What is the real objection motivating critics of Afghanistan withdrawal?

Photo: U.S. troops board a plane involved in the withdrawal from Afghanistan

After the lightning collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government, the managers of the U.S. war machine and their cheerleaders in the corporate media have been scrambling to defend the image of their empire. The bulk of the corporate media and both Democratic and Republican politicians are condemning Biden’s handling of the withdrawal. Several Congressional investigations have already been announced. 

Critics of the withdrawal claim to be appalled at the shocking scenes at the Kabul airport and the repressive policies of the Taliban. They play the part of outraged defenders of democracy or women’s equality or human rights. But these same pundits and politicians expressed no such outrage over the course of the last 20 years when at least 71,000 Afghan civilians were killed in the war and more than 5 million Afghans became refugees. 

The real reason for all their criticism of Biden and his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan is because the withdrawal exposes that the U.S. empire has been defeated and a defeat makes the empire look weak. To appear weak is disastrous for an empire reliant upon the illusion of military invincibility. 

Of course, there never was and never could be any possibility of U.S. “victory” in Afghanistan because U.S. domination over the country was rejected by the vast majority of the Afghan people. The success of the Taliban was not necessarily a reflection of the popularity of their political program. Politically speaking the Taliban are a reactionary, theocratic movement born of the U.S.-organized insurgency against the socialist government of Afghanistan which came to power in 1978. 

There was no alternative to U.S. withdrawal other than an endless occupation. By condemning the decision to end the occupation, imperialist critics are effectively expressing their support for a war that would be literally never-ending, inflicting even more enormous suffering on the Afghan people. But for U.S. militarists, that would be an acceptable price to pay to protect the dominant status of U.S. imperialism on the world stage.

European leaders call U.S. alliance into question

The United States’ junior partners in imperialism are looking at the defeat in Afghanistan with alarm. Leader of the largest party in Germany and possible next German prime minister Armin Laschet noted that the defeat in Afghanistan is, “the biggest debacle that NATO has suffered since its founding, and we’re standing before an epochal change.” German chancellor Angela Merkel commented that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was made for American domestic political reasons, the implication being that U.S. junior partners were not consulted about the decision — something that has been widely reported in the press. 

Czech president Milos Zeman too has been vocal calling the legitimacy of NATO into question, and emphatically stated that the Czech Republic should focus on national defense and stop “wasting money” on the alliance. “The distrust towards NATO from a number of member countries will grow after this experience, because they will say, if you failed in Afghanistan, where is a guarantee that you won’t fail in any other critical situation?” Zeman said in an interview. 

Despite pledging to strengthen U.S. alliances, Biden seems to be following a similar unilateral policy as Trump in Afghanistan, alienating allies of the empire.  

China-Russia alliance gains momentum after U.S. defeat

Chinese state media is making the point that the fall of Kabul should be considered a warning to Taiwan, which the People’s Republic of China rightfully considers part of its national territory. In recent years the U.S. has stepped up arms sales to Taiwan, angering China. Several articles in the influential publication Global Times argued that developments in Afghanistan should serve as a warning to Taiwanese separatist forces. China is making the point that U.S. assurances of support to client governments like Taiwan’s are merely empty words — something that the U.S. State Department felt compelled to officially respond to in public.

China and Russia concluded major military exercises in China’s Xinjiang province last week, practicing a joint reaction in a scenario where the fighting in Afghanistan spills over into neighboring countries. Russia and China now appear to be more reliable guarantors of regional stability than the United States. Furthermore, the U.S. military defeat in Afghanistan is giving China confidence that it can defeat the U.S. military in the event of a showdown between the two countries.

In addition to holding military drills in central Asia with members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Russia is also boosting its ties with central Asian governments in the Collective Security Treaty Organization. As former soldiers of the Afghan proxy government flee to neighboring Uzbekistan, Russia is strengthening intelligence and military cooperation with its neighbors to the south and helping guard their borders with Afghanistan.

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan — presided over by a triumphant Taliban — is a clear acknowledgement of defeat for the U.S. empire. While the media is trying to dupe the people into thinking that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan was humanitarian, their rhetoric is completely hypocritical and disguises their true objection.

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