Twenty years have passed since Afghanistan came under the direct control of the US Army and NATO, along with partners, allies and contractors, large and small—a drawn-out process initiated by then-US President George W. Bush (in 2001) who declared in his address to the nation, “We did not ask for this mission, but we will fulfill it.” Over the course of these two decades, the world saw scenes of this “fulfillment” in the humiliating withdrawal of the allies from Kabul. Yes, there were successes, but they are insignificant compared to the promises, expectations and sacrifices. American spending on the 20-year war has reached an average of 136 million dollars per day (Forbes magazine estimates it at 300 million dollars per day), whereas the “Afghan Army” which was “well-trained” by the Americans and their allies, with about 300,000 soldiers, vanished overnight and Prime Minister Ashraf Ghani fled, leaving his country to face an unknown fate.
The greater cost was the price of lives lost on Afghan soil, including nearly 2,500 US soldiers and nearly 4,000 American civilian contractors. On the Afghan side, the death toll was an estimated 69,000 Afghan soldiers and 50,000 civilians, in addition to the deaths of 51,000 opponents of the successive governments in Afghanistan.
Why does everyone lose out in Afghanistan? First: The regime that was supported by the Americans and followed by the international community fell within hours. Second: The Taliban, "which most countries of the world still classify as a terrorist organization," regained control of their country and began negotiating and setting conditions. As for in and around the Afghan region, almost everyone has lost; as India, Iran and China have lost their allies with whom they invested a huge amount of effort and money under the outgoing regime. India alone has invested more than $3 billion in Afghanistan in more than 400 infrastructure projects.
As for China, which plans to include Afghanistan on the Silk Road, Chinese companies won contracts to extract the second largest copper deposits in the world (worth no less than $50 billion) for $3.4 billion, and also won a project to drill oilfields for 25 years. These Chinese ambitions will come under scrutiny in the new situation. As for Pakistan, which is the main supporter of the Taliban (in its first version), is terrified of the new Taliban and its covert and overt links, and what frightens it the most is that in the event of achieving stability, Afghanistan may spin out of its control, and in the event of chaos, the Taliban-Pakistan group lies in wait and the waves of Afghan refugees will head to the Pakistani border first. With regards to Iran, their two-faced backroom politics will soon become exposed, for it is no longer useful to support the government secretly while supporting the opposition openly in Afghanistan.
A word of wisdom: It is more tactful to remain uncertain in the world of politics...
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh.