“Fortis fortuna adiuvat” is a Latin proverb that means that fortune favours the brave or the bold. This old Roman saying seems to have eluded US President Joe Biden in his rushed decision to pull US troops out of Afghanistan. The decision opened the door for the Taliban to take over most of Afghanistan’s provinces in record time and overtake the capital itself.
The longest war in the history of the US had to end sometime. But pulling out US troops while Taliban forces are sacking one city after another is an act of complete political misjudgement, or, in simpler terms, cowardice, in the face of the sheer brutality and terrorism that the Afghan population will now be subjected to. It is shameful to say the least.
After the announcement of Biden of withdrawing the US troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban forces didn’t waste any time and initiated a sweeping attack against southern Afghani states including the cities of Kandahar and Herat. By 15 August Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces including the capital.
Instead of intensifying its aerial bombardment or adjusting its tactics to prevent the onslaught of the Taliban taking on the rest of the country as announced a week ago, the US military continues to pull out. This is despite the Taliban’s blitzkrieg that is sweeping through the country. It feels as if Biden and the US commanders do not want to antagonise the Taliban, hoping to prevent them attacking US troops evacuating the country. But the onslaught has left a humanitarian crisis as Taliban terrorists are exacting vengeance on those who have stood against them.
Reports of kidnappings and the executions of anti-Taliban Afghan citizens are becoming daily news. There are provinces in which Taliban terrorists are going from door to door to kidnap girls as young as 12 to enslave them as sex slaves. There has never been a time when Afghan women were in as much peril as they are now.
But no acts of chivalry came from Biden’s White House to try to save the situation. Afghanis were left in the open with a feckless government and president that fled the country as soon as they heard the news of Taliban’s advance instead of organising a gallant defense.
The victory of the Taliban will mean that the 20 years of the US presence in Afghanistan, the trillions of dollars spent, and the thousands of lives lost were all wasted in vain. The global war on terrorism has been hit by the capitulation of the US to the demands of this terrorist group, which also means capitulation to Al-Qaeda, the group behind the 9/11 attacks.
Ironically, Biden’s decision to capitulate comes when the US and the rest of the world will be commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that changed the world next month. No matter how the Biden administration attempts to rationalise it, the US decision to abandon Afghanistan means the opening of a Pandora’s box in the entire Central Asian region and eventually also the rest of the world.
Its uncalculated withdrawal from Afghanistan represents a danger to Russia, Pakistan, Iran, China, and the Middle East. While Biden’s administration doesn’t care much about the safety of these countries, that doesn’t mean that the US is safe from the terrorists Afghanistan will harbour in the short and long term. 9/11 stands a testament for that fact.
At the moment, jihadists around the world are celebrating the US failure and feeling invincible. Biden’s horrendous decision empowers groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Qaeda in the African Sahel countries to declare their own states in the hope of recognition at some time in the future. After all, the clear message that has been sent is that if a terrorist group holds its ground for long enough, it will be recognised by the world’s superpowers. The Afghan soldiers fleeing their posts or surrendering towns and cities to the Taliban forces is a testament of complete failure of the US policies in Afghanistan which have opened the door for the Taliban to seize over the country and present a clear danger to the rest of the world.
Biden had earlier announced that the Afghan army was capable of defending the country against the Taliban, known to be a fallacy by even the most misinformed observers. That statement didn’t age very well as the lie was exposed weeks later after a US intelligence official stated that Kabul would fall into the hands of Taliban within 90 days of the US withdrawal — it didn’t take that long as by 15 August the capital was seized by Taliban, meaning that Biden was lying in order to cover up his rushed decision to pull out the US troops without the necessary preparations.
Regardless of the costs of the war, used as an excuse for the rapid US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the consequences of this decision will reach the US and its allies and has a devastating effect on their international policies and security. The Afghan war is one that the US cannot afford to withdraw from without attaining a decisive victory, since the costs of not doing so will be far greater than any expenses thrown at it. Wars are fought by army commanders and politicians and not by accountants.
Terrorists will not yield without attaining victory, which means that if they are given an inch, they will demand a yard, and if they are given a yard, they will demand a mile. Believing in their fabled global “caliphate,” Al-Qaeda and the Taliban will seek to extend their dominion beyond Afghanistan and will represent a menace to the world for years to come. These are days of shame for the Biden administration that should not be forgotten in the historical record.
The writer is a political analyst and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring: The Long and Winding Road to Democracy.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 August, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly