In his Inquirer piece today “Afghanistan: Biden’s ‘Fall of Saigon’ moment”, columnist Richard Javad Heydarian quotes former US ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker who “points out” that “the rot ‘began under President Trump when he authorized negotiations between the US and the Taliban without the Afghan government in the room,’ which was ‘a huge demoralizing factor for the Afghan government and its security forces’.” He then writes how “the Taliban could have been kept at bay and eventually compelled into a genuine power-sharing agreement with the democratically elected leaders. But Biden was determined to quickly disentangle his country from the Middle East in order to focus on the real threat, which is China.”
Javad conveniently omits that Biden could’ve waited until the peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government produced concrete results in Doha. What Biden did was unilaterally pullout US troops without an exit strategy. Biden can blame Trump all he wants but Trump didn’t order a pullout. It was Biden who did which is why all this is on him.
Afghanistan is a warning to all “American allies.” The US defers to no interests other than its own. This was the case in Vietnam. In the Philippines the ugly truth was, after World War II, the US didn’t give a rat’s ass about its only colony. Its focus was on Japan. The Philippines was given “independence” but in name only because the Constitution was amended so Americans would still have parity rights. There was no Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of the country. Even reparations from Japan were set by the US in the Treaty of San Francisco signed in 1957. It wasn’t until Ferdinand Marcos was elected in 1965 that the Philippines began to rebuild infrastructure destroyed during the war. We were treated like vassals. The Americans kept their bases which was what was important to them. It kept their presence in the region that was likely to be overrun by left-leaning leaders like Sukarno, whom they also ousted in a coup.
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The US actually supported Marcos’s declaration of martial law but they eventually turned against him because of the non-renewal of parity rights and the shortened military bases agreement for which Marcos demanded compensation for their use. The Opposition is predominantly pro-US because they would like the Americans to kick out President Rodrigo Duterte. Former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada who was ousted in a “people power” coup in 2001 was also a victim of US hegemony. The Americans wanted Erap out because he favored all-out war against the Muslim secessionists. The US favored autonomy bordering on independence because they wanted new bases near the Strait of Malacca which is a vital shipping lane. They laid the groundwork with infrastructure investments in Mindanao through USAID. The General Santos Airport and Makar Wharf were to be the new Clark and Subic. If not for the timely Supreme Court ruling declaring the claim of ancestral domain as the basis for autonomy then the US would’ve had its way in Muslim Mindanao.
Duterte has been playing a delicate balancing act between the US and China. A shooting war between the two powers would have the Philippines caught right smack in the middle in the same way it found itself in World War II. The Opposition will sell us out if ever they seize power again. We will lose the gains we have made with the independent foreign policy Duterte has adopted. But make no mistake about it. The minute China makes an attempt to take back Taiwan, there will be conflict between the US and China. Without proximity to Taiwan we cannot avoid the fallout specially with the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in force.
The fall of Afghanistan means the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalist terrorists will have a safe haven of operations again which means a higher threat level for Muslim separatists in Mindanao. We shouldn’t forget the lessons of Marawi which is why the leaders of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) should be more assiduous in the development of former conflict areas under their control. The fall of Afghanistan has made Muslim autonomy an election issue particularly with funding and the ongoing implementation of the peace agreement and the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
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