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Afghan war doomed to failure from the start

By Wang Nan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-09-09 07:32
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As the United States completed its troops withdrawal from Afghanistan on Aug 31, the Taliban, which has returned to power there, claimed to "have liberated our country from a great power".

Why did the US, the world's only superpower, and NATO, the world's strongest military bloc, withdraw from Afghanistan without succeeding in fulfilling its mission of eliminating terrorism?

To begin with, the war in Afghanistan was unjust. The US troops entered Afghanistan as part of the "global war on terror"-which the George W. Bush administration launched to avenge the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. After 20 years and the longest war in its history, the US negotiated and reached an agreement with the Taliban, which ironically was one of the main targets of its "war on terror", on its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has a long history of fighting foreign powers. It is known as the "Graveyard of Empires", because the Afghan people have always resisted invaders to defend their sovereignty and interests.

The US, like the British Empire and the Soviet Union before it, has paid a heavy price for entering Afghanistan with the aim of remodeling the country according to its own values and perhaps exploiting its resources.

The Taliban and other anti-US forces continued fighting against the US-led forces for two decades and, during the process, improved their combat capability. Also, anti-US sentiments spread across the Muslim world after Washington launched the war in Afghanistan and invaded Iraq on the false claim that the Saddam Hussein regime possessed weapons of mass destruction and thus posed a threat to the US and other Western countries.

The war in Afghanistan was also opposed by many US citizens. According to a poll conducted by the Associated Press on Aug 12-16, "roughly two-thirds (of the respondents) said they did not think America's longest war was worth fighting".

And according to the Costs of War project of Brown University, the post-9/11 war in Afghanistan claimed 176,206 lives, of which 46,319 were civilians and more than 2,300 US soldiers, including 13 US military personnel killed in the Kabul airport attack on Aug 26. The Costs of War data also show that more than 38 million people have been displaced in the war zones in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria where the US has been involved.

The US pulled out of Afghanistan days before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks leaving the Taliban to deal with a damaged economy, devastated infrastructure and rising risks of terrorism. No wonder former Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai said in June: "We will be better off without their military presence."

Moreover, the estimated US spending on the "war on terror" since 2001 is about $5.8 trillion, and will amount to $8 trillion if the estimated $2.2 trillion to be spent on veterans' care over the next 30 years is added to it.

So the US would do better to reflect on these facts and the negative effects of the war in Afghanistan for not only its own benefit but also the benefit of other countries, and vow to never launch another war or send troops into another country.

The author is a research fellow at the Pakistan Research Center, Jiangsu Normal University. The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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