Has the United States at all learnt from its blunders in Afghanistan? This question is raised by many as the US has already engaged in a direct confrontation with Russia by involving in the Ukraine war and there is assumption of another warfront Washington is looking for opening in Taiwan. While after one year of America’s retreat from Afghanistan, the world has already moved on other issues and gradually plight of Afghans, especially girls and women seem to be eclipsed by Ukraine issues. Although pretty soon, people will also start losing interest in what Volodymyr Zelensky or Ukrainians are doing as there would be far bigger issues, such as acute food crisis, skyrocketing rise in prices of essentials, poverty, unemployment etcetera. In fact, Ukraine issue has already started losing steam with significant decline in global media’s attention.
Assessing America’s and NATO’s involvement in Afghan war John Manza, a nonresident senior fellow with the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, and an Assistant Secretary General for operations at NATO in an article wrote:
As assistant secretary general for operations at NATO, I was responsible for writing the Alliance’s lessons of Afghanistan in late 2021. While the full document remains classified, the key lessons themselves are not. In fact, they’re obvious to any student of national security, conflict, or international affairs.
First, the Alliance fought in a strategically irrelevant place against the wrong enemy.
Second, although driven by good intentions, allies expanded the scale and scope of the mission well beyond the strategic level of interest.
Third, NATO sought to build security forces that were badly out of step with Afghan culture and technological capacity. Finally, the allies fooled themselves and their publics about the conditions on the ground.
Thousands of American and allied troops lost lives, limbs, and their sanity in Afghanistan. The United States and its allies and partners owe it to those who fought and died there—including so many valiant Afghans who sought a better future for their country—to examine why they lost, in the hope that they’ll never repeat these mistakes.
According to John Manza, America and NATO had failed to choose their enemies is Afghanistan. He wrote, “The real enemy in Afghanistan were international terrorists. As demonstrated by the recent killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the United States and its allies could have fought groups like al-Qaeda without occupying and trying to rebuild Afghanistan. Had the allies kept their focus on the core goal of disrupting international terrorists in Afghanistan, the mission could have remained small and tailored to the unique conditions on the ground. A small NATO counterterrorism force, supported by a counterpart Afghan commando force, would have likely fit the bill”.
Terming Afghan government as corrupt, he wrote: “Hundreds of billions of dollars were spent in an effort to strengthen Afghan institutions, pay teachers’ salaries, and build schools, medical clinics, military headquarters, troop barracks, roads, and bridges—part of the nearly endless list of projects and programs designed to improve Afghan quality of life. But ultimately, these resources were expended and, in many cases, wasted in a place that did not matter to vital US and allied interests, in support of a government that was inept and corrupt”.
Showing reason behind quick collapse of Afghan security forces following the Taliban takeover by driving-away American and NATO forces, John Manza said: “Looking back at why the Afghan security forces collapsed so quickly, the answer is clear: They were built on an American and NATO military model that was culturally out of sync with Afghan society. The Afghan warriors of generations past, who defeated both the British and the Soviets, were known for their physical and mental toughness, mastery of stealth, and bravery under fire. But the United States took these vaunted mountain fighters and forced them into its own mold, ignoring their inherent strengths and weaknesses”.
Now with these reasons as pointed out by an expert like John Manza, what we are currently seeing in Ukraine? The US and its Western allies are repeating the same blunder – if not even worse.
In Afghanistan, CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency had warned stating counterinsurgency operations were unlikely to succeed in that country, this time in Ukraine case, both CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency as well as Western intelligence establishment are echoing the propaganda of Ukrainian intelligence, giving totally false impression to the international community of Russia’s “disastrous defeat” in the war fronts. They also are competing in portraying Volodymyr Zelensky and his neo-Nazi gang as heroes, while are also creating the atmosphere where the US and Western involvements in Ukraine would need to continue for years – if not decades. Meaning, Ukrainian people, who are being fed with the false dream of defeating Russia and emerging as a strong nation in Europe would not only become a falsehood, it will gradually worsen the lives and livelihood of the people, while neo-Nazis will become increasingly powerful with sophisticated weapons and military hardware. Ukraine will also become a top haven of transnational weapon dealers, drug traffickers and prostitution rings.
As the Taliban and other Islamist militancy groups in Afghanistan pose gravest security threats to the region and the West, tomorrow’s Ukraine with heavily armed neo-Nazis and extremists will become a serious headache to most of the European nations as well as the US.
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