There is a statement about the war in Afghanistan that, to date, almost seems like a taboo to utter. In fact, hardly anyone had the courage to say that the United States and its NATO allies lost that war, which began in 2001. Yet, seeing the retreat of the military and Western personnel from Kabul, seeing the return of the Taliban, it would seem an obvious fact. But from another point of view we have the president of the United States in person, Joe Biden, who in speaking to the nation claims a victory, clarifying that the objective of the military mission was to eliminate the presence of Al Qaeda and specifically of Osama bin Laden from the area in response to the dramatic 9/11 attacks.
How to blame him, on the one hand. But from the other point of view, we remember well how this military mission proudly carried the name of Enduring Freedom, but despite 20 years of war the desired result was perhaps not so lasting. But if no one talks about a “lost war” perhaps it is not just for fear of appearing defeatists.
The US intervention in Afghanistan is in fact part of a wider conflict, which began before 2001 and which is still continuing after the Western withdrawal, which over the years has seen not only the Taliban as protagonists, but also other groups such as the Northern Alliance. , and which has not only seen the intervention of NATO, but also of the Soviet Union: a single conflict in which one can see a continuity for decades and in which, given how it has taken place up to now, to put a point and drawing up a list of winners and losers risks being a complex exercise.
In this situation, the United States they can say of having achieved the goal of eliminating Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, certainly not of having “exported democracy” to Afghanistan, nor of having overthrown the Taliban regime, but according to Biden’s speeches these two Bushian objectives seem to be been pushed aside.
But this makes us understand one thing. In our mentality, many times, today’s wars are like those we study in history books: great conflicts that have as their goal the unconditional surrender of an enemy or the annexation of a territory, but conflicts have long since changed their modality. , and with it the parameters that allow a war to be won or not. If we look at most of the military interventions carried out by Western armies since the fall of the Berlin wall to date, they are targeted interventions in specific conflicts, think for example in Bosnia and Kosovo where the goal was to stop certain government actions. Yugoslavian, or specific attacks in war contexts, such as the attacks carried out by the US against Syrian targets linked to the Assad government. Although the initial objectives may have been achieved, it is difficult to talk about a war won or a war lost, because the Western role often focuses on specific, sometimes almost surgical, issues. And as a result of such targeted interventions, many traditional war parameters become smoky, and each of the parties involved can say that they have hit the target or that they have not yielded to the intervention: then it is the subsequent events that tell what happened.
In the Afghan case, the intervention lasted 20 years in which everything happened, and it is difficult to imagine that Washington could be satisfied with having returned the country to the Taliban, despite the thousands of deaths on both sides. However, the Western war setting of recent years is such that, paradoxically, Biden can speak to the nation without major problems by claiming to have achieved the main post 9/11 goals. But did he win or lose the war? This will be work for the historians of tomorrow, the arduous sentence for posterity.