Why did Afghanistan fall so easily to the ragtag of 75,000 Taliban fighters? Here is why:
1. The first simple reason is that Afghan police and military were not paid enough. The salaries were not worth risking the lives for.
2. The economy has been performing terribly for the last decade. The people are too poor to put up a fight.
3. Nothing fundamentally has changed in Afghanistan in the last 20 years. The foreign forces didn’t build houses, hospitals, schools, roads etc.
4. Nothing was done to eradicate fundamentalist Wahhabism. 20 years is one whole generation. The US and others could have built a secular/moderate Afghanistan but they didn’t.
5. Terrorism and opium trafficking didn’t go away in the last 20 years. The latter actually boomed.
6. Privatization of US military has led to an ecosystem of military contractors who just rip off the government. Consider that $20 billion = Afghanistan’s GDP and $2000 billion = what the US government spent on occupying Afghanistan. The US spending was staggering hundred times bigger than the GDP. Mind-boggling corruption.
What happens next?
Anti-American voices are delighted at the victory of Taliban. And China had already met with the Taliban last month to negotiate the future. The Taliban assured the CCP that foreign terrorists – a.k.a Uyghur militant groups like ETIM and TIP – won’t be allowed to operate in Afghanistan. In return, China would build some highways and give millions of dollars in bribes to the Taliban leaders — just like how infrastructure projects are done in China. And Xi Jinping is hoping for peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.
However, this delusion won’t last long. Why? Here are some reasons:
- Afghanistan is almost twice as big as Germany. Nobody can monitor and control the entire country.
- The Taliban are not liked by everyone in Afghanistan. The huge amount of refugees in the recent days is a testament to Taliban’s unpopularity. There are intense tribal/ethnic conflicts. The Talibans are “Pashtuns” and only constitute 45% of the population. All the other groups will eventually start to fight back. There are also conflicts based on Sunni v. Shiites and Wahhabi versus secular/moderate Islam.
- There are multitudes of other terrorist groups in Afghanistan. Most are friendly to the Taliban and some like Islamic State are enemies. But neither of those groups are going to disappear. Most likely, they will grow and become stronger.
- Opium trafficking is a major source of revenue for the Taliban. As long as that goes on, warlords and criminals will thrive in the country.
- Half of all Afghans live on $1 a day (or less). Thus, terrorist groups can easily recruit young men for $100 a month — along with a gun and a Quran that appeal to human power and religious beliefs.
- Finally, there’s a big difference between the political Taliban who travel around the world for photo ops and the Taliban commanders on the ground. The latter will be more than willing to make some extra money by supporting or ignoring terrorist attacks.
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