Can US be trusted? By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

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After the debacle in Afghanistan, surely, even the staunchest of allies of the USA would be pondering over the question: “Can we trust USA?”. The whirlwind withdrawal, without any coordination with the allies who supported the American project for two decades and the way it let down the Afghan people, leaving them entirely to the mercy of the Taliban, would go down in history as a botch beyond comparison. Things were made even worse by the actions of Joe Biden. In Camp David, he watched silently how the capitals of Afghanistan’s provinces fell like dominos to the Taliban, defying the predictions he made a month ago, which forced him to return to the White House to make a defiant ‘blaming everyone else’ speech!

Whilst conceding that Afghanistan had folded “quicker than anticipated”, Biden said he stood by his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Though it was no surprise that the USA had to leave Afghanistan but the manner of departure surprised even the staunchest of its allies. The British Defence Secretary, who had been in discussion with other NATO allies, attempting to bring about a negotiated withdrawal, broke down during a radio interview, admitting that it may not be possible to bring back all British citizens and supporters. Of course, bound by that ‘special relationship’, Britain would not openly criticise USA but incidents like this provide ample proof for the disappointment in the allied ranks.

Biden also said that the 20-year mission was not meant to be about “nation building” or “creating a unified, central democracy”, but was designed to prevent a terrorist attack on American soil. However, Biden the President, seems to have forgotten what Biden, the senator, said at beginning of the conflict in 2001: “Our hope is that we will see a relatively stable government in Afghanistan, one that provides the foundation for future reconstruction of that country.” Perhaps, age with the loss of ‘grey cells’ is catching-up on him!

He added a warning that if American troops are attacked by the Taliban, the US would “defend our people with devastating force” What does he mean? Make a Hiroshima or a Nagasaki out of Afghanistan!

In 2001, when junior Bush went to war with the Taliban that harboured al-Qaeda which masterminded the 9/11 attacks, his clarion call was that either “You are with us” or “You are against us”, leaving neutrality no choice. Most Western governments obliged, the UK being the closest ally, as Tony Blair and Dubya Bush both harboured the delusion that God sent them to reform the world! Naturally, the UK government feels let down when Biden engages the reverse gear, even without informing!

Well, this is not the first instance that the USA has let down its friends. Many may have a faded memory of that photograph of Nobel Peace Prize winning Obama and Hilary Clinton watching from the situation room of the White House, Navy seals executing Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil on 1st May 2011. Though this operation needed agreement, if not permission, from the Pakistani government, it had not even been informed. That is how the USA treats its friends! So, what can non-friendly nations expect? What about the extra-judicial execution of an unarmed person carried out under the watchful eyes of the President and the Secretary of State? If Americans practice what they preach, surely, the correct procedure would have been for the suspect to be taken to custody for judicial action. It is claimed that bin Laden may have spilled the beans, had he been taken to custody, which would have embarrassed other friends of the USA! Therefore, might is right dictum was used to justify the extra-judicial execution but Obama is still loved by the liberals! It is the very same Obamas and Bidens that dictate to us about fairness and justice.

Blaming the Afghan forces for the debacle, Biden said “American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves. We spent over a trillion dollars. We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong — incredibly well equipped — a force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies. We gave them every tool they could need. We paid their salaries.”

What is the most likely reason for this costly failure? It may very well be that the American and other Western forces trained the Afghan army to fight a conventional war, not a guerrilla war. Of course, one would have expected the Americans to have learned lessons from their humiliating defeat by the Vietcong guerrillas but, then, America is notorious for not learning from their misdeeds! Learning lessons from the failure of the Indian forces, how the IPKF was outdone by the Tigers, Sri Lankan forces mastered the art of fighting a terrorist group and earned the distinction for Sri Lanka to be the only country that defeated terrorism. Had our army trained the Afghan army, I am sure, they would have done a much better job. Pity that the Afghan army did not have a commander like Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka!

Defenders of human rights and equality have left the women and children of Afghanistan at the mercy of the Taliban who, unfortunately, have a dismal record. By the way, it should not be forgotten that the Taliban was also a creation of the Americans, when in 1980s they wanted Afghanistan to be the Vietnam of USSR. The only hope for Afghanistan, especially women, is that the Taliban has kept pace with times and have changed. Though the initial soundings from the Taliban are encouraging, wonder whether it is too much to hope for!

Trump’s “America first” worldview was widely condemned. Interestingly, Biden seems to be doing just that, following in Trump’s footsteps and has created this chaos by accelerating the withdrawal process initiated by Trump. Perhaps, the abiding image of the Biden administration would be the giant military transport aircraft, overloaded with over 800 people, taxing in Kabul airport with a mass of Afghans clinging to it and chasing it, taking-off with not a care in the world for their lives and a number of people falling to death!

Biden’s biggest blunder is that his haste has made allies lose trust. At a time when it is rumoured that Basil is leading a campaign to get close to the USA, we cannot afford to forget the fact that even allies are finding it difficult to trust the Americans!

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Disclaimer: Can US be trusted? By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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