US loses moral credibility abandoning Afghan forces
Published: Aug 11, 2021 07:36 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The Taliban seized three more provincial capitals on Tuesday, making it nine fallen cities in five days. After the Taliban seized three provincial capitals on Sunday, the New York Times published a report on the same day, writing that "The muted American response on Sunday showed in no uncertain terms that America's 20-year war in Afghanistan is over. The mismanaged and exhausted Afghan forces will have to retake the cities on their own, or leave them to the Taliban for good." 

The US had already hinted such "muted response." In a speech defending US withdrawal in July, US President Joe Biden said the US had done more than enough to empower the Afghan police and military to secure the future of their people. However, the current Afghan forces are not fully capable of resisting the Taliban's offensive. Although Afghan government forces have undergone formal training, their combat capabilities, especially combat experience, are still insufficient compared with the Taliban. The US unilaterally emphasized that it has provided training, logistical and material support for the Afghan forces, which is only to shirk its own responsibilities rather than execute an objective evaluation of the Afghan forces' combat effectiveness. 

"US officials have acknowledged that those forces will struggle, but argue they must now fend for themselves," the New York Times report read. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a news conference on Monday, "It's their country to defend now. It's their struggle." But these US officials have obviously ignored this fact: It is the US' irresponsible large-scale military intervention that has plunged Afghanistan into the current security dilemma. The Biden administration insists on withdrawing troops as planned. This shows that the US clearly recognizes it cannot help Afghanistan restore normal social order. Even the most powerful country has failed. Therefore, the consequences are obvious with the Afghan government left to fend for itself.

An article in the UK's Telegraph published on July 7 wrote that Washington is "simply racking up trouble for future generations." It continued, "By abandoning Afghanistan to its fate, the Western powers that have supported US-led intervention for the past 20 years are made to appear weak and unreliable." 

Obviously, the West has always been keen to export its own values and political system to the rest of the world. They believe this is a "good deed" to help "failed countries" to the right track. Yet the Afghanistan War as well as the current situation in the country proves that this is merely Western countries' illusion. The US' "abandoning Afghanistan" not only indicates it admits its failures in Afghanistan for the past two decades, but also embodies the fact that the West does not have the courage to take responsibility for such a catastrophe. For one reason, this has resulted in the West losing moral credibility in the international community. For another, it will trigger the Western society to reflect on their own model and capabilities.

The current situation in Afghanistan resembles the US' Iraq failures. The rise of Islamic State followed after the US' withdrawal from Iraq. After both wars, the US left a mess to related countries, and asked them to be responsible for their own security. Washington's approach is clearly irresponsible. The hasty withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has led to a power vacuum in the region. As a result, extremist forces have taken advantage of the current situation to grow. Their influence is usually transnational. This means these forces will have a significant impact on the peace and stability of not only Afghanistan, but also neighboring countries, the entire region, and even the whole world. In other words, Afghanistan and its neighbors will mainly become the victims of the US' irresponsible behaviors.

Washington has returned limited forces to Iraq and launched airstrikes there since the rise of the Islamic State. There is a possibility that the same thing will happen in Afghanistan. However, such an action is extremely controversial in terms of international law. It will also fail to have a lasting impact on the war situation. Instead of showing its military presence by lightning air attacks, Washington should seriously fulfill its due responsibilities and duties. It should also constructively help restore order in Afghanistan and make sure that political reconciliations in the country will be achieved through negotiations as soon as possible.

In the face of the US' irresponsible behaviors in Afghanistan, regional countries need to strengthen their cooperation with each other. They can also promote international security cooperation through regional organizations to prevent potential risks, which are the natural spillovers of terrorism. On the other hand, the international community should pay more attention to the Afghan issue and push Washington to shoulder its responsibilities so that there will never be a second Islamic State.

The author is an assistant research fellow with the department for developing countries studies at the China Institute of International Studies. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn