By Miles Lacey
Above: Taliban Insurgents enter Kabul, Afghanistan (Source: The Guardian)
On August 15th, 2021, Kabul fell to the Taliban insurgents the United States and their Western imperialist allies had been fighting against since November 2001.
The spectacle of thousands of Afghan people and Western civilian and military personnel trying to frantically board any aircraft flying out of Kabul International Airport in August 2021 was broadcast around a stunned world.
Anyone old enough to remember the Fall of Saigon in April 1975 were treated to scenes of people scrambling aboard helicopters landing on top of buildings, people climbing onto aircraft landing gears where they invariably plunged to their deaths and American soldiers desperately trying to hold back the desperate crowds.
The comparisons between the Fall of Saigon and the Fall of Kabul don't end there. Both the South Vietnamese and Afghan governments were put in power by the Americans and depended upon them to survive. Both governments were ranked as being among the most corrupt and incompetent governments in the world. And, most damning of all, both governments turned a blind eye to the war crimes and crimes against humanity meted out to their own people by the military forces of the United States and their allies.
Both the South Vietnamese and Afghan governments found themselves treated as little more than by-standers while the Americans negotiated a peace deal which was little more than the Americans throwing them to the wolves.
The collapse of both regimes revealed that it's not necessary to defeat the Americans in battle to win a war against them. All that is required is for enough Americans to be sent home in body bags that the American voters lose their appetite for that war.
However, such comparisons can be taken too far. The differences between what happened to the South Vietnamese government back in the early 1970s and the Afghan government in 2021 are just as stark.
One of them was the speed of the disintegration of their respective military forces. The peace talks that resulted in the Americans pulling out of South Vietnam was signed in January 1973. It took two years and four months before the fall of Saigon. In contrast, the gap between the February 2020 peace agreement that allowed the American withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Fall of Kabul was eighteen months. However, considering that the Taliban didn't launch the offensive that resulted in the Fall of Kabul until May 2021, the collapse of the Afghan government was closer to three months.
The other difference was the South Vietnamese who were trying to desperately flee from Saigon had no real idea of what to expect from the North Vietnamese but, after decades of relentless anti-Communist propaganda, they expected the worst. In contrast, the people who were trying to desperately flee the Taliban had no delusions about what to expect. After all, the Taliban had enslaved the Afghan people under a brutal Islamic theocracy between 1996 and 2001.
It cannot be lost on any observer of events that unfolded in Afghanistan that the Americans really did betray the people of Afghanistan.
After overthrowing the Taliban regime and waging a brutal counter-insurgency war against the Taliban (supposedly) aimed at protecting the Afghan people from the tyranny of fundamentalist Islamic rule for almost twenty years the Trump administration struck a deal with the Taliban that basically handed the country back to them! Little wonder that one of the most oft-repeated phrases to be heard from the Afghan people was that they had been betrayed.
Now, thanks to Trump's peace deal with the Taliban, millions of women and girls in Afghanistan face an uncertain future under the rule of the Taliban. Female political leaders at all levels of government, journalists, university academics and graduates and professionals such as doctors, nurses and scientists face the possibility of being fired or even executed. Women are now required to be covered from head to toe every time they leave their homes and some women have even been beaten up if they leave their homes without being accompanied by a male guardian.
In the first week of September 2021 the first protests by women against the new restrictions was greeted by gunfire. This is very much an ominous sign of how the Taliban is likely to treat anyone, especially women and girls, who dare to challenge anything they impose. By early 2022 the Afghan economy had collapsed due to the departure of so many female workers at all levels of the Afghan economy and the withdrawal of capital.
While the Taliban regime has not reverted to the level of barbarism of the previous Taliban regime the enforcement of fundamentalist Islamic law has been devastating for girls, women, LGBT+ people and anyone even remotely connected with the previous U.S-backed puppet regime.
Outside Afghanistan the big question posed by the families of American and other military personnel who were killed and the military personnel who served in Afghanistan has been “What was the point of our sacrifice?”
Good question! There are two answers that can be ruled out: oil and the freedom of the Afghan people. In the case of the former Afghanistan does have large reserves of oil but they weren't discovered until 2010 and their gas reserves have yet to be explored. In the case of the latter the appalling human rights abuses that took place during the War in Afghanistan as well as the handing over of the country to the very group the United States-led invasion had ousted back in late 2001 should leave no doubt about the reality behind Operation “Enduring Freedom”.
Ultimately the war in Afghanistan was about the United States and the other Western imperialist powers trying to prove that they were still capable of bludegeoning smaller countries into submission with brute force. They failed ro achieve that. Alhough they call it a withdrawal what they suffered in Afghanistan was a defeat even more humiliating than that in Vietnam against a people whose country has become known as the graveyard of empires.