculations do not seem reasonable, they want to move on as soon as possible.
Human rights? Women’s rights? Democracy? It seems that these are no longer the problems of the West. Suddenly these principles have become the subject of Afghanistan’s own solution. Recently, Biden said that the Afghan leaders needed to work together. However, he failed to mention that the US invaded Afghanistan not just to fight the extremists but they had also promised to bring democracy to Afghanistan and ensure the protection of women’s rights. It is now clear that those statements were just empty words. Neither women’s rights nor democracy was the top priority. The women of Afghanistan who have been fighting for their rights have been assured that democracy and the rule of law will eventually prevail. It now seems that they have to revert to the pre-2001 era. The women feel cheated and abandoned, and many rights activists are worried about their lives. Moreover, millions of Afghans have fled their homes in recent years. Despite the current situation, many Afghan refugees in Europe have been deported as Afghanistan is being considered as a “safe country”. The Western world should have tried to understand the plight of the Afghan people who remain suspended without a place to call home.
The US waged a gruesome war in Afghanistan for 20 years, spent trillions of dollars, and lost thousands of lives. After their fruitless withdrawal, many Western analysts say, that nothing was achieved. But they are wrong. The Afghans are worse off now than ever before. They continue to face violence while hunger and poverty consume them. Their women and children are living in miserable conditions without proper food, healthcare and education. According to Save the Children, an international child rights organisation, almost 33,000 children have been killed in Afghanistan in the last 20 years. Those whom the US has indiscriminately killed are not the only terrorists in the eyes of the Afghan people as victims of US attacks have been mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. What a Western deception it is!
Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2021.
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