What is going on in Afghanistan?
The Horror! The Taliban are coming!
I am writing this short explanation mostly for young people and for those who are not familiarized with the complicated world of international security and politics.
You will witness an abundance of media stories about the security situation with ramification for the civilians in Afghanistan. It is normal to witness such stories, the role of the media is to cover what is going on in the world and report it back to us. That is the positive aspect of it, with the information flow system, today we benefit of fast and cheap information both written and visual from the media and independent sources. This is also Damocles sword, yes, the fast distribution and cheap distribution of information is an advantage, it also gives the possibility to express my voice and share my part of information, but it is also confusing and false in many cases.
Going back to the mainstream media, the way of reporting such topics as Afghanistan is mostly done with a sense of negativity, and emotional baggage attachment. The reason for this is to shift the public’s view in one sense or the other. For someone that has developed an analytical eye, that is not an issue, since it can differentiate the light from the smoke. But for the rest it can be in a sense manipulative from an emotional perspective. Let’s move now to the flow of information coming from other non — conventional sources such as: blogs, social media posts, memes, TikTok, etc. Some of them may be legitimate, such as this one (I would like to believe), but many are part of campaigns of misinformation and disinformation.
I will suggest a simple recipe to be able to navigate through them. Whenever you read a material and it starts with an explosive title such as for example “The horror! The Taliban are coming”, someone just used a clickbait strategy on you. I apologize but I did the same here just to prove a point. Avoid such titles that bring a sense of panic, of powerful emotions, they are from my analytical experience always misleading.
Having set up this introduction, let’s move calm and composed in the realm of analytics. I will be your guide on this topic for the following reasons:
a. I hold a master’s degree in International Security and Law.
b. I wrote my dissertation on the following topic: “The legality and legitimacy of the US military intervention in Afghanistan from 2001.”
c. I cofounded a disinformation NGO — Intel4Patriam, with the objective of combating disinformation.
My academic education offered me three “sacred” instruments to analyze a conflict or a sensitive security situation like the one that is taking place in Afghanistan now, the legal one, the political one and the ethical one. So, let’s go real fast through each one in the changing status quo.
In 2001, the terrorist group Al — Qaeda, coordinated by Osama bin Laden, organized the most horrendous terrorist against the United States, attacking New York with civilian planes, in a way that the Western World has never seen before. America was shocked, NATO was shocked, emotions were skyrocketing, and for good reason. Thousands of people lost their lives in New York, at the World Trade Center and in Washington D.C. at the Pentagon.
The US administration under President George W. Bush took the political decision to retaliate against Afghanistan and the Taliban. Why? Because, according to the US security apparatus and intelligence services, the Taliban were responsible for offering safe — haven in Afghanistan for Al — Qaeda to prepare for their mission. The second official reason under the political spectrum was to go in Afghanistan and free the local population from the theocratic and abusive Taliban regime. A place where international accepted human rights were violated on a constant basis. The objective was to eliminate the regime and establish the right platform for democracy to grow, allowing free elections for the Afghan people and elected/responsible government.
International Public Law has a written source for cases in which a state or group of states has the right to self — defense, Chapter VII — Actions with respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression. On September 14, 2001, the United States Congress passed legislation titled Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorist, signed on September 18, 2001 by President G.W. Bush. The bill authorized the use of armed force against those responsible for the attacks of 9/11 and the ones who harbored them.
Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, prohibits the use of force by member states. However, Chapter VII of the Charter provides the platform for self — defense, it is a legal context of lex specialis derogat lex generali (Latin phrase that means, that more specific rules will prevail over more general rules. Although the United Nation Security Council did not adopt a resolution that affirms the right of the US to act in self — defense, the majority of the member states of the United Nations acted in solidarity with the US either explicitly or tacitly, attributing the element of jus cogens (a norm accepted and recognized by the international community of states) to the American military move, thus offering it legality.
Further on, the military intervention in Afghanistan was successful, the Taliban were removed from administration, the US military and their allies began the process of establishing peace. The UN Security Council at this point adopted resolution 1378, unanimously on November 14, 2021. The act stated that the UN is now playing an important role in the administration of the country and called for the formation of a transnational administration leading to the formation of a new government.
It was legally established that the Taliban government was responsible for offering harbor to Osama bin Laden and Al — Qaeda in the preparation of their terrorist attack against the United States. At the international level, a large number of states, confirmed their solidarity with the US and offered assistance or help on different levels. It was clear that the international community through the United Nations platform as well as bilateral relations were legitimizing the military response.
Having went through the origin of the conflict, twenty years ago, let us come back to the present-day situation and understand why and how the status quo in Afghanistan is changing.
The United States and its allies have been military present in Afghanistan for twenty years, that is a very long period. In this time, the American government spent more than two trillion dollars for the operation and lost more than 2400 soldiers. In 2011, Osama bin Laden the mastermind behind 9/11 was killed in Operation Neptun Spear, by US military special forces. The situation in the Middle East since 2001 has changed from a geopolitical perspective, the United States has no more interest in the region because it shifted its National Security Strategy from having terrorism as a main threat to big power competition with China and Russia. It is also looking at the future and the places that matter for the US national interest, these are the South China Sea, in order to maintain China from dominating the area. Protecting the Eastern European NATO frontier, in front of an assertive Russia, and establishing advantageous relationship with countries that have the natural resources needed for the economy of the present and the future. I am talking here about The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), possess in abundance cobalt, and South America, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia that have lithium. Both cobalt and lithium are essential for the production of batteries.
Having this new international context in perspective, it is not in the interest of the US, to stay in Afghanistan. The risk outweighs the benefit. I am emphasizing the fact that this is not a project initiated by the current Biden administration. The decision to conduct this retreat operation was adopted under President Obama, continued under President Trump and executed under President Biden. Three very different personalities, all following the same process, why? Because in situations like this, the strategic realities cancel the personal preference of one president or the other. The United States is not an authoritarian state in which the supreme leader makes life and death decisions. It is a complex democracy that has a legislature, executive and judicial power, check and balances do apply here and national strategy is realized by the interaction of these three forces, not of one person alone.
Tomorrow I will continue with the analysis of the Taliban’s takeover of the country after the US military retreat. Why did it happen? Who is responsible for it? How was the retread managed by the current US administration? And finally was it worth it to be in Afghanistan for 20 years?
Stay tuned dear friends, and stay away from the emotional dramatic information, the click baits such as the one I put in my title. Stay calm and be analytical, it’s also cool to do it, instead of biased emotional reactions.