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America’s Double Whammy in Afghanistan
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Lt Gen Prakash Katoch | Date:22 Aug , 2021 0 Comments
Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

Was the US war in Afghanistan winnable? Yes says Christine Fair. She attributes four reasons for the US failure to win it: first, Pakistan was always the problem and still is; second, US-aided corruption through defence contractors, belt-away banditry and aid contractors with 80-90 percent of US expenditure returning to US economy despite Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction repeatedly identifying bewildering corruption by US firms and individuals; third, US seeking  political leader in Afghanistan who would rubber-stamp American objectives, and; fourth, President Biden’s reiteration “we couldn’t stay forever” is nauseating because  the US with its ‘incremental approach’ never gave the Afghans a fighting chance.

American reporter Sarah Chayes who is fluent in Pashtu had covered the fall of Taliban in 2001. Later living in Kandahar in an ordinary house for a decade she ran two NGO’s, eventually working for two commanders of international troops in Afghanistan and then as Special Advisor to US Chairman Joint Chief of Staff in 2010. She has highlighted the following about US involvement in Afghanistan and the war on terror:

    • Cronyism and rampant corruption under US watch – a government system where billionaires get to write the rules.
    • Involvement of Pakistan, particularly its top military brass – the Taliban first emerged in Pakistan as strategic project of ISI, not Kandahar as believed.
    • ISI messaging portrayed Taliban not interested in governance but feigned they want militiamen to stop extorting people at every turn in the road.
    • Sheltering Osama bin-Laden in Abbottabad was a brazen ISI act.
    • By 2011, Admiral Mike Mullen, outgoing Chairman JCS, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Taliban were a “virtual arm of the ISI”.
    • Who ‘directed’ the recent lightening offensive of Taliban (Pakistan or US?).
    • Pakistani military provided nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea but US insisted on considering Pakistan an ally, and still do.
    • US has been deluding itself (this may not be just delusion or bungling but by design to de-stabilize regions for promoting weapon exports).

US President Joe Biden recently told a TV news channel that US forces may remain in Afghanistan beyond the August 31 deadline. This is obvious given the need to secure Kabul Airport for evacuations. But concurrently Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says the US does “not have the capability” to help Americans and Afghans travel safely to the Kabul airport to be evacuated.

It is ironical that having handed over Afghanistan to Taliban, virtual arm of ISI in words of Mike Mullen, superpower America is reduced to negotiate (rather beg) Taliban or ‘buddy’ Pakistan. India has evacuated its diplomats and officials amidst media blitz but our appeals to the UN and US to help evacuate Indian nationals from Afghanistan is not going to work. That is why the idiom: ‘zaroorat parne par gadhey ko bhi mama bolna parta hai’ (call the donkey uncle when required). This is not a time to be stubborn, appeal to a toothless UN and cling to America’s tail when lives of our nationals are in danger – need to get off the high horse.

European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell acknowledging Taliban victory has said, “The Taliban won the war, so we will have to talk to them and start a dialogue as soon as possible to prevent a humanitarian and migration catastrophe.”

Taliban held a press conference recently and said they want peace and will not take revenge from who opposed them. But that is not happening on ground. Reports and video clips of Taliban atrocities in Kabul and other parts are streaming. Taliban opened fire in number of places including on protestors in Jalalabad. On August 18, the Taliban publicly executed four commanders/supporters of former Afghan authorities in Kandahar. In Kabul, Taliban cadres are hunting for female reporters and doctors in house-to-house searches. Intellectuals and scholars may be next.

On August 14, foreign media had reported that the US Embassy in Kabul, nerve center of the war on terror, is being gutted of all its sensitive material and evacuated in 72 hours. The report further said that the embassy had gathered vast amounts of information that shaped counterterrorism military actions and allowed CIA agents to meet with sources and monitor the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in the region. Embassy or agency logos, American flags or items which could be misused for propaganda considered sensitive materials too were to be destroyed. 

Briefing American Senators in April 2021, CIA Director Bill Burns had said, ‘When the time comes for the US military to withdraw, the US government’s ability to collect and act on threats will diminish. That’s simply a fact.’ 

But on August 18 the Taliban have found biometric data collection devices abandoned by the US military that scanned irises and fingerprints. These have databases containing information and details of Afghans who passed this biometrics. So now the Taliban have in their custody the list of Afghan citizens who have collaborated with the US military. This is a double whammy on the hapless Afghan population by superpower America. The Taliban don’t need to launch a widespread campaign to look for Afghan who supported the US forces by collecting their fingerprints and iris biometrics – they have it collated and ready-made.  

Afghans should now be prepared for systematic chain of killings and assassinations with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan using the above biometrics. The Biden administration did use media to show some Afghans being evacuated in a US aircraft but there would be thousands  more who helped the US forces over past 20 years. They appear doomed because the US will naturally give priority to evacuate its own nationals first which are around 15-2000.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif recently stated, “For all their talk about democracy and the war on terror, the events in Afghanistan and the statements of the US and NATO leaders indicate that they have seized and occupied Afghanistan and other countries only for their own interests.” This is more than true looking at the manner in which the US has handed over Afghanistan to Taliban and by extension to Pakistan.

Finally, the question is whether this biometrics were left behind by design and Taliban told where to find them in order to eliminate possible opposition by this segment of Afghan population to Taliban rule? Such possibility can hardly be ruled out given the exposure of what America has done to Afghanistan.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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