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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 33, New Delhi, July 31, 2021

Afghanistan : The final betrayal | Apratim Mukarji

Friday 30 July 2021, by Apratim Mukarji


On August 31, the United States will officially close its role in Afghanistan, which is by far the most unfortunate country in the world today. This day will also mark the Final Betrayal of the Afghan nation by the world at large, a process in which the United States has been playing the lead role. The country today has been deserted by all except a handful, such as, Iran and India. In totality, this is the saddest moment in recent history.

The stark reality at this moment is that Afghanistan is facing a resurgent and advancing Taliban militias who are definite that they are converging on Kabul, the national capital, and no power on earth is in a position to confront and effectively stop them.

The Taliban’s confidence is based on their advancement in most parts of the country. Their strategy is simple and well-executed. Advance towards Kabul from all over the country. First capture the provinces, surround their capitals, and then gradually eliminate the National Defence and Security Forces (ND & SF) from their positions.

Neither the Ashraf Ghani government nor the other governments believe the Taliban claim that they are now controlling as much as 85 per cent of the national territory. But this is established that the Taliban are in full control of more than one-third of the 421 districts and district centres. With the Taliban having routed much of northern Afghanistan in recent weeks, the government holds little more than a constellation of provincial capitals that urgently require reinforcements of troops and resuppklied with arms, ammunition and equipment. This is where the United States will be playing a vital role now.

How prepared the rabidly fundamentalist force is is evident from the fact that at the very first instance, they have concentrated their strength on capturing areas with rich mineral resources, several border-crossings which will likely bolster adding to their war chest.

The most damaging assessment of the current situation that various foreign military sources have made is that despite putting up a good show sporadically, the ND & SF appear to have given up their fighting spirit. There have been multiple instances in the last two years of government troops giving up fighting and deserting to the enemy.

In Afghanistan’s terms, this is neither shocking nor unexpected. Both the government forces and the Taliban come from the same racial stock, share common families with brothers in a family divided in their loyalty. Inter-change of loyalty between the two warring sides is neither uncommon nor surprising.

Perhaps it would help us to realise the gravity of the situation when we take into consideration the following statement by National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib that the United States and Nato withdrawals from his country “has left a vacuum that has resulted in the ND & SF being stranded on the battlefield without resupplies, sometimes running out of food and ammunition.”

The strangest argument that the United States President Joe Biden has quoted while justifying his policy of immediately evacuating the country is that the Taliban and the Afghan government must now negotiate to initiate the process for a national government with both sides participatng in this formation. Announcing his decision to quit, Biden said bulntly that this has been a “mission accomplished” moment to celebrate. He further said, addressed more to his countrymen and legislators of both the Republican and Democratic parties, that : How many more , how many more thousands of American daughters and sons are you willing to risk? I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan, with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.” It is an “unwinniable war”, is what Biden is reported to have said while defending his decision t quit. But the most surprising aspect of the turn of events is that he expects the pthers, an undefinable others, who should pursue negotiations for peace. Incidentally, this very idea of getting out of the country and expecting the government and the people to deal and compromise with the ruthless Taliban emantes from his predecessor Donald Trump’s decision to quit after initiating a peace process with leadership from Pakistan and other stakeholders. With his strange assertion that America’s mission in Afghanistan has been accomplished and denying that his country has failed in its mission, he has also said he does not believe that the Afghan government can ever rule over the entire Afghanistan. He has, therefore, urged the government to come into a peace settlement with the Taliban which remain “as formidable as before the start of the war” in 2001. How twisted his argument is!

On the other hand, President Ashraff Ghani is as realistic as possible in the existing circumstances. He has said,” The Taliban have no intention for peace.” The New York Times quoted a school girl-student in Kabul, in the aftermath of the announcement of the U.S. withdrawal in ealy April this year, that she was worried she would not be allowed to continue her studies and graduate so that she could launch a career. A pomegranate farmer in Kandahar wondered if his orchards would ever be cleared of Taliban land-mines. A government solder feared that he would never be able to stop fighting till his death after the foreign troops left. “What will become of me?” is what all these three Afghans from different walks of life were asking the same question. For, Afghanistan’s future lies in darkness.

What The NYT reported nearly four months ago is now nearer to actual reality. Every section of Afghans is now extremely worried about their immediate future. Even the government does not know what future olds for it. The Taliban have repeatedly asserted that President Ghani must resign before a new government comprising them is ushered into office. AS the fundamentalists do not recognise the legitimacy of the civil governent that is now in office, the government itself is in a vulnerable position. It is little short of a wonder that the Taliban have agreed to negotiate with the Ghani government.

However, it is women who are in the most vulnerable position. There is no doubt that once the Taliban are part of a new government, which would be dominated by them, women would be in real danger. Their education, career-building, the present flourisihing of women in medicine and medical care, teaching, participation in administration, film-making and in sports, all these would be in serious jeopardy. The memories of the life under the Taliban rule during 1996-2001 still evokes fear and sheer consternation in their minds.

* (Author: Apratim Mukarji is the author of “Afghanistan From Terror to Freedom (2003) and is an analyst of South and Central Asian affairs and geopolitics in the Indian Ocean Region. He can be contacted at mukarjiapratim[at]

The Taliban, keeping in mind Biden’s assertion that American troops would be out of Afghanistan by the 20th. anniversary of the 11/9 al-Queda attacks on the United States , quotes the old Afghan proverb, “You have the watches; we have the time.”

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