Skip to main content

The Debacle and Retreat From Afghanistan

MG is a senior air warrior who has seen combat and is an alumnus of the Staff College and a writer on military matters.



Afghanistan is a small landlocked country in Central Asia but its strategic importance cannot be underestimated. It is the key to Central Asia and the vast area of Siberia and China. Afghanistan has always been an independent nation for close to 2500 years. Earlier it was part of the empire of the Indian emperor Kanishka and the people were Buddhists.

Subsequently, Afghanistan for some centuries had Hindu influence before a rabid form of Islam took over. Afghanistan is a mountainous country straddling the Hindu Kush mountains and has been very rarely conquered. Alexander the Great in 326 BC invaded Afghanistan and occupied the area. The hold of the Greeks was best tenuous and did not last long./

Once the region converted to Islam it began to have some independence. In the 19th century, the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his general Hari Singh Nalwa repeatedly defeated the Afghans and incorporated the land in its sphere of influence.

After the defeat of the Sikh Empire, the British become the Paramount power in India attempted to subdue the Afghans as they were scared that they would go under Russian influence. The British launched three campaigns against Afghanistan and even reached Kabul but there was no decisive victory.

Opposing Russia and creation of Taliban

Afghanistan did not join the world of free of nations and continued on its insular path. The Russians anxious for a foothold in Afghanistan invaded the country but the western powers alarmed at the expansion of Soviet power made a very short-sighted decision. They decided to arm the Muslim fundamentalist forces and finance them to fight the Russians. They thus created the Taliban.

Arming the mujaheddin(Taliban) was a fundamental mistake of the United States. The group is best known as a believer in Islamic fundamentalism and a Wahabi concept of Islam. This group turned against the Americans themselves.

Russian's departed and the Americans thought everything was fine. Afghanistan was taken over by the Taliban which had spearheaded the campaign against Soviet Russia. This regime followed a repressive policy and persecution of the minorities. They received help from the Pakistan army which enunciated a doctrine of "defense in depth". It really meant using Afghanistan as a sanctuary by terror groups to create mayhem and terror against India.


Taliban strikes

The Taliban also began to give shelter to extremist global revolutionary groups like Al Qaeda. One of the leaders of Al-Qaeda Osama bin laden was given sanctuary in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda aided by the Taliban as is well known carried out a terror attack in New York and killing over 3,000 persons. This made America alive to the danger of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. George Bush the president of The United States declared war on Afghanistan and in a swift campaign ousted teh Taliban from Kabul and installed a democratic regime in Kabul

The Taliban was however not defeated and George Bush American President lost focus on destroying the Taliban and Al Qaeda and shifted focus to Iraq and Saddam Hussain. This was a grievous mistake as the Taliban leadership and fighters found sanctuary in Pakistan. This country had all along supported the Taliban and a faction of Al Qaeda as a part of its deep defense. Pakistan was the alma mater of the Taliban and one group up of Al Qaeda called the Haqqani faction.

American lack of Focus

America put in arms and troops into Afghanistan but they lost sight of the fundamental fact that the main sanctuary that is Pakistan was not touched. This state of affairs continued until Donald Trump took over as president of the United States

Trump recognized the problem and made some noises against Pakistan but he did not make any wholehearted changes to the American policy of confronting Pakistan for its link to the terror groups in Afghanistan. The net result was that the extremist organization resurfaced and began to attack the government troops all over.

Scroll to Continue

The American army was always fighting with one hand tied behind its back as the Pakistan army and ISI intelligence actively supported the Taliban.

Agreement with the Taliban

Donald Trump after evaluating the situation thought it better to leave Afghanistan. He authorized negotiations with the Taliban which were held in neutral Qatar. The Taliban made their fundamental demand of exit of all American forces from Afghanistan. America intent on leaving the mess in Afghanistan just wanted to get out of the country.

The reports about the agreement show that it is a one-sided agreement. The Taliban has made it clear that they will not negotiate with the government in Kabul and they are not prepared to have a ceasefire with the Kabul government as well.

This must be a hard pill to swallow for the American Army and Airforce. In effect, it signals a retreat from the front and throwing in the towel. America lost the will to fight in Afghanistan for the simple reason that they never addressed the root of the problem in Afghanistan and that is sanctuaries in Pakistan.

Trump has gone but his successor, Joe Biden has followed his policy. America has now decided that the small number of troops which they have in Afghanistan will be withdrawn and the Taliban has reiterated that they will not negotiate with the Afghan government or have a ceasefire with them. in other words, once Americans leave civil war will continue and the Taliban will prevail over the Afghan government.

The Taliban and its agreement with the Americans is not worth the price of the paper on which it is written.


Intervention policy

The problem with the United States is that it has a propensity to intervene in all places in the world but then they have very little willpower to sustain its efforts. Even the present crisis in the South China Sea where China has taken control of the islands and built bases has happened because of the weakness of America.

This has been the sad story of the United States after World War II. Starting from A defeat in the Korean War to Vietnam and now Afghanistan, the Americans have recorded a string of defeats. Most American presidents have been obsessed with Russia and have ignored the greater danger of terrorism by the Islamic fringe. The removal of Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein was also a blunder in the sense, that both these were opponents of Islamic fundamentalism and Al Qaeda.


America has been fighting in Afghanistan for close to 2 decades and victory was never in sight, as the main supporter of the Taliban was Pakistan, and instead of taking action against it, the USA continued giving it billions of dollars in arms aid, and cash.

The wheel has come full circle and as per the latest reports which are coming in, the Taliban is in a rampaging mood and it is now just a matter of days when the Taliban a terrorist organization will once again rule Afghanistan. The future certainly looks frightening.


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 15, 2021:

Thank you, Tom, Afghanistan is going to be the epicenter of terror. As I stated if the USA had realized the danger of havens in Pakistan, it would have been a different ball game.

tom on August 15, 2021:

alexander the greatnto us conquered afghanistan,ad 634 battle of kabul hindus lose ,indian disunity ,1979 to 2021 civil war ,faliure of islam,country was peaceful in preislamic times

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 18, 2019:

Dean Traylor,

Thank you for your comments. I agree that the problem is there for a long long time from the days of the gathered impetus once the Russians entered to prop up their weak communist government. The Americans then entered and the Taliban took shape. Having entered the Americans should have carried on with single-minded zeal to finish the extremists. This did not happen for a variety of reasons. One of them was lack of focus as it shifted to Iraq and second, the Americans never realized the double game of Pakistan as they continued to believe that Pak was their ally as it was one of the first to have joined them in their fight against Communism. They joined the military pacts(SEATO AND Baghdad Pact) Ike Eishenower floated.

Dean Traylor from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on August 18, 2019:

Nice piece on Afghanistan. A couple of things to point that has made things extremely difficult there. During the cold war, the Soviets and U.S. competed for influence in the region as far back as the 50s and 60s. This led to regime changes within that last monarchy (which put brother and against brother within the royal family). Also, the country was in the midst of modernizing and grappling with the concept of democracy. At the same time communism was make its presence known in the country. By the late 70s -- just before the Soviets invaded, the country formed a very weak communist regime (in fact, it was the leader of the time that asked for soviet intervention...he was later ousted by them, go figure). The result of the Soviet-Afghan War resulted in a very weak government that was immediately overthrown by an extremely corrupt government that was fractured by warlords and tribal chiefs with their own agendas. This power vacuum led to the rise of the fundamentalists best known as the Taliban (and of course, matters got so bad that even the Iranian government once quipped (and I'm paraphrasing this) if you think our theocracy is bad, take a good look at the Taliban). after their ouster, the ruling group was essentially the alliance that once held power (minus a very charismatic leader that had been Assassinated by Al-Queda just before 9/11 attack).

There's no doubt that the Afghan conflict has a major problem (Pakistan). Many Talibans had been radicalized in the refugee camps on the border. In addition, other radicals have been making their presence known. In particular, the various warlords and their factions that have helped to turn the place into a major mess.

Also, let's not forget that refugee exodus from the region is on the rise. I don't know if is at that the same numbers seen during the Soviet-Afghan War, but it's enough to destabilize an already unstable situation.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 18, 2019:

Wesman Todd Shaw,

Thank you for commenting. Perhaps Trump may still pull a rabbit out of the hat on Afghanistan. So let's wait and see. The mainstream media is against Trump but then so many intellectuals and senior leaders of his own party don't quite like Trump but he will win in 2020.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 18, 2019:

Ken Burgess,

I am really glad that you accepted that the USA was not willing to go the full mile to win the war. In that respect what Trump is likely to agree is good for him and perhaps he will win the 2020 election, but overall the danger to America will be greater if and when the Taliban again rules in Afghanistan. Thank you.

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on August 18, 2019:

And supposedly the only REAL reason for being there in the first place was NEVER anything like the reasons stated in mainstream news media.

In fact, the primary way to know a thing is false is to ask yourself, "is US mainstream news saying this is true?"

If the answer is, "Yes, US news says this is true,' then it is absolutely false.

Supposedly the real reason for us being their was to build a big freakin' pipeline to transport oil, natural gas, or both. Once the greatness of Donald Trump became apparent, I stopped paying attention to any of that, as I knew the great Trump would do the best thing for the American people, and not the international vampires, as the previous Presidents had served.

Ken Burgess from Florida on August 18, 2019:

There was no other outcome possible, so long as the Taliban were able to retreat into Pakistan, and we were not willing to do what it takes to win the war, the withdrawal and defeat was always a certainty.

I for one am glad that Trump has the strength of character to get us out of a country we should have left at least 15 years ago.

Our leaving will cause Iran problems, as before we interceded with Afghanistan (and Iraq) all those years ago, it was Iran that was fighting them... the only thing our being in Iraq and Afghanistan really did, was ensure Iran would become a dominant player in the region far beyond anything it could have done on its own.

Related Articles