On Sunday, August 15th, the Taliban finally captured the Afghan capital of Kabul, after weeks of renewed violence between the Taliban insurgency and the U.S.-backed Afghan government. The same day, Al-Jazeera published a video showing Taliban fighters having captured Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s presidential palace after the President fled to Tajikistan in disgrace.
Ghani has since “resigned to prevent bloodshed.” With the Taliban now poised to reclaim control of Afghanistan, the United States has suspended operations of the U.S. embassy and both the U.S. and the U.K. have sent additional troops to Afghanistan under the auspices of assisting in the evacuation of American and British nationals, respectively.
At a press conference on Sunday, U.S. President Joe Biden rejected any comparison between the 1975 Fall of Saigon and U.S. defeat in the Vietnam War to the present situation in Afghanistan. Yet, the comparison seems to hold, if not statistically then by historical contrast. Since 2001, the U.S. War in Afghanistan has resulted in the deaths of 2,448 American service members, and perhaps more devastatingly, those of 66,000 Afghan national police and 47,000 civilians.
Furthermore, since most modern military operations are funded not by cash, but by credit, the costs of the war could reach about $6.5 trillion by 2050. What the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Vietnam both have in common is that they both had devastating costs for both the American populace (forced to pay for these military ventures) and the native respective populations, only to end in political failure for the United States.
One preeminent reaction to the imminent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is widespread concern over the status of women, who were infamously subjected to extreme violence under Taliban rule. The concern over the rights of women in Afghanistan is valid and needs to be addressed. But in the context of American interventionism, the appeal to women’s rights is based on disingenuous and empirically false premises. First, we must discard the notion that the U.S. intervened in Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes, as opposed to the maintenance of American imperial hegemony, ignoring the realities of capital in military conflict.
Since the end of Taliban rule, media organizations reported apparent progress in women’s rights, particularly in urban areas and through political representation, however; women continued to face severe restrictions under the U.S. backed government, including but not limited to domestic violence, child marriages, honor killings, and unequal employment. Although these injustices and others are poised to become far more severe under renewed Taliban rule, perpetual foreign occupation of Afghanistan is equally unacceptable and bound only to cause far more suffering, both in Afghanistan and abroad.
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