Afghan people climb atop a plane at Kabul Airport on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. Photo: AFP / Wakil Kohsar

It has been some time since the United States suffered a truly humiliating massacre of its people. Not since Colonel George Custer led his troops up the wrong hill at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 26, 1876, have the American people been made to contend with the wholesale massacre of their forces or citizens. 

Sadly, very soon it is possible that everyone will have to be prepared for such a horrible outcome in Kabul, Afghanistan. After all, there is a reason that the Taliban raced to Kabul as quickly as they did and why they’ve fought so hard to take control of the streets of the besieged Afghan capital.

Sure, the Taliban want control of the capital to ensure their victory over the Americans. But they also want to let the Yanks know who beat them. What’s more, the Taliban might be preparing for the classic Kabul farewell to fleeing foreign invaders: a rotten grin combined with a stab in the back (both in the metaphorical and the literal sense).

The Taliban have taken control of almost every point of egress in Kabul between the four major locations where thousands of Americans have sheltered in place and the airport.

And with several thousand US troops being rushed into Hamid Karzai International Airport, with no reliable way to link their position with those of the Americans in the ancient Afghan capital beyond, all while President Joe Biden’s administration appears oblivious to the fact that the Taliban are closing in upon the Americans in Kabul, the situation is ripe for a massacre.

Or, at the very least, an attempted massacre of Americans in a city that they and their allies have controlled since 2001.

American forces entering Kabul’s airport are likely shocked to see throngs of ordinary Afghans rushing transport planes attempting to depart from the airport. Meanwhile, on just the other side of Kabul’s airport, Taliban forces have taken control.

Taliban and US forces are eyeball-to-eyeball with each other, with narrow runways and a few hollow walls separating the two sides at the only exit point out of the country the Americans have. Beyond the confines of the airport lies a city in chaos being taken over by a regime that enjoys crushing the innocent beneath its Pakistani-made Servis “Cheetah” high-top sneakers.

What’s needed now is an actual battle plan for reasserting US dominance of Kabul long enough to get the 10,000 Americans trapped in the embassy or nearby residences and annexes out of harm’s way.

The US intelligence community was apparently “stunned” by the speed and success of the Taliban’s advance from the wilds of the Afghan frontier to Kabul. 

Just as official Washington was reorienting to the startling new reality in Kabul, there remains an odd bit of denialism in the minds of US leaders. Since last weekend, when the Taliban stormed the outskirts of the city and the leaders of the US-backed government in Kabul fled the country, US officials appear to trust the Taliban.

We are constantly told that “it’s up to” the Taliban whether they will be treated as international pariahs or not. US military officials have publicly asserted that they “will hold” the Taliban to “their word” that all Americans will be guaranteed safe access out of the city.

Clearly, these “leaders” both in uniform and in the civilian government service haven’t been paying attention. 

Fact is, there is not a single promise the Taliban have ever made to non-Islamic powers, such as the United States, that they’ve ever honored. Distrust, conspiracy and betrayal, these are the ancient way of Afghan warlords – notably of groups like the Taliban.

Plus, contrary to what White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki may think, the Taliban have never once cared about either being a part of or being respected by the international community. 

For 20 years, the Taliban have been fought by the Americans … and the Americans now want out. 

Unlike the Soviet or British empires before them, the Americans are leaving behind in Afghanistan a group of Afghans who love the West and very much want to remain a part of that greater international community. The Taliban will have to break the will of this substantial number of Afghans who are being left behind by the fleeing Americans.

What better way to break that will than by staging bloody attacks upon the evacuating Americans and taking some of them as war booty?

Again, look to history for an example. 

In 1842, after the British had invaded Afghanistan to restore their preferred tribal leader in Kabul, the 16,000-strong crack British Army in Kabul faced an uncontrollable uprising in Afghanistan’s capital. To preserve the dignity and lives of his men, commanding General William Elphinstone ordered his troops to evacuate the city and move toward the British garrison in Jalalabad.

What followed was one of the worst strategic defeats of the mighty British Empire until the fall of Singapore a century later during the Second World War. 

Of the 16,000 troops and British civilians who went marching into the mountains from Kabul, only a handful survived. They were chased, sniped at, and massacred in droves by the Afghan tribes as the British fled across territory and terrain they didn’t understand. All because reinforcements and rearmament could not be provided to that force in a timely manner.

The British force could not hold in Kabul because of a lack of defensible positions. And the Afghans wanted to send a message to the mighty British Empire: Leave these lands and never return.

My great fear is that something similar is at play in Afghanistan with the Taliban today. Unlike Vietnam in 1975, Afghanistan is not located near a body of water where US naval power and relief can easily be provided.

The Taliban know their history well and they want to make the Americans pay for the last 20 years of warfare; they want to humiliate the sole remaining superpower the way they humiliated the British Empire and, more recently, the Soviet Union. And they want America to feel the sting of failure.

The Biden administration must surge many more troops to take Kabul and hold it until all Americans and their allies can get to safety. Otherwise, Americans may wake up to another Little Bighorn in Afghanistan. Our very own Massacre of Elphinstone’s Army.

Time is not on America’s side and President Biden and his team appear completely ambivalent to the facts on the ground. God help those souls who will suffer thanks to Biden’s shortsightedness and indifference. 

Brandon J Weichert

Brandon J Weichert is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower. He is a geopolitical analyst who manages The Weichert Report: World News Done Right. His work appears regularly in The Washington Times and Real Clear Politics. Weichert is a former US congressional staffer who holds an MA in statecraft and national security affairs from the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC, and is an associate member of New College, Oxford University.