AUGUST 22 — Last week, the world watched the Taliban take control of the city of Kabul and virtually the whole country of Afghanistan.
“Kabul falls to the Taliban” screamed the headlines and we watched foreigners and Afghans who had worked with the US forces throng the airport — desperate to leave the country fearing Taliban reprisals.
The fall of Kabul is seen as a tragedy with parallels drawn to the humiliating US withdrawal from Saigon in Vietnam during the Vietnam war.
However, the truth is more nuanced.
Of course it is unfortunate that a hard-line and violent group like the Taliban now control the country.
But the reality is the US-backed regime the Taliban has replaced was also inherently violent.
Two hundred and fifty thousand Afghan people were killed during the 20 years of US occupation in a country of 35 million people. A large proportion of these were women and children.
The US dropped tens of thousands of bombs on Afghanistan over the last 20 years, again killing thousands of women and children.
US forces also killed thousands on the ground and the US-backed corrupt and ruthless warlords to prop up their puppet government in Kabul.
These warlords killed and alienated many ordinary Afghans which is why many are prepared to accept Taliban rule over the rule of dozens of different corrupt factions.
While the Americans today like to say they were in Afghanistan for 20 years to protect women and human rights, the reality was quite different.
The US invaded and bombed Afghanistan as an act of crude revenge for the 9/11 attacks.
They claimed the Taliban was sheltering Osama bin Laden and attacked both Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The reality though is much more complex.
Osama bin Laden clearly operated in Pakistan and Afghanistan and with support from various other countries. Of course Osama Bin Laden had also in the past received a lot of support from the Americans.
So why target Afghanistan in particular? Well, it was a soft target.
The Taliban as a guerrilla force couldn’t offer much resistance to US jets and the country could be safely occupied and bombed with relatively few US casualties.
The Americans got to see a big win — revenge for attacks on their soil. Eventually after some years of occupying Afghanistan, the US found and killed bin Laden in Pakistan.
But by this time the US had already installed a regime in Kabul and was determined to prop up their client government. Why did the US actually spend years in Afghanistan?
Well, for the US military it was a source of endless funding. The occupation of Afghanistan justified enormous defence budgets. How else could the US justify spending more on defence than virtually the rest of the world combined.
The US spends US$800 billion (RM3.4 trillion) per year on defence while the No. 2 defence spender, China, spends US$250 billion and No. 3 India just US$70 billion.
Afghanistan (and Iraq, of course) helped justify these expenses. Expenses which made enormous money for defence companies and allowed the US to spend fortunes on expensive toys and missions.
None of this really delivered much material benefit to the US people or Afghan people.
The US spent over US$2 trillion on the Afghan war. That is equal to 115 years of the nation’s GDP — so for the same money they could have given every Afghan person as much as they’d earn in two lifetimes in a single tranche.
The whole thing was absurd and frankly monstrous.
Of course my heart breaks for all the women and girls who are now trapped and terrified but the truth is the US was never an ally to Afghan women.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.
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