By Mohammad Mazhari

Western experience in Afghanistan was disappointing, Italian expert says

September 15, 2021 - 21:19

TEHRAN - Italian expert Pastori Gianluca is of the view that Western experience in Afghanistan was “disappointing”.

“Overall, the Western experience in Afghanistan was disappointing,” Gianluca tells the Tehran Times.

 “The international community faced massive human and financial costs to reach only minimal results, possibly no result at all.”

He adds, “Many of the social and economic benefits gained in the past years will probably get lost in the future.”

Political analysts consider the Afghanistan case as an example of the West’s failure in exporting democracy and nation-building.

 “The Afghan experience will probably deliver another fatal blow to the idea that it is somehow possible to export ‘Western-style democracy’ through military intervention and state-building strategies. This was probably the main reason for the failure,” Gianluca notes.

 “A mission started with limited aims (hitting al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime supporting it and avoiding new attacks against the United States) creepingly evolved into a state-building effort without clear targets and an open deadline that proved unsustainable.”

Following is the text of the interview:

Q:  How do you describe Afghanistan’s situation after the U.S. withdrawal?

A: For sure, it is a complex one. I am not sure that the Taliban’s grip on power is as firm as it appears. Islamic State - Khorasan Province (ISKP) is a credible threat, the status of the Panjshir valley remains unclear, and an anti-Taliban resistance front (NRF – National Resistance Front) seems to coalesce, enjoying some degree of international favor.
On the contrary, the Kabul government faces a problem of international recognition. Currently, no country has officially recognized the Taliban government, although many of them are dealing with it in one way or the other. Moreover, Afghanistan is badly in need of international assistance, and the best way to access it is through better foreign relations; something that the Taliban still have to establish and that will probably prove quite troublesome.

Q: How do you evaluate U.S. performance in Afghanistan after two decades of war? What were the reasons for the U.S. failure in Afghanistan?

A: Overall, the Western experience in Afghanistan was disappointing. The international community faced massive human and financial costs to reach only minimal results, possibly no result at all. Many of the social and economic benefits gained in the past years will probably get lost in the future. Moreover, the Afghan experience will probably deliver another fatal blow to the idea that it is somehow possible to export ‘Western-style democracy’ through military intervention and state-building strategies. This was probably the main reason for the failure. A mission started with limited aims (hitting al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime supporting it and avoiding new attacks against the United States) creepingly evolved into a state-building effort without clear targets and an open deadline that proved unsustainable.

Q: What is the EU’s stance towards developments in Afghanistan? Apparently, there is no serious posture.

A: The European countries actively supported Afghanistan’s socio-economic development with both men and funds within and outside the NATO framework. The European Union, too, elaborated its own programs on a 2014-20 timespan investing more than four billion euros since 2002. However, the EU political drive has always been weak. Political coordination is traditionally tricky because different member countries have different priorities, and the outcome usually is a compromise. The U.S. withdrawal was largely resented, but no EU country could offer a credible alternative at both political and military levels. The G7 summit convened in late August to deal with the political and humanitarian implication of the Western withdrawal highlighted this state of things but was unable to provide alternative solutions.

Q: How could neighboring countries contribute to rebuilding Afghanistan?

A: Afghanistan’s neighbors have a strong interest in a stable and peaceful country. Although they lack the same financial means, they can project their political influence more effectively than their Western counterparts. At the same time, Afghanistan is also the chessboard where its neighbors traditionally compete to extend their influence. Their rivalry reverberated in the country’s long civil war and partly made possible the success of the Taliban movement in the second half of the 1990s. The most reasonable attitude for many of these countries would be to sit still and let the domestic situation stabilize but predicting a posture like this would be unrealistic. However, it is worth noting that two important external actors like Russia and China seem to have adopted such a cautious attitude, at least for the moment.

Q: What are the implications of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan for Washington’s allies?

A: I do not think that the U.S. withdrawal will impact the relations with its regional allies. In Afghanistan, I think the Arab countries have already ‘decoupled’ their policies from the U.S. for a long time. In terms of military commitment, too, I do not think what happened in Kabul conveys any particular message. In Washington’s eyes, Afghanistan’s status has never been comparable to the Arab states of the (Persian) Gulf. At the same time, Afghanistan has never had the same leverage the Arab states have on the U.S. posture. Moreover, the United States remains a critical regional player at political and military levels and shares many interests with its local allies. Supposing that the withdrawal from Afghanistan could change this long-established state of things is not credible, either if we focus on the U.S. perspective or its Arab counterparts.
 

Leave a Comment

1 + 10 =