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Between the US Failure, the Afghan Failure, and Our Failure!

Between the US Failure, the Afghan Failure, and Our Failure!

Monday, 23 August, 2021 - 10:15

If I supported the axis of resistance, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan would have left me facing two dilemmas:


The first dilemma is a kind of conundrum: on the one hand, it would be tempting to speak of a crushing American defeat reminiscent of that suffered in Vietnam in the mid-1970s. It would be tempting to say: “America left with its tail between its legs” or “the empire’s face has dragged in the mud.” They leave one’s head held high!


On the other hand, it would be equally tempting to stress that the United States had allowed for this defeat in order to harm Iran, China and Russia. Particularly tempting, in this case, is that the US’s demonic image as a manufacturer of evil and illusions is emphasized.


A typical axis of resistance supporter is not perplexed. He simply solves the dilemma by merging the two contradictory “analyses” together: America was defeated because it is weak, and America defeated itself because it is evil.


The other dilemma is that whatever or whoever defeats the US must - according to prepackaged labels - be a “national liberation movement.” It is difficult for any leftist, Marxist, or nationalist who describes himself as a secular to label the Taliban as such. What, then, is to be done? We simply extol the US defeat and attribute it to obscure “peoples” while keeping quiet about the actual faction that defeated America. Radical Islamists - Sunnis and not Shiites - are left to completely monopolize the phrase: “Glory to America’s defeat at the hands of the Taliban.”


In any case, this is not the topic of discussion. The failure of the US, with all its nuances and complexities and with all its conflicting interpretations and potential outcomes, will become a protracted geopolitical question and will be the subject of strategic analyses for a long time. This, of course, is not at all to downplay the significance of what has happened in Afghanistan for the US and the world. Rather, it puts forward a more urgent, or at least more direct, matter: the Taliban’s Afghanistan.


Despite what is being said about the Taliban’s “reforms” and “transformations” and its leaders’ claims that they have “changed,” the Taliban’s notorious record does not inspire any confidence about Afghanistan’s future under the Taliban’s rule. A lot must be done before we can be assured about at least six things:


- The country does not fall into the bloody chaos of civil war between different ethnic groups or perhaps intra-ethnic conflict. What is being reported about Panjshir Valley strengthens the validity of this concern.


- The relationship between Afghanistan and its neighbors does not become extremely tense, thereby avoiding wars that complement and inflame civil strife.


- The conditions of women and young girls do not deteriorate, and the old forms of punishment are not reinstated.


- The regime to be established, if civil war is avoided, must not (as had been the case until 2001) turn the country into an open-air prison to all Afghans.


- The number of displaced persons and refugees, who today form one-sixth of the total population, does not increase or constitute another reason for the eruption of violence and wars at home and abroad. The scenes of thousands of people scrambling to migrate or flee are an early omen.


- Islam’s image across the world, and more importantly, the ramifications of that for the Muslims in the West, do not become worse because of the Taliban. Moreover, slogans such as the “clash of civilizations,” and with it theories of Islamic and Arab “exceptionalism,” must not be elevated.


All of this must be done without, and possibly before, another “vanguard” similar to al-Qaeda commits an act like which had been perpetrated in New York and Washington. The regime’s desire to survive and prevent a repeat of an overthrow like that of 2001 could possibly prevent this from happening. However, it is still a possibility because of the Taliban’s ideology and perhaps the rivalries between the Islamist groups that are becoming increasingly extreme.


Putting that aside, we notice what seems rather difficult to overlook. Despite the “reassurances,” which are likely being given to ensure its hold on power, some of the issues raised by the recent Taliban victory concern us directly as Arabs:


First, the return of the Taliban to Kabul implies that hope in Afghanistan, until further notice, is frail and meager, and the Arabs’ exaltation of the Taliban’s return indicates that the Afghani pockets in our society are neither weak nor few and far between. We attribute this to oppression, poverty, and hopelessness... Nonetheless, while this is valid, it does not change its disastrous consequences.


Second, this return is potentially symptomatic of a major impasse: neither can change be realized by outside forces, nor through “nation-building” projects, nor by “establishing democracies.” Change is not possible from within either. Afghanistan is thus an exaggerated version of other countries’ future or perhaps a prototype for what they could become. Revolutions calling for freedom have been defeated; the Taliban alone have won!


Third, the Taliban is not against “Western colonialism” or “Western imperialism.” It is against the West. Against the freedom of women. Against medication. Against education. Against enlightenment... Opposing it is not just a political stance; it is an ethical stance. Regarding this matter, one’s position on the US and its foreign policy is nothing but a footnote, a mere detail.


Fourth, the Taliban has returned to Kabul, while ISIS and its likes have yet to be defeated. The truth is that, in light of regimes like Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, Shiite militias’ control of Iraq, and the Hezbollah-Aoun duo’s hold over Lebanon, the Taliban could poke at Sunnis’ sense of frustration. And frustration, regardless of whether or not it is called for, leaves fertile ground for the support of violence. Let us not forget the reactions we witnessed to the Khomeinist revolution in 1979 or Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990…


All of this is to say that the failure of Afghanistan, and to a large extent our failure, is a deeply rooted, existential issue. That the supporters of the axis of resistance are only concerned with the US failure shows that they, at the very least, have contempt for our region in its entirety, especially its 38 million Afghans. As for a sense of contempt of themselves, that is a foregone conclusion.


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