Is US withdrawal from Afghanistan a “Farewell to Arms”?

DND Thought CenterIs US withdrawal from Afghanistan a “Farewell to Arms”?

By Agha Iqrar Haroon

On July 29, 1986, the then General Secretary of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev announced the first Soviet troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. In a televised address, he said that the Soviets would pull out six regiments by the end of the year to stimulate talks aimed at ending the fighting in Afghanistan. But the war was not over in Afghanistan.

Geneva Accord was signed on April 14, 1988, between Afghanistan, Pakistan, with the Soviet Union and the United States to withdraw Soviet forces from Afghanistan. But the war was not over in Afghanistan.

All troops of Soviet forces left Afghanistan by February 15, 1989. But the war was not over in Afghanistan

August 31, 2021

President Joe Biden announced the complete withdrawal of US-allied forces from Afghanistan. This time, will the war be over? Can we find the answer to this question while revisiting the history of the Afghan War in the last 40 years?

Afghanistan had been a natural studio for world powers to produce their Rambo series. The first film of this series that covered the Afghan War was Rambo III produced in 1988. Will any new Rambo plus be released later or sooner? If yes, its story should be closer to reality than the rough script which is as follow:

First Scene

“This is the era of the late 60s in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is flourishing, girls are going to schools with smiles on their faces, the economy is stable and tolerance level in society is normal and foreigners and non-Muslims are living in Kabul without any fears”.

Camera Cut to Operation Cyclone

To understand how the former Soviet Union was bogged down and how it was important for the United States to inject Islamisation among people of the former NWFP (now KPK province of Pakistan) and Afghanistan, one should listen to interviews of late Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski a Polish American political scientist, geostrategist, and statesman who served as the US National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. One should appreciate Zbigniew for open and candid interviews, articles, and books. He did not hide anything from generations to come. In one of his interviews in 1997 with CNN, he explained what is enough to understand the 70s era and the beginning of the unending war in Afghanistan. He said in his interview:

“We immediately launched a twofold process when we heard that the Soviets had entered Afghanistan. The first involved direct reactions and sanctions focused on the Soviet Union, and both the State Department and the National Security Council prepared long lists of sanctions to be adopted, of steps to be taken to increase the international costs to the Soviet Union of their actions. And the second course of action led to my going to Pakistan a month or so after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, for the purpose of coordinating with the Pakistanis a joint response, the purpose of which would be to make the Soviets bleed for as much and as long as is possible and we started providing weapons to the Mujaheddin, from various sources. We even got Soviet arms from the Czechoslovak communist government”.

The supplying of billions of dollars in arms to the Afghan mujahedeen was one of the CIA’s longest and most expensive covert operations. The CIA provided assistance to the mujahedeen in a program called Operation Cyclone. So the war was started and purist Islamists started pouring into the region.

Religious Gambit

Now an irregular Army was needed because indigenous Afghan mujahedeen were not enough to fight with the USSR so Middle Eastern Countries sent Muftis (religious scholars) to Peshawar and Karachi to give Fatwas (religious decrees) that killing infidel was justified even if he does not attack you — Salafisim and Deoband School of Thought were injected, promoted and financed by the states during this era. Mosques were constructed all over Pakistan to spread this message. The people like Abdullah Yusuf Azzam (one of the architects of Al-Qaeda) came from Saudi Arabia to teach in mosques of Pakistan. Azzam issued a fatwa, Defence of the Muslim Lands, the First Obligation after Faith declaring that both the Afghan and Palestinian struggles were jihads in which killing occupiers of your land (no matter what their faith) was fard ayn (a personal obligation) for all Muslims. The edict was supported by Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti (highest religious scholar), Abd al-Aziz Bin Bazz. Now Jihad recipe was ready and Muslim youth from all over the world started gathering in Pakistan including people like Osama Bin Laden.

Camera Cut to USSR withdrawal

The withdrawal of the Soviet combatant forces from Afghanistan began on May 15, 1988, and was successfully executed on February 15, 1989, under the leadership of Colonel-General Boris Gromov who also was the last Soviet general officer to walk from Afghanistan back into the Soviet territory through the Afghan-Uzbek Bridge. Under the Geneva Accords on April 15, 1988, Afghanistan and Pakistan signed three instruments-on principles of mutual relations, in particular non-interference and non-intervention, on the voluntary return of Afghan refugees, and on interrelationships for the settlement, which provided for a phased withdrawal of foreign troops to begin on May 15. The United States and the USSR also signed a declaration on international guarantees, stating they both would refrain from any form of interference and intervention.

Camera Cut to Afghan Civil War

The 1989 to 1994 phase of the Afghan Civil War began after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, leaving the Afghan communist government to fend for itself against the Mujahideen. After three years of fighting, the Afghan Communist government fell in 1992.

Camera Cut to Deepen Afghan Civil War

In April 1992, Kabul came under a heavy bombardment campaign which marked the beginning of this new phase in the war. The civil war continued for more than four years at a full speed but then the Taliban emerged and western Afghanistan came under their control and only one left to fight with them — Ahmad Shah Mahsud.

Camera Cut to The Rise of Taliban

On September 27, 1996, the Taliban seized the Afghan capital Kabul and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The Defense Minister of the Islamic State of Afghanistan Ahmad Shah Massoud created the United Front (Northern Alliance) in opposition to the Taliban. The United Front included all Afghan ethnicities: Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Turkmens, some Pashtuns, and others. During the conflict, the Taliban received complimentary support from foreign fighters. In the late period of the war, of an estimated 45,000 force fighting on the side of the Taliban, only 14,000 were Afghan (Taliban).

Camera Cut to Operation Enduring Freedom

In response to the attacks of September 11, the early combat operations that took place on October 7, 2001, included a mix of strikes from land-based B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress bombers, carrier-based F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet fighters, and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from both the US and British ships and submarines signaled the start of Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan (OEF-A).

The initial military objectives of OEF-A, as articulated by the former President George W. Bush in his September 20 address to a Joint Session of Congress and his October 7 address to the country, included the destruction of terrorist training camps and infrastructure within Afghanistan, the capture of al-Qaeda leaders, and the cessation of terrorist activities in Afghanistan.”

Camera Cut to Operation Runaway

General Kenneth F. McKenzie, the Commander of the US Central Command, announced on August 30, 2021, that the last US aircraft left Afghanistan on August 30 at 3:29 pm ET or 11:59 pm in Kabul. The 18th Airborne Corps posted a photo of the last soldier to leave Afghanistan. He was identified as Major General Chris Donahue, the Commander of the US Army 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps.

President Biden addressed his nation on August 31, 2021, and said that the end of the war in Afghanistan is actually about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.

The end of the US’s longest war – in which nearly 50,000 Afghan civilians, 2,500 US Service members, and thousands of Afghan military, police, and Taliban fighters were killed. Pakistan paid sacrifices of over 85,000 civilians and sons in uniform during this turbulent phase of history.

This docudrama or historical film of the Afghan war “From Operation Cyclone to Operation Enduring Freedom and to Operation Runaway” had all blends, a blockbuster movie should include. It had suspense, horror, intrigues, action, and comedy. The most famous comedian in this film is the former President Bush junior.

We can calculate the human cost (dead) but we do not have the data of injured and disabled persons. We can calculate the US spending and other costs on this war but we have no data that where could this region stand economically if the war was not imposed on Afghanistan. We can calculate refugees initially came to Pakistan but we do not have data of their multiplication in the last 40 years and we have no data on how many families had gone through sociological and psychological disasters under this 40-year war.

Thousands of books and articles had been written over this war but there is no single databank from where one can collect them for background information for future researches.

Afghanistan is left behind without any international financial support but thousands of the latest state-of-the-art weapons are left behind by the US-allied forces and this is the second time such arsenal is left that can feed civil war for many decades to come. First Soviets left their weapons behind and Pakistan and Afghanistan saw the havoc of AK-47 rifles, bobby traps, RPGs, land mines, and so on so forth.

Will the war be over this time in Afghanistan?

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Note: Agha Iqrar Haroon is a senior journalist from Pakistan working in the field since 1988. He covered the Afghan war during 1995-97 and then during 2001-2006 while working with national and international media outlets including WTN News Agency, ETN News Agency, the News International, Abu Dhabi Television, and Al-Jazeera News.


The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.

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