The most important lesson of the collapse of Afghanistan is a global loss of credibility by the United States under a Democrat administration. This impacts not only our allies but also onlookers and enemies, including in the Intermarium.
The most immediate concern is an anticipated wave of refugees from Afghanistan flooding into Europe. But the most strategic worry is the viability of the United States as the leader of the Free World. Can NATO defend itself? Can the U.S. be relied upon? What will Russia and China do?
A nightmare scenario would be for China to move against Taiwan now. Under Joe Biden, the Chinese probably expect as much resistance as the Russians experienced from Barack Obama when they occupied a south-eastern chunk of Ukraine in 2014.
It is also doubtful that Moscow will sit still when China rearranges the world. Ukraine should be worried in the first place, but Kazakhstan is not safe either.
Many of our allies are shocked about the swiftness of the collapse of Afghanistan, though some experts warned a long time ago that, without a sound American strategy, the Taliban would be back in no time. What went wrong?
Bush, Jr., started strong but went astray, getting us stuck in Afghanistan; Obama oscillated between drone attacks and no vision; Trump thought he could make a deal when the enemy was just waiting us out; and Biden is simply bewildered.
It was perhaps sound to overthrow the Taliban as punishment for sheltering Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda. Getting out immediately afterward would have simply led to the swift restoration of the Taliban government. We needed a viable alternative.
So, we should have restored the king, Mohammed Zahir Shah. He was in exile in Italy, ready to go back home. He was also immensely popular in his country. He was an important symbol of the anti-Soviet resistance. He knew how to deal with the tribes and warlords.
Alas, we balked at a royalist restoration because of our democratic prejudices. Instead, we suddenly changed our mission to democracy-building. Full of hubris, we were trying to mold Afghanistan in our image.
I am not talking about just fostering democratic elections, but also of sponsoring a woke revolution there. Afghan gender equality was our priority. As late as June of this year, the U.S. Embassy was busy celebrating LGBT and flying the “pride flag.”
But Afghanistan is not the U.S., obviously. According to a 2013 poll, nearly all denizens recognize the primacy of the Shariat over any other law. So, they will have it now not just as a custom but imposed from above by the newly restored Taliban.
Chaos is immense; hundreds of thousands want to get out; Western citizens remain stranded behind. Therefore, the U.S. and the UK are sending troops back. And so is Poland: 100 special forces. It lost 40 KIA in Afghanistan while serving with American forces, and it is incredulous at the end game.
The U.S. is talking to European (and other) governments to find space for the expected wave of Afghani refugees. So far, the results are predictably negligible, except that Germany pledged to accept 10,000 and England 5,000-plus families, so in reality at least 20,000. Uganda will take a few thousand.
Luxemburg obfuscates. Switzerland excludes the possibility of allowing Afghans in in bulk. An Austrian cabinet minister, Karl Nehammer, told Die Welt: “There is no reason for an Afghan to come to Austria now” („Es gibt keinen Grund, warum ein Afghane jetzt nach Österreich kommen sollte“).
Greece has proclaimed itself to be closed for business as far as Afghan refugees. So has Hungary. Anticipating unwelcome visitors, Turkey has commenced building a ca. 300-mile-long wall along the border with Iran.
The Polish government considers admitting “some,” but that is hugely unpopular with the public. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has clarified: “Poland defended itself from refugees in 2015 and will do so again.” So far, Warsaw has dispatched military planes back to Kabul to ferry back Polish citizens and to dispense humanitarian help on the ground.
Helping the Afghans in Afghanistan, and not helping them move out of Afghanistan, is the key point. Afghan refugee camps should be close by in Central Asia, and not anywhere else.
Meanwhile, Poland has to reckon with a mini-crisis on its eastern border. About 50 refugees are sitting in no man’s land between Belarus and Poland. They were ushered in by the Belarusian border guards who now have barred them from getting back in. The Poles keep their border closed from the illegals as a matter of policy.
But one should expect more of that. In retaliation for supporting the Belarusian opposition, Aleksandr “Daddy” Lukashenka has funneled thousands of illegal migrants into Lithuania, but the dictator now explores the same tactic against Poland.
Planes fly into Minsk from Baghdad and elsewhere full of migrants eager to be expedited west. Out of spite for us, Lukashenka duly obliges.
And, by comparison to the Chinese and Russian threats, that’s just comparatively small fries.
But it should worry us. Why? Because America’s weakness emboldens evil in the world. And we seem oblivious to it.
Afghanistan fell, but no heads rolled at the Pentagon, State Department, or the White House. We are already becoming everyone’s butt of jokes. Credibility is indispensable for America’s endurance and future restoration.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Washington, D.C., 20 August 2021
A version of this article was published by Newsmax.