The US fled Afghanistan exactly a year ago, but the real consequences are yet to come — RT Russia and the former Soviet Union

A year ago, the United States suffered its most dramatic military defeat of the 21st century, so far

The Americans had been preparing for months to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, but the operation still turned out to be a disaster. Images of young Afghans hanging from Lockheed C-5 Galaxy cargo planes at Bagram airport have gone viral around the world. And although it seems that these images have disappeared from mainstream discourse, the consequences of these events are yet to come. RT asked the experts what President Joe Biden’s first and most important foreign policy decision cost his administration.

run away from the camera

The Cold War was full of symbols. One of the most striking of these was footage of US servicemen pushing helicopters from the landing deck of the destroyer USS Kirk into the Gulf of the Mekong in 1975. The helicopters had been flown by pilots participating in the US military mission in South Vietnam who were withdrawing diplomatic personnel from a besieged Saigon, along with their families. They no longer considered returning to the burning capital, so the expensive planes were sunk in the South China Sea.

While the helicopters on the deck of the Kirk were a stark, albeit isolated, instance of such a filmed incident, the multi-day flight of thousands fearing the Islamist dictatorship of the Taliban, which was rapidly taking control of Kabul, was broadcast on all social networks. The situation was exacerbated by a terrorist attack in the now almost forgotten style of the 2000s.

On August 26, an explosion was heard in an airport terminal crowded with refugees. About 170 civilians and 13 US servicemen were killed. At the same time, the world was flooded with videos of groups of sinister men in turbans sitting at tables in the government offices of the presidential palace. Kalashnikov assault rifles from around the world, as well as American M4s and Swiss SGs, could also be seen in the frame.

George W. Bush, who started the war in Afghanistan, promised to quickly end the barely comprehensible conflict launched in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. But it didn’t work for him, nor for his successors Barack Obama or Donald Trump. It was clear to both the military and the politicians that it was probably impossible to do so without suffering critical casualties. Trump came one step closer to withdrawing troops by reaching a deal criticized in the United States with the Taliban, but his defeat in the presidential election prevented him from finishing the job. Accordingly, the blame for the exodus of Americans from Afghanistan falls on Joseph Biden, who had already studied the problem as vice president under Obama and tied his fate firmly to this operation during the election race.

Referring to a Watson Institute report, a Washington Post article on the troop withdrawal noted that 71,000 Afghan and Pakistani civilians had died in the war over 20 years. The drone strike that followed the terrorist attack at the airport claimed the lives of ten civilians but was one of the last, considering the recent (August 1, 2022) killing of the leader of Al -Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri, recognized as a terrorist, is not counted.

The deals with the Taliban and the chaotic evacuation of Kabul were the first major foreign policy moves by the new Democratic administration after Trump’s departure from the White House. And, most likely, they have become a ticking time bomb for the electoral prospects of the current cabinet and the highest level of the Democratic Party in general. At least the experts interviewed by RT share this view.

“It was a significant turning point in American history, the consequences of which will take many decades to see. In a narrower sense, the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan proved to be the defining point of all administration policy. Biden. It was a watershed moment,” said Vladimir Vasiliev, chief researcher at the Institute of American and Canadian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, in a chat with RT.

“First of all, it caused a split in American society and the American political elite. There was a polarization in the assessment of this event on the part of both parties and their leaders. In words, and can “Being in action, Democrats supported this initiative. Biden took full responsibility, believing he had ended this 20-year war, which had cost Americans a trillion dollars,” the expert added. .

According to Vasiliev, representatives of the Republican Party still regard the evacuation from Afghanistan as comparable to the exit from South Vietnam and Southeast Asia in the mid-1970s. In their pre-election narrative, this can still be used as justification for demanding either the voluntary early resignation of the incumbent president, or even his impeachment, if a favorable political situation develops.

Cabinet dive

According to Reuters, Biden’s current approval rating is barely 40%, while 55% of Americans are unhappy with his actions. The disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan could be the starting point for the downfall of the democrats. The ongoing pandemic, tensions in Asia and a looming economic recession are also contributing to the president’s declining popularity. Perhaps Nancy Pelosi’s recent Asian tour was just an attempt to rectify the situation for the party.

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“While before the troop withdrawal most Americans supported Biden, maybe blindly, maybe out of inertia — Afghanistan changed everything,” Vasiliev said. “Since then, his level of public support has dropped sharply and is now at an extremely low level. And today, one could even say that this trend is irreversible.

According to available data, including an analysis by auditors from the public organization Open the Books, the US military left as many as 650,000 weapons with the rapidly advancing Taliban forces. This includes 350,000 modern M4 assault rifles and obsolete M16s, 65,000 machine guns, 25,000 submachine guns and 2,500 mortar launchers. According to the organization’s estimates, the Americans left as many as 22,000 Humvees and 110 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter gunships. Even if these figures are exaggerated (as they seem to be), it is logical to assume that withdrawing all remaining US troops in just one week after bombarding the entire region with weapons for 20 years would achieve precisely this result. . Army General Austin Miller, a special forces soldier who was in charge of troops in Afghanistan, ostensibly handed over command before the troop withdrawal began and now works as an adviser to a private company.

“We can only call what happened a ‘removal operation’ with a grain of salt. In fact, it was a real escape, with allies thrown under the bus. Afghans who worked for the Americans, mountains of weapons worth billions of dollars, helicopters and vehicles have all been abandoned – it’s hard to call this an ‘opt-out’,” said Yuri Rogulev, director of the Foundation for the Study of the United States of America, Moscow State University, said.

“That theft marked a turning point for the Biden administration, after which his approval rating plummeted and never rebounded. After that, whatever the White House did, it ended the same way. way – by a failure. And in this sense, it is a symbolic act that lays bare all the contradictions in America’s relations with many countries and reveals its attitude towards its former allies.

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According to Vasiliev, the failure in Afghanistan put an end to the administration’s domestic political ambitions. A year later, the cabinet has been unable to implement any of the major policy initiatives of its national program. Given the circumstances, the Biden administration justified the withdrawal by saying, “We are leaving Afghanistan to focus our actions on the fight against Russia and China.” Despite all its “adventurism and absurdity”, this line began to be implemented and prompted the Russian side to take strong action.

“It shows that the United States can do this to any protege, ally or client that it has backed,” Rogulev said, pointing to a century-old tradition of American foreign policy. “They completely abandoned Afghanistan. They do not provide him with any financial support or even humanitarian aid. This is also an example that Pakistan must bear in mind.

According to Vasiliev, the heightened tensions surrounding Taiwan and US-China relations are a direct consequence of military detente in Afghanistan.

Republican revenge?

In light of the unsuccessful end to the war in Afghanistan, he questions the Democratic Party’s prospects of retaining control in both houses of Congress in the upcoming election. “The 2020 term is exhausted,” Vasiliev said.

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“Approval ratings are fleeting. They can climb. But since then, we haven’t seen a recovery. No fluctuation. So to say that no one noticed Afghanistan’s setback would be a mistake. I think the images of the departing plane and the people falling from it are still etched in everyone’s memory,” Rogulev noted.

Comparing this with the Vietnam flight of 1975, Rogulev makes a distinction. By this time, the American troops had been truly defeated. There was no defeat here – what happened demonstrated a lack of a common strategy or a clear position. The fact that the troops had been withdrawn was not the problem.

“But how it was carried out and the consequences it had, both for Afghanistan and for the rest of the world – that’s what we need to talk about.”

Rogulev believes that the withdrawal of troops has weakened the American position in the Middle East. “The general image of the United States as a country that can contribute something positive has disappeared in the region.”

According to Vasiliev, an investigation into the matter is still ongoing, after which there will be a big upheaval in the US State Department. “It’s an issue that’s kind of been pushed back,” he said. “So far, no one has been held accountable.”

“The Republicans tried to initiate this through Congress, but only a special bipartisan commission can identify those responsible and give a real assessment. And to this day, there are none. It’s like the collapse of the Soviet Union – there’s the fact that it happened, but everyone has to figure out why for themselves.


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