The fall of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

I know that I already had a post out yesterday, and I’m supposed to have a post for later this week, but something important caught my attention yesterday, and I think it’s worth me getting some thoughts out about it. Yes, as the title would suggest, it’s about what the fuck just happened in Afghanistan.

Some months after the United States began its “withdrawal” from Afghanistan, the Taliban have managed to take over the city of Kabul, and have thus taken over the country at large. Under Taliban leadership, the country will change from being the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, as it has been called since 2004, back to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, its previous name. It will likely become a theocratic regime, ruled by a kind of Islamic fundamentalist order construced along the lines of Deobandi doctrine. The last president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, fled with his tail between his legs after vowing to fight the Taliban a day earlier, and is now presumably heading for Tajikistan where he might be safe. His replacement, as leader the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, is Abdul Ghani Baradar, who is also the co-founder of the Taliban. US officials have either evacuated or been offered amnesty by the Taliban government, some are staying to process the Visas of Afghan workers, and police have fled Kabul. Concerns for the fate of women’s rights are being validated by local citizens whitewashing posters featuring women outside of a salon in Kabul. Flights have been suspended, meaning that many travellers to Afghanistan will be stuck for an indeterminate period of time, while the governments of the world scramble to get them out. The leaders of the world are gathering to form their stance on the new regime, they will likely condemn the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and refuse to see it as an ally, though the USA will probably still try to seek diplomacy and trade, if only so that China doesn’t get first access to the opium, oil, and rare minerals abudant in the land. Hundreds of thousands of people are already fleeing the new country, and it is being predicted that more refugees will follow, and developed countries will be expected to decide whether to grant them asylum, or how much they should let in.

After 20 years of dysfunctional intervention in the region, brought on by a reactive “war on terror” which was justified by the trauma of the 9/11 attacks, Afghanistan is once again under the control of the Taliban. It’s honestly so surreal. The US has been fighting in Afghanistan for a huge portion of what has so far been my life. The war in Afghanistan is such a touchstone memory for my generation, and it was, for many, the spark for widespread anti-war sentiment which proved to be the gateway for the embrace of a transformative left-wing politics, challenging American neoliberal consensus. To see Afghanistan fall could easily be read by our enemies as proof of the moral necessity of US occupation, but I would say that it does no such thing. I mean, even if it were a necessity, there was no way the US could stay in Afghanistan forever, no matter how much money is poured into the occupation. And is there any sign that the US made any efforts to strengthen the standing armies of Afghanistan so that they could take on the Taliban on their own (as if the US was doing much anyway)? Of course not. All the US elites ever wanted was a client state that would allow them to extract resources from the land at their leisure. It seems that the Afghan forces were ultimately rendered wholly dependent on the US, to the point that they have collapsed with within just months of withdrawal. And are we really going to pretend that the war in Afghanistan was going to end in away way other than defeat for the West? Afghanistan has never really been conquered by anyone. They call Afghanistan the “graveyard of empires”. That’s probably an exaggeration, but the country has in recent centuries come to be recognized as a place hostile and inimical to imperial conquest.

But what does all of that mean? Certain figures in the US foreign policy establishment are scrambling to deny any resemblence between the fall of Kabul and the fall of Saigon, but everyone can see it. Your average person, insofar as he has passing familiarity with the Vietnam War, knows what this is, and so do foreign powers such as China, who are also planning to distinguish themselves from much of the West by formally recognizing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and are eager to exploit what appears internationally to be America’s humiliation. The West is probably going to try and take a hard stance, but I would not expect open confrontation. If the USA is being honest with itself, it will likely exert itself a lot less, especially with China making its way onto the scene. I anticipate that American foreign policy will become defensive, perhaps even conciliatory albeit in a way that still maintains American imperial status.

Then there’s the obvious problem of the refugee crisis that’s coming, and this where I want you to pay close attention to anti-immigrant politics in connection to Western foreign policy. If after 20 years of Western bombings and occupation the right-wing and others still talk about how Afghan migrants are a threat to Western civilization or culture and how we need to kick them out and not give them any housing, then you will easily see the true nature of Western anti-immigrant politics: Western countries go into the third world for the express purpose of conquering and destabilizing countries in order to seize access to their resources, and the discord this creates leads to the countries becoming unliveable, which leads to thousands of people fleeing those countries in order to escape to a better life, and then the same people who destroyed their countries turn around and tell them to return to hellholes that were made for them. You will see people talk about “Afghan hordes” coming to “invade” Britain, or perhaps the more polite version of that in which people talk about how we simply can’t house them, or the more insidious talking points about how they will change the demographics of Western nations and forever destroying their cultural identity. You will see this all happen in real time and then behold the true character of this “new” anti-immigration politics.

That’s important to keep in mind when observing any discussion of human rights: the West does not care about the values it claims to uphold. Already the British government appears to be making it harder for migrants to come to the country, which is no surprise considering that this is the government that sets out to create a “hostile environment” for immigrants, and as for the US, I wouldn’t trust American politicians to be kind to immigrants, especially not Democrats. Besides, if the West cared about human rights, why even set about carving up the Middle East to start with?

I would hope that the fall of Kabul would be an eye-opener for many, but my skeptical nature has me thinking that most people will only take the wrong lessons. Let’s pray that I’m wrong.