What did the US get incorrect about Afghanistan?

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A lot has been stated up to now few weeks concerning the sudden takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. For all the cash spent and blood spilled by america, on the finish of all of it, the corrupt authorities that was in place garnered so little help that it fell with out a lot as a whimper.

The “skilled evaluation” from the Western facet appears to overlook the central motive for his debacle. However one in all my purchasers in Guantánamo, Sanad al-Kazimi, readily recognized it in a latest dialog with me. Few have extra motive to remorse the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 than he does, as he has suffered for 16 years with out cost or trial.

He stated he thought President Joe Biden had spoken with knowledge in defending the choice to finish the longest struggle in US historical past. He jogged my memory that the Arabs even have the saying, “Higher late than by no means.” However Sanad went on to say he would favor to maneuver the aphorism one step onwards: “It’s typically higher to be by no means.” It will have been higher by no means to have invaded Afghanistan within the first place.

There may be one other drained truism that tells us that the very first thing we be taught from historical past is that we don’t be taught from historical past. What the British dubbed the First Anglo-Afghan Struggle (1839-1842) got here to be generally known as “the Catastrophe in Afghanistan”. The Second Anglo-Afghan Struggle (1878-1880), the Third Anglo-Afghan Struggle (1919), and the Soviet-Afghan Struggle (1979-1989) all had one factor in widespread: All of them led to tears, with nothing however chaos achieved. There was little motive to imagine the American-Afghan Struggle (2001-2021) would have a distinct consequence.

Simply earlier than the pandemic, I used to be in Kabul to collect help for Asadullah Haroon, an Afghan who has languished in Guantánamo for the previous 14 years. I talked to folks from each facet of the chaotic political scene. If there was one factor on which everybody might agree, it was that no one needed the invaders to stay. Certainly, they didn’t need them within the first place.

But the US invasion occurred in 2001. It was all the time going to be tough to show a killing subject into something greater than a cemetery. There are few examples in historical past the place the navy invaded a rustic (labelled “the enemy”) after which turned it right into a revered buddy.

A uncommon occasion is likely to be the Allied response on the finish of World Struggle II. The Germans had dedicated probably the most horrific crimes possible (the Taliban might by no means match them, even in a Western neocons’ wildest desires), the US gave a tiny group of Nazis a good trial and acquitted quite a few them. Then, by means of the Marshall Plan, the US gave big sums – greater than $100bn in immediately’s cash – to assist rebuild Europe, extending this generosity of spirit to West Germany.

It will have taken a rare effort to create a political construction in Afghanistan that would have sloughed off the odor of the international imposition, and survived the withdrawal of the US navy. It will have taken a very humane perspective. And that’s what we by no means confirmed.

First, we responded to al-Qaeda atrocities by torturing prisoners, and sending others half approach around the world to Guantánamo. Then we spent much more cash on bombs than we did on reconstructing the harm they did. Third, we by no means even pretended to deal with the Afghans as equal companions.

In Kabul, I had dinner on the home of Hajji Din Mohammed, an aged man who had held varied positions in authorities. He had fought towards the Russians and with the People. I requested him to check the 2. Close to the Russians, he confirmed me the place they’d shot him, and described their phenomenal cruelty.

However he stated he revered them in two methods: first, they have been intensely loyal to their fellow troopers, dashing to their help it doesn’t matter what the percentages. And second, after they have been finally expelled from Afghanistan, the Russians have been loyal to those that had helped them, welcoming them to Moscow. Certainly, he identified one other particular person at our dinner who had received all his training at Russian expense.

I requested him about my fellow People. He was understandably loath to be impolite, however I begged his true opinion.

“The People have been by no means even loyal to themselves,” he stated. “If their troopers have been pinned down by the Taliban, they needed to get some edict from Washington earlier than anybody would assist them.”

However then he went on to explain how the People handled the Afghans. In an ironic twist of racism, no Afghan citizen was allowed to ebook a room within the closely fortified lodge the place I used to be staying, and whereas I might enter with out being searched, my host couldn’t. However extra to the purpose, he stated, primarily based on his flowing beard and his battle-scars, the People regarded him as a deranged “jihadi”. “No American has shaken my hand as a buddy up to now 18 years,” he concluded.

I had already determined that I appreciated and revered this man, and I used to be horrified once I heard his phrases. I instantly requested whether or not I (as an American) might please shake his hand as a buddy. He burst into tears and declared me a buddy. I’d be honoured to be Hajji Din Mohammed’s brother. And so ought to all People. It’s simply unhappy that we didn’t get round to it.

As a substitute, whereas we did a minimum of insist on the rights of ladies, we imported a way of imperial racism that was redolent of the First Anglo-Afghan Struggle. We rendered life prohibitively costly with out enhancing the wealth of the folks (once I needed to arrange a department of our NGO, it might have price 4 occasions as a lot in Kabul as it might in Islamabad). And we arrange a authorities that was so legendarily venal and corrupt that the US navy referred to it because the V I C E – “Vertically Built-in Prison Entity”.

Is it stunning that Afghans didn’t need to bask in one more civil struggle to protect what we had provided them?

My father was a rampant chauvinist and homophobe; we didn’t hate him for it; with evolving success, we tried to vary his thoughts. I’ve tried many capital circumstances in America the place, to qualify for service, all 12 jurors have to vow they’re keen to impose the dying penalty. We might argue with them and inform them they have been incorrect, or we might converse their language and remind them of the Bible educating, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” I discovered the second course to be rather more efficient.

We had the identical alternative after we first visited our conservative Muslim purchasers in Guantánamo: we might chastise them for the chauvinism they realized in a rural village in Afghanistan and label them “terrorists”. Or we might search out one of the best in them. Right this moment, I rely my Guantánamo purchasers amongst my finest associates on the planet. One in every of them, Asadullah Haroon, desires nothing greater than for his 14-year-old daughter Maryam to profit from a full training.

We’ve got that very same alternative with the brand new Afghan authorities. The US media has already begun vilifying them. For instance, because the New York Instances experiences, Gholam Rulani was detained “in Afghanistan in 2001 together with his brother-in-law Abdul Haq Wasiq, a deputy minister of intelligence, after he accompanied Mr Wasiq to a negotiating assembly with US officers. He was delivered to Guantánamo the day the jail opened, on January 11, 2002, and was repatriated in December 2007.”

Now, we’re informed that Mr Rulani, who led a bunch of Taliban who entered the presidential palace on August 15, stated to one in all his abusive Guantánamo guards “we’ll get you on the skin”. That somebody being grotesquely mistreated might (or might not) have blurted one thing like this out to his abuser 15 years in the past is hardly stunning. What I can say is that I’ve a great relationship with my erstwhile purchasers, and they’re going to gladly have interaction with an American like me, who stood up for his or her rights in Guantánamo.

Slightly than shout from afar that they’re barbarians, will probably be extra productive to sit down down with them, and assist them rebuild the nation, whereas strongly supporting Asad when he encourages Maryam’s dream to grow to be a health care provider.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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