The Economist Magazine 27th August 2021 If the propagandists of the Taliban had scripted the collapse of America’ s 2000 year mission to reshape Afghanistan, they could not have come up with more harrowing images. As insurgents swept into Kabul, desperate Afghans, terrified about what the victorious zealots might do, chased departing American cargo planes down the runway, trying to clamber into the landing gear and inevitably falling to their deaths. The Americanbacked government had surrendered without a fight—something that American officials were insisting would not happen only days before. Afghans were left in such a horrifying bind that clinging to the wheels of a hurtling aircraft seemed their best option. America has spent $2trn in Afghanistan; more than 2,000 American lives have been lost, not to mention countless Afghan ones.
And yet, even if Afghans are more prosperous now than when America invaded, Afghanistan is back to square one . The Taliban control more of the country than they did when they lost power, they are better armed, having seized the weapons America showered on the Afghan army, and they have now won the ultimate affirmation: defeating a superpower. The insurgents have made a show of magnanimity, pledging that they will not take revenge on those who worked for the toppled government and insisting that they will respect women’ s rights, within their interpretation of Islamic law. But that interpretation kept most girls out of school and most women confined to their homes when the group w as last in power , in the 1990s. Brutal punishments—floggings, stonings , amputations— were common. The freedoms that urban Afghans took for granted over the past 20 years have just gone up in smok e. It is an appalling outcome for Afghanistan’ s 39m people , and deeply damaging for America (see Briefing). The Economist Magazine 27th August 2021