U.S. President Joe Biden announced that America’s military mission to Afghanistan will end on August 31. His administration refuses to accept the prevalent view that the U.S pull-out from Afghanistan will spark a “Saigon moment.”
By Abdullah Muradoğlu*
When the United States withdrew from Vietnam in 1973, Northern forces continued to advance in the South. In 1975, the capital, Saigon, quickly fell into the hands of Northern powers, thus dissolving the U.S.-backed Southern government.
Emphasizing that an Afghan army of 300,000 soldiers, trained and equipped by the U.S., facing off against a 75,000-strong Taliban force, Biden rejects the views that the capital Kabul will definitely be overrun by the Taliban. However, the prevailing view in the U.S. is that the Taliban will seize control of Kabul, and indeed the Biden administration has accepted this possibility.
Throughout history Afghanistan has gained a reputation of being the “graveyard of empires.” One of the empires that could not hold on to Afghanistan was the Soviet Union.
In the 1980s, the United States helped turn Afghanistan into a graveyard for the Soviets. The Soviet Union was forced to withdraw from the country after 10 years of occupation. The unsuccessful invasion of Afghanistan is widely considered one of the crucial reasons that led to the collapse of the Soviet Empire.
Between 1979 and 1989, approximately 15,000 Soviet soldiers perished in Afghanistan during the occupation. The financial toll of the occupation was also quite high. History loves irony: twenty years later, the U.S. had to withdraw from Afghanistan, which it entered to overthrow the so-called Taliban. The money spent by the U.S. over the course of the invasion of Afghanistan stands at around $1 trillion.
Afghanistan has become America’s second Vietnam, even though the Biden administration has been reluctant to accept it. The Taliban, on the other hand, is close to re-establishing its control, which it lost due to the American intervention.
Americans believe that the Russians are secretly supplying the Taliban with weapons to turn Afghanistan into America’s second Vietnam. Similar allegations based on intelligence sources have frequently been featured in American media. If you recall, Vladimir Putin initially provided assistance to facilitate U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. He also let the U.S. establish bases in both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
After spending long years working for the KGB, Putin later became the head the Federal Security Service (FSB), which replaced the KGB after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
During Putin’s tenure as the head of the FSB, he was surprisingly appointed as prime minister by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
Putin, who built his career in the KGB, the CIA’s only rival during the Cold War era, may even have wanted to facilitate the U.S. getting bogged down in Afghanistan. Why not? By hitting two birds with one stone, Putin has simultaneously become more comfortable in Chechnya and let the U.S. sink further into the Afghan quagmire. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and the Russians have never forgotten America’s nefarious activities in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Which empire will take America’s place in the “Afghan graveyard”? This is the million-dollar question these days.
Developments in Afghanistan are closely related to Russia and China. Both the Russians and the Chinese seem prepared for a Taliban regime. In fact, China’s relationship with the Taliban predates the U.S. invasion. Alongside Russia, the Americans accused China of secretly providing weapons to the Taliban.
Furthermore, China, the U.S.’s global rival, enjoys close ties with India’s adversary Pakistan. There are serious border disputes between India and China that can turn into conflict at any given moment. Thus, Beijing will be eager to fill the vacuum left by the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Should developments unfold like that in Afghanistan, India will be eager for China to get bogged down there. There are groups in Afghanistan that compete with the Taliban. The Sino-Taliban link could result in turning these groups against China. Of course, India, which is establishing a strong rapport with the U.S., can secretly funnel support to these groups, while Washington, on the other hand, controls the Kabul administration. Therefore, it seems Afghanistan will continue to be the scene of proxy wars for a while longer.
*Abdullah Muradoğlu graduated from Marmara University, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of Public Administration and Political Science. He has been actively working in the press community for more than 15 years. Since 1997, he has written special news, series articles, research articles, interviews, history pages and columns for Yeni Şafak Newspaper News Center. He was deemed worthy of an award in the Interview Branch of the Journalists Association of Turkey 2004 Turkey Journalism Achievement Awards. He has published four books in the field of biography and held various positions in non-governmental organizations.