Crisis in Afghanistan: decline of the West?
by Renzo Pegoraro
The withdrawal of military contingents from Afghanistan, after twenty years of mission, has affected world public opinion, many Western citizens and observers. The modalities and times in which the retreat took place took on the characteristics of a military defeat, a fatal blow to the credibility of the West, to which the Afghan people had clung to to see the light of a better future on the road to democracy and of modernity. Of course, the long period of Western military and civilian presence has fueled many expectations of change, in particular in the young Afghan generation that was born in this period and in the female universe that now sees the fundamental freedoms provided for by the universal declaration of human rights precluded. (UN, Paris, 1948).
But the disengagement of the US and NATO is not just about Afghanistan, it is a process that disrupts all the balances of the world order. This is a very complex problem that cannot be examined in this short article, but from which it is possible to draw some immediate reflections. First of all, it is necessary to highlight the objectives that the military intervention promised itself; that is, effectively countering international terrorism, after the attack on the twin towers (11 September 2001), by hitting the springs and the principals in the places where they operated. The Taliban had established an autocratic regime in Afghanistan which, according to international intelligence services, represented "the breeding ground" of Islamic terrorism linked to Al Qaeda, a declared enemy of the West.
The military intervention initially succeeded in expelling the Taliban from the country, but, retreating to the borders of Pakistan, in the impervious valleys and in the Afghan mountains, they continued to mark their presence with attacks and bloody massacres that took them by surprise Western soldiers, causing numerous losses (fallen: 53 Italian soldiers, 500 British, 2500 Americans, etc.). However, this situation has increased the importance of another important objective of the mission: to bring peace and prosperity to the Afghan people, through the control of the territory with the military presence of NATO and other multinational contingents, to provide aid and skills aimed at social development. and economic of the country. Meanwhile, international support was to favor the reconstruction and modernization of local institutions on the Western model, counting that time was "gentleman" and, in the long run, the new Afghan authorities would be able to govern their country autonomously. However, in recent years, for many and varied reasons, the initial drive for change has been fading, also due to the inability of the new rulers to make use of Western support, without resorting to clientelism, corruption, illicit trafficking, etc. .. At the same time, the illusion has arisen that the problems of internal security, support for the economy, infrastructural and cultural development of Afghanistan could remain a prerogative of the new "liberators". The sandcastle upon which the new, shaky institutions, including an army of 250,000 men, rested, melted as the Westerners announced that they would vacate the field. At this point, all roads reopened to the Taliban, including the possibility of taking possession, without any resistance, of the means, weapons and materials, even of the latest generation, donated to the country by the West, in particular by the United States.
In this brief examination the inconceivable way in which armies of professionals have faced a retreat, in an uncoordinated way and without a programmed exit strategy. This sudden departure underlined above all the insufficient knowledge of the local situation, the improvisation in organizing the transfer of asylum seekers, the distance between the objectives of the military contingents and those of the Afghan population. The autocratic regime of the Taliban scored a first victory, probably not decisive. They will have to demonstrate that they are able to build institutions capable of governing 38 million citizens and giving them a future, possibly not of hunger, terror, abuse and tyranny.
Many commentators on the Afghan question have seen the defeat of the United States, as the world power promoting the intervention, neglecting the co-responsibility of the other participating countries. In fact, the US and Europe are closely linked to each other, particularly in the Western defense system (NATO), but also in the UN and the OSCE, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which represents 57 countries. It should be remembered that the "out of area" missions, over time improperly called "peace" missions, were decided with the adoption of the new strategic concept of NATO, approved in Washington in 1999, before the intervention in Kosovo. The most evident paradox, after the twenty years of Afghanistan, is to note that the fight against terrorism has been assimilated to this type of mission, establishing similar rules of engagement for combat in the operational theater. Peacekeeping missions generally do not have a well-defined enemy, but are interposed between two or more warring factions (Kosovo). After all, it is known that terrorism acts by surprise, in the least expected places and times and therefore it is an invisible, devious and deadly enemy in concluding its actions. For its contrast the reactivity of the forces is rewarded, but above all a valid and efficient intelligence service . The failure in Afghanistan, therefore, calls into question both the new NATO, which while remaining a defensive alliance has been used in an offensive way against terrorism, and the use of substantial military forces to promote the pacification of the scattered Afghan tribes on the territory, with the ambition to build a new democratic state; that is, a radical change in Afghan society that requires at least the continuous involvement of several generations.
From the geopolitical point of view, the withdrawal from Afghanistan is undoubtedly the release of the great American power from Asia, now fought over by other emerging powers such as Iran, Russia, China and Turkey. This separation, however, had already been predicted by presidents Obama and Trump; the latter, in fact, had characterized his entire tenure with the "slogan America first ". It should also take note of the new US policy, which seems to give up his messianic role aimed at disseminating the planet ideals of the free world. Now is starting a new Cold War, no longer based on the values of the West and the Soviet Union, but for the economic dominance of the United States and China. This contention is needed more and more the voice of Europe, politically united and strong even at the level defense.
Europe in Afghanistan was conspicuous by its absence and the lack of a foreign policy and defense, long overdue, but never realized for the individualism of its 27 members. However, among the many difficulties in this regard it is necessary to consider that the majority of European citizens, according to a recent survey (reported by "Corriere della Sera"), has no interest in a European defense system, need instead to rely more on the scene World and ensure peace.