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A Taste of Panic: The Taliban Continues its Advance

The historical vectors are moving with conviction and purpose; the weak and lacking in conviction are in retreat and the gun is doing the talking. The government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the security services and the Afghan National Army, seem to be either huddled in despair, capitulating or fleeing before the inexorable advance of the Taliban. They have the upper hand, the cards, the means, storming through and winning half of the country.

For months, it was assumed that the Taliban would not have the means to capture cities. The National Army would be able to garrison and lord in the cities, offering protection. In July, US President Joseph Biden claimed that, while he did not trust the Taliban, he did “trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more re- – more competent in terms of conducting war.”

Then, the cities started falling. Kandahar, Ghazni, Herat. On August 14, Taliban fighters captured Mazar-i-Sharif, finding itself ever closer to the capital. Members of the Afghan army and security personnel had reportedly made a highway dash north to Uzbekistan.

The US is hurriedly deploying 5,000 troops in an exercise of circularity, given that they were already leaving in numbers even prior to July 2. As Biden tried to explain on August 14, the troops would ensure “we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of US personnel and other allied personnel, and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.”

His statement, for the most part, was a spiritless effort to justify some continued role of the US in Afghanistan even as it cuts the cord to their corrupt clients in Kabul. The Armed Forces and Intelligence Community had been “ordered” to keep an eye on “future terrorist threats from Afghanistan.” Secretary State Anthony Blinken had been “directed to support President Ghani and other Afghan leaders” in their efforts to avoid “further bloodshed and pursue a political settlement.” There was some finger wagging regarding the Taliban, warning that any military acts against US personnel or its mission would “be met with a swift and strong US military response.”

Within the crumbling layers of the Kabul government, there is much quaking, shifting and internal bloodletting. As has been pointed out by Candace Rondeaux, “the greater threat to Afghanistan’s stability has always been the fecklessness of so many in positions of power in the Afghan government.”

The defence minister Hayatullah Hayat has been given the heave-ho by Ghani, to be replaced by General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi on Wednesday. Khan is a testament that current events in Afghanistan are always reminders of history: he was a former member of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, a body that was favoured by the now defunct Soviet Union.

US forces find themselves again being drawn into the maelstrom. There are the warnings, almost shrill, that forces must recommit, and decisions reversed. Former CIA director General David Petraeus wishes for a proper re-deployment of troops to prevent the consignment of a “country of 40 million people to a medieval, theocratic, ultra-conservative Islamist emirate.” The editors of the conservative National Review envisage the creation of a “launchpad of a global movement that had for years been kept at bay by the presence of US forces – most recently a small, relatively low-cost contingent.”

Such sentiments are also being echoed in Britain, which is also sending 600 troops. Conservative chairman of the Commons Foreign Select Committee Tom Tugendhat reminisced that, “We got to the point where the insurgent forces were outmatched and a standoff saw civic institutions grow.” The chair of the Defence Select Committee, Tobias Ellwood, told the BBC that the UK “should really be reconsidering what’s going on,” warning that the withdrawal would precipitate a “massive humanitarian disaster” and permit terrorism to “raise its ugly head again.”

 

 

This is charmless window dressing. When chaos is spoken of in tones of panic, it is often forgotten how significant Washington’s own disruptive role has been. The US continues its less than angelic streak in Afghanistan, funding cut throat militias – many co-opted by the Ghani government – for the simple vulgar purpose that they are against the Taliban. (This is unlikely to change in the long term.)

Characters such as the blood-soaked Abdul Rashid Dostum, a notorious warlord who has had it all ways, promises to remain in the mix. Last year, he felt that loyalty to the Ghani government needed some recognition. His absurd promotion to the rank of marshal was considered fitting, and did nothing to hide a butcher’s record almost without peer. With a crude Falstaffian wisdom, Dostum is a character who knows that cowardice is useful to draw upon when facing a losing cause. As Taliban fighters made their way unopposed into Mazar-i-Sharif, he was fleeing to safety.

A blind eye has been given to other militias who threaten to cause mischief in due course, a point which only serves to strengthen the Taliban’s cause. One of them is Iran’s Shia Fatemiyoun militia. In February 2020, Rahmatullah Nabil, head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency through periods over the last decade, told Radio Free Europe that the Fatemiyoun did not pose an “immediate threat to Afghan national security.” Call it what you will: having such agents milling about in the landscape does every little bit to add to the chaos so lamented by the commentariat.

Any victory for the Taliban will be premised upon the fundamental failure of a rotten centre, the decay of which has been encouraged for years behind the mirage of development, the building of schools and women’s rights. The pantomime that is Afghan governance has always existed on borrowed time.

The Biden administration, short of reawakening a bloodlust to re-intervene, will let it be, subject to stints of interference from special forces, contractors and adventurers. The intelligence community generationally obsessed with being in Afghanistan will continue to have the president’s ear, and hope to haunt him during the course of his sedated premiership. But not even they could prevent a moment of candour from Biden on Saturday. “One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country.”

 

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7 comments

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  1. Lawrence Roberts

    Maybe it’s China’s turn?

  2. Kathryn

    Clearly some nation is FUNDING these appalling, dangerously depraved, sadistic and misogynistic monsters in the Taliban! The despicable cowards in the US and Australian armies are now, at the 11th hour, deserting innocent Afghanis to face certain death at the hands of the vengeful Taliban who use the Koran as a cover to hide their malignant violence, brutal enslavement and misogynistic mistreatment of women. Much like the bible-thumping hypocrites in the Morrison regime, the Taliban hide their depravity under a veil of unspeakable religious hypocrisy!

    The Taliban are now free to continue their blood thirsty campaigns of cold blooded murder, revenge and enslavement and God help anyone left in Afghanistan who has offered any type of assistance, information or hospitality to the foreign soldiers (from the USA, America and other peace-keeping forces)! Any Afghani who has, in any way, offered assistance to the west or is even PERCEIVED to have offered assistance, no matter how old or what sex they are – will be publicly tortured, brutally murdered (usually by beheading) in front of Afghani civilians (even children) as a warning to all Afghanis that NOW is the time to kowtow to the brutal, medieval autocracy and primitive tribal laws of the Taliban! Who can EVER forget the shocking beheading of women (and other vulnerable powerless people) at the hands of the cowardly grubs in the Taliban in the middle of the Ghazi Stadium in Kabul all those years ago? It will happen again the nano second the Taliban take control of Kabul.

    Women are often the first victims of such primitive male-dominated tribes because they are easy, vulnerable targets by brutal sociopaths who force women and young girls into chattel slavery! I travelled throughout Afghanistan 40 years ago and met some wonderful people in Kabul, Kandahar and Herat and I wonder – and despair – whatever happened to those people now 🙁

    There is NO WAY the primitive Neanderthals in the Taliban could EVER afford to stage such a come back unless they were being SERIOUSLY funded by some wealthy nation in the background! FOLLOW THE MONEY and you will solve the problem – hopefully stagnating the advance of the tyrannical Taliban. Today, most people believe that the governments of Russia, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are all believed to be bankrolling the Taliban due to their underlying hatred and mistrust of Christian, western societies. However, to change focus from Afghanistan to these nations could, no doubt, lead to a worse situation – even a long, protracted war.

    It would have been better for the USA, Australia and the UK (and other European nations) to have LEFT their peace-keeping forces in Afghanistan – anyone with an foresight KNEW that the Taliban were going to raid the nation the second America and Australia withdrew their forces! Why? Because the Taliban have an ancient saying:

    “The west may have all the watches, but WE have all the time in the world!” (to take power again) – and that is EXACTLY what is happening right now!

  3. Canguro

    Western countries have no business to be in Afghanistan. As previous adventures demonstrated – Britain (c. 1840, 1880, 1920 – defeated), USSR (c. 1979 ->, defeated) – invading that country proves to be a graveyard for empires, not that we should mourn their loss, and in all three cases (USA included, now show to have squandered twenty years of pointless military adventurism, countless billions and thousands of lives for nothing but negative outcomes), good riddance to them. In particular, the latest show of western intervention, supported by a cabal of lying politicians and military leaders who again and again lied to their electorates regarding the ongoing fiasco of their involvement in that country.

    Of course Muslim societies hate & mistrust western Christian societies – why wouldn’t they? We’d behave the same way if we were treated similarly… witness the war crimes allegedly perpetrated by this country’s so-called ‘elite’ servicemen and reflect on the ongoing legacy of their behaviour in that country, along with similar legacies in Iraq and Yemen.

    This notion of ‘superiority’, whether military or societal or religious is both sickening & obscene and has lead, historically, to much of the suffering experienced by humanity over eons.

    Who is behind the funding of the Taliban? Why, it’s America, unsurprisingly.

    Chris Hedges nails it again with this incisive essay.

  4. Roswell

    Kathryn, think Russia.

  5. wam

    Sadly every time we interfere in the internal affairs of another country we ignore the history and culture and the aussies and the septics slaughter without understanding ending in disaster.
    At least this one, unlike korea and vietnam, gave some material recompense to our combatants. Although still ignored the need to debrief and mentally repair the men and women who were involved. ps Kathryn the taliban represent the god of the bible, and will prosecute god’s will on the people who have strayed. A reminder of the french treatment of collaborators, including the innocent, is no better than the beatings and executions about to descend on Kabul. pps Women have no rights, without men, in any of the bible teachings and these taliban men, as paedophiles in all religions, will start the women’s god given function young.

  6. BB

    Not until all mankind, all humanity wakes up to the never ending con, the sham, the big lie, the childish naïve nonsensical propaganda that religion is, the complete and utter bullshit, the biggest and most crooked deceitful business on earth that religion has become through the eons, the millenniums, and that includes every and any kind of religion that has ever existed in every and any corner of planet earth, the mindless mind numbing and total brainwashing that enslaves men’s minds from the cradle to the grave, that robs all believers of free original thought, will there be peace on earth. How utterly sad it all is. 😔

    There are no such things as gods, deities, goblins, werewolves, vampires, peaceful or violent. It’s just all man’s imagination.

    Mankind invented a ‘god’ in his own image, gave it supernatural prowess, kowtows to it, thinks faith answers everything! FFS!

    Religions control the narrative, allowing ruthless madmen, savages, to KILL people, murder, mutilate, men women children, in the most depraved possible ways using excerpts from the scriptures as excuses without any remorse as total justification for their actions. Unlimited power over their fellow man, enslaving the weak, fear, poverty proliferate the world.

    Books of superstitious fiction, the bible, koran, etc., are a CANCER on humanity and will forever perpetuate the misery.

    Two things are infinite. The universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe. (Albert Einstein).

  7. DrakeN

    No, Roswell; Think “Military/Industrial Complex”.
    There’s a lot of money and power in a good insurgency.
    Qui bono?

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