20 years of blood and treasure all lost for nothing

20 years of blood and treasure all lost for nothing. By Greg Sheridan.

The fall to the Taliban of Tarin Kowt, for so long Australia’s base in Afghanistan, then of Maazar-i-Sharif, next Jalalabad, with insurgents at the gates of Kabul, shows that Australia’s military presence in Afghanistan for all these years has achieved absolutely nothing.

More than 40 Australian lives, billions of dollars of expenditure and no end of tragedy on the Afghan side, all for nothing, or near enough.

The almost instant collapse of the Afghan government as Americans are withdrawing reflects the most comprehensive and colossal failure of Western power in decades.

Twenty years of blood and treasure, allegedly building up the Afghan forces and the Afghan state, have seen city after city surrendered to the murderous Islamist Taliban, increasingly without the Afghan government forces even putting up a fight. …

Trump and Biden erred by treating the Taliban as the rulers with whom they should negotiate:

Trump negotiated and authorised an insanely one-sided deal with the Taliban, which greatly enhanced the Taliban’s prestige, and undermined the Afghan government. Biden then implemented that deal.

It’s reasonable that the Americans had to leave at some point. But they should only ever have negotiated their withdrawal with their ally, the Afghan government. Instead they agreed a deal with the Taliban, which imposed insane conditions on the Kabul government, such as having to release Taliban prisoners, simply for the privilege of getting the Taliban to talk to them.

What we have witnessed in these last days is a collapse of confidence and will from the institutions of the Afghan government. This collapse in will was greatly accelerated by Trump and Biden both effectively signalling they expected the Taliban to win, that the Taliban were the people they’d talk to when they wanted to do serious business.

Australia played its part in the collapse of confidence by becoming the first Western power to announce the closure of its embassy in Kabul. …

Australia’s role:

Australia was right to go into Afghanistan 20 years ago. Australians died in the 9/11 attacks. By sheltering al-Qa’ida, the Taliban made itself the enemy of the US and its allies.

Not only that, a few weeks after the 9/11 atrocities, Osama bin Laden himself nominated Australia as a terrorist target for our crime in helping to separate the East Timorese “from the land of Islam”.

Some of the terrorists who subsequently attacked Australians trained with al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan.

Our troops on the whole performed with great distinction in Afghanistan. …

But our real strategic purpose had almost nothing to do with Afghanistan. It was all about maintaining the US alliance. The Rudd government came to office in 2007 with the idea that Australia should withdraw from Afghanistan, but quickly formed the view that this would damage the alliance.

Now this: