The period from 2001 until just recently was effectively Britain’s fourth major skirmish in Afghanistan. The first three, 1839-42, 1878-80, and 1919, saw my country, from next door in India, seeking to extend its control over the neighbours; we also wanted to oppose Russian influence there.
So, to start all this off, the British Army entered Kandahar in April 1839. The next three years saw nothing but trouble and strife, insurrections, and the odd bloodbath. Guess what? The British decided to evacuate the country, having achieved bugger all in reality. Sounds familiar?
Let’s fast-forward to 1878, where us Brits were once again becoming mightily miffed at Russia’s growing influence over the Afghans. So, we invaded. Again. But this triumph was short-lived, and although the boundaries of modern Afghanistan were drawn with the help of the Russians, it was considered very provocative to still occupy the region. (The local tribes maintained internal rule and local customs, and provided a buffer between the British Raj and the Russian Empire.) So, having actually achieved a little something for a change, the Brits withdrew.
After World War 1, the Afghans widely supported Ottoman Turkey against the British. When the ruler of Afghanistan was assassinated in 1919 by members of the anti-British movement, his son declared total independence from Britain. Time for another war. But it was all rather timid in comparison with previous battles, with the Afghan army pretty much ineffective, just like today, and the British totally exhausted from the huge demands of World War 1. After a few skirmishes lasting barely a month, a peace treaty was signed, recognizing the independence of Afghanistan. But by the time Britain withdrew, the Afghans had agreed a treaty of friendship with the new Bolshevik regime in the Soviet Union! So, not only did Britain achieve precisely nothing, it actually left my country somewhat worse off. Who could write this stuff?
Finally, to the modern era of the 21st century. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks in America, British troops occupied Afghanistan with the US and other allies, with the aim of destroying al-Qaeda, and the Taliban that had backed them. For two whole decades, despite many troop and civilian casualties, life for the average Afghan, particularly women and young girls, took a turn for the better. Until America decided to pull out, with the British following suit, allowing the murderous fundamentalist bastards, the Taliban, to take over.
Is there a link between all these excursions going back nearly 200 years? Sort of. Plenty of bloodshed, and really, very little achieved. Will we all learn from this history? Will we realise that you cannot change the culture of a nation with the barrel of a gun? Of course not. I’m just wondering right now in which year the fifth Anglo-Afghan war will begin. Maybe that time will be not too far off, but I already know what will happen, eventually. Yes, the British will withdraw with practically nothing accomplished. Again.
My country and Afghanistan: history repeats.?
In my previous publication about Afghanistan, I wrote:
‘The best way would be to somehow encircle Afghanistan under some unbreakable wall and let them rot in their 6th century darkness till they collapse.’
We did that blog just weeks before the Taliban took power in this country effectively destroying the US efforts to modernize it. I think it wasn’t just me, it was Roger and Dean, too; we all did feel that smell of the upcoming defeat of the pro-Western government in the air.
Long before that, in the 19th century, the British have tried it several times. Then it was Russia’s turn in December 1979 when the Soviet spetsnaz stormed the Presidential palace in Kabul killing President Hafizulla Amin. This operation was called ‘Grom 333’. In Russian ‘Grom’ stands for ‘Thunder’. It paved the way to the regime change and, then, to an unexpected ten long years of war.
On February 15, 1989, General Boris Gromov, the Commander of the Soviet 40th Army, was the last Soviet soldier to cross the bridge upon the border river, Amy Daria, finishing our painful experience there. The weird but curious thing is that his last name, Gromov, is a derivative from ‘Grom’ or ‘Thunder’, exactly the name of the special forces operation that started the whole thing ten years before.
Then, in 2001 it was the American turn. They have come for revenge, wiping off the Mulla Omar’s regime in weeks. But twenty plus years later they joined the special Afghani loser’s club, joining its older members, Britain and Russia.
Honestly, around 2013, when ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ was released, I thought that the dark forces of Afghanistan were gone for ever. I just couldn’t imagine the people of the country would still welcome the medieval way of things.
I just didn’t understand Afghanistan. Like so many before me.
Now the ancient demons have resurrected on the surface. They will stay in this dusty and cruel land as long as the sun shines. Simply because they’re a part of the local landscape.
History will repeat itself a countless number of times before the only sensible decision is taken: never step into this dirt again. Lock it. Seal it Forget it.
The Most Repugnant Fact of All
I have quite mixed emotions about this entire affair. Despite the reputation, Americans are far from the biggest imperialists on the planet. I believe that dubious honor should go to China. A Communist nation practicing hard-core capitalism while trying to steal territory from almost all its neighbors. I don’t believe the US Government ever had any ambition of owning Afghanistan.
Moreover, I do think the US Military was right to go in. The actions of September 11th had to be answered. The problem was never a military one; the US Army was not going to lose a contest with the Taliban despite Taliban claims of victory.
I believe it was a problem of pride: US Government pride. They knew that as soon as they left the place was going straight back to hell. What President wants that as his legacy? So, it was easier to just let things coast along as long as too many people didn’t die and the situation looked stable. As so it was.
Administrations from both parties said they wanted to leave but never did. Let’s just pretend the problem didn’t exist. And really, in a world driven by 24-hour news cycles, it didn’t exist. It wasn’t in the news and it wasn’t a real issue. The US Military is perfectly capable of staying another twenty years and never break a sweat. And so Afghanistan became little more than a talking point for Putin.
There are four things I do find repugnant about the whole mess:
- The absolute, abysmal feces-filled lies coming from Trumpists. No, I do not exaggerate, it’s total bullshit. Here, watch this video if you think I exaggerate in the slightest.
- The fact that this will not solve anything at all. We – I mean all decent countries, will be back in a few years to clean another rat’s nest.
- I regret that the Americans have gotten blamed yet again for trying to do the right thing. Most of the planet is having a tisk, tisk fest, feeling somehow morally superior while doing nothing to help the young women who will now pay the price. I do not see you as morally superior and I’m quite certain who you will run to when a huge bomb goes off at a soccer game.
- After several years of insults and childish tantrums, Europe needed a friend in America. It’s clear they don’t believe they have one. It sounds like Biden failed to consult and listen to our partners. We will need them someday.
I know the topic was supposed to be something about the sweep of history and how this was all pre-ordained. But each of the three invasions was discreet and unrelated to the other two. They were all the result of events far from Afghanistan. But unlike the other two, America will be forced to return. And this is the most repugnant fact of all.