Foreign policy and the US
The recent action in Afghanistan has revealed the fragility of US and British state formation, and the fallacy of their foreign policy. This decision has triggered the collapse of the Afghan government and has led to a humanitarian crisis that has seen people flooding airports and clambering onto departing US jets in a desperate bid to escape the oncoming Taliban occupation.
As the developing situation in Afghanistan worsens, the space for evaluating over 20 years of direct action in Afghanistan grows. The abrupt withdrawal of the US in Afghanistan made clear the path for Taliban forces to claim ever-increasing territory, and capture the capital of Kabul, in the space of a few days.
What this represents is not a thoughtful foreign policy decision but is a callous decision based in US self-interest, where the occupation in Afghanistan became less advantageous than leaving them to their own devices.
Justifying US actions in Afghanistan
Speaking in a press conference about the decision, US president Joe Biden justified it by stating that the US was unwilling to help countries who ‘weren’t willing’ to fight themselves.
However, considering that the Afghanistan fighters suffered more casualties in the past year than the US did in their 20 years of operating in Afghanistan, this seems a cop-out excuse for a strategic decision aligned with national self-interests.
The fact that this decision was made after then-president Ghani refused peace talks with the Taliban exposes that the core base of US intervention was not about securing peace and building Afghan democracy, but solely about neutralising threats for Americans and disregarding Afghan people and stable democracy.
Further, this exposes the fallacy that was used to justify military action in Afghanistan, more than 20 years since its beginning. Where war and continued action was labelled a democratic and humanitarian decision to build a stable and democratic nation. However, it is now evident that this was a thin veneer for self-interested hawkish foreign policy.
American and British interventions
During the years of American and British action in Afghanistan, the military action was carried out with distinct carelessness of the Afghan people, with repeated offences on human rights abuses by US and British forces. The experience of Afghan people in the last 20 years has not been an easy or enjoyable experience, but rather, one marked by internal and external pressures. After 20 years of operating in Afghanistan, these abuses on human rightsare now being continued and expanded upon under the Taliban militants’ rule.
Even accepting the idea that neutralising terrorists and limiting terrorist threat was the motive for US (and British) action, allowing these same terrorists to capture and occupy the entirety of Afghanistan, as well as become the ruling government means this mission was a failure. Arguably, this leaves Afghan people in a worse position than they were 20 years ago.
The images, testimonies and news coming out of Afghanistan show that the beginning of Taliban rule will represent devastating changes and regression for the Afghan people; and taking them even further away from a semblance of peace after 20 years of US military occupation, US influencing and funding jihadi groups, and decades of soviet rule.
Imperialism in Afghanistan
Another point we cannot ignore, is the centrality of issues of imperialism within the current state of Afghanistan. More recently, this is attributed to self-interest informing and shaping foreign policy, but also a far-reaching legacy of colonial control.
Ultimately, the situation in Afghanistan is looking to be the start of another long-term stage for the country, and a central policy concern going forward. The only thing we can hope for is that this next stages places Afghan people and their wellbeing at the centre, and doesn’t prioritise national self-interests above the common good.