The Afghan black hole

Originally published in the Greek weekly newspaper “Paraskinio”, issue 619, p. 39, on Feb. 24

US Defense Secretary James Mattis, during a speech in Congress on February 8, stressed that the situation in Afghanistan is heading for the better, and that the US forces recently sent will work to eliminate the latest Taliban and ISIS powers on Afghan soil. At the same meeting, Senator Walter Jones said “Afghanistan is the graveyard of the empires.” These profound words describe in one way or another the reality that successive US governments are trying to evade since the beginning of the Afghanistan war in 2000.

Yes, Washington, backed by NATO, managed to drive the Taliban and Al-Qaeda out of the capital, Kabul. He also managed, over the first two years of the war, to control over 90% of Afghan soil. Through intensive NATO air raids in Al-Qaeda’s areas of influence, it destroyed at least 80% of its military capabilities at that time. Following these military achievements, Washington formally established democracy in Afghanistan. It held presidential elections that resulted in a puppet government in its hands, a government whose most officials lived for many years away from their homeland. Thus, this government has failed to gain the trust of the Afghan people because of the great differences of mentality and ideology between them. Moreover, enormous corruption has increased the gap between the government and the troubled people.

The Afghan government’s total absence from the issues of concern to the people, such as security and the spread of poverty, as well as the imposition of its western ideas into a closed society, has re-established the Taliban who have sought to rebuild their people’s base. As early as the beginning of 2010, the Taliban were able to re-launch their military action in the western provinces of the country and gradually expand into the central provinces. Following the decision by Washington, under the Obama administration, not to send more troops, and with the withdrawal of many European countries from the conflict cycle, the Taliban have been able to expand even further. Afghanistan’s popular base, which lived in a state of security and stability during ten years of government by the Taliban despite radical Islamic ideology, was much better than the chaos of insecurity, economic corruption and western mentality. This scene has prompted thousands of young Afghans to join them. According to many Western think tanks specializing in Afghan issues, the Taliban currently control at least 60% of Afghanistan’s territory, while the remaining 40% is attacked daily by missiles and other military operations. This situation has prompted many American politicians to wonder about the sources of military and financial support to the Taliban. This question has many explanations.

A senior Western official has confirmed that many of the Afghan reports highlight the Russian role in their military support. Russia, which does not like the creation of Washington and NATO bases in Afghanistan, has found the Taliban’s support as the most appropriate means of turning the country into a black hole for the West. Moscow, which lost the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, one of the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union, directly accused Washington of providing anti-aircraft to the Taliban ever since. It is now retaliating by this support. Several sources confirm that Iran, whose territory served as a hiding place for Al-Qaeda leaders and the Taliban during the last five years of the war, has facilitated the flow of capital to both organizations. This is confirmed by Osama bin Laden.

The ongoing Afghan war will not have a positive end for Washington and NATO, as the current equation shows. The only option for Washington to avoid the same effects as the former Soviet Union is to reactivate the diplomatic channel of communication with the Taliban. This choice, despite being a moral loss, is better than losing the war. The cost of the Afghan war has so far reached the enormous amount of $ 760 billion, which proves that military power does not determine the winner.