Defeat is an Orphan, says the title of the latest book by Scottish analyst Myra MacDonald. Thus, the Americans, through Antony Blinken, declare the full success of their twenty-year mission in Afghanistan, definitely rejecting any comparison with the shameful retreat from Saigon, which, funnily enough, was invoked by Joe Biden himself a few days earlier: “You will not see images of people evacuated from the roofs of the houses.” And the Taliban, winners on the ground, celebrate the victory over the most powerful army in the world, declaring that the war is over and inviting people not to be afraid. A new era of "peace" is about to begin, and everyone will be safe as long as they adapt to the rules of the newly proclaimed Islamic emirate.
Instead of the national flag, a white flag is now flying over Afghanistan, written in a foreign language: Arabic. And, by the way, it seems that people have been forbidden to wear red or green clothes to eliminate any display of more or less veiled patriotism.
Why Did America Allow Itself to be Shortchanged?
On the other side of the border, in Pakistan, messages of congratulations to the winners are flowing from everywhere — from the senior leaders of all terrorist organisations based in the country, from the leaders of Islamic parties, from members of the government and from the Prime Minister Imran Khan, who, not surprisingly, was nicknamed “Taliban Khan” a long time ago.
The 'puppet premier', as Imran Khan is amiably defined by half of his country, has verbatim declared that “the Afghans have broken their shackles of slavery”, taking advantage of the umpteenth opportunity to harangue the crowd about the dangers of education, mentality, clothing and lifestyle of the West.
In Rawalpindi and its surroundings, the victory of the strategy of the army and the secret services is being celebrated. The real question is why, for more than twenty years, the Americans have allowed Islamabad (there is no more stately way to put it) to take them for a ride.
Everyone knew that Pakistan was providing logistical and military support to the Taliban. Everyone knew that the helicopters and weapons kindly provided by Washington to “fight the terrorists” actually served to bomb Balochistan — except Quetta, where Mullah Omar and his family resided. Everyone knew, and Musharraf even put it in writing in his autobiography, that Pakistanis delivered alleged Al Qaeda numbers two and three, randomly kidnapped in Peshawar and its surroundings, when they needed extra money, because Americans paid millions for each leader captured.
Taliban as an ‘Insurance Policy’
Pakistan has kept Mullah Baradar and the Quetta Shura safe for a decade, waiting patiently for the moment they will come in handy. It is no coincidence that it has always refused to hand Baradar to the Americans — the Taliban were Islamabad’s insurance policy for the negotiations that would, at some point, become inevitable given Washington’s macroscopic political and geopolitical errors.
Meanwhile, the ISI was training and weaponising old and new Taliban militias with the help of the Haqqani, Jaish-i-Mohammed and Lashkar-i-Toiba. He made deals with the “bad” Taliban of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who are, according to the military narrative, against Pakistan — the generals were denied by the Taliban themselves, escaped from a couple of safe houses because they had not been given all the agreed money.
Thus, while the New York Times cleared customs for a hired killer like Sirajuddin Haqqani by publishing on the front page an article in his name (actually written, according to rumors, by a well-known American expert), Washington was providing legitimacy and international recognition to Baradar and his army of cutthroats manoeuvred (not too much) remotely from Islamabad, while removing legitimacy from the elected Afghan government — perhaps few remember it — with elections strongly desired and blessed by the Americans.
Far From Peace Talks, Negotiations for A Surrender
Thus, the so-called “peace talks” began and continued during the bloodiest offensive ever launched by the Taliban, and while Kabul and other cities were targeted by suicide attacks against not military targets but against journalists, activists, doctors, politicians and civilians in general.
America, from the beginning, sat down at the table of negotiations to negotiate, instead of a peace agreement, a dishonorable surrender that handed over the country to the Taliban in exchange for vague promises. And while special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, without any shame, tried, at every military action and every massacre, to lay the blame on the ISIS or on alleged other “bad” Taliban, Islamabad made sure not only that no talks would take place without the official or unofficial presence of his envoys, but also to grant the Taliban further legitimacy by making them being received from the Chinese and Russians.
China, on the other hand, will likely be the first government to recognise the Islamic Emirate. This is because it has already secured, before the final offensive began, privileged agreements with the wards of Pakistan, a country it now holds firmly in its hand. The way to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which will reach the Mediterranean, is now open.
It is of little use now to threaten the Taliban with sanctions or not to recognise their government; it is worth very little to wave the teacher’s wand about respect for human rights or women’s rights. Russia, China and Turkey, as well as Pakistan, of course, are ready to recognise Baradar and do business with him. The probable head of the new Emirate, frankly (my dear), does not give a damn about the recognition of the defeated West.
(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. Her latest book is ‘Balochistan — Bruised, Battered and Bloodied’. She tweets at @francescam63. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)