The failures of US
OpenLife Nigeria reports that as the United States of America enthuses “We have control of the airport now,” arising from the attendant shame from the failures in Afghanistan, analysts are of the view that the declaration sounds like one of the oldest tricks in the Washington book.
Over the past days, Afghanistan imploded and the government has collapsed. A bunch of radical extremists, terrorists, ideologues and tribal warlords, known as the Taliban, are now in charge. They have taken over the Presidential palace and the entire country.
In the 1990s, they were in charge of the country. The people of Afghanistan have just been taken back to the 20th Century. That country has turned full cycle to the age of fundamentalism, the oppression of women, disdain for education and abuse of human rights.
Its President, Ashraf Ghani abandoned the Presidential Palace and fled towards the direction of Tajikistan. The Vice President went in another direction. Security agents including the police and the military dropped their weapons and fled too. Ordinary citizens headed towards every available border to become refugees in neighbouring countries.
According to the estimation of keen observers, whenever a big foreign-policy venture goes bad, sooner or later political leaders and other national security agencies declare an intelligence failure.
In the case of the debacle in Kabul, US spy agencies are being accused of failing to predict the collapse of the Afghan government and army and the speed of the Taliban victory. Blaming the covert community is a favorite tactic since by definition it can’t talk back; there are no daily briefings at the CIA HQ over in Virginia.
On its face, the current crisis could join the list of cataclysmic global events that US spies missed — like the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fact that Saddam Hussein definitely didn’t have WMDs before the Iraq War. But it’s far from clear that the botched US evacuation from Afghanistan can be laid solely at the feet of US intelligence agencies.
We don’t yet know exactly what US intelligence agencies told President Joe Biden, but it is obvious the US never had sufficient troops in the country to perform the orderly exit of US diplomats, citizens and Afghan interpreters in the event Kabul fell. That is a policy decision. Even if the US misjudged the speed at which the Afghan state imploded, you don’t have to be a master spy to twig what might happen when the US began to leave after 20 years of propping the government up.
Another reason why politicians get away with blaming spies in these situations is public confusion on what intelligence actually is. Intelligence analysts operating on input from agents in the field, communications intercepts and other material try to create the best possible picture of trends and circumstances that are not openly available. It’s not an exact science. There is a reason why intelligence reports sent to the President are called estimates. Some come with assessments by various spy agencies that rate the community’s confidence in their conclusions.
It’s the job of political leaders to evaluate intelligence, test it against their own analyses, conversations, views and experience, and consider different scenarios that might unfold if the spies have got it wrong. All too often, as with Iraq, the White House cherry-picks information that supports its own predetermined political goals, like in the Simon & Garfunkel song when “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”
The United States which had been involved in the politics of Afghanistan since 1999 is also on the run out of the country, as it shuts down its embassy in Kabul, burning down-sensitive documents, and rushing to airlift its citizens out of Afghanistan.
The British, and NATO soldiers who had both supported the US in Afghanistan, are also on the run. It is unfolding chaos and tragedy, the exact end of which no one knows, and that is precisely what makes all of this a sad day for the rest of the world. The fate of the people of Afghanistan hangs in the balance. Their future is uncertain.
The crisis in Afghanistan speaks to the failure of American diplomacy and specifically of US foreign policy. Diplomatic relations between the United States and Afghanistan dates back to 1935. In the course of that relationship, the United States was responsible for setting up in that axis, a bunch of extremists known as the Mujahideen as part of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and China, two countries with which Afghanistan shares borders. The Mujahideen would later become the Taliban. They gained control of Afghanistan.
If America thought it was exporting its Western-style democracy to Afghanistan, a majorly Muslim country with strong ethnic cleavages, and that the people would adopt American ideology, it was grossly mistaken. The Muslims of Afghanistan were not willing to abandon their religious and ideological beliefs, and many resented the Western way of life. It did not take long before Afghanistan became the home of religious fanaticism and the headquarters of Al Qaeda. Matters later took a turn for the worse when the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1267 which created the al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee and classified both groups as terrorist groups with sanctions over their funding, travel, and activities.