The World after Afghanistan and the Repercussions of US Military Interventions

The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks coincided with the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, in addition to the return of Taliban to take control of the country. This is a new example of repeated failures in strategic planning after similar experiments in Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen, and after the new Middle East project cracked down on what they call the Arab Spring. 

It is now well established that all American or Western political and military interventions have failed to achieve their desired goals, whether related to spreading democracy or eradicating terrorism. Those interventions have only succeeded in undermining security and stability, destroying states, tearing apart their societies, and creating a refugee and displaced person crisis, the world’s largest since the end of the Second World War. Additionally, a large number of people have been either killed or injured, alongside the unimaginable economic crisis created by these experiments. 

The cost of the US military intervention in Afghanistan is estimated at $2.26 trillion, or $315 million per day since September, 2001. This intervention resulted in the death of 48,000 Afghan citizens, at least 66,000 Afghan soldiers, and 3,500 NATO troops in a war that has gone on for nearly 20 years without achieving its desired goals. 

This issue has negatively affected the reputation and credibility of the US and raised many questions about the reasons behind the American withdrawal in light of the absence of a well-defined exit strategy or an assessment of its implications.   

Contrary to the objectives of the various United States and Western military interventions, it’s very clear that they led to a rise in terrorism, fundamentalism, and extremism. Taliban’s success in taking full control of Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda’s expansion in many countries, and the emergence of the Islamic State (IS), are nothing but negative effects to the Western military interventions. In addition to the risk of the growing Iranian influence in what is known as the golden belt, which stretches from Iraq to Syria and from Lebanon to Yemen, which coincided with Tehran reaching the so-called nuclear threshold. Alongside the justification of the use of foreign mercenaries and the provision of funding, training, and armaments to them to participate in efforts to change the regimes of some countries’ governments by force.

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Western military interventions were accompanied by a series of “double faults”. During the preparation operations, it missed completing a wise assessment on the consequent effects of the military interventions from strategic approaches, political, security, or humanitarian. Additionally, they missed assessing the dangers of proceeding to change the governing system in some States, without understanding the complexities of their political and cultural situations and the dimensions of their population composition. 

Moreover, an in-depth assessment wasn’t completed on the consequences of a hasty military withdrawal, which could reach the limits of a breach of international peace and security and of humanitarian disasters, which are difficult to predict as a whole.

The present danger lies in the fact that the scenario of withdrawal from Afghanistan may be repeated in both Iraq and Syria, without fully preparing to face the repercussions on regional security and stability. Especially, since the American administration was quick to remove the Houthis from the list of terrorists. This decision coincided with the imposition of an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, without realizing that this would give Iran, through the Houthis, huge military advantages in the theatre of events. This could consequently increase their chances of controlling Bab Al-Mandab, influencing the security of the Red Sea and encouraging them to storm Marib, which, in the event that it occurs, could add dangerous dimensions to the entire dire humanitarian situation witnessed by Yemen.

It appears that the focus, after the earthquake of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, is concentrated on Taliban and its ability to effectively govern the country and its commitment to international standards concerning respecting human rights, especially women’s rights. In addition to focusing on Taliban’s ability to end its relations with Al-Qaeda and its seriousness in cooperating to combat ISIS, as well as monitoring the possibility that China and Russia may recognize the rule of Taliban. Yet it’s difficult for many States to provide international recognition of the new regime. Alongside monitoring the potential effects of the sanctions imposed by Western democracies on Taliban, if they impose internationally unacceptable policies, as well as looking at how to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the Afghan citizens without enhancing Taliban’s ability to govern the country. 

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While those issues are important, they shouldn’t distract Western democracies from the necessity of running Damage Assessment, given the need to introduce fundamental changes to their foreign policy. This includes the ceasing of military interventions, except if they align with international law, in addition to stopping their attempts to change the governance system through direct political and military intervention. Alongside realizing that the efforts exerted after the 9/11 events in 2001 to combat terrorism have not been successful. 

The new political and cultural inputs and strict regulations for drying up the sources of financing terrorism and preventing the use of mercenaries must receive attention after it has been established that the military option alone cannot achieve this goal. This must extend to the need to stop betting on political Islam and perceiving that it can provide an alternative that can contribute to the promotion of democracy and respect for human rights.

After the victory of the West in the cold war without firing a single bullet, in light of the events witnessed by the world in 1989, the collapse of the Berlin Wall followed by the German Unification in 1990, then the collapse and dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Western powers thought that their political and economic model prevailed and that the responsibility of spreading democracy and respect for human rights fell on them. However, the real internal conditions in these countries and the adoption of foreign policies characterized in some cases by severe turmoil started increasing the chances of entering the stage of the Post American World, which could extend until we see a steady decline in Western influence and control. This could coincide with the creation of a gap in world leadership; a “leaderless world”, without having ready alternatives that can fill the gap, a possibility that we don’t have to get to, but one that they still have to account for.

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SAKHRI Mohamed

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