• Chow

Afghanistan Collapses: Why $1 Trillion Didn't Lead to "Democracy"

From 2001 to 2021, the United States spent approximately $1 Trillion in its war in Afghanistan.


Think about that.


$1 Trillion.


Nearly 2,500 US troops died in the longest war in American history. Approximately 50,000 innocent Afghan civilians have also been killed in this forever war.


For 20 years, the United States and allied nations have tried to build a functioning democracy in a country that in modern times is ALWAYS at war. But after 20 years, and $1 Trillion later, Afghanistan's military and government collapsed to the Taliban in just several weeks. Why did this happen and who is at fault?

US Military evacuates US personnel from the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan

Quick history of Afghanistan


Afghanistan, a nation of nearly 38 million people in central Asia, has always been at war in modern times. Afghanistan is a country that is deeply divided along tribal lines. The only time the people of Afghanistan are united is when they are being invaded by a foreign power. When they're not, they're deeply divided along those tribal lines and have fought each other with horrific civil wars amongst the different tribes.


Though there is a distinct border that defines the country of Afghanistan, it was made by the British who did not understand the tribal rivalries that existed in Afghanistan. So what you have are some rival tribes that have hated each other for centuries now living next to each other.

Afghanistan's terrain is extremely mountainous which makes it very difficult for foreign powers to take over the country. The British tried in the 19th century and failed. The Soviets tried in the 1980's and failed. The United States and it's allies tried to defeat the Taliban over the past 20 years and have failed.

How the Taliban originally came to power


The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in the 1980's in order to support the communist Afghan government there that had taken over power in 1978 through a coup. Rival tribes (known as Mujahideens) came together to fight the Soviets and the Afghan communist government.


The Mujahideens, who were fighting the Soviets, received money and weapons from countries like the United States, Great Britain and Pakistan. These nations had an interest in the war because they wanted communism to be defeated in the ongoing Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Soviets entering Afghanistan in the 1980's. It's estimated 10% of Afghanistan's population was killed in the war with the Soviets

One of these Mujahideen groups that fought and was supported by the US, eventually became the Taliban. After 10 years (1979-1989), the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan. Shortly after, the Soviet Union had collapsed.

President Ronald Reagan meeting with Afghan rebel leaders in the White House in 1983. Some of the rebel fighters that were equipped by the US in the 1980's eventually went on to become the Taliban.

After the Soviets left, there was a major power vacuum in Afghanistan. All these Mujahideen groups wanted a piece of Afghanistan and a bloody civil war ensued amongst all these groups.


After years of fighting, the Taliban became the Mujahideen group that took over most of Afghanistan. The northern part of Afghanistan was controlled by several other tribes but the Taliban took over the majority of the country. They came out victorious with help from the Pakistani Intelligence Services and funding from Saudi Arabia.


In the years that followed, the Taliban enforced a ruthless and outdated form of Sharia Law that saw women and young girls banned from schools, the workforce and pretty much every facet of life. Rival political groups, journalists, freedom advocates and others were executed.


Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, which had been in Somalia, sought refuge in Afghanistan, The Taliban obliged and let him and Al Qaeda into Afghanistan, where they planned and executed the worst terrorist attack in the history of the United States on September 11, 2001.


US invades Afghanistan


The United States invaded Afghanistan in October of 2001, a month after the 9/11 attacks. Their intention was to locate and kill Osama Bin Laden, destroy Al Qaeda and replace the Taliban government with a Western style like democracy.


Over the years, the US and allied forces removed the Taliban from government, destroyed Al Qaeda's home base in Afghanistan and killed Osama Bin Laden (in Pakistan in 2011).


In addition, women entered the workforce and held important positions in parliament, young girls went to school and received an education, hospitals and universities were built and some sort of "democratic" voting was installed.


Overall, the war in Afghanistan has been a disaster for the US but there were some successes in this war. The war in Afghanistan had some justification.


In 2003, George Bush and his administration decided to invade Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. A country that had never killed a US civilian to that point and a country that was supposed to have "weapons of mass destruction", which were never found.


The war in Iraq diverted resources from Afghanistan to Iraq, which is one of the reasons why the Taliban was never fully defeated in Afghanistan.


The Taliban lingers


More than 50,000 Taliban fighters were killed in the 20 year war and thousands more were jailed. However, they were never fully defeated. The Taliban retreated to the mountainous regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan and waged war against the US, allied forces and the Afghan forces the United States and it's allies were training.


For 20 years, the fighting continued. The topography of the region plays to the advantage of the Taliban who know the area like the back of their hand. It's why a force full of men wearing sandals and using weapons from the Soviets and the US from the 1980's can stay toe to toe with the best equipped military in the world.

Donald Trump's administration signs a peace treaty with the Taliban


One of Donald Trump's campaign promises was to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan. In February of 2020, he was one step closer to that promise by signing the Doha Agreement.

Doha Agreement

The Doha Agreement was a peace agreement between the US and the Taliban. In it, the Taliban agreed to not allow Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to function within the country, In addition, the Taliban were to not attack any US forces or US personnel in Afghanistan. In return, the United States would withdraw its troops and eventually remove all troops sometime in 2021.


Astonishingly enough, since that treaty was signed, not a single member of the US military was killed in Afghanistan. However, the Taliban began attacking Afghan forces in much higher frequencies.


Also, the deal allowed the release of 5,000 Taliban fighters/leaders.


The treaty put the Taliban in the strongest position they had been in since the start of the war.


The Pentagon had concluded the war in Afghanistan could not and would not be won and the best course of action was to sign some sort of peace deal with the Taliban.


The Afghan government was not included in these talks. Instead, peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government would take place at a separate time.


Former Secretary of State during the Trump administration, Mike Pompeo, meeting with Mullah Beradar, who is set to become the new President of Afghanistan. The Trump admin helped release him from prison in 2018.

Joe Biden withdraws ALL troops


When Joe Biden and his administration took over the Presidency in 2021, they had a decision to make. Do they adhere to the deal and remove all troops in 2021 or do they keep a small contingent of troops in the country to help maintain peace and security?


This was a lose, lose situation.


If they leave, there was no doubt in their minds, eventually, the Taliban would take over. If they stay, the Taliban would certainly begin attacks on the US military again, at which point, the US would again be involved in fighting, endangering the lives of military personnel and spending billions of dollars of US taxpayer money.


At what point is enough, enough?


Joe Biden and his administration decided to pull all troops out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2021.


And then all hell broke loose.


The Taliban take over Afghanistan


Biden announced in July of 2021 all US troops would be leaving Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. With lightening quickness, the Taliban began taking over major cities in Afghanistan. With minimal resistance from Afghan forces, the Taliban took over city after city. In the north, the west, the east, the south.


It didn't matter.

The Taliban seized control with lightening quickness

20 years of fighting and the Taliban took over the country in just several weeks. On August 15th, 2021, the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, fled to Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, essentially signaling the fall of the Afghani government.

President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani

A "transition of power" was agreed upon with the Taliban and Ghani to help avoid a potential catastrophe in the streets of Kabul, the capital of the country, where nearly 5 million people live.



The Taliban, sitting in the Afghanistan Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan after the President, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country

How did this happen so fast?


US military intelligence believed the Taliban would take over in 12-18 months.


It happened in several weeks, despite the Afghan military outnumbering Taliban fighters, 300,000 to 75,000. (That 300,000 number is being disputed)

Afghan forces gave minimal resistance in recent weeks due to limited supplies, including food and ammunition. In addition, the withdrawal of US and Allied troops killed troop morale

What the intelligence grossly miscalculated was the Afghan's military will to fight. They simply did not want to.


Why?


For starters, the entire country is corrupt. Money that was supposed to be used to pay Afghan soldiers, was stolen by Afghan government officials and commanders. Second, without the backing of the US and allied forces, the Afghan forces believed they wouldn't have a shot against the Taliban. So instead of dying, they just put their arms down. Third, those tribal divides come into play. Some of them just don't want to fight the Taliban. Fourth, some of these soldiers have been fighting for weeks with little supplies and food. They're literally starving to death.


Embarrassing


This is a complete embarrassment for the United States. A nation that has spent nearly $1 Trillion in Afghanistan, $100B of which was to train and supply the Afghan military, has seen that money go down the drain as the Taliban quickly seized power in the war torn country.


Joe Biden is the current commander in chief. As such, he will take a lot of this blame and rightfully so. However, what choice was he left with? If he kept troops in the country, they would be put in harms way and billions of more dollars would be spent. America would have stayed in Afghanistan even longer than it already has.


Whether the US stayed in Afghanistan for 1 more year or another 5, the outcome was always going to be the same. Afghanistan was going to collapse. If the will and the morale of the Afghan forces were so low, there was no chance they'd have a shot against the Taliban.


The peace treaty brokered during the Trump administration set up the Taliban to succeed. However, they too, had no good choices. 20 years of failed policy has led to this moment. Laying blame solely on Biden or Trump is horrendously misinformed.


Political Ramifications


This is a huge black eye for Joe Biden's Presidency. There is no way around it. There had to be a better way for the evacuation of US personnel and Afghan civilians to take place. One of the reasons why the war has lasted so long is because prior Presidents knew, if they withdraw all troops, Afghanistan would collapse and we would see the images we see today.


This is going to be red meat for Republicans come 2022 and 2024.


In addition, the intelligence Biden received is making him look real foolish. He told the world in the video below, Afghanistan would not collapse quickly (they did know it would but thought it would be in 12-18 months, not several weeks).


What now?


The Taliban are coming into power and God help the people of Afghanistan, especially women. They are a ruthless organization that is going to bring Afghanistan back into the dark ages. The human right violations that will take place is unimaginable.


Afghan translators and collaborators who helped the Allied forces during the war are in grave danger if caught by the Taliban. The United States is frantically trying to evacuate these Afghan civilians who helped the US during the war.


In addition, you will see China become a major player in Afghanistan. They will recognize the Taliban as legitimate and will build roads and infrastructure there to help extract all those minerals there.


Joe Biden is going to look foolish and rightfully so. He told the world Afghanistan would not collapse quickly, and it did. But to solely blame him for this is misinformed. The peace treaty signed under the Trump administration helped accelerate this collapse but to blame them too is misinformed.


Despite all this, from an American perspective, the longest running war in our country's history is coming to an end. Our soldiers are coming home. An American President can say they brought our troops back and got us out of a never ending black hole, that is Afghanistan.


But at what cost?