Year after year, another American president promises to end the longest war in which the United States has been involved.
So far, not everyone has managed to get out of the quagmire in Afghanistan. Now it’s Joe Biden’s turn to try to withdraw his troops, marking the symbolic deadline of September 11, in which the turn of the 21st century event celebrates its 20th anniversary.
As in his policy towards China, Biden repeats and amplifies the steps of his criticized predecessor, Donald Trump. It was the Republican who agreed to the fundamentalist Taliban group to join negotiations with the Afghan government and the United States.
As reported, based on the reports available, the pullout is what it sounds like: a point discount and a final confession of defeat, with some details that seem to leave Afghanistan at the mercy of medieval Islamists who hold it back. ruled from 1996 to 2001..
This follows from two points. First, talks with the Taliban have always been volatile, and the group has previously said it would revert to military activities and terrorist attacks if the May 1 deadline for withdrawal is not met.
Today, there are officially 2,500 Americans in the country, but the actual number is expected to reach 3,500. In addition, there are 7,000 military personnel from allied countries, most of the NATO (Western military alliance), eager to leave the adventure of the club leader.
If everyone is out by September, the Taliban will have had little more than four months to strengthen their military position and impose their will at the negotiating table with the fragile Afghan government – given an optimistic assumption.
A darker scenario sees the country plunged back into the civil war bequeathed by the same United States in 1989, when support for the “mujahedin” against the decade of Soviet invasion helped to expel the Communists, did not return to national reconstruction.
Of course, these are different realities, given that today regional actors such as Turkey and Iran are present in the economy of the country, the Americans have heavily armed the Afghan army and there has been a small liberalization of customs.
The problem is that the soldier’s loyalty to the central government in a society dominated by tribal relations. As the Taliban said at the country’s embassy in Pakistan in 2001 or in border areas for years to come, foreigners will eventually tire and local laws will prevail.
It should be remembered that in the eyes of ordinary Afghans, the Taliban was not responsible for the war. The group housed at the base of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda comradeship (1957-2011), which launched the attacks on the United States in 2001, but was not part of it.
The role of Pakistan, an intellectual mentor of the Taliban to have its neighbor by its side in the regional dispute with India, must also be watched. Since 2001, the country left the American orbit and fell into the Chinese net, its biggest military and economic partner.
Beijing has always been on the fringes of the conflict, and its policies towards Uyghur Muslims have been criticized by the Taliban. But its economic strength and strategic interest in the stability of its southern border could lead to more incisive movements, perhaps under Pakistani auspices.
It is no coincidence, with one eye on their own projection, that the Russians have sought closer ties with Islamabad, as Chancellor Sergei Lavrov’s visit last week demonstrated. It is the return of the game between powers in a field where the asymmetry between fighters seemed to have put an end to the old rules.
For Afghans, suffering and doubts about the future remain. The vast majority of victims of the conflict so far, around 160,000 according to the Costs of the War project at Brown University (US), have been Afghans – military, civilians and insurgents.
About 2,300 Americans in uniform and 4,000 other mercenaries died. It is a peculiarity to verify, the fate of private employees of the war.
If the peak of American participation in uniform was in 2010, with 97,000 soldiers, in 2012 the mercenaries totaled nearly 120,000 people on the ground.
The longest war was by no means the deadliest for Americans. This title is abroad for the Second World War (1941-45 for the USA), with 405,000 dead, and in the domestic domain, for the Civil War (1861-65) and its 655,000 victims.
Afghanistan appears to remain unconquerable, as the great Muslim emperor Babur would have predicted in the 16th century.
“The Cemetery of Empires” was the nickname it took in the 20th century, after two British defeats and one Soviet defeat – at vastly different speeds the two rulers were kicked out and saw their power later crumble.
Amid a geopolitical dispute with China, Biden’s accounts do not appear to include such superstitions. The American public’s boredom with war has been around for years, and an entire generation has grown up, impacted by its shadows.
The return of major disputes between nations will not bury terrorism and may leave the field open for the new 9/11, but the wheel has turned and Biden seems determined to move forward.