Top US commander, Gen Mark Milley, confessed before the Armed Services Committee that the US had lost the two-decade war in Afghanistan. And that the “pullout from Afghanistan and evacuation from the capital Kabul was chaotic.” When troops pull out in chaos, it is not a planned withdrawal but a rout. Thank you for the confession, General. Was he to declare with a typical American hubris “mission in Afghanistan accomplished and we’re leaving,” what could the world do? Gen Milley named two factors responsible for the defeat in Afghanistan. First, missing the opportunity to capture or kill Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at the Tora Bora soon after the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan and, second, the decision to invade Iraq, which shifted US troops away from Afghanistan. Both factors Milley offered as the cause of defeat don’t gel. A large majority of the world believes that Laden was killed in Tora Bora during the initial carpet bombing of Afghanistan. The story of his capture in Abbottabad and consigned to the sea is poppycock. About the attack on Iraq, the US war planners had decided to remove Saddam Husein much before attacking Afghanistan. It was known from the outset that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction. When President Bush declared Sadam Husein ‘another Adolf Hitler’ who had to be taken out, the captive corporate media took pains to project Saddam a villain, hence the occupation of Iraq and control over its oil. Despite inhuman atrocities inflicted upon Afghans, the world conscience remains muted at large because the compliant corporate media kept the people in the dark. Again while conceding defeat, Gen Milley along with Gen Kenneth McKenzie of US Central Command, said that they had ‘personally recommended that some 2,500 troops remain on the ground in Afghanistan’. But President Joe Biden decided otherwise. Biden made the right decision. He realised that when hundreds of thousands of US-led NATO troops equipped with state-of-art weaponry failed to subdue the AK-47 rifles brandishing Afghan fighters in sandals, instead of all-weather military boots, it was futile to keep measly 2,500 troops behind. In fact, all kinds of modern weapons were tested in Afghanistan. According to a Brookings Institute report, during three air campaigns, 38,000 sorties were flown, 22,000 bombs dropped and 12,500 precision-guided bombs delivered in few months. How precise were the ‘precision-guided bombs’ is evident by how John Pilger, the intrepid reporter and documentary movie maker on wars, described in his book New Rulers of the World. “In a village in Afghanistan, inhabited by the poorest of the poor, I filmed Orifa (Arifa) kneeling at the graves of her husband, Gul Ahmed, a carpet weaver, and seven other members of her family, six of whom were children, as well as the graves of two children who were killed in the adjacent house. An American 500-pound ‘precision’ bomb had been dropped on their small mud, stone and straw house, leaving a crater fifty feet wide,” he wrote. So much for precision bombing. Despite inhuman atrocities inflicted upon the poor people of Afghanistan, the world conscience at large remains muted because the compliant corporate media kept the people in the dark. A question must arise in every discerning mind. Why does the United States, after conceding defeat in Afghanistan, want to dictate terms to the victors how to rule themselves, how to form a new government, who all to include in it, and indeed, how to live and treat their women. Why should a foreign power arrogate itself the right to change the age-old traditions and culture of an independent country? Let’s look at the Afghanistan conundrum from a different angle. Should the Afghan people have no voice and will of their own, after bleeding for more than twenty years to win freedom? Their part of the stories of torture and miseries hasn’t been revealed to the world. Thanks to the spineless media. To know about the suffering of the Afghan people, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef’s book is worth the read. He was Afghanistan’s ambassador in Pakistan when Gen Musharraf handed him over to the US. Zaeef spent nearly four years at Guantanamo torture centre. His heart-wrenching account of torture at the camp would open many eyes. There were many like him in the camp who were humiliated and tortured but ultimately released for being innocent. Some of them later participated in peace negotiations in Doha. Pashtuns, call them by any name, are a fiercely independent-minded race. They neither forget nor forgive. My Pashtun friend of nearly half a century, a Mahsud tribesman, keeps reminding me of my pranks over the years but remains a dear friend. But no country should mess with them. Remember Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires. The writer is a Lahore-based columnist and can be reached at pinecity @gmail.com.