By Ioannis Michaletos
Graveyard of Empires
The expedition in Afghanistan by the international forces since 2001 has resulted so far in a titanic failure not only in terms of stabilizing and neutralizing international terrorism, but also in themes such as transnational drug trade, along with major corruption concerns.
First of all international forces plus the existing formal governmental ones of Kabul, control securely less than 30% of the country or 70% of its territory but not in a secure manner, meaning that bands of Jihadists, organized crime syndicates and local warlords are in possession of strength in these areas.
Concurrently opium production is expanding steadily since 2001 and Afghanistan produce 90% of the illicit commodity, generating tens of billions of USD each year. Quite interestingly the bulk of it is then massively laundered in the Middle East’s financial hubs, thus boosting transnational organized crime, bolstering corruption political networks and indirectly facilitating the growth of Jihadist factions in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Libya. Specifically the so-called “Islamic State” has since 2015 entered the “heroin path” making up many of its losses from the destruction of its fuel contraband system in the region. In the meantime the UNODC researches in the past 4 years have illuminated a shift of heroin traffickers towards East African ports, which in turn empowers all sorts of nefarious networks in that area, which is also heavily affected by Islamic terrorism. In sort, opium-heroin production in Afghanistan and the tremendous failure of containing it by the international forces, fuels a wider destabilization motive in Eurasia which has direct political consequences for many countries involved.
Further, the Taliban guerilla movement and various Jihadist groups are still operational and launch from time to time considerable assaults, whilst being able to muster the support of Afghani regular troops and Police, resulting in mass defections. Widespread corruption in all sectors of state functions is beyond belief with medical supplies routinely stolen by those in charge, overpriced food items being distributed to social services and illegal immigration being quasi-officially supported by local community leaders via make shift “travel agencies” who operate via the Hawala transnational network.
The capital Kabul is witnessing a slow motion of subversion by extremists who appear to have created a parallel structure within the city and wait for any opportunity to rise in order to massively strike military and diplomatic, as well as, state institutional targets. Lack of intel is further augmented by the lack of essential trust between international forces designated personnel and local stakeholders, many of which are plain “criminals in suits” or have shady links with extended families in other countries (i.e. Pakistan) who in turn facilitate geopolitical aims of Islamabad or are just involved in regional contraband.
The amount of capital which has been invested for the ‘democratization” and “modernization” of Afghanistan in the past 15 years is staggering. Roughly 100 billion USD in aid and donations have been provided with the important note that the purchasing power of the American Dollars nominal value is quite a few times multiple than if a similar aid was provided to European country for example. Therefore in a manner of “creative accounting” we could say that this amount would be similar as providing 1.5 trillion USD to Ukraine over the past 15 years in aid alone.
The financial burden for the US economy along from the Afghani expedition is staggering. A thoroughly researched report by the Watson Institute of international and public affairs of the Brown University(ref:http://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/Costs%20of%20War%20Executive%20Summary.pdf), comments on trillions of USD spend both in the Afghan front and secondary related commitments. By adding the war in Iraq and other expeditions US economy suffered a more than 5 trillion USD price tag without any tangible geopolitical gain.
In other terms if that capital was directed into supplying the internal market and push forward the technological and infrastructural investment in America; obviously the country would be in a far better position in the international arena. Fundamentally there is something wrong in the whole story and it resembles the traditional scenario under which all Empires falter. That is the combination of domestic corruption being exported abroad via imperialistic expeditions which in turn facilitate economic downturn and internal stiff divisions between competing fractions within an all-expanding vast bureaucracy which consumes capital from the productive classes. This spiral downturn process always turns into political decadence, loss of morale and at the end loss of supremacy. It appears at first glance that this process is repeated once more.
The quagmire described, breeds further issue to deal with, one of which is the expanding trend of illegal immigration of Afghanis into Europe. The talks in Pakistan to starting expelling some 3 million Afghanis from its territory will further increase the problem and initiate a larger “march to the West”. As a result the EU will start gradually disintegrating itself, and has already been viewing that prospect mainly due to the Syrian refugee crisis since 2015. Turkey being the main geopolitical platform will further increase its leverage vis-a-vis Brussels, obliging many of the exiting EU members to withdrawal their support for the fading “European dream”.
At the same time the peripheral and still theoretical security group composed by Afghanistan’s neighbors and stakeholders such as China, Russia, Pakistan, and India., Iran and Central Asian states is not functioning. That simply means that the eventual exodus of all international forces from the country will inevitably lead into a new round of civil strife, religious extremism and preparation of new globally -minded terrorist network, of the exact nature and origin as those operating there since the 1980’s. Thus coming back to square one of the issue once more.
The end out of this labyrinth thus could only occur under international cooperation, which should involve both regional players and the international community as a whole via the UN structures. The Afghani factions would not be able to further destabilize the country if they don’t receive foreign aid in the form of arms or capital. The same applies to most war theaters around the globe.
The Western world in particular is in a milestone of its history since it is in great danger of experiencing the bursting of the greatest asset and debt bubble in its financial history, which if materialized it will bring down the Western civilization as it has been formed over the past millennium.
In such a case future historians will note of the Afghani expedition as a significant part of the “Decline of the West”