Did Afghanistan won and the US lost?


Women and children wait for alms in front of a Mosque in Herat City, Afghanistan PHOTO/UNAMA/Abdul Hamed Wahidi/United Nations

Afghanistan – “Graveyard of Empires”

Over a dozen years ago, an Afghan taxi-driver in Vancouver told one of the writer-activists the following:

“We defeated the Persian Empire in the eighteenth century, the British in the nineteenth, the Soviets in the twentieth. Now, with NATO, we’re fighting twenty-eight countries, but we’ll defeat them, too.”

Media Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies, U.S. Joins Past Empires In Afghan Graveyard, The Progressive.

The Afghan taxi-driver felt pride for the “defeat” his people and his country Afghanistan inflicted on so many empires which were forced to pack up and retreat to the pavilion. The empires, whether in the form of occupiers or colonizers have to, in most cases, ultimately call it a quit.

On the part of the empires, was it a total loss or was it that they couldn’t loot more of the country’s wealth and create more havoc. Besides, could Afghanis really claim a victory when their backward country was further devastated by the US led NATO forces. The sad part is that Afghan people have in these wars lost so much in terms of peace, prosperity, and progress. What did they gain? Bombings, brutality, and backwardness. (The validity of the term “Graveyard of Empires” is disputed, too.)

US, a “corrupting force”

Corruption was rampant in Afghanistan. The October 9, 2009 meeting between President Barack Obama and his Vice President Joe Biden, generals, and Cabinet officials, saw Biden <1> questioning the generals’ suggestion of sending tens of thousands of more troops to Afghanistan.

Biden asked:

“If the [Afghan] government’s a criminal syndicate a year from now, how will troops make a difference?”

Richard Holbrooke, special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, chimed in with a reality that was largely kept from the U.S. public. “Our presence is the corrupting force,” Holbrooke said. Bob Woodward, in his 2010 book “Obama’s Wars” paraphrased Holbrooke’s explanation:

“All the contractors for development projects pay the Taliban for protection and use of roads, so American and coalition dollars help finance the Taliban. And with more development, higher traffic on roads, and more troops, the Taliban would make more money.”

Quoted in The Intercept

Holbrooke further added that the numbers were all fake, noting that he had sent staff to investigate the claims being made by contractors that they had trained a massive number of Afghan police. About 80 percent of the force was illiterate, he said, drug addiction was common, and that was for the police officers who actually existed. Many, he said, were “ghosts” who got paychecks but never showed up.

By August 15, 2021, the US installed corrupt government of President Ashraf Ghani had collapsed and the Taliban were in control of Kabul, the Afghan capital.

The US withdrew its troops from Afghanistan by August 30. Pakistan’s then Prime Minister (18 August 2018 – 10 April 2022) Imran Khan’s over-joyous proclamation that “Afghans have “broken the shackles of slavery,” showed where his sympathy lied but also his lack of political grasp over the region.

TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan)

Nothing wrong in being happy over the United States departure but there was nothing to celebrate about the Taliban takeover. For a long time the Pakistani army and the government of Shehbaz Sharif (1 April 2022 – 13 August 2023, and who came back to power on April 4, 2024) has been pleading with the Taliban government to rein in the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) which every now and then carry out terror attacks on Pakistan’s territory. In the wake of recent TTP attacks in Pakistan, on March 18, 2024, Pakistan carried out strikes against TTP hideouts in Afghanistan. The US had threatened Pakistan it would be bombed “back to the stone age” if she refused to join its war against the Taliban.

Did the US lost or won the Afghan war?

The US is the extremist capitalist country where things are seen purely in a profit and loss term and so the question whether the US won the war it was fighting in Afghanistan or did it lose was bound to occur. From a war perspective, of course, it was a sheer defeat because the US installed puppet didn’t even pick up the weapons to fight the incoming Taliban, he instead decided to escape with whatever treasury money he could grab, leaving the people he was leading at Taliban’s mercy.

But a section of the capitalist class, defense contractors and the arms and ammunition makers also known as death merchants, won the war because it was a profitable venture for them. The cost of two decade US venture came to $2.26 trillion.

Taliban won

The Taliban tried to create a false impression that they have transformed. On August 15, 2021, the Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told BBC’s Yalda Hakim,

“There should not be any confusion, we are sure the people of Afghanistan in the city of Kabul, that their properties and their lives are safe.”

“There will be be no revenge on anyone. We are the servants of the people and of this country.

“Our leadership has instructed our forces to remain at the gate of Kabul, not to enter the city.

“We are awaiting a peaceful transfer of power.”

But then he also made it clear what kind of justice system would prevail under Taliban rule. He said cutting off of feet and hands, executing of people in public, stoning to death, etc. cannot be ruled out.

“I can’t say right now, that’s up to the judges in the courts and the laws.”

“The judges will be appointed according to the law of the future government.”

“Of course, we want Islamic government.”

In twenty long and devastated years, the Taliban have, at least, picked up the language used by lawyers, politicians, and corporate CEO’s of the Western world such as peaceful transfer of power,” “that’s up to the judges,” “the laws,” we are the servants of the people,” “I haven’t heard about it” (which can be accident, death, embezzlement, fraud, etc.), “we’re investigating and if anyone if found guilty, we’ll take appropriate action” and such soothing words. Of course, without refraining from harsh practices.

Shaheen also said girls/women would be allowed to study and work. They won’t have to wear burkas though they’ll have to cover their heads with headgears.

Afghans lost, especially women

See a larger version of the image (757KB). IMAGE/UN Women

“The future we fear” pie above is the current reality for Afghan women. The lame excuse Taliban gave for disappearing women behind four walls is laughable.

“Our security forces are not trained (in) how to deal with women – how to speak to women (for) some of them.” “Until we have full security in place… we ask women to stay home.”

But they are trained in beating, killings, and whipping women (and men). Now they are talking about stoning women to death.

Afghanistan’s supreme leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada says,

“Our mission is to enforce sharia and Allah’s Hudud [law].” “You may call it a violation of women’s rights when we publicly stone or flog them for committing adultery because they conflict with your democratic principles.”

“Just as you claim to be striving for the freedom of entire humanity, so do I. I represent Allah, and you represent Satan,” Akhundzada said.

Unmarried women have almost disappeared from public life as they cannot work, travel, or gain access to health care unless they’re married or are accompanied by a male guardian.

At the end of Taliban’s one year rule, a journalist in Amnesty International report correctly depicted girls and women’ situation in Afghanistan:

For women in Afghanistan, it’s death in slow motion.

The United Nations annual report of September 2022 on human rights situation in Afghanistan stated:

The Special Rapporteur expresses grave concern about the staggering regression in women and girls’ enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights since the Taliban took power. In no other country have women and girls so rapidly disappeared from all spheres of public life, nor are they as disadvantaged in every aspect of their lives. Despite this, women and girls remain at the forefront of efforts to maintain their rights and continue to call for accountability. One woman who the Special Rapporteur met in Kabul said:

“Afghan women know what it means to be resilient and strong, we have endured pain and hardship for years during the conflict, we have buried our sons and daughters, but the pain and fear we feel today for ourselves and our daughters’ futures, while feeling forgotten by the international community, is a pain much worse.”

By August 2023, Taliban had issued 80 decrees, out of which about 70% were aimed at girls and women.

Lately, Pakistan, the bordering country, has been cruel to Afghan refugees by sending tens of thousands back to Afghanistan and thus losing whatever freedom they had in Pakistan.

Taliban rule has proved economically disastrous for Afghanistan; however, one has to acknowledge the role US sanctions play in this tragedy.


(1) Pakistani newspaper Dawn’s columnist Rafia Zakaria thinks COVID-19 “helped deliver what appeared to be impossible even two or three years ago — the end of the ‘war on terror.’” She’s off the mark. Way back in 2009 Biden had opposed the increase of US troops (between 40,000 to 85,000). Donald Trumps’ administration met Taliban and the date for US exit was set for May 1, 2021. The current exit from Afghanistan should not in any manner be construed as a gift from COVID-19 nor should it denote that Biden is a pacifist; it’ just that he was itching for a confrontation with China and Russia. Besides, something once started rarely disappears.

The US economic embargo imposed decades ago on a tiny island country of Cuba was intensified by Trump. In June of 2021, the Biden government voted against the United Nations resolution to end the inhumane embargo — the only other country in favor of continuing the embargo was Israel. A month later, July 2021, the Biden administration announced more sanctions on Cuba! Trump had unilaterally exited from the nuclear deal with Iran because he wanted to introduce few more restrictions but Iran refused to comply. Biden has continued with what the Trump demanded. In September 2021, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken threatened Iran to comply or the US would give up on the nuclear deal, meaning continuation of US economic sanctions on Iran.

Fanatics –whether religious, political, or capitalist, rarely change. Once back in the saddle, the Taliban showed their true color. The Taliban have not yet reached the stage of civilization where they could acknowledge the existence of women, 50% of the population. Not a single woman was included in their newly formed cabinet.

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

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