By Zheng Zongwen
The hasty withdrawal of US troops is causing the situation in Afghanistan to deteriorate dramatically. In the two decades since the war in Afghanistan, US Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump had all vowed to win the war and create a better future for Afghans. Not long ago, Biden also solemnly promised that the US would not stop political, economic, and security support for Afghanistan. Up to now, while the oral commitment is still ringing, US troops are making a hasty withdrawal, leaving the still fierce battle there all behind them.
The US has been fighting the war in Afghanistan for two decades, bringing blood and fire to the local people and leaving behind a deeply scarred country. The war directly led to over 60,000 casualties of Afghan soldiers while approximately 50,000 civilians lost their lives as collateral damage. Years of military conflicts led to a serious humanitarian disaster, with 11 million Afghan civilians becoming refugees and 3.5 million children dropping out of school. The war has severely aggravated Afghanistan's economic woes, with 80% of the country's asphalt roads devastated by the war, GDP falling from 141st to 172nd among all countries worldwide, and four out of every ten Afghans struggling below the extreme poverty line.
When the war started 20 years ago, the US government promised to bring "democracy and prosperity" to the Afghan people; yet, 20 years later when US troops pulled out, Biden said that the US did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build. And it was the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.
Two decades since the inception of the US-initiated War in Afghanistan saw life extinguished out of 2,448 American service members only to contribute to a more dangerous Afghanistan. Currently, 20% of the South Asian country is turned into landmine fields, with thousands of innocent civilians killed or injured by mines each year. According to research conducted by American scholars, for every Afghan civilian accidentally killed or wounded by US, or NATO forces, there would be several retaliatory attacks following. Since the US announced its withdrawal, the Taliban has stepped up its counter-offensive, adding to the upheavalof Afghanistan. Consequently, security risks within Afghanistan are spilling over to neighboring countries in Central and South Asia.
The operational goal of the US military is exterminating the Taliban's military capabilities two decades ago. However, the two decades afterward witnessed an increasingly more resilient Taliban as well as the growing panic amid US troops. As the war dragged on for two decades, the US-claimed "democratic transformation" has become a botched action, while the turmoil and chaos the US created has sowed new seeds for potential hazards. US forces stealthily slipped away from the “Graveyard of Empires”. Admittedly, this is not the first time the US made a mess in a foreign country. From Iraq, Libya to Syria, and from the "democratic transformation" turmoil in the Middle East to the "color revolutions" it sparkled here and there, wherever the US intervened, the conflicts in those hot spots would inevitably escalate fast, and whomever the US exported its “liberal democracy” to, few would end up without chaos.
The US has become the biggest culprit for disruptions in today’s world. Three decades since the end of the Cold War, the world's multipolarity and economic globalization have deepened; nevertheless, the US still clings to its hegemonic position and Cold War mentality, and sticks to its old ways of condescending, bullying, and imposing its will on other nations, bringing turmoil and disasters to the world, while also cutting and bruising itself.
In addition to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US in recent years has pulled out from WHO, UNESCO, the Paris Agreement one after another. Despite its cry of "America is back" in the international arena, the US has drained its energy in terms of resource capacity and moral courage; therefore, the self-proclaimed "A City upon a Hill" rings hollow.
History is a prompt board for the memory of the past. Two decades ago, the US promised Afghanistan "peace, democracy and prosperity" and countries around Afghanistan a "Greater Central Asia Initiative," all of which have now become a pipe dream. Two decades later, it promised its allies "a free and open Indo-Pacific" and "rebuilding a better world". No matter how spectacular its vision might be, the US is perpetually committed to the “America first” agenda, which translates to an already excessively overdrawn and broken strategic credibility.