The writer is of the view that American guestimates about emerging post-exit scenario have miserably failed. The expectation that the US trained Afghan forces will hold back the Taliban onslaught for at least six months has not come true. The forces took to heels without firing a shot.
The Afghan forces had no counter narrative to Taliban’s view that they are fighting for Allah to enforce one God, one Holy Book, and one Prophet. The Taliban estimated between 30,000 to 75000 are now a formidable force, coupled with US trained Afghan renegades. This force is a factor to be reckoned with in neighbouring countries.
Once again Afghanistan has proved that it is veritably the graveyard of empires. The regime-change diktat failed in Afghanistan. The USA expected its 300,000 Afghan army and an air force to hold back the Taliban for at least six months. But, they took to heels without firing a shot. The American dream of a new Afghanistan fell like a house of cards.
The Taliban drew inspiration from the Holy Quran that when you are attacked and flushed out of your home, jihad, holy war becomes compulsory. The Taliban’s narrative was that fighting for Allah, one God, one holy book and one Prophet. But, the Afghan forces had no counter narrative. US president laments that the US trained the Afghans and equipped them to the hilt with most modern weaponry. But it could not imbue them with will to fight.
Devolving blame on the Afghan forces is easy. But it is difficult to ignore some bitter truths.
The US knew that the Afghan governments were thoroughly corrupt. They pilfered money allocated for troops. The trainees themselves were kleptomaniac. They used to steal whatever lay unguarded, even fuel. The Afghan government was a kleptocracy while the Afghan troops were kleptomaniacs. American puppet government made no effort to dispel the impression of being corrupt. They became more and more unpopular with every passing day. Besides devouring US funds, the government functionaries earned a lot from poppy growers.
Only a feeble effort was once made to hold the Afghan government accountable.
During2001 to 2020, the US spent about $144 billion on training the Afghan forces through its 10,000 contractors. The NATO established trust funds of about $3.4 billion to overfeed the trainees, police and security personnel. The USA banked on its contractors to train the Afghan forces. These contractors had a limited vision of emerging situation. The Taliban sneaked their men into the ranks and files of trainees to get information. The US wanted to win the war through contractors rather than through its solders. At times, the number of contractors exceeded the number of Department of Defence Personnel. That totaled 85,600 as compared to 117,227 contractors at cost of US$891 million (Blackwater, KBR, and Boeing Company)
The translators enjoyed Special Immigration visas. In 2008, about 198 visas were issued. In 2017, about 4120 visas along with 12050 for dependents were issued. About 360 visas along with 1626 for dependents were issued in 2021.
Taliban’s financial resources
The USA expected the Taliban to get suffocated by lack of funds. But, on the contrary the Taliban suffered no financial crunch through fund-collector mullah Yaqoob’s financial acumen. The Taliban in 2020 collected revenue of $ 464 million from mining, $ 240 million from foreign donations, $160 million from taxes, , $ 80 million from real estate, and $ 416 million from crops. On average the Taliban earned $ 1.6 billion to sustain their forces.
De jure recognition
The Taliban have declared that their system of government will be based on Islamic shariah.
They have no penchant for Westminster model of democracy. Contrary to common impression they are in no hurry to be recognised internationally.
Still Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, China Russia and Turkey are likely to recognise the new government in Afghanistan before long. They have no remorse on Afghanistan’s foreign reserves being out of their reach.
The US presidents, military commanders and diplomats kept lying to the American public (termed a “bewildered herd” by Noam Chomsky) that they were making progress in Afghanistan.
QUAD in quandary
India and the USA two main constituents of the QUAD are the losers on the Afghan chessboard. Taliban’s resurgence strengthens China’s position and prospects of the Belt –Road initiative.
China’s navy intends to fight near its shores. But, the QUAD navies will have to travel to China with concomitant supply-chain problems.
Fall of Kabul into Taliban hands has introduced a new dimension into the Afghan situation. The rustic Taliban appear to be good negotiators. They negotiated peace terms with the US well. They are likely to win over hostile leaders.