Washington / Kabul (dpa) – Hundreds of thousands of troops from dozens of countries, Western aid in billions, an unprecedented tour de force by the international community – and yet the Taliban are in Afghanistan again.
With the departure of the last American soldiers from Kabul airport, the international mission in Afghanistan ended on Tuesday evening. The West now leaves the country to the Islamists it had driven out at the end of 2001. What remains after almost 20 years of use?
The west failed
An Islamist force, armed mainly with Russian assault rifles and bazookas, prevailed against the US superpower and its allies, which sometimes had more than 100,000 international troops on duty. On the 20th anniversary of the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001 – which sparked the US-led invasion of Afghanistan – the Taliban’s white flag flies again over Kabul. Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that beyond the fight against terrorism, everything was “not as successful and not as successful as we had expected”, admitted. “It is a realization that is bitter.”
Al-Qaeda is weakened
US President Joe Biden maintains that the main objective of the operation was achieved with the assassination of al-Qaeda boss Osama bin Laden a good ten years ago at the latest. The organization is weakened and, in fact, the United States has not suffered a similar terrorist attack since September 11, 2001. The victory of the Taliban is also a subsequent triumph for al-Qaeda, and the organization is still present in much of Afghanistan. Guido Steinberg, terrorism expert at the Berlin-based Foundation for Science and Policy (SWP), said: “Al-Qaeda seized power with the Taliban.
Jihadists around the world are encouraged
Steinberg speaks of a “awakening for the global jihadist movement”. Supporters of radical and violent groups will likely feel confirmed in their belief that they will only have to hold on until the West loses patience – the Taliban have shown the way. It could also lead to a further influx of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia (which is hostile to the Taliban). IS cells are active in Afghanistan, but also in Syria and Iraq – sooner or later the withdrawal of American troops will be debated in these countries as well.
Confidence in the United States has been shaken
This applies on several levels: European allies must have had the experience of Biden preaching partnership, but – like his predecessor Donald Trump – decides alone on key issues. This applied to the withdrawal of troops as well as to the evacuation mission. Most importantly, Afghans who believed in the promise that the West would not let them down are unhappy. More recently, U.S. allied Kurds in northern Syria suffered a similar fate: Trump withdrew most U.S. troops from that region in 2019, while Russian President Vladimir Putin stands firmly on the side of the Syrian leader. Bashar al-Assad.
China and Russia are getting stronger
While Western citizens fled after the Taliban came to power, Russia and China have kept their embassies open in Kabul. Deputy Taliban leader Mullah Ghani Baradar, who is marketed as a possible future head of government in Kabul, was received in Moscow and Beijing in July. In 1989, the Red Army withdrew unsuccessfully from Afghanistan, now the Americans have failed there too – balm for the self-confidence of the Russians. China, meanwhile, sees itself as a superpower to come – and the United States in decline.
Biden is beaten
In the days of chaos surrounding the withdrawal and evacuations, Biden clearly lost approval. According to statisticians from the FiveThirtyEight site, who compile and weight surveys, for the first time more people are dissatisfied than satisfied with his administration. According to all polls, a majority of Americans think the withdrawal of American troops is correct. A majority also attested to Biden’s mismanagement in his worst foreign policy crisis to date. Biden himself admits of no error.
The Bundeswehr has learned to fight
The Bundeswehr site was initially called “Bad Kunduz”, but the calm in northern Afghanistan is not expected to last long. The Taliban gained strength, German soldiers were killed – and Bundeswehr soldiers killed their opponents in combat. The image of the uniformed well driller, which some politicians would have liked to cultivate, soon has little to do with reality. The difficulty for Berlin politicians in managing the new role of the Bundeswehr was illustrated by the discussion in 2009 over whether Germany was involved in a “war” in Afghanistan – or simply in an “armed conflict”.
The toll was huge
The mission in Afghanistan claimed the lives of more than 3,500 foreign soldiers, including 59 Germans. Among international troops, the United States suffered by far the heaviest casualties, with more than 2,460 American troops dead in the United States’ longest war. It is estimated that more than 45,000 members of the Afghan security forces have been killed, and tens of thousands of Taliban fighters are also believed to have lost their lives. More than 40,000 civilians have been killed since the United Nations census began in 2009 alone.
The cost was huge
Sometimes the American operation cost more than 100 billion dollars per year (almost 85 billion euros). As the number of troops decreased, the costs decreased. For the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the United States had budgeted a total of more than 143 billion dollars over the past 20 years, of which more than 88 billion dollars will benefit the Afghan security forces. The Bundeswehr’s mission in Afghanistan has cost more than twelve billion euros since the end of 2001. In addition, the federal government annually contributes several hundred million euros for humanitarian aid, development aid and reconstruction. in Afghanistan.
There has been progress in Afghanistan
In the chaos of disengagement, the fact that much has been accomplished in Afghanistan in recent years has taken a back seat. Two examples among many others: the average life expectancy has increased from 56 years in 2001 to the last 63 years, the number of schoolchildren has increased from 900,000 (boys only) to 9.5 million (almost 40% some girls). It is not known what achievements will survive the new version of the Taliban regime, especially when it comes to women’s rights. How the world will know what will happen in Afghanistan in the future is also open. At least there is hope that the Islamists will not be able to completely shut down Afghanistan – mobile phone networks are well developed and smartphones are prevalent.