Twenty years after September 11

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The Taliban have chosen the twentieth anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon to present the new government of Afghanistan. A deadly joke for those who waged war on them after the events of September 11.

Having emerged victorious from their twenty-year battle against Western armies, now the “students of Koran” are called to abandon the role of the terrorist guerrilla to rule a war-torn country. In the coming months they will have to adopt a moderate face and perhaps even to put it into practice, being aware of not being able to survive without international aid and having to manage a very complex country in which ethnic, cultural and political groups of various kinds have always faced each other to control the territory.

Despite what was hinted by a certain sensationalist vulgate – for which the Afghan events would happen against the will of the population – the Taliban are in fact the direct expression of one of the most important and deep-rooted ethnic groups in the country. These are the Pashtuns, dominant in the southern provinces and certainly not an accident implanted from the outside.

It is impossible to understand the dynamics of what has happened in recent weeks in Kabul without reflecting on this simple fact. While many Afghan clans dislike “students”, they certainly prefer them to a regime artificially created by the Americans and their Western allies. Of course, this does not detract from the formidable complexity that will be governing a country that does not actually exist.

Much has been said and written in recent weeks about the decline of the West and the end of the American Empire as we have come to know it in recent decades. Beyond any ideological evaluation on the outcome of the military campaign, the fact that matters is that Washington had stayed too long in Central Asia – a theater of secondary importance that has no chance of affecting the competition for global supremacy.

Twenty years ago, the United States invaded Afghanistan in the wake of the feeling of panic caused by the terrifying shock that 9/11 was for them. Before the attacks they were the only superpower in the world, which existed without rivals and in a condition of absolute serenity with respect to possible external aggression. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

The shock was such as to unleash a war without logic such as that against terrorism. Which, incidentally, is a method of warfare available to anyone according to its needs, certainly not an enemy that can be defeated or killed. That was the beginning of exhausting wars without strategic sense: after Afghanistan came Iraq and then many other grueling interventions around the world we have witnessed and sometimes even tool part in.

Today the goal of the United States is to leave to its Asian rivals the task of dealing with such a complex territory, marked by a deadly orography and disputed between distinct ethnic groups, where forms of violence and guerrilla will be inevitable in the years to come.

China fears that Afghan instability could overwhelm Pakistan, a crucial terminal of the new silk routes. Russia looks with concern at the possibility of local chaos spreading to its southern borders, especially since it has lost the tools to counter it. Iran too is vulnerable, because it knows it cannot dominate Afghanistan even though it is the cultural reference power for its main ethnic groups.

It is on this point that we will have to evaluate the consequences of the Western withdrawal from Kabul in the future. In the meantime, let’s try to put aside the emotion, which in addition to not letting us grasp the real meaning of the Afghan events, in these same hours leads some of us to overestimate even the memory of the 9/11. Up to the paradox of those who manage to elevate it to an unlikely junction capable of forever changing the destinies of Europe and the United States.