Skip to main content

Afghanistan Was a Test Case for the USA

MG is a senior service officer and now a senior corporate advisor. A prolific writer with varied interests and hobbies


The Future and the USA

The Scenario at the end of World war II

The Second World War ended in 1945 and after that, the sad fact is that the USA has been at the receiving end of most wars it has fought. It all started with the Korean War which lasted 3 years and took the head of General MacArthur. But the result was a stalemate and after 3 years of fighting the USA had nothing to show. North Korea remained and the border remained at the 38th parallel. In effect, the war in Korea was not a decisive victory for the USA which had to settle for an armistice with the communist powers. Over the decades the situation has not changed and North Korea and China remain the big bears as before.

Vietnam War

Next was the Vietnam War. It ended in an ignoble retreat, something that US arms can never forget. 12 years of fighting ended in a whimper, for as it turned out the USA had backed the wrong horse. Despite all the air effort of carpet bombing by B-52's of the US Air Force, North Vietnam did not buckle down. On the ground despite great acts of individual bravery, the US army had no answer to the Viet Cong and the result was a defeat. Lyndon B Johnson must take the blame for a misreading of Vietnam and his decision after the Tonkin Gulf incident to escalate the war boomeranged badly on the USA. General Westmoreland was the man who presided over the defeat.

Iraq and the AfterMath

The Iraq war is touted as a victory. Is it? The situation there is more volatile than when Saddam ruled. Now the entire country is in the grip of anarchy with bombs and terror attacks a byword. What if an Islamic regime is ushered in? The fat will then be in the fire. The US embassy in Baghdad is like a fortress: a sad commentary on the US war effort in Iraq, that no American diplomat can walk the streets of Baghdad free and unhindered.

Worse the Bette Noire of the USA, Iran has a big role in Iraq, and on the instigation of the Iranian government, the Iraqi government has called for a withdrawal of American troops completely from Iraq. American bases have been attacked with rockets and the situation is fluid. Extremist organizations are to the fore; a far cry from the days of Saddam Hussein.


Afghanistan: The Last frontier

Now we come to Afghanistan. Here again, the USA was in a bind and looking for a way to get out of this morass. A decision to withdraw was taken by President Obama after he and the US army realized that 11 years of fighting in Afghanistan had led to no results and no objective achieved. Despite an attempt by Trump to stem the tide; he also ultimately realized that the Afghan war was unwinnable.

But a withdrawal here will have far-reaching effects. The Islamic militants supported by Pakistan will be emboldened and the next step will be to take over the government. America's retreat from Afghanistan is a black mark. It cannot be categorized as anything else. One reason is the US will and resolve to fight a long war has evaporated. The same thing happened in Vietnam and the moment the Americans left the Vietcong overran the government in Saigon.

What is the USA to do in Afghanistan? The choice was clear-cut. Stay and fight or retreat. Unfortunately, the USA has decided to withdraw a euphemism for a retreat. The road now appears clear for the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The Taliban has tremendous resilience and this has foxed American military thought and the result is that a terrorist organization has been given respectability. Despite the death of Mullah Omar the Taliban leader in a military hospital in Pakistan the leadership since 2016, is in the hands of Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada. He has played his cards well and got the US Army out of Afghanistan.

The future

Biden had very little choice other than to throw in the towel. The ground realities after 2 decades of fighting are almost zero. President Ashraf Ghani will make a stand but he has very little chance of succeeding.

Militarily the Afghan government is weak but at the same time, the Afghan people love democracy and the right to vote. The Afghan people have voted in thousands defying the diktat of the Taliban and al Qaeda who had asked them to boycott the polls. This is a heartening situation, but in Afghanistan the gun rules and despite the Afghan people wanting a new dispensation, the chances that the country will still slip into anarchy are pretty bright.

Scroll to Continue

The worst affected will be the women who had been given a modicum of independence and allowed to work and get educated. The Taliban which may come into power does not believe in all this and the old days of terror may come back.


Last Word

The USA has to return from Afghanistan empty-handed. What Obama thought and Trump decided had to take place. Now Biden has taken the decision to retreat and very soon the last American soldier will leave Afghanistan.

Important questions have to be answered. The first is the pledge of President Bush to destroy the Taliban which had caused the death of 3000 Americans by the attack on the trade towers. The Americans have been unable to destroy the Taliban and it is a sad commentary on American military policy. You cannot fight a battle with constraints and the fact that the military leadership let go of Pakistan which was the main instigator and supporter of the Taliban is difficult to understand.

Americans have now been sitting and discussing with the very people who had carried out the trade tower attacks. It was basically a one-sided discussion and the Taliban had their way.

One fact does come out and that is the American military is unable to win a decisive victory in almost all battles after World War II and Afghanistan is part of that scenario. I do not expect President Karzai to survive much longer and very soon he will have to abdicate. In fact, my understanding is the Americans have already accepted that he will abdicate and they will have to deal with the Taliban regime. They are now wanting to give respectability to a terrorist organization. Any agreement the Americans have signed with the Taliban is not worth the paper on which it is typed. Americans know about this but in their helplessness, they have accepted it because their entire aim is to just retreat and escape.

The repercussions of this retreat will echo for many decades. It will give an opening to China to step in and America will lose an important foothold in the Center of Asia. America survived defeat in the Vietnam war because China was not a superpower and Russia was very far away but now it's a different ball game. China is fast catching up to the United States economically and militarily and the next decade may well be the decade when the United States ceases to be the global number one power. The matter is not helped by the fact that the chief executive of the United States, Mr. Joe Biden has severely compromised himself and cannot exert.

Empires come and go, this is part of history.


MG Singh (author) from UAE on May 08, 2021:

Yes, Tom, I couldn't agree with you more. The US has never done anything constructive and mainly has a destructive influence. The Taliban destroyed the famous Buddha statues at Bamyan with dynamite. Pretty fanatic. Emperor Kanishka ruled this area ( Afghanistan)

MG Singh (author) from UAE on June 18, 2020:

Robert, cheers !

Robert Sacchi on June 18, 2020:

You do have a point the Kennedy/Johnson "wiz kids" were worse than useless.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on June 18, 2020:

Robert, the situation from the time of the Korean war was different. General MacArthur had proposed the nuclear bombing of China and he was sacked for that.

In early 60s the situation had changed Russia and China were no longer friends and the Soviets had withdrawn all the technical persons from China. In 1964 China tested its first nuclear device at that time if President Johnson had ordered a strike on the nuclear installations of China nothing much would have happened because China had nothing to retaliate with and Russia was not going to come on the side of China. In fact, Russians may have been happy in case China's nuclear facilities had been bombed.

At that time Johnson erred gravely as the American think tank assumed that China would ultimately come on their side. They were aware of the rift between Russia and China. So Johnson missed the great opportunity to put China back but he failed because he had no foresight.

Pakistan's case is a little different as both India and Pakistan had developed weapons at about the same time. The Pakistani's tested their bomb just about one month after the Indians. However the Indians could have destroyed the nuclear facilities of Pakistan match earlier as suggested by Israel but the Indian political leadership did not have the vision to think of the future.

Robert Sacchi on June 18, 2020:

At the time China was allied with Russia. With China there was the size. In the Korean War the communists developed a policy of fight-fight, talk-talk. You can see evidence of it today with China. In Korea when the situation on the ground was going against them China would switch to negotiations. The US would go for the bait and negotiate. This was playing for a stalemate. A worry with North Korea is if the situation gets too bad there China can step in and take over. The situation was different in the early '60s. The US wouldn't want to be the aggressor. There was the fear it could escalate into a nuclear holocaust. At the short end U.S. bomber losses would probably have been prohibitive. After the strikes China could rebuild. Our WWII experience showed rebuilding facilities was doable. There was no way the US could have carried out a sustained campaign as was done in WWII. Did India have similar issued that resulted in Pakistan becoming a nuclear power?

MG Singh (author) from UAE on June 17, 2020:

Robert Sacchi, yes there are minor adjustments across the 38th parallel but generally, the border is about the same. Now I feel the rise of North Korea as nuclear power was facilitated by China and we come to the eternal question who is responsible for the rise of China? I have no doubt it is the USA and the Uk who had a paranoid fear of Russia and thought that they could support China against Russia and live peacefully with China on their side. How wrong they were. Now the US makes a hue and cries about North Korea's bombs, which all said and done is a puny country but how come they let China go nuclear and in 1964 when China was a toothless power they didn't destroy their nuclear facilities. ? you may like to think about it.

Robert Sacchi on June 16, 2020:

It is good to see a perception from the region. Has your perception changed since you've written this article?

About the Korean War. It's a common misconception that the dividing line between the two Koreas is the 38th Parallel. That was the dividing line when North Korea invaded South Korea. The front line moved a lot during the first part of the war. When the ceasefire went into effect the armies separated leaving a demilitarized zone (DMZ). This DMZ is the de facto border between the countries. Today, a small part of North Korea, on the east coast, is south of the 38th parallel. Some parts of South Korea are north of the 38th parallel. Yes, the war was inconclusive.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on July 15, 2014:

Dear Uchenna, well commented. I wonder what lessons the US can draw after its defeat in Afghanistan

Uche Ani from Mid atlantic, United States on July 15, 2014:

Bravery sometimes comes in different form. Losing a war am sorry to say can affect both counterparts because lives without doubt will definitely be lost in both sides. My point is that lessons are learned after a war ends and to what extent those lessons are put to work is what determines the status of a country in the world arena.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on July 23, 2011:

Dear Brother, Your comments are appreciated, but what I have written should be understood in perspective.True the USA survived as a world power even after losing all those wars. But the end always has a beginning and the loss of those wars is a stepping stone to what I have written.

No world power continued to rule the world after a succession of defeats. Talking of nuclear power and economy you very well know that almost a third of the US economy is controlled by China. Nuclear war does not leave any victors and whatever the numerical superiority you cannot have an over kill.

Texasbeta on July 22, 2011:

How curious. You explain at the onset that several wars the US has gotten its arse beaten, and from our recent past. Then you close by claiming that if we lose THIS war, then we lose our #1 spot in the world. Why would this war be any different than the others you claimed were lost? It doesn't,and won't. It is rhetoric. The placement of the US at the top of the heap is based upon GDP, buying power, and the fact that we have 5,000 nukes to every 1 that everyone else has.

This war means nothing, has absolutely no goals. You can't win a war with no goals. You claim that if we leave, then the Islamists will come here to attack us. Really? Did the ones who actually DID come and attack us, the ones from Saudi Arabia, come over here because they were emboldened by us leaving Afghanistan? Of course not. In fact, the entire premise you present is flawed. It spills of Islamophobia.

Related Articles