The failure to understand the illusory nature of the so called government and supporting institutions in Afghanistan is now snowballing into a crisis engulfing both the governments of the US and the UK. You cannot build a secure state with corrupt police, armed forces, government at the very top and down through public administration at every level. Neither can you promise the educated elite of that country that, in exchange for helping in the doomed project, you will rescue them if anything goes wrong. Because if it does, rescue will be difficult, if not impossible.
The days when the West, with its enlightened model of democracy, honed by 1500 years of post Roman bloodshed, could nation build wherever it chose, are well and truly over. Moreover liberal Christianity is a very different social concept to radical Islam and if any attempt is to be made at such a thing, it must build upon local, not Western, values. The failure to grasp this as a bedrock requirement has led to a string of disastrous military and political failures; Iraq, Syria, Libya and now Afghanistan.
The absolute chaos surrounding the airport at Kabul is a vivid firework display of the humiliation of the United States, its special relationship partner, the UK, and NATO collectively. How it will end is anybody’s guess. It may sink the Biden Presidency as a one term failure, it has badly damaged Johnson and Raab and it has greatly strengthened China, Russia and Pakistan as regional players.
But it is not over yet. The Taliban has to prove that, while brilliant at over-running modern forces (forces armed with the latest heavy weapons and supported by air power) with tribesmen on mopeds and pick-ups, the Taliban has to prove it can govern. That may be yet another disaster in the long litany of them in one of the most beautiful countries on earth.
What is absolutely for sure is that those who say if only we had stayed longer, if we had planned better, if we had done this or that, are talking the talk, but with no understanding of what the core problems were in the first place. The primary fact is that while a surgical destruction of the Al Qaeda capability in the post 9/11 era was a political and security must then, occupying the country to rebuild it in a modern format to a broadly Western model, was a catastrophic mistake leading to disaster now.
Meanwhile we are left with appalling scenes of panic and despair in Kabul, fear of the future among women and minorities all across Afghanistan and a terrible sense of waste and betrayal among those and their loved ones, who gave life and limb doing their duty in our armed services. To make all this come right in the end will be a very big ask. Perhaps impossible.