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Will Taliban victory mark the beginning of the end of the Western empire?

To count the cost of the West's intervention in Afghanistan in US and UK military lives alone is the ultimate proof that we are a civilization in decay

by David Hearst
 
Part 4 - Chilling message
 
All this sends a chilling message to those princes and generals in the Middle East who would  struggle to last five weeks if the US withdrew its forces or military support. The royal courts in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Amman, and the presidential palace in Cairo must all be asking themselves how many weeks they would last if a popular Islamist insurgency was coming for them.

Former US President Donald Trump famously said Saudi Arabia would last two weeks if the US left.

He was not joking.

If the Afghan army did not fight for Ghani, does Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the defence minister, think the National Guard, whose top generals he has regularly purged, would fight for him?

Khalid al-Dakhil, a Saudi political analyst and academic, tweeted: "As soon as Kabul fell to the Taliban, some shivered with conspiracy and fear of the return of political Islam to the region. To be afraid and anticipate is prudence and readiness. But to remain afraid for decades and decades is fragility and poor insight. As for the conspiracy, it is nothing more than a tool of politics and conflict. It is thus less than to explain history and its movement."

The conspiracy al-Dakhil was referring to claims that the Americans and Islamists are working hand in hand, just as the Saudis suspected former US President Barack Obama of doing when he abandoned late Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during the 25 January uprising. But in fact, the relationship between the US and Islamists is more fraught than its relationship with tyrants, secular or religious groups.

When Islamists fight American soldiers, the US will end up talking to them as they did with the Taliban in the Doha meetings, and accept defeat, as they are doing now in Kabul.

But if an Islamist movement, like Hamas, openly declares that its fight is not with the US, and has not killed a single US soldier, Washington will ignore that Hamas has offered a long-term ceasefire, and declare it a terrorist organisation, prevent any other Palestinian faction from forming a unity government with it, and do its utmost to lay siege to Gaza.

The US will similarly do the same to those Islamists who have shunned violence and opted for elections, democracy, and parliaments. These people, the US will try to ban.

Eight years ago when the Egyptian military staged the worst massacre of unarmed civilians since the Tiananmen Square protests, in their violent dispersal of a sit-in in Rabaa Square in Cairo, Obama literally returned to his game of golf. When a month earlier, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi staged a military coup, Obama refused to call it a coup.

Destroy democracy and the US looks the other way. Take up arms and the US will talk and then withdraw.

But attempt to be independent from the US and all hell will break loose. The financial markets will drain the lifeblood out of your economy, your banks and businesses will be sanctioned, your nuclear scientists will be assassinated.

The imperial belief in western social, military, economic superiority and its inherent assumption that the West has a moral right to lead, not just lacks any credibility, it's also a strategic disaster. The US is losing influence as quickly under Biden as it did under Trump, because ultimately not much has changed.

Occupiers and dictators who openly flout basic standards of human rights are still rewarded with money and arms. Corruption is still fed by US taxpayers' money. The people who suffer under their yoke are ignored.

Small wonder that Afghans did not fight the Taliban.

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