by Walden Bello

From the very beginning, in 2001, we in Focus on the Global South opposed the intervention of the US in Afghanistan and saw it as the cutting edge of a radical imperial effort to reshape the Middle East. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 became part of a project called “nation building.”

Over the last 20 years, we in Focus participated in global efforts to end Washington’s hegemonic project in the Middle East. As we predicted, the US became overextended but administration after administration did not want to acknowledge the failure facing it in the face.

Meanwhile, clamor in the US against the the country’s involvement in endless wars forced President Trump to promise to end the US’s untenable engagement in Afghanistan but was stymied by the US military from completing it. President Biden saw the handwriting on the wall and wanted to cut and run as quickly as possible. There was no other option. He was hoping though that there would be a “decent interval” that would make US withdrawal less embarrassing.  History did not cooperate.  Like the US’s earlier effort to build an ersatz nation in Vietnam that went up in smoke in few days in 1975, the American effort to create another ersatz nation in Afghanistan has met a similar sudden death.  Even the Taliban were probably surprised by the swiftness of the jerry-built Afghan state’s collapse.  You certainly can’t blame them for moving quickly to fill the power vacuum.  And you can’t expect them to make saving Washington’s face a priority.

We in Focus on the Global South are no friends of the Taliban, but we certainly are enemies of an imperial effort that created the conditions that created the Taliban and has brought so much death and destruction to the global South and especially to people in the Middle East. It is unfortunate that so many innocent Afghans that became part of the ersatz Afghan state created by the Americans may now have to suffer the consequences of being seen as as allied with a doomed imperial project.  We can only only hope that the Taliban will be magnanimous in their victory and let bygones be bygones with their fellow Afghans.  We appeal to them not to turn back the clock, especially when it comes to women’s rights.

I am reproducing three articles that analyze the political and economic reasons for the resounding failure of the imperial project.  The first “How to Lose a War” predicting the failure of the US enterprise in Afghanistan came out in October 2001, as the US bombed that country and prepared to invade it as a reprisal for the Sept 11 attacks.  It also proposed a different, legal strategy for Washington to obtain justice for 9/11.  This is followed by two pieces that came out in May and June of this year, ”Why Biden Might not be Able to Extricate the US from its Middle East Quagmire” and “Osama Bin Laden’s Ghost and the Multi-Trillion Dollar Cost of Endless War” as the Biden administration accelerated the troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

How to lose a war
Osama Bin Laden’s ghost and the multi-trilion-dollar cost of endless war
Why Biden might not be able to extricate the US from its Middle East quagmire