Melbourne [31 August 2021]: The United States’ longest war has ended.
The departure of U.S troops from Afghanistan results in a chaotic end. The United States finished its withdrawal efforts on Monday Aug 30, from Afghanistan, resulting in the ugly and chaotic end of America’s longest war.
Before the final departure of = American forces and its allies, the terrorist attacks at the Kabul International Airport cost the lives of more than 180 Afghans and 13 U.S Service personnel.
Soon after the news broke about the American withdrawal, a ferocious Taliban offensive had taken one city after another in a matter of days. The Taliban quickly returned to power on Aug 15 and took over the presidential palace forcing the president, Ashraf Ghani, to flee.
After the United States spent trillions of dollars to support the Afghan government and its security forces, the swift collapse of the Afghan government brought a sense of defeat to the U.S military mission , arguably the most decisive since the Vietnam War.
The 20-year war in Afghanistan claimed 2461 American service members, 3,846 US contractors, 66,000 Afghan national military and police,1,144 from other allied service members and 47,245 Afghan civilians, 444 aid workers, and more than 50,00 Taliban and other opposition fighters, according to the AP news.
On Aug 16, President Biden defended his decision of the withdrawal by saying that “we went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals: get those who attacked us on Sept 11, 2001, and make sure al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again. We did that.
We severely degraded al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We never gave up the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and we got him. That was a decade ago. Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy.”
In February 2020, the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban and signed an agreement that called for all American forces to leave Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. The Taliban, in return, pledged to cut ties with terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan. The agreement was known to have no proper mechanisms to enforce the Taliban commitments.
The exclusion of the Afghan government on the negotiation table between the U.S and Taliban drew sharp criticism against the Trump administration.
Many questions remain unanswered over why the 300,000 strong military, trained and well-equipped by the United States with sophisticated weapons under their control, quickly disintegrated without putting up any significant resistance to the Taliban when entering Kabul.
It appears that many, despite the strong defence by President Biden who appraised the chaotic airlift as a success, might construe the recent events in Afghanistan as the second major defeat of the United States since its withdrawal from Vietnam in April 1975.
Like then, the human cost continues to mount with thousands fleeing Afghanistan to the relative safety of the last bastion not held by the Taliban, the Panjshir valley and across the border to Pakistan.
Refugees will likely continue their exodus and neighbouring countries will require international aid to support them for the foreseeable future.