What has America achieved after 20 years in Afghanistan?

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The United States said it withdrew its last troops on August 31 and thus ended its 20-year invasion. As most observers share, the invasion of Afghanistan is one of the most dramatic failures and most complete fiascos in American foreign policy.

Some of the results that can be deduced from the US withdrawal are as follows. First of all, the withdrawal from Afghanistan showed increasingly uncontrollable disagreements and divergent points of view between the various American institutions. American institutions have recently encountered difficulties in developing genuine “national” policies. For example, Turkey has experienced these different perspectives over the past decade in its relations with the United States. While one institution tries to improve its relations with Turkey, another institution acts in reverse. There are conflicting perspectives not only between institutions but also within certain institutions, such as the Pentagon.

A plane is pictured at the airport after the United States withdrew all its troops from the country to end a brutal 20-year war, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 31, 2021. (AFP Photo)

Post-withdrawal issues

Different perspectives were not a big deal when the United States was able to control regional and global developments. However, the more problems the United States faces in controlling global developments and regional crises, the more problematic these different perspectives will be. In other words, when the United States loses its effectiveness in international politics, the role of certain American institutions will be further questioned.

In the case of Afghanistan, the American public holds the White House, the intelligence community, and the military responsible for the failed withdrawal and the loss of American life. For example, 90 retired generals and admirals signed a letter calling for the resignation of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their role in the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. A growing number of retired generals and veterans have also called for the resignation of other high-ranking military personnel.


U.S. Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, Commander of the U.S. Central Command, upon arrival at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 17, 2021 (AFP Photo)
U.S. Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, Commander of the U.S. Central Command, upon arrival at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 17, 2021 (AFP photo)

Second, the US allies have stepped up their criticism of US unilateralism. European countries have learned that the United States only consults its allies when it comes to a stalemate. Therefore, they started to improve intra-European cooperation against real or potential threats. European countries, which differ from the United States in developing new relations with China and Russia, have tried to protect themselves in Afghanistan.

Third, the United States began its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 with the use of drones and ended its invasion with the use of drones. The United States invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime, but two decades later left the country to a much stronger Taliban. In other words, the United States has paid a heavy price for nothing. He neither demolished the Taliban nor established a new regime. In addition, the United States left $ 85 billion in arms and ammunition with the Taliban, which makes the organization much stronger.

The United States is losing ground

Fourth, the United States has lost ground in major regional crises to the benefit of other world powers, namely Russia and China. The United States has previously lost ground to Russia in Georgia, Ukraine and Libya. Russia has a much stronger position in the Syrian crisis. Now in Afghanistan, the United States is losing ground to China and Russia. These two world powers, along with Pakistan and Iran, have tried to recognize the Taliban regime and normalize their relations with the new regime. If these states succeed in bringing stability to Afghanistan, it will be a big blow to the heart of global geopolitics for the United States.


Taliban fighters on motorbikes patrol a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 31, 2021 (AFP photo)
Taliban fighters on motorbikes patrol a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 31, 2021 (AFP photo)

Fifth, the international coalition has failed in building state institutions and consolidating the nation-building process. Afghanistan remains more divided and vulnerable than ever along ethnic, tribal, social, political, regional and sectarian lines. It is still very difficult to achieve comprehensive reconciliation between the various Afghan political actors. It will take a long time to build functioning state institutions and provide basic services to the public. All of this means that the Afghan people will continue to suffer from insecurity and poverty.

Sixth, Afghanistan continued to depend on external actors for both political stability and economic well-being. If outside powers, at least countries in the region like Pakistan and Iran, remain indifferent to Afghanistan, it will be very difficult to recover from political chaos and economic hardship. The Taliban regime is aware of this impasse. Therefore, they call on Turkey, among others, to take responsibility for the management of Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport, as the Taliban know they do not have the capacity to manage similar institutions.


US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld raising his arms as he concludes his meeting with troops from 1st Battalion 87 at Bagram airfield, Afghanistan, December 18, 2001 (AFP photo)
US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld raising his arms as he concludes his town hall meeting with troops from 1st Battalion 87 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, December 18, 2001 (Photo AFP)

Finally, Afghanistan remains a safe haven for various foreign terrorist networks and violent non-state actors. Since the invasion of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, for many reasons, thousands of foreign fighters have traveled to Afghanistan. While they have helped Afghan groups in their resistance against invasions, they have trained their militants and protected themselves from potential attacks. The presence of these violent groups remains a problem not only for regional and world powers, but also for the Taliban regime. These groups will continue to pose a threat to the Afghan people and countries in the region. In addition, these groups will be co-opted in the future by certain world powers to intervene in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.


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