Taliban forces are in Kabul. The group made rapid territorial gains in Afghanistan the past few weeks, and there are concerns about what this means for those under their rule. While the extremists say they have no intention of taking the Afghan capital by force, there are worrying times indeed for those who have fled their homes ahead of the Taliban advance.
That we are in this position now stems largely from a series of policy failures by successive US administrations dating back to the presidency of Barack Obama. Washington led the charge into Afghanistan in the wake of the terror attacks of 9/11, promising to root out terrorist groups such as Al Qaida that found a safe haven in the then Taliban-controlled territory.
The international community through Nato-backed intervention and the establishment of a stabilisation force did manage to at least allow large pockets of the divided nation to experience peace and some prosperity — but that was built on the premise of having a large US military presence on the ground.
Efforts to train and professionalise the security forces of Afghanistan were inherently conditional on US and Nato military expertise — but sustaining a presence in Afghanistan for two decades has proved politically untenable. And always, the continuing violence and the Taliban’s proven ability to seemingly strike at will undermined the US position of being peacemaker.
Capitulation of Afghan security forces
Since the Obama presidency, the US has drawn down the number of servicemen and presence on the ground in Afghanistan, with other nations following suit. Clearly, the nature of the pull out only allowed Taliban forces to grow in strength — and the capitulation of Afghan security forces underscores the futility of US policy in Afghanistan.
While the decision by former US President Donald Trump to signal withdrawal from Afghanistan played to his domestic audience, it would have come as little surprise to America’s allies. The clock was set in motion for the events unfolding now in Afghanistan.
President Joe Biden must also face a reality because of his decision to follow through on the pull out. What events transpire now in the coming days and weeks, either humanitarian crisis or a chapter of vengeful attrition, now rest at his doorstep.
For years now, analysts have been warning of the consequences of a full drawdown of international forces. Let us hope that the worst-case scenarios do not develop. Everyone in Afghanistan has endured so much for so long already.