An image that will go down in history. But an image that will represent the humiliation of the West in the face of yet another failed attempt to “export freedom”. At 11:59 pm on Monday, the last American soldier left Kabul, ending America’s longest war and putting an end to a fumbling attempt to implement an allied government in the region.
The “honor” fell to US military Chris Donahue, the last to board the last plane leaving Kabul airport, a mirror of the blood and chaos spilled over Afghanistan. Through a night camera, what is seen is a kind of phantom of Western arrogance, transformed into shipwreck.
As historic as this image is that of the Nazis parading through Paris, the burnt-out girl fleeing bombs in Vietnam, the lone Chinese in front of tanks in 1989, or the fall of the Berlin Wall. But it falls under the rank of great humiliations, alongside the withdrawal from Saigon in 1975 or the exodus of the Soviets from Afghanistan itself.
Upon leaving Afghanistan – known as the graveyard of empires – Americans and Europeans leave a country far from the idea of stabilization, democracy and rights, even if certain advances have been achieved.
Today, there are 2.5 million Afghans living as refugees. The 20 years have resulted in at least 47,000 civilian deaths and thousands of wounded and traumatized.
Despite having poured more than $2 trillion into the country, the West has failed to bring about the revolution it had hoped for. Afghanistan remains one of the 30 poorest countries in the world, one of the most corrupt and biggest heroin producer on the planet.
Half of the children are malnourished, only a third of women can read and write, and now $85 billion worth of guns are in the hands of a medieval group.
Many today wonder: where did so much money go and how a strategy that surpassed the Marshall Plan for rebuilding Europe failed to achieve its goals. In the corridors of the UN, the answer echoes: “It was never for the Afghan people and their freedom.”
If human rights discourses permeated the occupation justifications, the reality is that only pockets of progress were identified. And yet only in a few cities. Not by chance, the different presidents of Afghanistan over the past 20 years were, ironically, called the “mayors of Kabul”. Hypocritically, they were welcomed around the world as the leaders of a country they themselves could not even visit in its entirety.
Hypocrisy will not be lacking either this Tuesday, when European ministers meet on an emergency basis to address the Afghan crisis. But on the agenda in Brussels is not the situation of the population, left to the fate of the Taliban. The bloc’s goal is to find a common strategy to prevent a migratory flow to Europe.
In other words, we occupied your country, failed to rebuild it, unexpectedly armed the Taliban and abandoned everyone when it became clear that we had failed. But we close our borders to anyone trying to escape death.
Meanwhile, at the UN, the paralysis is total. The organization has only 37% of the budget it requested to rescue the population, while resolutions are watered down precisely to prevent any possibility of coordinated international action.
At the UN Human Rights Council, Afghan victims were the target of derision when members of the agency passed a decision instructing the United Nations to monitor the situation in the country, without even creating a mechanism for such an investigation or inspection. In the resolution, in fact, there was not even an act of “condemnation” against the human rights violations committed by the Taliban.
Days later, at the UN Security Council, once again a resolution is passed. And, once again, without any real meaning for the local population. The document approved by the powers asks the fundamentalist group to comply with international law. But it does not provide for any kind of punishment, action or measure if a massacre takes place.
As the West sees the picture of its failure through a special lens and the international community is divided over how to deal with a criminal group, a new era begins in Kabul. And the music is silent.