Afghanistan – much on which to ponder
August 17, 2021
Afghanistan – much on which to ponder

IN 1980, THE international sporting community, and the people of the world in general, were shocked to learn that the United States (US) had launched a campaign for the boycott of the Olympic Games scheduled to be held in Moscow, the capital of the then Soviet Union, in the summer of that year.

The shock was all the more profound because those spearheading the Moscow boycott were at the forefront of a campaign in the other direction four years before. Then, African nations, tired of fruitless United Nations Resolutions against racist apartheid in South Africa, had decided to boycott the 1976 Olympics held in the Canadian city of Montreal, as a form of registering their strong protest against the continuing support by western nations for apartheid in South Africa.

The argument advanced by the US and its allies in 1976 was that one should not “mix politics with sport” and that international events like the Olympics should be kept free from political interference. The proposed boycott of the Soviet Games was therefore a major contradiction in this regard. So what was the reason for this turnaround? In contrast to the idealism preached in 1976, the Moscow boycott was political. It was based on US objection to the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in 1979 and led to the US being trapped in a military and political minefield that lasts up until today.

Though it took two decades and the 9/11 attacks on US soil in 2001 before the US officially replaced the Soviet Union as an invading force in Afghanistan, American entrapment in what turned out to be another costly, bloody and fruitless foreign military adventure actually spans two decades before that.

Regrettably, it ended ignominiously last Sunday just as had happened in Vietnam 46 years previously, with the Americans hightailing it out of Afghanistan, helicopters and planes frantically evacuating US citizens and leaving US allies, supporters and collaborators in its war against the Taliban frantically trying to climb onto departing aircraft.

It was even more embarrassing than the Vietnam debacle of 1975 when the mightiest war machine in modern times crumbled before the humble Vietnamese people. This time it was the Taliban, an Afghan group involved in the resistance to Soviet invasion which had come into power after the Soviets were defeated and known in the west as “murderers”, abusers of human rights and especially for their backward and repressive attitudes towards women and girls.

After a massive invasion 20 years ago, and the propping up of a puppet state for two decades at an astronomical cost to American taxpayers, how could US policy in this regard so suddenly collapse spectacularly within one week? How come there has been a repeat of Vietnam, half a century after that humiliation? What implications do the events of the past week have for US foreign policy and for peace in the world in general?

It may be too early to answer all these questions but how is it possible for a “discredited”, ideologically bankrupt group without popular support to, in the space of 10 days, bring an embarrassing end to US presence in Afghanistan, forcing the puppet Head of State to flee ignominiously, as have others of his type before him, and leaving the foreign policy of the world’s major power in shambles?

For those who see no further than slavish obedience to the behests of the US, there are many searching questions, especially the repeated practice of abandoning allies. It may be early yet, but there is much on which to ponder.