Afghanistan – the fall of the West? – The Weekly 63

It takes a very important event for a series of photos to become a world sensation in August, right in the middle of the summer holidays. The images taken in Kabul during the aftermath of the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan have achieved just that, and not without a reason. The utter collapse of the Afghan state in a matter of days and the Taliban takeover must make all of us think.

Sadly enough, we must realize that the two-decade-long Afghanistan activity of the US and its allies from 2001 to 2021 was a total failure. Of course, some analysts and opinion makers were quick to point out that the US was not the first great power to come a cropper in Afghanistan, or that the US had long lost interest in this poor and problematic Central Asian country.

Nevertheless, I still believe it’s important for the western world to realize its mistakes made in Afghanistan and to learn from them, too.

If you compare Afghanistan’s 2001 late summer status quo with that of 2021, you can surely conclude that the country’s situation is more hopeless than ever: while the anti-Taliban “Northern Alliance” was present at least in some areas of the country back in 2001, the Taliban now has complete control over Afghanistan with nothing to challenge their power. Also, while the Taliban system was an isolated regime in 2001, by now they have gotten to the point where more and more countries are considering their de jure recognition as well. If all of that wasn’t enough, the western withdrawal was accompanied by the on-stage appearance of an ever-strengthening China which will hardly make a fuss about human rights issues where it sniffs a strategic and business opportunity. But how could all this happen?

The US and its allies invested an enormous amount of money and energy into building the Afghan state, but they failed to consider the fundamental traits of the Afghan society. 

Looking somewhat messianistic at times, the project was aimed at developing a tribal society into a 21st-century democracy. While trying to construct the Afghan state, they completely ignored the fact that Afghanistan was a multi-ethnic and diverse country where the core element of people’s lives is their ethnicity rather than their citizenship in the modern sense. They disregarded the huge difference between the internationally minded Kabul, the local provincial centres and the Afghan rural areas still living in feudalism to this day, and you can’t skip centuries of cultural and societal development by making a few laws. As a result, they failed to find a solution to a situation where the Afghan central government had little control over the country, while the theoretically allied warlords and militia took the Afghan state just as seriously as the Afghan military that had been trained for astronomical sums but simply collapsed in the fateful moment: not at all.

We must realize that the wishful image of a pro-western Afghanistan marching towards democracy with masses of female university students was real in only a few streets of inner city Kabul at best. 

We didn’t want to see and understand why the Taliban movement can constantly be present or where it gets its supply and social backing from.

Let’s not deceive ourselves: the country could not have been taken in three days without hardly any rifle shots if they had not enjoyed the support of many Afghan people. I am talking about the Afghan people we failed to give any prospects to in 20 years. Instead, we put a weak and corrupt government over their heads, generating a constant civil war.

The exploding post-withdrawal chaos was like an admission of failure, while the fact that we could hardly do anything to rescue the Afghans who did their best for the model offered by the western countries and truly believed in it, is nothing short of a moral fall for us. 

After seeing the images taken at the Kabul airport, we can hardly expect anyone living in an authoritarian regime to openly dedicate themselves to democratic values from now on. 

Unlike us, religious extremists can be happy: they can feel justified in their belief that if they keep fighting persistently, they may even get recognized by the international community.


With increasing frequency over the past months, I have been forced to come to the conclusion that if we, i.e., western democracies, want to avoid becoming the minority and being surrounded by a growing number of authoritarian and, in fact, terrorist-leaning regimes, it’s high time for us to show more interest and empathy towards the other parts of the world. And we should be able to make sacrifices when it comes to that, too. It would be in our interest. If we fail to realize that, we’ll have nobody but ourselves to blame. - MÁRTON GYÖNGYÖSI, JOBBIK MEP Afghanistan – the fall of the West? – The Weekly 63 - Gyöngyösi Márton (