After splurging nearly $2 trillion over a two-decade-long brutal war that claimed the lives of more than 2,400 soldiers, the last American has left the Afghanistan soil ending an ignominious mission that will go down as another black chapter in the history of the United States. A pointless war that failed to meet its objectives and resulted in a cruel irony: the Taliban, the main target of the mighty superpower’s military campaign, is back at the helm with a new swag and even new allies. America will never be able to live down the consequences of its Afghan misadventure, a virtual repeat of the Vietnam fiasco. The final days of an excruciating withdrawal process were marked by turmoil and chaos and a dastardly suicide bombing near Kabul airport, the scene of desperate crowds seeking to flee the country, that left over 100 dead including 13 American troops. After the longest and costliest war, America had to put together a frantic mission to evacuate tens of thousands of people with the Taliban takeover coming sooner than expected. Like any war in the past, the Afghan conflict exposed the futility of military interventions in faraway lands and the terrible price that the people caught in the crossfire must pay. The collapse of the American-supported government in Kabul is the latest setback in a long narrative of failure. The war in Afghanistan is much more than a failed intervention. It highlights how counterproductive the global military dominance has been to America’s own interests.
The military hegemony has brought more defeats to the US than victories and undermined democratic values at home and abroad. For ordinary Afghans, the return of the Taliban means reliving the memories of the first round of its oppressive rule from 1996 to 2001. Women and minorities will have to bear the brunt of the ultra-orthodox Islamist regime. Already, the cost of the blood and tears shed in the last two decades has been humongous. Over 47,000 Afghan civilians died in the conflict; millions have fled as refugees to other countries. Afghanistan remains the world’s largest supplier of heroin; it has consistently been ranked among the world’s least peaceful and most corrupt nations. For the fifth time since the Soviet invasion in 1979, one order has collapsed and another has risen. What has followed each of those times has been a descent into vengeance, score-settling and another cycle of disorder and war. An uncertain future lies ahead this time too. The rise of ISIS-K, the Afghan branch of the Islamic State and Taliban’s rival responsible for the recent suicide bombing in Kabul, will be the biggest threat to the stability and peace in the region.
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