Reflecting on NATOs Defeat in Afghanistan
Although given little attention in Western media, I am convinced that the defeat of NATO in Afghanistan is a defining moment in history. It symbolizes the end of the post-Cold War era. Western hopes that, after the collapse of the Communist world, it would be possible to create a world in our image, proved an illusion.
The military intervention of Afghanistan following 9/11 seemed at fist an overwhelming success. The USA had proven its prowess as the only global superpower. It was able to strike in one of the most remote places in the world, in Afghanistan, and carry a victory over a medieval regime within less than six weeks. And not only that. The USA was then also seen a force of good that led the world in helping to rebuild Afghanistan and turn it into a modern state that would bring freedom and prosperity to all Afghans. At that time, even to suggest that this might not work, was tantamount to treason – also within the UN. But now, after 20 years of war, things have turn out very differently.
In December 2001, I had accompanied the UN USG Brahimi to Afghanistan but left the mission a little later over disagreements on the way forward. I had repeatedly warned that the high hopes we had for Afghanistan might not work out and written a number of short internal notes to this effect. Between February and July 2002, I summarized them into three internal papers. They were not welcomed at all, and I become quickly sidelined.
However, in retrospect, they might be of interest and, for the first time, I would like to make them available to an interested public. I publish them here as I had written them in 2002 under trying circumstances. They were never edited and may hence be full of typos and other mistakes.