By Nathan Riley 9/23/2021
Keep this in mind: Al Qaeda attacked three buildings and killed 3,000 persons. The deliberately theatrical coup amplified violence besieging the Muslim World since before World War I. Osama Bid Laden must have been surprised; only in his wildest dreams would his plan knock down the World Trade Center skyscrapers. The attack outstripped a 1993 terrorist triumph after the Desert Storm war. A truck packed with explosives blasted the World Trade Center garage with the force of a bomb. Six were killed; 50,000 fled smoke and fire. 1,000 were wounded. 9-11 was one ambitious terrorist outshining another master. Bid Laden’s hijacked airplanes surpassed the truck bombing. His attack crushed thousands, was broadcast on worldwide television, and collapsed the two tallest building in the fifty states.
This brutal provocation led the United States into a reign of error and atrocities. Were Bid Laden-Robin Hood provoking the Sherriff of Nottingham the mistake would be obvious. The Sherriff’s men would chase the merry men into Sherwood Forrest and be ambushed. Roaring with fury and giving little consideration that harsh policies might increase the popularity of the opposition, the United State declared war against terrorism all over the world. Elevating a group of guerrillas into a test of U.S. power.
This gung ho response led to a victory for Islamic insurgents caused by American’s confidence that it could crush the enemy in Afghanistan the way Desert Storm overwhelmed Saddam Hussein’s soldiers. By September 18, 2001 every member of Congress except California’s Barbara Lee voted for war against “against those nations, organizations, or persons” involved the attack. She was the only voice backing “restraint” and “caution.” Her vote gained her a place in history. The terrorist operating on a shoestring budget provoked the United States into a costly 20-year war.
The network of Radical Muslims, almost all Saudis, raised approximately $250,000, sacrificed their lives, and flew the planes into the buildings. They ignited this war, but the United States provided the fuel to keep the engine running. By the time the U.S. left it spent $2.3 trillion, and still lost to the Taliban.
This is a defeat. A defeat of such magnitude that it calls into question the competence of our leaders. Popular fury fed Washington’s conceit it could crush the furious hostility of radical Muslims battling the “Great Satan.” Unfortunately, the United States was trapped into being the bad guys-the invaders.
From this perspective the Taliban’s speedy takeover at the close of hostilities reflected popular hostility against the NATO forces but also sound judgment by Afghan Security Forces eager to avoid the grave danger of a civil war.
Undoubtedly, we will hear stories of Kabul Army leaders pocketing corrupt payments – turning government positions into private fortunes is practiced all over the world. But money should not obscure important point. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan speaking to the BBC expressed his concern that the civil war might return. The collapse of the Kabul forces brought domestic peace. The surrender of the pro-American soldiers ended the war.
Afghani supporters of the U.S. were left in a dreadful position; the only way women’s rights and intellectual freedom could be saved was by going to war with the Taliban. A bloody outcome that would have prolonged the agony flooding the region with refugees. Lindsay Graham, the South Carolina Senator, vehemently supports guerrilla war against the Taliban. A Republican victory might make his proposals carry the day.
Normal relations with the Taliban government would allow the United States to match the growing influence of the Chinese. If the U.S. traded and provided aid, Washington could gain a perch that might help women and people trained in the sciences. Punishing the Taliban with sanctions and brandishing U.S. power puts these cosmopolitan groups in the difficult position of being identified with a hostile nation.
Afghanistan has many non-terrorist features that might be accessible if normal relations are established. A huge copper mine supplies international markets. Lithium, the stuff that make the batteries in cell phone and electric vehicles work is another Afghani asset. If the American government swallowed hard, maintained its aid to the Taliban, it could make a claim to these natural resources.
This policy would place the U.S. in direct competition with the Chinese in their backyard but without the antagonism that Washington seems to prefer. In fact, the Chinese Silk Road expansion is laced with major construction projects that might attract American business.
China is waiting to pick up the pieces left by the U.S. departure. Afghanistan is in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. CPEC is a $50 billion Pakistan component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Talks are starting about including the Taliban government. Continued hostility towards the Taliban helps China.
It doesn’t have to be this way. A competition over who builds the improvement on the silk road from Europe to Beijing makes the United States try to win loyalty of Muslim nations with public works not weapons. It turns the Chinese challenge into coexistence. That would transform the Taliban victory into a happier moment.