The West’s 20-year war on Afghanistan has ended in defeat.
That was the conclusion of General Lord Dannatt writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper last week.
As the last US troops departed Bagram Airfield last Friday, looters moved into the giant complex and grabbed whatever the Americans had left.
The withdrawal shows that the last 2,500 to 3,500 US troops have left or are nearing departure from Afghanistan. This is months ahead of president Joe Biden’s promise that they would be gone by 11 September.
Meanwhile, the Taliban fighters that George Bush and Tony Blair had pledged to crush back in 2001 were busy overrunning the Afghan army in district after district.
US military analysts give the government in the capital Kabul as little as six months before its power is overthrown.
“Ultimately, Taliban force of arms has prevailed, and the people of that country have been denied the chance to choose a better way of life,” Lord Dannatt said. “Tragically, a descent into the chaos of civil war seems highly likely.”
The price of the West’s failed mission must be measured in blood. Many hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians were killed, mostly in US airstrikes.
The numbers will never be exact because Western forces did not count their remains. Hundreds of Nato troops also lost their lives in the war that quickly became a quagmire.
It’s all a far cry from the run-up to the war two decades ago.
Back then prime minister Blair sought to portray himself as a “compassionate” invader.
He insisted regime change wasn’t simply about American power. Britain was there to ensure far more laudable aims—including giving rights to women and opening schools.
“This cause is just,” Blair said. “We have to act, for humanitarian reasons to alleviate the appalling suffering of the Afghan people.”
Much of the liberal establishment went along with him.
This continued despite evidence of US bombs killing the women and hitting the schools the West was supposed to be saving.
But when the bodies piled up, few people outside of Kabul’s security cordon were prepared to put their faith in the occupation.
The situation deteriorated and Afghanistan became the US’s longest war—“unwinnable” at best.
The occupation’s only real function now was as a demonstration of US military power, flaunted in the hope that it would deter future challengers.
“Look at the scene. We are in shambles. The country is in conflict. There is immense suffering,” said former Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.
“Those who came here 20 years ago in the name of fighting extremism and terrorism not only failed to end it but, under their watch, extremism has flourished. That is what I call failure.”
Many now agree with Dannatt and predict a new civil war between various warlords and the Taliban.
It’s a horrifying prospect for people who have known nothing but brutal conflict since the Russian occupation that began in 1979.
But for Biden, the last moves have not yet been played.
The CIA is now in negotiations with the Pakistani government to reopen a US airbase once used for drone attacks on Afghanistan.
This is despite Pakistan kicking out the Americans in 2011, and the country’s ISI secret service being the main backers of the Taliban.
US diplomats are also exploring the option of regaining access to bases in former Soviet republics that once were used for Russia’s Afghanistan war.
Yet this time around, there will be no boots on the ground.
In order to “liberate” Afghanistan, Biden will now rely solely on missiles launched on the territory from military bases thousands of miles away.