Kabul has fallen and Afghanistan has returned to brutal Taliban rule.

Afghanistan. September, 2005. (photo: Yan Boechat)

When President Joe Biden told reporters a month ago that the possibility of the Taliban overrunning Afghanistan in the wake of U.S. troop withdrawal was “highly unlikely”, keen foreign policy observers on both sides of the aisle shook their heads sadly.

Biden’s outrageously optimistic claim, which would have no doubt earned Donald Trump at least four pinnochios from The Washington Post, went largely unchallenged at the time, at least in the mainstream media.

But the writing was already on the wall, even if the Biden Administration and its Democratic Party sympathizers in the press were pointedly ignoring it.

In the conservative papers, on the other hand, straight talk on the future of Afghanistan has been the order of the day since President Biden formalized the troop withdrawal. Republicans gearing up for an ugly mid-term melee have been licking their chops at the possibility that the new Democratic president would fall flat on his face in Afghanistan.

After the catastrophic last week in the country, Afghanistan is looking like a major humanitarian crisis unfolding in real time. And this time, the violent subjugation of ordinary, everyday citizens- men, women and children- by the notoriously brutal Taliban will be televised.

Is the world prepared for the atrocities we are about to witness?

Unlike two decades ago, modern-day Afghanistan is wired for sound. Though journalists, and especially the female ones, are usually the first casualties in a totalitarian takeover- as indeed they have been already- there will be no shortage of photos, cellphone videos, and satellite imagery to confirm our worst fears.

What we see in those videos will shame the U.S. foreign policy machine- and four consecutive presidential administrations, two Republican and two Democrat.

“Not Our Tragedy” and “Afghans have to fight for themselves,” is the general consensus as the Taliban overruns the country. But the Afghan government, which the U.S. has been so assiduously assisting for the past two decades, doesn’t have a chance against the Taliban- and anyone who has thought about the situation for more than two seconds knows it.

They might have had a fighting chance, if the American troop withdrawal hadn’t handed the Taliban literally tons of U.S. military ordinance with every province and city they have overrun.

Thanks to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, the Taliban now has everything they need to subjugate the people of Afghanistan for the foreseeable future and beyond- and then some.

The Taliban will also have plenty of military equipment- trucks, weapons, heavy artillery, ammunition- leftover with which to arm terrorist organizations in nearby countries, which they are likely to do posthaste.

So, in addition to a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions, Afghanistan is looking like a major liability for Democrats in the upcoming elections,which- it must be admitted- now includes the California recall of Governor Gavin Newsom happening in less than a month.

The situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated far more rapidly than even the most pessimistic had feared. The Taliban control most of the country already, and they are beating down the doors of the Capital city of Kabul- a last bastion of safety thought to be sufficient to keep the Taliban at bay for a time.

Scratch that; the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating so rapidly, Kabul fell to the Taliban in the time it took to write this and the democratically-elected Afghan President has fled.

Afghanistan was looking like the next rouge state in three moves. Now, those moves are done.

Move one: The U.S. pulls out all troops and leaves the country to the tender mercies of Taliban insurgents.

Move two: Echoing Joe Biden, Russian officials state publicly that attacks by the Taliban are petering out. Read, they are just getting started. Russia, it would seem, plans to support Afghanistan just as it does Iran, rendering sanctions from Western nations essentially toothless.

Move three: China is looking to expand its Belt and Road Initiative into resource-rich Afghanistan. And China placed its bets early on the Taliban.

Photo from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the People’s Republic of China. August 4, 2021. (photo: Prachatai)

China has outplayed the U.S. foreign-policy wise. Where the U.S. has been reactive, and direct in its machinations, China has tread softly.

Is there a concealed iron fist?

Does a portrait of Chairman Mao hang in Chinese Communist Party headquarters?

Where the U.S. once ruled Afghanistan by open military, China will rule by implicit military- using a strategy New Delhi government advisor Brahma Chellaney recently called “creditor imperialism”.

In some of the agreements emerging nations have made with China under the Belt and Road Initiative, there are ominous signs. No, China isn’t using its military might to seize territory from other sovereign nations, but it might not need to.

After all, international authorities might violently object to something so incendiary as an invasion.

What China is doing is making land and resource concessions part of the consequences, should an emerging nation fail to make repayment on loans, or conform to the legal agreement in some other way.

China has no problem using international law, and international law agencies to extend its power abroad.

And with China backing it, the Taliban need not fear threats from international government bodies that human rights violations by Taliban forces will result in Afghanistan being ostracized from the international community.

Why even bother making such a ludicrous “threat”? The Taliban want nothing more than to be ostracized from the international community.

In the U.K., the Daily Mail, never one to miss a salacious scoop, informed the world yesterday that the Taliban is in bed with the Chinese Communist Party.

This is news?

Chinese Communist Party officials have been meeting with top Taliban brass for weeks, probably months. They have made no secret of it.

Why is the rest of the world, including international governing bodies and the U.S. government, pretending as if China’s ruling party never had a hand on the scale in Afghanistan?

World authorities haven’t so much abandoned Afghanistan to its fate as allowed it to become a pawn in a larger geopolitical game- one Western nations don’t appear to be playing to win.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)