THE most serious consequence of Kabul’s fall for us is that it could strengthen Islamic jihadism globally and that includes our part of the world. The Taliban flag says what the al-Qaeda flag also declares, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is God’s messenger.” Indeed, two years ago, the battle of Marawi had reportedly some members of the Taliban fighting with our local jihadists.
Most worrisome is the fact that the stupid, bungling Americans left tens of thousands of arms and ammunition, not to say tanks and Humvees, with the Taliban. I have no doubt these will end up in Muslim Mindanao one of these days. Afghanistan could become the arms depot for Islamic jihadists worldwide.
We, Filipinos, should learn lessons from the fall of Afghanistan.
1. President Rodrigo Duterte was totally right in charting an independent foreign policy away from the country’s vassalage to the US since its formal independence. Even as the US had spent an astronomical $2.3 trillion in its war in Afghanistan – essentially history’s most expensive manhunt for Osama bin Laden – lost 5,694 in American lives, a new administration suddenly decided to leave with the Taliban capturing it in just seven days. The US cannot be relied on.
We actually have had a “mini-Kabul” in 2012.
For its “Pivot to Asia” campaign started in 2011, a thinly disguised operation to demonize and isolate China in the region, the US prodded the clueless former president Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd to challenge China in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in May 2012. Aquino was fooled into doing so as he had just received in 2011 a refurbished US Hamilton-class cutter – and he was itching to deploy it – as he said in his 2011 State of the Nation Address to “defend what is ours” in the “West Philippine Sea.” That move was so stupid, giving China the high ground to claim that Aquino had sent a warship and thus militarized the territorial disputes. China stood its ground in the standoff that ensued for five weeks.
Aquino ran to Washington to beg Obama to deploy US warships to assist it or at least send a clear message to China by sending for instance the US Seventh Fleet to the South China Sea. Are you kidding? The Americans probably told Aquino. Obama is running for reelection in November 2012 and you want him to risk a war with China?
But the US did not just abandon the Aquino regime in that crisis. It resolved the crisis, preventing hostilities that would have hurt Obama’s reelection. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told Jose Cuisia, our ambassador to the United States, that the Chinese had agreed to withdraw from the shoal simultaneously with Philippine ships. Aquino and former Foreign secretary Albert del Rosario believed Campbell and ordered our ships out of the shoal. There was no such agreement. The Chinese ships stayed at the shoal: we lost Scarborough.
2. The US is at the twilight of its century-old hegemony. Perhaps there’s an Afghanistan curse and that popular term it has been given, “graveyard of empires,” could have another meaning other than the fact that empires from the Persians and Greeks in antiquity and the British and the Soviets in modern times, after invading it, gave up in ignominious defeat.
The Soviets left it in 1988; a year later the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics imploded. There were, of course, many reasons for this but the loss of credibility of its communist leadership, the demonstration of its weakness drove its vassal-states (“republics”) to break away from it. War with Afghanistan and you die as an empire.
After its Afghanistan debacle, would Americans support another war, which could last 20 years? If China decides to incorporate an island – Taiwan – which the defeated Nationalists 50 years ago have pretended to make a nation of, does the US still have the balls to defend it? After Afghanistan, will the Taiwanese believe the US will defend it or will it just negotiate with China a Hong Kong style of autonomy?
The Chinese must be laughing their heads off: Germany sent two weeks ago its frigate Berne, the United Kingdom its aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to the South China Sea as a show of force addressed to China. Now, leaders of both countries are being criticized for having no military presence anywhere near Afghanistan. They had to rely on the kindness of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which the Americans hastily deployed from its Japanese port to the North Arabian Sea.
3. Democracy is so deeply flawed. What kind of stupid system does America have which just four years ago elected a buffoon billionaire (who might even turn out to be in reality a bankrupt) who turned reality-show celebrity, who said as president that Covid-19 was just like the “flu,” who is then replaced with a 78-year-old man who might even already, at least some say, have the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?
Why after all would democracy work, when most of those who choose a country’s leaders, even in a rich country as the US, don’t really know anything but only what a profit-hungry media, which feeds them with sensational news and analysis, which actually what their baser instincts want.
Check out China’s command structure (with its vast Central Military Commission) and the Chinese government’s style of getting think-tanks to present to the relevant ministry the most objective means of addressing a problem. I don’t think China would have made such a colossal boo-boo as the US in its withdrawal from Afghanistan.
4. US and Western media are so incompetent. Afghanistan fell so quickly because what Biden as late as July 8 referred to as the “well-equipped 350,000 Afghan Army” melted away so swiftly. Its soldiers (if they really existed) and officers simply threw their uniforms away and buried their weapons, probably even cheering on the Taliban.
Not a single US and Western media outlet had deemed a worthy subject for investigation how the Afghan Army was doing, if they were really trained and motivated to fight the Taliban. Biden probably relied on watching CNN and reading the Washington Post and The New York Times for his daily intelligence briefing.
Instead, as a detailed 2019 University of Florida masteral degree study found, US reportage by the Washington Post and The New York Times focused on what ambitious journalists wishing to be called “war correspondents” prefer to cover: battles.
This is what I’ve been shouting to local media here: stop admiring US and Western media and simply following their narratives. Maybe they are good at covering their own countries. But they always, always suck covering other countries.
Perhaps, with its economic and military might, the US would still be a superpower for another century. But it is certainly no longer an unchallenged hegemon. The fall of Kabul marks the emergence of a multipolar world by four superpowers: the US of the Americas, China of Asia, Russia of Eastern Europe and the (Western) European Union, each as strong as the other. We certainly hope the Islamic Emirate of Taliban doesn’t grow to be the center of a global Islamic superpower.
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