US presidents have rarely avoided causing chaos

This week’s events highlight the incoherency of American foreign policy.

The Taliban, successors to the CIA-armed mujahideen who fought the ruthless Soviets in the early 1980’s, were this week congratulated on their success by another group of Islamic militants, described in our media as “moderate rebels”, who were armed more recently by the US to overthrow the Syrian government.

The willingness to partner with such extremists says a lot about the lack of principle involved in modern warfare, whether it’s laying waste to countries like Libya and Iraq under successive US administrations, or having allies like Tony Blair lie about weapons of mass destruction to justify such invasions.

Whether the current chaos enveloping Afghanistan is by design, or by accident, the US appears to have handed back control to a group they spent twenty years supposedly trying to defeat.

Forgive me if I’m a little sceptical about the US establishment’s outrage that the Taliban are back in power, knowing, as Joe Biden stated, that the militants were expected to retake Afghanistan within six months of a US withdrawal.

The Biden and Trump administrations will have been well aware of how fractured the Afghan army and leadership was, despite some $80 billion in military assistance to the National Unity Government.

Whilst one cannot be sure about how Trump’s May withdrawal would have proceeded, previous form would suggest he mightn’t have allowed the Taliban just roll into Kabul. The Islamist group had however controlled large swathes of the country during Trump’s time in the White House.

The fact few US jets were employed in resisting the Taliban’s full takeover of Afghanistan over the past month indicates that decision-makers in Washington were quietly content to sit this one out.

Indeed the Taliban’s main office in Qatar (yes, you read that right in Al-Jazeera’s generous coverage of the group) has given an air of officiality to the transfer of power, holding talks about how women could be included in positions of influence throughout the newly named Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

There are many commentators in the Middle East who suspect much of this was foreseen and facilitated, and that former president Ashraf Ghani dutifully played his part in handing back the country to the Taliban, but the truth of the matter might never be known.

The first casualty of war is after all the truth, so far be it for this hack to claim to know exactly what is happening, but the fact remains that the US is closely aligned with the Sunni alliance in the region, selling arms to Saudi Arabia and Qatar as allies.

Perhaps the equally zealous, Sunni Taliban are not too far beyond their reach.

It seems certain the militants won’t tip the scales away from that alliance by involving themselves with Russia at least, or the Shiite countries it has backed.

If one lesson will inevitably be forgotten from this sorry affair by people too busy to pay attention, it’s that US presidents will, with bodies piled high in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, My Lai, Kabul, Baghdad, Tripoli and so many other cities, continue to wreak havoc wherever they wish.

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