Not since America’s humiliating defeat in Vietnam has that country faced such a comprehensive failure of objectives as in Afghanistan, where last Friday the NATO flag was lowered to mark the end of a 13-year war.
While the ignominious April 30, 1975 American retreat from Saigon was a public debacle, best captured by the scene of the last U.S. helicopter lifting off from its embassy in the South Vietnamese capital, the withdrawal from Kabul was a quieter but sorry ceremony.
The event marking the end of America’s longest war was held in a basketball gym inside NATO headquarters in Kabul. As a brass band played and a colour guard marched, the U.S. commander, Gen. John F. Campbell, uttered words that sounded hollow to many. «Our commitment to Afghanistan endures … We are not walking away,» he said.
Officially, the American-led NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is shifting to a support mission for training the Afghan army and police.
But the Taliban, predictably, saw the lowering of the flag as an admission of defeat. In an e-mail to journalists, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, «ISAF rolled up its flag in an atmosphere of failure and disappointment without having achieved anything substantial or tangible.» Mujahid promised the Taliban would come back to power in Kabul.
If statistics from the last year are any indication of what is in store for 2015, the Taliban commander may be right. In 2014 alone, the Taliban killed nearly 4,600 Afghan soldiers and policemen and murdered 3,200 Afghan civilians. If this was the outcome in the presence of NATO, one can only imagine how things will fare in its absence.
And with elements of the Pakistan military on the border now free to help the Taliban, 2015 may very well become the year we see Mullah Omar back in power in the «Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.»
These developments, along with the rise of jihadi groups across the globe, do not bode well for Canada and its NATO allies, or for any country that shares our liberal democratic values, from India to Australia.
The nature of our mutual enemy, the international jihadist movement driven by the supremacist ideology of Islamism, is such that after enduring 13 years of war, it stands stronger than the day it attacked the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on 9/11.
Instead of draining the swamps to cure the malaria, the West has been shooting down one mosquito at a time, refusing to admit the existence of this ideological swamp.
In a rare, candid admission of not knowing what motivates the jihadists, Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, commander of American Special Operations forces in the Middle East, said: «We do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it. We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.»
He was referring to the Islamic State (ISIS), but ISIS is not the only example. Pakistan is the original «Islamic State», the mother lode of the pan-Islamist movement, while the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia together with the Muslim Brotherhood and its sponsor, Qatar, are all ISIS-like in varying degrees.
I wish I could say Happy New Year to you, but I can’t, for I feel 2015 isn’t going to be one.
Tarek Fatah is a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, a columnist at the Toronto Sun, host of a Sunday afternoon talk show on Toronto’s NewsTalk1010 AM Radio, and a Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of two award-winning books: Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State and The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism.
In Afghanistan, the New Year Begins with an Ignominious End
by Tarek Fatah
The Toronto Sun
December 31, 2014