The Effect of the USA’s Failure/Defeat in Afghanistan on its Hegemony

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Despite the presence of American soldiers in Kabul, it was a remarkable development that the Taliban seized the capital of Afghanistan and became the dominant force in the country. Moreover, the Taliban demanded the withdrawal of foreign elements from the country until August 31, 2021, and all North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member actors, especially the United States (US), complied with this demand. This clearly demonstrated that the Taliban were the winners of the 20-year war. Therefore, it can be argued that the withdrawal process will have an impact on the global hegemony of the USA and even lead its hegemonic leadership to the discussion.

It should be noted that; The victory of the Taliban is the bankruptcy of the “appeasement policy” and “honorable withdrawal strategy” implemented by the United States towards the organization. While the Washington administration was withdrawing from Afghanistan; It is understood that China will fill the power gap that will occur in this country. Currently, the Beijing administration is already challenging the privileged position of the Washington administration over the international system as one of the dominant powers of the global economy. Now this challenge is being carried over to Afghanistan with the claim of being an actor that can build peace. Of course, the aforementioned situation causes the perception of the “other” in American foreign policy is not terrorism anymore day by day and the Washington administration’s focus on China in its national security documents.

To get back to Afghanistan, the USA signed the Doha Agreement with the Taliban on February 29, 2020, stopped its operations against the organization, and called the Afghan Government at that time to negotiate with the Taliban. However, the USA’s announcement that it will withdraw until September 11, 2021, without any reconciliation is provided between the sides, has also undermined the possibility of reconciliation. In this context, the Taliban began to seize first the districts and then the cities. The USA did not intervene in this situation. Eventually, seizing Kabul, the Taliban dominated Afghanistan in general. Therefore, the developments led to the failure of the appeasement policy and the honorable withdrawal plan.

From this point of view, if it is necessary to interpret the situation in Afghanistan by focusing on the nature of the global power struggle, it should be reminded that the government supported by the Soviet Union after the withdrawal from the country in 1989 resisted the mujahideen for 3 years. The government supported by the Washington administration collapsed in front of its own eyes before the American troops had withdrawn. In a sense, the USA remained a spectator to this whole process. Now, his rivals will fill the power gap in Afghanistan. This means the weakening of American hegemony.  

On the other hand, it can be claimed that the new situation in Afghanistan will leave important traces in the domestic policy of the USA. Because, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the USA launched an operation against the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda and its ally the Taliban, and as a result of this operation, while overthrowing the Taliban regime; It also killed the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden. However, after 20 years of occupation, the Taliban dominated Afghanistan once again.

Moreover, the arrangement of the Kabul Airport attack by the terrorist organization the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in which American soldiers also lost their lives, revealed the failure of the Washington administration in the fight against terrorism. Therefore, 1 trillion dollars spent in the fight against terrorism was wasted. In this context, the defeat of the USA in Afghanistan can be likened to the Vietnam War. The goals set for the war were not achieved. It is remembered that at that time the USA President Lyndon B. Johnson, who decided to withdraw from Vietnam without achieving the aforementioned goals, could not be a candidate for the next period. USA President Joe Biden will likely encounter a similar fate.

On the other hand, the success of the Taliban has revealed that the discourses of the USA such as democracy, human rights, and women’s rights are only rhetoric. Because permanent peace has not been achieved in Afghanistan and the Washington administration has shown that it does not care much about issues such as human rights and women’s rights.

Moreover, the failure of the USA also has a system-building dimension. During the 20-year occupation period, the USA followed democratization and nationalization policies in Afghanistan, supported the constitution process, and described its operation against the aforementioned country as “Operation Enduring Freedom”. The works of the Afghan Government after the occupation was supported and many political parties, non-governmental organizations, and radio channels were established within this framework. However, the victory of the Taliban means the collapse of the system that was intended to be built in 20 years. Moreover, this failure is reflected in Biden’s words, “We couldn’t build the nation in Afghanistan.”. This indicates that American hegemony is no longer sustainable.

In short, the Taliban’s dominance in Afghanistan showed the failure of the United States. For this reason, the trust of the USA’s allies in the USA will decrease in the future. Because Washington did not protect its allies in Afghanistan and did not even inform its partners in Kabul about the deal it made with the Taliban.

As a result, although the USA is still the world’s greatest power militarily, politically, and economically, its failure in Afghanistan struck a heavy blow to its hegemonic leadership that it assumed after the Second World War. In other words, Afghanistan, known as the “Graveyard of Empires”, was the starting point of the defeat of the USA and destroyed its dream of a global empire.

Ahmad Khan Dawlatyar, 2013 yılında Kunduz Üniversitesi Hukuk ve Siyaset Bilimi Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Siyaset Bilimi Anabilim Dalı’nda “Türkiye Cumhuriyeti ve Afganistan İslam Cumhuriyeti Anayasalarında Güçler Ayrılığı İlkesi Üzerine Karşılaştırmalı Bir Analiz” başlıklı teziyle 2019 yılında almıştır. Çeşitli bilimsel etkinliklere katılan Dawlatyar, Afganistan sorunuyla ilgili bildiriler ve makaleler sunmuştur. Bu kapsamda “Afganistan Sorununun Dini ve İdeolojik Nedenleri” başlıklı sunumu yayınlanmıştır. Halihazırda Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. ANKASAM bünyesinde yürütülen çalışmalara katkıda bulunan Ahmad Khan Dawlatyar’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Afganistan ve Pakistan’dır. Dawlatyar, anadil seviyesinde Farsça, Özbekçe, Türkçe ve Peştunca dillerine hakimdir. Ayrıca orta düzeyde İngilizce bilmektedir.