By Sapien Sapien
In scenes reminiscent of Saigon 1975, US Airforce Chinook helicopters hovered over the smoke filled skies of the American embassy in Kabul, extricating stricken staff and collaborators to the airport which was deemed to be a safe haven amidst an unrelenting onslaught by a rejuvenated Taliban.
The prologue to this fascinating textbook case of insurgency was commenced by ousted US president Donald J Trump who felt the “Long War” in Kabul was an unnecessary cost to US taxpayers money and so, kick-starting talks in Doha, Qatar, with arguably the most formidable insurgency movement of the 21st century.
These talks culminated in the release of Mullar Abdul Ghani Baradar who, at the time of writing, was widely believed to be the next president of Afghanistan.
Baradar is a childhood ally of Mullar Omar and co-founder of the Taliban and had been incarcerated in Pakistan, believed at the instigation of the formidable Pakistani Intelligence Agency, ISI.
ISI, touted as a state within a state, is believed to be the brains and muscle behind the highly effective Taliban movement.
But then, how did we get here and what is the next course of action?
We are where we are in Afghanistan and global politics due to the Bush Doctrine.
For the Bush Doctrine, the epitaph is inked.
Kabul 2021 represented the final death knell.
American efforts at imposing a hybrid state in a country with a long history of resistance against foreign aggression culminated in a cataclysmic failure; a failure potent enough to give traction to the rationale that “fighting an insurgency is akin to eating soup with a knife” .
The Bush Doctrine, touted as the best foot forward in the so called “Global War on Terror” was obliterated when those gun-toting Mujahideen fighters entered that Presidential Palace and when it was announced that Ashraff Ghani, the western backed former president, had fled to Tajikistan.
The Asymmetric Warfare Equation makes it clear that the military-centric approach to counter insurgency (COIN) in Afghanistan was just but bound to fail.
The Americans were now tinkering with the idea of introducing extremely alien values such as gay rights in a religiously conservative country.
Everybody is wondering how on earth beneficiaries of some of the most sophisticated military hardware could just vanish without giving a fight.
It is an issue of values.
This is where the “hearts and minds” warfare was lost by the US and its allies. Forcing the US model of democracy onto those mountains was always going to be a Houdini Act.
And it just proved to be so.
We were told that the objective of the incursion into Afghanistan was to rid the country of extremists under the guise of the right to self-defence.
The Taliban, then rulers of Afghanistan, were given extreme demands by the US, which were ignored.
The US invaded and 20 years later they left in Chinook helicopters.
The Taliban instead are on the rebound with gusto and certain levels of finesse in their statecraft.
The call for troops not to attack those who were fleeing showed order, confidence and control.
They are engineered at building an Islamic Emirate.
They are going to do so.
History has an uncanny tendency of repeating itself and the US has got this habit of finding itself nut-megged to a point of coalescing around its embassies.
The Iranian hostage crisis gives another hint.
As we bid farewell to the Bush Doctrine whilst waiting in awe to see what Taliban 2.0 has in offer, one thing is overly clear; the Americans are going to be more aggressive regarding the application of hybrid warfare as a foreign policy thrust.
Geopolitics has shifted and so has the balance of power.
Hate it or like it, Covid-19 showed us who now got the mantle within the scope of global politics.
It is China. And its vaccine diplomacy thrust did score good points.
The Americans are now desperate for a face saver. And definitely their response is going to be devastating.
How about Al-Qaeda?
Well, that Jihad 2.0 non-state entity renowned for 9/11 attacks is just on the decline.
Of course, experts are giving all sorts of postulations but personally I do not see the entity rising like a phoenix.
The rumour that its charismatic leader, Ayaman Al Zawahiri is bedridden just goes to show that its zugzwang for it.
I also do not anticipate the Taliban to harbour any mutations of Al-Qaeda. But then the reality that is emanating as a consequence of this morale-boosting (and also shattering) earthly event being other extremist groups have been emboldened by events in Afghanistan.
The international community is going to witness more and more episodes of insurgencies as extremist groups fancy their chances against legitimate authority.
New ways of countering violent extremism are needed.
The archaic military centric-foreign driven COIN thrust is just but proving to be a damp squib.
Whatever the case is or will be, one thing is certain, this amazing victory shall be studied by generations upon generations the way we do those Napoleonic conquests.
The lessons learnt are worth noting. Societies do not tolerate foreign values.
State institutions that are built by foreign nations are always weak and susceptible to collapse and crucially, ideology is everything when it comes to the art of politics.
- Sapien is a security and business specialist.