It’s quite easy to take a position on what’s happening in Afghanistan concerning the withdrawal of western forces. Many people are doing just that: some for and some against the Taliban takeover, and similarly there are divergent feelings concerning sympathy for those Afghans leaving or trying to leave their motherland. The respective positions that people hold are to an extent generated by propaganda and media coverage of the unfolding Afghan situation.
One significant mistake that many of us have been making when judging developments in Afghanistan was to allow our idealism and sense of morality, rather than reality, to determine the possibilities and options available to different parties. In a way, that’s fine as it is natural for human beings to do that, but that should not determine the efforts we make to find a solution and decide what action to take?
Idealism and our sense of morality should not blind us and prevent the development of a good understanding of the practical possibilities of a given or unfolding situation. For example, one person on Facebook asked, “should we let the Taliban take over?” That was after the withdrawal had started. He clearly didn’t consider whether in the current circumstance it would be possible to stop the Taliban take over. Confusing moral sentiments and idealism with what is possible is a major problem that afflicts society.
There is nothing wrong with holding a moral position, for or against, on the withdrawal of western forces from Afghanistan. But, asking this question, “should we let the Taliban take over?” suggests that the author thought that this would be practically possible and wanted to generate support in this regard.
On the bigger question of why the west decided to leave Afghanistan after 20 years of occupation, the obvious and simple answer seems to be that the new leadership in the USA decided that it had become a pointless war. There was no or very little strategic value anymore in holding onto the occupation in the context of the present time and the calculated perceived future threats.
Over the years, the rhetoric and propaganda with respect to women’s education, democracy and civil liberties were mostly soft power designed and deployed to bolster support for the long-term western strategic interest in the area. The soft power element was a secondary consideration partly designed to generate moral support at home within the invader nations and around the world in favour of western intervention in Afghanistan and the occupation of the country. Now, as the West withdraws its forces from Afghanistan, the soft power propaganda is used to justify the 20 years of western failures in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was in a situation during the last 20 years where a very small minority of the country’s people supported the western invasion and occupation. They participated in the system and the opportunities created to improve life, get modern education for their children, especially girls, and strengthen the new political system introduced by western powers. But the vast majority of the Afghan people didn’t support the west dominating them. How can you create a workable, sustainable system in such a situation, where a small minority joins in and participates in the system created and sustained by western powers and the vast majority does not?
Morality and idealism may say, at one level, that what the west has done for about 10% of the Afghan population that positively engaged with western occupation and what they have created, including education for girls and women working, was a good thing and something that it should be supported. Does this mean that what the western powers created in Afghanistan was workable and sustainable?
If only 10% of the population supported the occupation, then on what grounds can such an occupation be supported? The only grounds that can be used to support such an occupation is to argue that although at the moment only 10% of the people have joined in and supported the western system this percentage will grow in the future as the actuality of benefits will become contagious.
On another level, how can one justify, on moral grounds and idealism, the continued sufferings and drone attacks on Afghan civilians and parts of Kabul separated from the rest of the country by security measures, and the elite created by the west remaining distanced and separated from the vast majority of the people of the country. How was that ever going to work?
No matter what soft power or strategic arguments are used to invade and occupy a country, no foreign invasion of a country and its occupation should ever be supported, except on a humanitarian ground, based on and limited and restricted by that ground alone.
America developed the idea of an Axis of evil soon after Afghanistan was occupied to invade Iraq and prepare for a possible invasion of Iran. This clearly demonstrated the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was part of a grand plan of America to increase its physical frontiers of strategic interest and influence. As such, the invasion of Afghanistan had a more sinister purpose than their soft power activities designed to achieve.