The chaotic implosion of the Afghanistan government and Taliban’s capture of Kabul on August 15 made the biggest foreign policy debacle of the United States in the recent history.

President Biden, in his speech delivered on the next day, strongly advocated his decision of withdrawal the U.S. forces and put the blame on his predecessors in the White House.

He didn’t hide his indignation to the incompetent allies in Afghanistan who were unwilling to fight for their country and failed to confront the Taliban forces.

Mr. Biden’s personal disappointment is understandable since the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), which were abundantly equipped with advanced arms and trained by the U.S. forces over the past two decades, almost evaporated in the face of the Taliban offensive. As one of the longest served leader in Washington DC, however, he cannot but sharing responsibility for the past U.S. policies.

The fall of Kabul, however, doesn’t mean the decline of the American might. American military superiority is still unchallenged and would not be conquered in the battlefield in the foreseeable future.

The withdrawal resolves the problem of the American overstretch and removes the heavy burden of prolonged counterinsurgency operations from the U.S. forces, enabling U.S. policy makers to shift and concentrate on the more imminent challenges posed by the great power rivalry with China. 

What was crushed by this debacle was, the dream of universal applicability of liberal democracy to all corners of the world which has been a conviction held by Americans since the fall of the Soviet Empire in the early 1990s.

Afghanistan, well-known as “graveyard of empires” is a typical buffer state which is located in between multiple contested regions such as the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, and China’s Xinjiang and gives necessary distance between them. Because of this geopolitical importance, Great Powers have hesitated to trespass Afghanistan’s territory and left it independent, if nominally, even in the heyday of the Western colonialism. Thailand in the Southwest Asia corresponds to this, kept independent between the British, French and the Dutch colonial interests.

Only when driven by rage and fear, and miscalculations resulting from them, empires rush in where angels fear to tread.

Now the U.S. has left, no major outside powers volunteer to bear the burden. Afghanistan will be back to its normal status of being left behind in autonomy, chronically divided.

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