The political and image disaster of the United States in Afghanistan is evolving as quickly as the fall of the country to the Taliban troops.
President Joe Biden’s haunting and belated speech confirmed consistency with what he said: Afghans beware, the American taxpayer is not going to take pantomime.
The only admission of error was to have believed in the puppet Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president whom he accused of having fled the country on Sunday, sealing the victory of the Taliban in Kabul. Things went faster than expected, Biden said.
Nothing but disgust at the grotesque images of Afghans attempting to flee the capital and clinging to the fuselage of giant C-17 cargo ships, only to fall from heights later, which wouldn’t be out of place in films like ” World War Z. “
The video of the scene evokes, in a sinister narrative circle, the small dots filmed on September 11, 2001 as the Twin Towers set on fire by the work of the most famous guest of the Taliban, Osama bin Laden.
There like today, the quality of the video does not allow to perceive clearly the horror of the bodies which die. In New York, they fled the flames. In Kabul, suspected terror despite the Taliban’s promises of unprecedented restraint.
In recent days, images have emerged of the Americans’ desperate rush to leave Saigon as Vietnamese Communist troops invaded the capital of the American protectorate in the south of the country in 1975.
The idea of the ghost of Saigon gained so much traction that Secretary of State Antony Blinken himself reinforced the idea live on Sunday (15): “This is not Saigon.”
He was right, for the wrong reasons. It’s worse than Saigon, where the United States has been humiliated in a war that has lasted for a decade.
However, in Kabul, 20 years of misguided efforts are in vain, and to the humiliation is added an indelible stain: the abandonment of allies who have exposed themselves during years of unpopular occupation of the Asian country.
Not just them, a legion of people like Ahmad Ali, who worked in Kabul in the early 2010s as a “repairman” – the handyman of the Western journalist sent to inhospitable places, a mix of translator, assistant, consultant and often, driver.
Ahmad, who worked with Folha in Afghanistan in 2011, now lives well in Vienna, working in an international organization. But his two brothers did not. “I have no more news from them. They are in danger,” he said by message.
He doesn’t know, but he assumes that the two young men are among 2,000 Kabulites who spent the night on the runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport, ironically named after the first president of “Afghanistan. democratic ”, the mandatory airport invented by the United States. quote.
These people cannot have been collaborationists, but they believed in a country with different opportunities than under the Taliban, under the civil war, under the Soviet occupation. Now they risk being labeled enemies of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
As he said in his delayed speech on Monday (16), Biden took the risk, although the embarrassment that has taken place over the past two weeks seems impossible to circumvent.
The United States has abandoned occasional allies before, as the Kurds of northern Syria may recall when they were abandoned by Donald Trump in 2019.
During the Republican years in power, NATO countries and historic partners such as South Korea and Japan have seen the risk of betrayal increase with every tweet from the mercurial president.
But there are peculiarities that make the Afghan case unique. The country, in its current form, is a mess created from a misplaced American idea that the seed of occupation would make democracy flourish in the Hindu Kush.
As this did not happen, of course, the return to the tribal model from before was left. In this sense, Biden’s speech was a crude example of “realpolitik”, of rare frankness. Nation building, he said, is really a ploy to deceive well-meaning people while playing a bigger game.
That’s right, and it will likely work for a national audience unfamiliar with what’s going on in the world. In this, Biden’s poise makes sense – in other companies it would already be possible to estimate the cost of it all upon his re-election.
But no luck for those who believed in the United States before, like Ali’s brothers. Now, American allies around the world must do their math.