‘It is impossible to perform a democratic miracle from outside’

Dmitry Medvedev

Twenty years ago, the bloodiest terrorist attack in recent human history took place in the United States. The whole world was shocked by video footage when planes hijacked by terrorists crashed into the buildings of the World Trade Center. The famous “Twin Towers” – the symbol of a successful and prosperous America – are crumbling and burning.

People begging for help from the upper floors of skyscrapers, panic and chaos reigning on the streets of New York. I, like millions of people around the world, watched what was happening on the air. It was impossible to believe that what was happening was a terrible reality, and not just another Hollywood blockbuster. After some time, news came about the plane, which the terrorists sent to the Pentagon building, and about the plane crash of the fourth airliner in Pennsylvania. Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by the Al-Qaeda group (the organization is banned in Russia).

The shock was universal. Almost three thousand dead, dozens of injured – citizens of the United States and more than 90 other countries. The global community is faced with an unprecedented threat. In the face of fanatics, the leader country, which possesses enormous economic potential and military might, turned out to be powerless. Such a challenge demanded an immediate response, and America declared war on terrorism.

The principle of “blood for blood” was immediately put into practice. The US launched an armed intervention in Afghanistan, where the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, was hiding. The UN approved this invasion.

As it turned out, the Americans were not going to confine themselves only to operations against militant groups of terrorists and their accomplices. The mission in Afghanistan stretched out over 20 years. During this period, the United States “buried” $ 1.5 trillion in Afghanistan, but these spending turned out to be absolutely pointless. The campaign ended ingloriously in August this year, when the last American soldier left the country. The entire world has chronicles before their eyes that evoke heavy feelings: crowds of Afghans at the airport, people clinging to the landing gear of planes taking off.

Americans are accustomed to imposing their values on the world, which were supposed to become the basis of a new political system here as well. The process of its formation began with the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan under the auspices of the UN in December 2001 and ended in 2004, when a new Constitution of the now Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was adopted. Washington tried to create all the conditions for the development of the new state according to the Western model. However, Afghans once again did not accept the schemes imposed on their country.

The reckless cash infusions, with which the Americans desperately extinguished certain problems, did not save the situation. Despite billions of dollars in subsidies, people’s living standards have remained virtually unchanged. Most of the population continued to live in poverty, and corruption in the state apparatus grew like a cancer.

The United States suffered the same collapse, trying to provide military support to the established regime. Almost from scra-tch, the Pentagon created, trained and armed the Af-ghan National Security Fo-rces. But, as the events of recent months have shown, they could not exist without the “American shoulder”. After the departure of foreign troops, the country’s armed forces did not want to fight without their patr-ons and their money. They resignedly surrendered the Afghan provinces, and then completely left the capital of the country itself without a fight. All of the US military-building efforts in Afghanistan literally turned to dust overnight.

At the same time, various operations claimed the lives of almost two and a half thousand American servicemen. Civilian casualties amounted to more than 40 thousand people, over 75 thousand were injured. Many of them died in indiscriminate attacks by NATO forces. Tens of thousands of people had to leave their homeland in search of a peaceful life. Until now, Afghan citizens constitute one of the largest groups of refugees seeking salvation in Europe. A new round of the migration crisis is also threatening Russia and the countries of Central Asia. In addition, the United States and its allies have left tens of thousands of Afghans to the mercy of fate, who for these twenty years, sincerely believing in the “Western future”, have closely cooperated with NATO.

The Americans did not achieve the main goal that President George W. Bush announced after the September 11 attacks – to defeat terrorism in Afghanistan. Due to numerous US miscalculations, including in the Middle East policy, terrorists continue to operate in the country. The Americans could not oppose anything to the militants of the “Islamic State” (the organization is banned in Russia), who massively moved from Syria to Afghanistan. According to intelligence agencies, there are now tens of thousands of IS fighters and their followers in the region, a significant part of whom are concentrated in the northern and eastern provinces bordering on the Central Asian states. The leadership of the “Islamic State” has explicitly announced plans to extend its influence over the entire region.

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan only fuels the activity of the terrorist organization, which continues to pose a huge threat to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Another unresolved problem is related to drug production. Moreover, the achievement of peak indicators in the Afghan drug industry coincided with the presence of the Americans and their NATO allies. The illicit manufacture of opiates has increased from 17 to 40 times over the 2001 level over the past twenty years. Afghanistan now accounts for about 85% of the world’s production of this drug. The country has a well-functioning drug trafficking scheme – regardless of the presence or absence of foreign troops there.

All these examples once again confirm the thesis that it is impossible to perform a democratic miracle from the outside, at the same time ridding the world of terrorism and drugs. Washington was never able to stabilize the situation in a poor, war-worn country, turn it into a modern state. The consequences of the US military presence in Afghanistan, which cost the US budget an astronomical amount, look truly catastrophic.

A huge number of terrorist attacks, the country’s population, deprived of hope for a peaceful future, the drug threat on a global scale, the destruction of the socio-economic sphere and the political system of the state, hundreds of killed American soldiers

and dead servicemen of other countries.

The West realized late that the systemic problems of Afghanistan had no military solution. Power in the country passed to the people whom the United States initially accused of aiding the perpetrators and inspirers of the September terrorist attacks. This “cyclicality” is perhaps the clearest evidence of the futility of the twenty-year military mission of the Americans in Afghanistan.

In an attempt to save its reputation and the credibility of NATO as a whole, the US Administration refused to admit defeat. Instead, she began to use the formula “we are not kicked out, we are leaving.” However, President J. Biden nevertheless noted that the withdrawal of troops does not only mean the end of the Afghan campaign – it is about the end of the era of “major military operations to reshape other countries.” His words, in fact, mean Washington’s open recognition of the collapse of the strategy to assert its ubiquitous military-political presence. After all, wherever Americans tried to build a new statehood, they always left behind problems, not solutions.

The realities that have developed in Afghanistan due to the actions of the U-nited States require deeply thought-out, balanced political steps. Russia is undoubtedly interested in settling intra-Afghan differences. However, this must be done by the country’s political forces themselves, which reflect the entire spectrum of its society.

Our main task is to ensure not only our own security, but also the security of our allies in the CSTO. Otherwise, the consequences of the Afghan conflict may manifest themselves on the territory of our neighboring states.

First of all, we are talking about countering terrorism, which for twenty years has not disappeared anywhere. Moreover, it is obvious that this is not a problem of a single region, but of all mankind.

Terrorists can commit at any time no less bloody acts of terrorism than in September 2001. This means that it is necessary to direct the efforts of the entire international community to combat the evil that the United States and its allies could not eradicate.

In an attempt to save its reputation and the credibility of NATO as a whole, the US Administration refused to admit defeat. Instead, she began to use the formula “we are not kicked out, we are leaving.”

However, President J. Biden nevertheless noted that the withdrawal of troops does not only mean the end of the Afghan campaign – it is about the end of the era of “major military operations to reshape other countries.” His words, in fact, mean Washington’s open recognition of the collapse of the strategy to assert its ubiquitous military-political presence. After all, wherever Americans tried to build a new statehood, they always left behind problems, not solutions.

The realities that have developed in Afghanistan due to the actions of the United States require dee-ply thought-out, balanced political steps. Russia is undoubtedly interested in settling intra-Afghan differences. However, this must be done by the country’s political forces themselves, which reflect the entire spectrum of its society.

Our main task is to ensure not only our own security, but also the security of our allies in the CSTO. Otherwise, the consequences of the Afghan conflict may manifest themselves on the territory of our neighboring states.

First of all, we are talking about countering terrorism, which for twenty years has not disappeared anywhere. Moreover, it is obvious that this is not a problem of a single region, but of all mankind. Terrorists can commit at any time no less bloody acts of terrorism than in September 2001. This means that it is necessary to direct the efforts of the entire international community to combat the evil that the United States and its allies could not eradicate.

Russia has always been ready for such work, despite its difficult relations with the West. For the sake of the people, governments of different countries should forget about their differences. Of particular importance is the deepening of cooperation between Russia and the United States in the fight against terrorism. However, to do this, our partners need to part with the illusion of their own exclusivity. No nation, no single alliance is capable of solving this problem on its own. Only together, by showing the necessary solidarity, can we eliminate this evil. Twenty years of failed US intervention in Afghanistan is enough time to think about it.

Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, ex-president and ex-prime minister of Russia.

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