September 11 mission failed: US loses Afghanistan to local insurgents

The experience of experimental US diplomacy in the Middle East has failed
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print 30 5 2021
 

Voice of America (a foreign agent) reported that the Taliban (an organisation banned in Russia) has put forward a number of conditions for participation in the Istanbul conference on Afghanistan. It said it "will not participate in conferences until the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan”. This is the first one.

Second: an anonymous representative of the Taliban also clarified that "the movement will take part in the summit if it is short", that the Taliban delegation should not be represented at a high level, and the agenda should not include decisions on important issues. At the same time, the leadership of the Taliban set a condition that "the meeting should last no more than three days”.

Recall that the Istanbul conference on Afghanistan was supposed to begin last month. It was conceived by representatives of the United States under the auspices of the United Nations to resolve issues that arose against the background of the withdrawal of Western coalition troops from Afghanistan. Its dates were postponed several times due to the reluctance of the Taliban to participate in the summit, since the US violated the terms of the agreement concluded with the Taliban in February 2020.

Thus, the Taliban began to openly dictate its conditions for the transition to a political and diplomatic settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan, as it believes that any meeting in any format without its participation will not achieve the desired results.

Commenting on the current situation, many experts state that there is a certain culmination in the course of events, the essence of which is that as a result of a unique experiment conducted primarily by American diplomacy, there was a political legitimisation of the Islamist group, which until recently was called one of the most violent in the Middle East.

And the paradox: the US and its allies sent their troops to Afghanistan after the famous terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, with the aim of overthrowing the Taliban regime in this country. Now, as was noted in the hearings on the situation in Afghanistan in the US Congress, American lawmakers assume a greater probability of a return to power of the Taliban.

The discussions are currently focused only on the details: whether there will be a change of power in Kabul through some kind of "top coup" or the country will plunge into another abyss of civil war. And where, I ask, is the victory that some experts write about?

"There is no doubt that after we leave, the Taliban will try to take over the country and return it to the state that existed before September 11, 2001," said Republican Congressman Michael McCaul, a senior member of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

"They have already stepped up their attacks, seizing new territories and bases. Without a military presence in the country, the United States gives the Taliban an opportunity to expand ties with terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda (an organisation banned in Russia), which may once again try to attack us and our allies," the congressman said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also agrees. In a recent interview with American journalists from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), he said that "the issue of power, unfortunately, will have to be resolved on the battlefield."

But why was the US forced to negotiate with the Taliban? The question is no longer rhetorical.

Of course, this is a consequence of the complete failure of the previous American strategy in Afghanistan. Recall that it all started in July 2018, when a closed meeting was held in Doha (Qatar) between representatives of the political office of the Taliban movement and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wales, without involving representatives of the Afghan government in the negotiations.

The result: on this basis, there was a certain political split both in official Kabul and in the camp of the Taliban. It seems that American diplomacy tried to play on such a "split", although the Taliban not only showed an enviable unity of views in the negotiations with the US delegation, but also increased the pressure on Kabul by force. In Kabul itself, this course of events was perceived, first of all, as the result of behind-the-scenes agreements between the US and the Taliban.

The US has not been able to break out of such a trap until now. Moreover, the Americans insisted and still insist that the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan should be conditional on a cease-fire, but the Taliban managed to neutralise the attempts of the Americans to link these two issues, which indicates that the Taliban developed and thought out the tactics and strategy of their actions and began to enter into contact with official representatives of other states, including Pakistan and Russia, creating a multilateral structure.

At the same time, they promised not to allow the use of Afghan territory by terrorist organisations against other states, while expanding their positions of inquiry and their political legitimacy. Moreover, over time, it became obvious that the Taliban diplomacy was beginning to outplay the US State Department, even imposing its own negotiating agenda.

There is only one reason: the US outlined its main goal – the withdrawal of troops, the rest, including economic assistance to the country, strengthening its security, was relegated to second or third place, linking this with the prospects of a future coalition government with the participation of the Taliban.

That is precisely why the so-called experimental diplomacy of the US and its allies can potentially inspire other radical groups in the region of various directions, confirming the thesis that it is possible to successfully act in this way.

President Ghani stated the following: "We must start a peace process and come to a ceasefire with the Taliban, we offer peace talks without any conditions." Moreover, the head of state promised to recognise the Taliban as a political group, open its official representative office in Kabul, issue passports and visas to members of the movement and their families, and "start working on a list of the release of imprisoned militants”.

In response, the Taliban raised the negotiating bar, strengthening its authority in the eyes of sponsors and supporters, positioning itself as almost the only force capable of engaging in state-building in Afghanistan. On the other hand, the US is trying to present the fruits of the successful activities of the Taliban as "the result of the interaction of the Taliban with Iran, Russia and Pakistan."

Making forecasts for Afghanistan today is a pointless idea. It is obvious that the US’ decision to make contact and negotiate with the Taliban was a non-standard turn in Washington's policy in the Middle East, and not only in its regional "big game".

On the part of its other participants, there are attempts to counteract the US by entering into contact not only with the Taliban, but also with other political opposition forces in Afghanistan, in order to create an armed front against American influence in the region in the event of an imminent war.

In this regard, we should not forget about the existence of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Islamic Party of Afghanistan, which is part of the armed opposition, but is at war with the Taliban and is looking for ways to integrate into the regional political process. Therefore, despite the approaching withdrawal of American troops and military units of their allies from Afghanistan, an acute political confrontation in the country persists.

By all indications, new Afghan political forces and new states will gradually be involved in it. There are also forces that are interested in getting the US even deeper into the Afghan swamp. So far, we see the following: the inter-Afghan negotiations have not actually begun, the Taliban are disrupting the peace conference in Istanbul, setting their own conditions, and other political forces are demonstrating their intentions to use the differences on Afghanistan to their advantage.

The American experimental modernist diplomatic strategy gives its results: the entry of the Taliban into the political life of Afghanistan has taken place, which provokes a crisis of legitimacy of the Afghan government. But whether the new US strategy is behind this is still unknown.

As for Russia, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the “Argumenty i Fakty” newspaper, "Moscow is ready for any development of the situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the foreign contingent," and that "the coming months may be decisive, and they, apparently, will have a surge in combat activity."

At the same time, Russia links the prospect of national reconciliation in Afghanistan with the format of its participation, China, the US and Pakistan. As we can see, the Taliban is not on this list.

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