There are many things we don’t know about Afghanistan, many more than we do. So, we enter a realm of assumptions, based on sources more or less interested in telling us their truth.
I don’t think it escapes anyone’s notice that the US invasion of Afghanistan began in the early 1980s to “liberate” the country from communism and Soviet troops confronting the anti-socialist uprising that had taken place in the 1970s. In the 1970s Kissinger had already been building a counter-revolution with the support of Pakistan. So, the Soviets again made inroads into a country where no empire had ever prevailed. Not Alexander the Great, not the Mongols, no one managed to prevail on Afghan territory.
Let’s remember that the American project was to create the Taliban-Al Qaeda to drive the Mujahedin into retirement and establish a monarchical government like that of the Saudis. But it backfired because religious values caused the country to stop producing poppy, the opium so badly needed in the civilised world.
Let us travel back in time again, to 11 September 2001, for many the beginning of the 21st century, for others the start of World War III. Whatever the case, that date marks the second invasion of Afghanistan, supposedly to find the terrorists who blew up the Twin Towers. I don’t go up that branch, because I don’t go down any further.
But that invasion did not come alone, it was not just Ranger Bush who sent in the Marines, but all the NATO allies, with Tony Blair and José María Aznar drooling over their cowboy boots. Kabul was put back “under control”. The rest of Afghanistan, as I said, was not even controlled by Genghis Khan.
Afghanistan’s enormous, gigantic wealth was once again sucked out and heroin was once again, produced on a large scale; but above all, communism was once again stopped. In today’s nomenclature: China and Russia, which had just created the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, precisely to counter imperialist influence in the region.
“Since the occupation in 2001, NATO countries have drilled 322 wells in the Amo Darya basin alone, with an estimated 500 to 2 billion barrels of oil. In 2011, the financial company JPMorgan Chase signed a $40 million deal with Kabul to take over one of the Afghan gold mines. To Horst Köhler, Germany’s president, cost him his job in 2010 suggesting that his country’s troops are in Afghanistan to protect the German economy,’ enumerated the accurate Middle East analyst Nazanin Armanian.
But this momentous zone of influence remains under siege. Russia has countries of its influence bordering Afghanistan, China directly borders it. And it is one of the US’s favourite targets for devastating the Asian power, the territory of the Uighur minority.
But a lot has happened between the 2001 invasion and today: China has grown from a panda to a dragon. Russia grew stronger after the chaos of the fall of the Soviet Union and neoliberalism Yeltsin style. Russian influence, under Putin, is once again important in the region and its skirmishes with NATO have earned it a highly esteemed opinion among the peoples of the Middle East.
The Syrian experiment taught everyone many lessons, even if the US seems to have learned the least. The creation of the Islamic State and the operation of permanent warfare with mercenary armies allowed it to reduce its own casualties, but control of territory is also non-existent. At least his pyromania is satisfied.
Obama’s rapprochement with India had led Pakistan to move away from its historic alliance with the United States; this was repaired by Trump and it is still not clear where Biden is going on this issue. On the one hand he pulled troops out of Afghanistan and tolerated the Taliban/Pakistani government, but lost the use of the 11 military bases it had in that country.
The Taliban quickly moved closer to China and Russia, countries besieged by radicalised Islamist terrorism. In fact, the Taliban has already declared that it is abandoning its expansionist plans and settling in Afghanistan to develop the country. A country that has been devastated several times by the West and now sees its scientists and best educated people being extirpated.
The Islamic State and Al Qaeda, ISIS, Daesh, whatever you want to call this conglomerate of mercenaries, psychos and predators, is already calling the Taliban traitors and has declared war on them, hence these recent attacks.
In the middle, the Sunni Taliban reached out to Shiite Iran, with the idea of allying and living together peacefully. But how does that end the chaos in Afghanistan? Does it end the chaos in the Middle East? I don’t think they will let that happen easily.
Turkey is a powerful new player in the region, which with Erdogan in power has grown in influence and military might. Saudi Arabia remains powerful but has been challenged by Qatar, which is building influence where the Saudis are hated. The tension between India and Pakistan continues to be unrelenting and this generates a lot of noise for China, which must maintain relations with both nations, knowing that what the world does not want is a possible Sino-Indian alliance, because there has never been such a great power.
Why was the Taliban victory celebrated throughout the East? Not because everyone sympathises with this right-wing extremist movement, but because they succeeded in driving the Yankees out of their land. They won the longed-for victory over the usurper with the stars and stripes.
The biggest problem the Taliban will face is that even if their statements are not lies (which remains to be seen), they have no operational capacity to control or coordinate their militia bases. So, we will be faced with talk approaching sanity and actions in the territory of cruel and ruthless insanity.
There is no prospect of peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. What is barely salvageable is that a popular movement could emerge that puts the interests of its own country first and negotiates the exploitation of its wealth in favour of its own interests. Whether this amounts to a benefit for the majorities is far from clear, let alone optimistic, given the medieval, misogynistic and exclusionary ideology that guides the Taliban.
The tenacity with which this violent culture endures in Afghanistan has much to do with the character of its people, but more fundamentally with the historical siege to which they have been subjected.