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US hypocrisy on Fall of Kabul

Salman Rasheed

The writer is a Karachi-based research analyst and political consultant.

A group of 22 Republican Party Senators tabled a bill a few months back named the “Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability Act.” The proposed legislation calls for a comprehensive report on who supported the Taliban during America’s 20 years in Afghanistan, helped the group in capturing Kabul in mid-August, and supported their offensive on Panjshir Valley. Also, this bill seeks to assess Pakistan’s alleged role in Afghanistan before and after the fall of Kabul and in the Taliban offensive in Panjshir Valley.

It appears that the U.S. is attempting to scapegoat us for its defeat in Afghanistan and shows the lack of maturity of both the political and military leadership to do a proper introspection and accountability of themselves since the 9/11 attacks of twenty years ago. I hate to say it but this is a continuous weakness of the American establishment that they never learn the right lessons from their mistakes and have a terrible tendency of blaming others.

The U.S. Congress should be probing the countries and people involved in training the Afghan National Army, as the sudden meltdown of the Afghan National Army was one of the major factors in the fall of Kabul to the Afghan Taliban. The U.S. Government spent about US$85 billion over twenty years for the training of the Afghan National Army. This was a huge amount of American taxpayer money that went drown the drain as the entire world witnessed the complete surrender of the Afghan National Army in front of the Afghan Taliban charge without firing one bullet.   

Wasn’t it the U.S. military, NATO, and Indian Army that trained the Afghan National Army?  Pakistan didn’t play a major role in training Afghan forces but India did. Since 2004, the Indian army has trained thousands of Afghan National Army personnel including officers. If I was an American taxpayer, I would demand the U.S. Congress investigate how much money the U.S. Government paid to the Indian Government and Army for the training of Afghan Army personnel in India but no one in the U.S. Congress is asking this question, why? Sorry to say but it looks like the Indians financially swindled their close ally the U.S. under the guise of training Afghan army personnel.

It’s mindboggling to see two U.S. generals and the defense secretary keep stating in front of a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing how “surprised” they were at the quick collapse of the Afghan army and the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul without a fight. It’s not an open secret that many U.S. Army soldiers serving in Afghanistan during the last 20 years kept predicting such a collapse would occur but the most brilliant minds among the civilian and military leadership couldn’t, why?

Will the U.S. Congress and Government hold their military and civilian trainers coupled with the Indian trainers accountable for the Afghan Army’s lack of performance? Or sweep it under the rug?  I guess it’s easier to blame Pakistan rather than ask the tough questions.  

I remind the American people, the U.S. Government, and Congress that it was former President Donald Trump that asked the Pakistan Government’s help in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table to iron out a peace deal in Doha. Furthermore, to facilitate these talks, the Pakistan Government released three top Taliban commanders including Mullah Baradar as part of that process at the Trump administration’s request. Therefore, why blame Pakistan for helping the Afghan Taliban when the U.S. Government desired to talk peace with them?  Frankly, once the U.S. Government sat with the Afghan Taliban for peace talks, the Afghanistan war ended, and the U.S. transformed the Afghan Taliban from the “enemy” into a legitimate partner in peace. 

During the Senate Arms Services Committee hearings, a couple of months back, Senator Chris Van Hollen got the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to affirm that the dialogue with the Taliban at Doha centered on U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan while underlining the fact that the Americans allowed the Taliban to attack Afghan forces but not the U.S. troops, and then the U.S. proceeded to negotiate the future of Afghanistan. The U.S. Secretary of State also admitted under questioning by Senator Chris Van Hollen that the Taliban then pressured the Kabul government to release 5,000 Taliban fighters, most of whom are involved in the attack on Kabul.

If the purpose of the U.S. Congressional hearings is to honestly apportion blame for the Afghanistan debacle, then it is failing to do so, as it appears from my vantage point that it’s becoming a ranting session for lawmakers for the purpose to malign Pakistan for the failings of American civilian and military leadership. 

I find it pathetic to see how two U.S. generals in their testimonies are throwing their Commander-in-Chief President Joe Biden under the bus without taking the blame along with past Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump for lying to the American public for twenty years regarding the “success” of the Afghan war. Whatever happened to the phrase “Duty, honour, country” that General Douglas MacArthur spoke about in his address to the military academy at West Point in May 1962?  Have the ethical standards of the U.S. military leadership fallen so much that the generals have become politicians attempting to save their jobs and themselves from accountability?

I suggest to the U.S. Congress if they want to hold genuine accountability then they should start with the revelations of the Afghanistan Papers and fix blame on the political and military leadership before pointing the finger towards Pakistan.