The rapid conquest of Kabul in Afghanistan and the triumphant seizure of power by the Taliban caused shock waves around the world.
Since the collapse of the Afghan government and the dismantling of its professionally trained military, the administration of US President Joe Biden has drawn sharp criticism for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. But the fall of the Afghan government was inevitable.
Furthermore, the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and the ongoing political instability in Iraq provide painful but valuable lessons for those who insist on implementing democracy in a socio-political environment that is characterized by tribal loyalty, kinship and sectarianism. deeply shaped by affiliation.
Since the triumphant arrival of Taliban forces in Kabul in August 2021, the Biden administration has been the target of harsh criticism. In a bid to boost their electoral fortunes in the 2022 midterm election, congressional Republicans have seized the chaotic situation as a golden opportunity to question Biden’s decision-making ability.
Islamic groups and regimes such as Iran have celebrated the departure of US forces as a sign of a decline in US world domination.
Even media outlets such as CNN have painted Biden as a “mess author” in Afghanistan. Democrat member of the US House of Representatives Jim Langevin has described the Biden administration’s decision as a “catastrophe” on full display for the world to see.
Afghanistan’s withdrawal took years
It would be unfair to blame the turbulent situation in Afghanistan solely at the feet of the Biden administration.
The withdrawal of US forces was nothing more than a punctuation mark to end a long sentence of secret talks between Barack Obama’s administration with the Taliban. Those talks ended with the signing of a peace deal between the Donald Trump administration and the Taliban in Qatar in February 2020.
Ethnic and religiously motivated political rivalry has been a hallmark of Afghan politics for at least the last four decades. The presence of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan since 2001 provided an impetus for these factional groups to intensify their rivalry.
As long as the US was willing to “pay the brunt of the battle”, there was no incentive for the leaders of these factional groups to work out a lasting political settlement.
Despite a declaration of commitment to building democratic institutions, the Western-backed Afghan government was nothing more than a corporate entity. Its shareholders were regional chieftains and local officials who exercised enormous control and influence over the “distribution of financial resources”, including international aid, and bureaucratic recruitment to public positions in both the civil service and the military.
The concept of “former chieftains in positions of power” created a fertile ground for corruption to flourish. This was exacerbated by the lack of international aid and effective monitoring of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operations in Afghanistan.
In fact, corruption, profiteering and wasteful spending by NGO employees fueled outrage among local Afghans. Ordinary Afghans, aware of the massive international financial aid that was reportedly pouring into the country, saw no significant improvement in their lives, but painfully saw “higher standards of living among NGO workers”, which were dominated by regional warlords and local were attached to the authorities.
Over the past two decades, numerous official reports and government watchdogs have uncovered widespread fraud, embezzlement and nepotism, which gradually eroded the confidence of the Afghan people in their government, and therefore took away the strength of the Afghan state. took.
Unfortunately, US military leaders, who were aware of the scale of the corruption, chose to hide it so that they could boast about their “progress”. But contrary to those claims, the horrors of corruption had not only lowered the morale of the Afghan army but also alienated ordinary Afghans from their government.
As a result, neither the Afghan people nor its security forces and forces were prepared to resist advancing Taliban forces.
parallel to Iraq
A parallel can be drawn between the lack of morale to counter Taliban forces and the fall of Iraqi forces in Mosul in June 2014. That collapse resulted in the capture of several major cities and towns in northern Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Islamic State. Levant (ISIL).
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, ethnic and sectarian politics have dominated Iraqi politics. Like Afghanistan, Iraqi political factions have failed to establish an inclusive form of government. In combination with ethnic rivalry and sectarian politics, “deep-rooted corruption” has become a major force in fostering a sense of disenchantment among ordinary Iraqi citizens.
Political corruption and sectarian appointments actually weakened the morale of the Iraqi army to withstand the onslaught of ISIL.
The disintegration of the Afghan government this summer and the continuation of political turmoil in Iraq provide invaluable lessons for the United States, which has imposed upon itself the duty of freeing the world in the name of democracy.
Failed ‘democratisation’ mission
The failure to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan was initiated by neoconservatives and George W. There is compelling evidence of the fallacy of the project implemented by Bush. The former US president justified these wars as “democratic missions”.
The blatant failure of both missions reflects the absurdity of trying to establish democratic institutions in societies where kinship, tribal loyalty and communal affiliation are deeply rooted. Communalism and ethnic allegiance foster an environment that is not receptive to the liberal values of tolerance, civil liberties and individual liberties – all of which are prerequisites for developing a vibrant and successful democracy.
Loyalties and communal affiliations to tribes often hinder the development of loyalty to the wider political community. This is a painful reality that must be taken into account by those who insist on establishing democracy in countries marked by tribal and communal loyalty.