Saturday, December 5, 2020


End of November, a virtual donor conference for Afghanistan collected another 10 billion dollars to assist the country in its democratization efforts. How did we arrive here? The answer is rooted in the country’s turbulent past.

Afghanistan‘s Recent History

In the 19th century, Afghanistan became the plaything between the colonial powers Russia and Great Britain. British intervention in a war for the succession to the throne instead led to a succession of Anglo-Afghan wars. The British attempt to occupy Afghanistan failed.

When in the 1970s, conservative Islamic forces pushed the Afghan governments into an increasingly defensive position, the Soviet government marched troops into Afghanistan on December 25, 1979. Suddenly the country became the scene of a "proxy war," in the conflict between the power blocs dominated by the Soviet Union and the United States. 

Although the Soviets had a superiority in terms of weapons technology, they failed to break the resistance of the various Islamic groups (Mujahideen). The Afghan resistance fighters ultimately won the conflict with the help of the same guerrilla tactics (avoidance of open field battles) as in the Afghan-British wars; they could also rely on support from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States, which, for example, bought and supplied Chinese weapons for the mujahidin. The last Soviet troops left the country on February 15, 1989. Especially mercenaries recruited in orthodox Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia settled in the fragmented country after the war. Local Taliban regimes have ruled the land since 1969.

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States began Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7, 2001, to overthrow the Taliban system. In particular, they aimed to smash the Taliban supported terrorist organization Al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, with massive attacks from the air. While there was agreement among the NATO countries that the military strike was justified, there were demonstrations against the war in Islamic countries, e.g., in neighboring Pakistan. 

On November 13, 2001, the capital Kabul fell. A few weeks after the first attacks, Afghanistan’s Northern anti-Taliban Alliance, which had controlled about 10 percent of the territory, managed to take almost the entire country. After the first international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Hamid Karzai was appointed interim president in 2002.


From the beginning, the US had asked their NATO allies for support. An international protection force named ISAF* was set up.
*International Security Assistance Force

Former Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen visiting her ISAF troops.
Von der Leyen is now president of the European Commission (©
The West had big plans. The USA, the Germans, the French, the Australians, the British, and many other countries sent soldiers, weapons, equipment. The reactions to ISAF were typical. Opponents against the deployment of German troops abroad were muzzled by the argument, “Germany is defended at the Hindu Kush.“ The French modified a slogan dating back to the beginning of the Second World War, “Mourir pour Dantzig?” into “Die for Kabul?”

After the allies had pushed back the Taliban and fumigated the al-Qaeda terrorists, they wanted to bring democracy to the Afghans. So they built local parliaments, schools, - for girls too - hospitals and military camps, trained locals to become soldiers and policemen, and transferred many billions of dollars to the Hindu Kush. This is how they believed they would win the war after the war.

Is there a Future?

How far have we come? Almost 20  years have passed since the fall of the Taliban, and a deeply insecure Afghanistan is still dependent on foreign aid. The news remain the same: fighting, attacks, hardship, suffering, and lawlessness. Only slowly do Washington, Berlin and the other capitals begin to realize that the prophecy those who knew the country had already expressed at the beginning of the mission could possibly be true: Afghanistan cannot be conquered, and the local tribes cannot be bought, no matter how much money is involved. They want to be their own masters, and they want to settle their business, their conflicts and even their peace with each other, without having the rules explained to them by haughty democracy missionaries with assault rifles in their hands.

Eventually the Americans bit the bullet, entered into peace talks with their mortal enemies and withdrew more and more troops embarrassing their allies.

The fact that POTUS now wants to complete the curfew quickly before his closing time is causing unrest among the allies.

The United States assumes many functions in Afghanistan that enable the deployment of all remaining soldiers of the alliance. This involves, e.g., fighter jets that defend against attacks or helicopters that support soldiers when they are ambushed. If the U.S. unilaterally withdraws such essential troops, the safety of all other soldiers there would be endangered. Germanys Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is categorical, ”We will not leave a single German soldier there if security cannot be guaranteed.”

What still remains is an oppressed country, bombed by terrorists, shot by soldiers from all over the world, humiliated by corrupt politicians, abused by religious hypocrites of virtue. The West finds it difficult to come to terms with this. To make sure that its years of adventure were not completely wasted, it is pumping even more money into official and less official channels in the Hindu Kush.

While the money of the recent donor conference is being collected fine words full of wishful thinking are spoken about peace. There is no question that every cent for the suffering people is helpful and highly welcome. But the chaos on the ground will remain. It will probably be some time before the West admits to itself that it has experienced in Afghanistan what has happened to all conquerors there for centuries: It has failed.

Died a hero’s death for western values (©

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