The fighters of the Taliban movement have taught the submissive Arab leaders an important lesson about dignity and pride: that the US Qibla to which they direct their devotion is not an inevitability; that it is not a requirement for success in this life. The Taliban has also exposed the US as a colonial entity that can be defeated if there is faith, determination, and a readiness to fight against it. "Many times has a smaller group overcome a bigger group by Allah's command, and Allah is with the steadfast," the Almighty tells us in the longest chapter in the Holy Qur'an.
There is no doubt that the Taliban victory has astonished the world. The movement perplexes its critics, who ridicule it and call its fighters backward and barbaric; people who live in the Stone Age in the mountains and dress in torn shalwar kameez and slippers. The same men have now triumphed over those in the latest combat gear and boots.
The Afghan fighters have driven off the most powerful country in the world after a 20-year war, the longest in US history, and the costliest. According to estimates, at least 100,000 Afghan civilians have been killed during the 20 years of the US occupation, but Afghan deaths have never been regarded as important enough to monitor, so we will never know the exact figure. The US has tried to cover up its defeat and mislead American citizens by claiming that it had achieved the objectives it had set in Afghanistan, as stated by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. This raises the question of what the US achieved from the war. Wasn't its declared goal since the beginning simply to overthrow the Taliban, which refused to hand over the leader of Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, without seeing the evidence that he was responsible for the 9/11 attacks in America? Evidence that still hasn't been provided, by the way. Didn't it spend the 20 years of its occupation working to establish a political regime in Kabul that would be loyal to Washington? The puppet regime in Kabul has collapsed in a matter of days, and its leader has fled after handing over to the leaders of the Taliban, whose own leadership entered his palace and removed the flag designed by the US and replaced it with the movement's flag.
The US apparently spent over $90 billion to develop the Afghan National Army, providing it with the latest weapons and training its 300,000 troops. Yet they failed to stand firm against a popular movement armed with basic weapons. They too have melted into the population, leaving their US-supplied weapons and equipment to the Taliban.
US military analysts predicted that the Afghan army would be steadfast for six months, then adjusted this to three months after the withdrawal of American forces. They insisted that Kabul would not fall to the Taliban before the beginning of September when the last US troops were due to leave Afghanistan. They and the US service chiefs have been found wanting in their estimations.
So what goals were Blinken talking about? The reality on the ground is a major defeat for the largest and most powerful country in the world. At Kabul Airport we have had the unsavoury spectacle of Afghans scurrying after US aircraft carrying thousands of Americans fleeing the country in a dramatic scene reminiscent of 1975 Vietnam. That was another war that America was supposed to win hands down but didn't. Afghanistan has dealt the second major defeat of a global superpower in modern history. If anything good is going to come out of this, we can but hope that Washington will begin to understand that there are limits to what military power alone can do to resolve conflicts in a world that has changed and military occupations are no longer possible or even acceptable.
The US forces withdrew from Afghanistan with their own people, but have abandoned their Afghan allies — including army officers, politicians, and translators — to their fate. This is what often happens when colonialism comes to its inevitable end, and those who collaborate with occupation forces are regarded as traitors. The Taliban has offered an amnesty to such people, but that hasn't stopped hundreds trying to clamber aboard those US aircraft at Kabul Airport.
There is no doubt that Afghanistan is the "graveyard of empires". History reveals that this poor country has faced great empires throughout history and triumphed. Genghis Khan and the Mongols met their end in the land of Afghanistan, as did the British Empire "on which the sun never set" in the nineteenth century. The Soviet Union suffered a crushing defeat in 1989 after 11 years of occupying Afghanistan, which contributed to the fall of the USSR. To this list, we can now add the United States of America after a 20-year occupation.
The Iron Amir of Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman Khan, ruled his country from 1880 to 1901. He pointed out that it is easy to occupy Afghanistan, but it is difficult to maintain an occupation. How right he was, but modern Western leaders seem to be incapable of learning from history.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.