16/08/2021

Afghanistan, chronicle of a fiction

4 min

Without wishing to self-publicise, in 2012 I published the book Afghanistan, chronicle of a fiction, published by Debate, after living in this Asian country for 6 years. After that I stayed two more years. I gave the book this title because everything that the United States was telling us about Afghanistan was fiction: neither democracy had been established, nor did women enjoy rights, nor did the Afghan army have the capacity to stop the advance of the Taliban, as proven in the past few days. It is not that I was a visionary, but living there it was obvious that the country was foundering.

Security was based on the presence of security forces on the ground. That is, checkpoints were placed along the roads, so that in the most insecure areas you could find a checkpoint every five or ten kilometres, while in the most stable areas they were located at a much greater distance. However, the Afghan government never managed to control the whole territory.

Withdrawal of foreigners

At the checkpoints there were Afghan soldiers or policemen, or foreign soldiers. Logically, when most of the international troops withdrew from Afghanistan at the end of 2014 (there were up to 150,000 foreign troops deployed in the country, while as of 2015 there were only about 12,000 left), the number of checkpoints was also reduced, since the Afghan security forces did not have enough troops to occupy the places left vacant by the international forces. The immediate consequence was that the Taliban gained territory.

Talilbans on a street in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar

Despite this, the Afghan government continued to maintain control of much of the country because the army had US air support. That is to say, when the Taliban attacked Afghan soldiers, American helicopters came to their aid. And the Taliban were inferior in this respect: they have no air force. But with the withdrawal of almost all the American military in recent weeks, the Afghan army has also been left without this support.

It is true that there is an Afghan air force, but it could be said that it is almost anecdotal. Many of the aircraft are out of service owing to a lack of spare parts and no pilots or air traffic controllers last more than three months on the job. Those who have been trained over the last few years have left to work in India at the drop of a hat, because they earn more and their lives are not in danger.

Surreal situations

After the withdrawal of most of the international troops from Afghanistan in 2014, you could find surreal situations at the checkpoints of the Afghan security forces, with soldiers complaining that they did not have enough ammunition and had to dose their bullets when fighting the Taliban. Others complained that they didn't even have clean drinking water or that they were forced to work for more than 12 months at a time, during which they could never return home. You had to have a lot of morale to continue there.

Add to this one more factor: when the United States began its intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, it catapulted a series of war criminals to power in Kabul, who had ravaged the country in the early 1990s. Criminals who are as well known among the Afghan population as Adolf Hitler might be in Germany. Despite this, the international community put the reconstruction of the country in their hands, so that these characters have come to occupy the vice-presidency of the government and multiple ministries, and even now they continue to control most of the institutions. As may be expected, Afghans has never considered these institutions their own, because the only thing that these criminals have done during the last two decades has been to enrich themselves with the millions of dollars in aid that have arrived to Afghanistan from the West. You only have to walk around the Shirpur district of Kabul to see for yourself: it is full of lavish mansions belonging to these individuals. If I were a soldier in the Afghan army, I honestly wouldn't have stayed to defend such institutions either.

In 2013 the international troops began a transition process that consisted of gradually withdrawing and ceding control of the territory to the Afghan government. I was always surprised at how this process was done: the only thing that was taken into account was the supposed readiness of the Afghan army, as if in our western societies the only thing that guarantees the stability of a country is having a strong army and not having a functioning executive, parliamentary and judicial power. If things are not like that at home, why would we think they would be in a country like Afghanistan?

Afghans trying to leave the country after the Taliban already control almost all the territory

The result has been demonstrated in the last few days: Afghan soldiers have deserted or surrendered, and the Taliban have entered cities with almost no resistance. Weapons, ammunition and money are not lacking. Afghanistan is the main opium producer in the world and the Taliban have been the main beneficiaries of this drug trade since 2001. Moreover, they have always had the support of Pakistan. Islamabad would do anything to destabilize the Afghan government, which in recent years has basically built bridges with India, its eternal rival.

No, it is not true that the majority of the Afghan population supports the Taliban. The proof is that hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes over the last few days and are trying to leave the country. What is true, however, is that most of them have no choice but to hold on if they want to save their lives and that the United States doesn't care about the people of Afghanistan. They didn't care at the beginning of the invasion, and they don't care now, at the end.