Thursday, August 19, 2021

The astrology of a no-win snare: Chaos & Grief at the Fall of Kabul

 


I sometimes marvel at how the cardinal, fixed and mutable modalities at work in mundane events can build upon each other with almost tag team precision.

 

Cardinal energies send us rushing in to achieve some goal, which seems worthy at the time; fixed energies tend to solidify and consolidate the gains (or losses) from such adventures, while mutable energies reliably undermine those goals and achievements, forcing all concerned to take cover and regroup. Sounds like our last 19+ years in Afghanistan, doesn’t it? 

I’m not sure our beleaguered U.S. Commander-in-Chief needs any more armchair analysts or Monday-morning quarterbacks second-guessing his judgment about pulling out all remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but for what it’s worth, I’d like to add an astrological perspective on this long, tortured conflict between the U.S. and terrorists based in Afghanistan, and to consider that relationship through the prism of the fall of the Afghan capital Kabul to the Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic force that has basically banished the more democracy-inclined, U.S.-supported government that was most recently (and until just days ago), under the leadership of Ashraf Ghani. Ghani’s fleeing of the country this past Sunday the 15th basically left the Taliban in charge.  

Most tragically to my mind, the U.S. exodus threatens to destabilize a region—and a people—that sorely needs some peace and stability. Many U.S. diplomats and others, like retired Lt. General and Trump’s first National Security Director, H.R. McMaster, warn that the pull-out could result in a renewed terrorist threat from that region. Some seem intent on just rubbing Biden’s nose in the failure to execute a smooth, chaos-free withdrawal, but to his credit, Biden isn’t wavering in his resolve to not hand this 20-year mess on to the next administration and has stated out loud that “the buck stops here.”  

 

Biden addressing the nation about the fall of Kabul.
But Biden’s also noted that he was bound by the so-called Doha agreement that Trump’s State Department made with the Taliban on February 29, 2020, which said, basically, that the U.S. would withdraw its troops no later than May 1st of this year (a negotiated extension to August 31st was achieved since) if the Taliban held up its side of the bargain and stopped targeting U.S. soldiers.  Interestingly, Saturn and Pluto were still conjunct in late Capricorn (and within orb of Sibly Pluto) when that agreement transpired; there’s reason to believe the strength of the U.S. position may well have been compromised there, unwittingly or not—negotiating with the Taliban always sounded dicey to me.

In the midst of its rapid takeover of one provincial Afghan capital after another in the past few weeks, the Taliban, nearly unchallenged by U.S.-trained Afghan forces (more on why there was so little resistance ahead), has been characterizing itself as a force for “law and order,” but the “law” they intend to impose on Afghanis is widely viewed to be extreme, verging on a reign of terror, especially in its treatment of women and girls, whose lives were vastly improved by the U.S. presence. 

In their first ever press conference from the presidential palace this week, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid conveyed a quite different message in an effort to convince the international community that the Taliban has mellowed and is now willing to be more mindful of human rights. Here’s how Al Jazeera summed up the promises he made: 

“...that the Taliban would respect women’s rights, forgive those who resisted them and ensure a secure Afghanistan as part of a publicity blitz aimed at convincing world powers and a fearful population that they have changed.” 

This, after a scene of great chaos at Kabul's Karzai airport, with a mass of desperate Afghan civilians who either supported U.S. efforts in some capacity  -- or simply felt compelled to escape Taliban rule for their own safety -- trying to board U.S. transport, a few at the cost of their lives. Bottom line, the safety and security of thousands like them depend upon how trustworthy the Taliban prove to be, and unfortunately, their behavior has earned a far less conciliatory, or trustworthy reputation. Neptune in Pisces being what it is, there’s probably good reason for skepticism, but time will tell. That may, of course, be cold comfort for many: IMHO, the U.S. owes these formerly employed individuals the benefit of rapid humanitarian evacuation and resettlement.   

So, the main objective of this post will be to use the tools of mundane astrology to explore some key points in the evolution of this situation. It would take volumes to do the entire long saga credit, but we’ll take a good look at the radix chart attributed to Afghanistan and to a chart for the 2001 U.S. invasion of this fateful place (known as the “graveyard of empires” to some) under the lead of George W. Bush, and then we’ll fast forward to the Fall of Kabul under the Biden administration this past week. Not surprisingly, Saturn and Pluto (graveyard of empires?) have played key roles throughout, but the story is far more complicated than that.  

Let’s take a look at how this all got started.  

In his essential resource for international topics like this, The Book of World Horoscopes, Nicholas Campion wisely sets aside Afghanistan’s deeper history (extremely difficult to pin down and define) to focus on the last time the nation enjoyed a relatively stable government of its own. This government resulted from a 1973 coup in which General Daoud (who was also prime minister under the monarchy this coup overturned) and his forces took over the capital, similar to what’s just happened with the Taliban. Perhaps at some point, the Fall of Kabul we saw on August 15th will become the basis for a new radix chart for Afghanistan, but for the historical part of this exploration, we’ll stick with the 1973 chart. That 1973 republic, according to Campion, set the stage for Afghanis resisting several efforts to occupy and control Afghanistan that followed after, but ultimately failed. As mentioned earlier, these failures had a lot to do with Afghanistan’s nickname, “the graveyard of empires.”  

Let’s take a look at the 1973 chart by itself first.  Please note that Campion used 12 a.m. (00:00) for the timing of this chart, which makes sense because the coup happened the night before the early morning announcement that officially formed the Afghan republic, so the founding of the new entity was basically an overnight affair.  

 


Chart #1. Afghanistan (radix), July 17, 1973, 12 a.m. CET, Kabul, Afghanistan. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. All charts cast with Kepler 8.0 and courtesy of Cosmic Patterns Software. Source: The Book of World Horoscopes, Chart #2, p. 33. 

Moon conjoins Jupiter (Rx, Aquarius) and both sextile Neptune-Ceres (Rx, Sagittarius) and trine Pluto (Libra). It’s not surprising to see some Aquarius energy in the chart of a coup-created republic. A coup is, by definition, a shocking and sudden overturning of an existing government, often carried out with the help of military forces. Aptly, we see here that Aquarius ruler Uranus (disposing Moon and Jupiter from Libra) opposes Mars-Chiron (conjunct in Aries)--this coup was, indeed, led by the military against the then-reigning monarchy, considered corrupt by many. Daoud ruled for a brief seven years before another coup unseated him, but the republic itself stood. 

With Moon and Jupiter elevated and conjunct here, it appears that improving upon the People’s prosperity was the primary goal of the 1973 coup, which was fitting--the Afghans had just experienced two years of severe drought before this time. Notice that the Uranus-to-Mars-Chiron opposition falls across the chart’s mutable 6-12 axis—signaling the volatility of the military (6th) and the potential background (12th) military operations that went into carrying out the coup. Fast-forwarding, this built-in (radix) dynamic probably influenced the events of this past week—more about that ahead.  

The Moon-Jupiter (Aquarius) sextile to Neptune (Rx, Sagittarius) and trine to Pluto (Libra) perhaps point to the centrality of religion in Afghan history and governance. Sagittarius can fuel religious extremism, which makes sense: Neptune here perhaps eroded the safeguards against so-called Islamic extremism before that trend surfaced so dangerously in the 1990s and 2000s, with Pluto in Sagittarius for a lot of it.  Extremism inevitably surfaces when conditions cause people to harbor grievances and resentment, and the 90s and 2000s were rife with globalization-related justifications. As we’ve seen repeatedly, people struggling to feed their families, while corporations and other power players force their countries into austerity mode, can be easily radicalized.  

Chiron (Aries) t-squares Sun-IC (conjunct in Cancer) opposite MC (Capricorn). This suggests to me that Afghanistan’s deep woundedness over the status and treatment of its women and girls is built into its radix “DNA.” A staunch, yang Aries Chiron faces off with a yin Cancer-Capricorn axis that suggests the feminine is intrinsic to Afghan identity and Being. Yin Taurus rises in this chart, with a strong administrative Leo Venus disposing it from the naturally yin 4th house.  Afghan women have proven under the U.S. occupation that they can rise to responsible positions quite readily when given a chance; there’s a wealth of talent and capability in that half of the population that should be respected for all it can provide to Afghan society.  

The Taliban gave lip service to this fact in their press conference yesterday, but they also have an abysmal track record with this issue. Happily, there are signs that at least some of these women will not be willing to shrink back into their burquas and subservient positions, and some may be willing to wage resistance. If the Taliban takes its usual hard line against such women, the nations whose approval they covet will know it. It’s a wishful long-shot, but we may see some progress on this issue as Chiron returns to its radix position in this chart in the coming few years.   

In the end, perhaps the U.S. occupation served to open the door to women in ways that can’t be so easily reversed. This is not to say there won’t be attempts—radix Saturn (Gemini) widely conjoins So. Node (Cancer), so the patriarchal restriction (Saturn) of education (Gemini) to men will likely continue being Afghanistan’s “comfort zone,” but there will be pressure to continue educating girls (Cancer Mercury Rx disposes that Saturn) for positions of responsibility (Mercury opposes Capricorn MC). 

°°°°°

Given these insights, we could now leap ahead to the triwheel below, setting charts for the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and this past week’s fall of Kabul against the radix chart we’ve been examining. Before we look at those charts together, however, it makes sense to consider a couple key highlights from each chart individually. Normally I wouldn’t go this extra step, but it seems important to do so here since both are timed charts and the angles offer significant information. First, a chart for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, timed as noted below.  

 

U.S. invades Afghanistan 

 


Chart #2. U.S. invades Afghanistan, U.S. invades Afghanistan, October 7, 2001, 5 p.m. ST (Pres. Bush announced first strike at this time), Kabul, Afghanistan. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. All charts cast with Kepler 8.0 and courtesy of Cosmic Patterns Software. 

Aries rises, with dispositor Mars and Ceres (conjunct in Capricorn), opposite Jupiter (Cancer) t-square Sun (Libra). So, this was an aggressive, militant attack that the vast majority of Congress and the American people approved of at the time—Moon (People) conjoins Saturn (Congress) and trines Sun (Libra). Note that it’s well documented in mundane astrological circles that the mid-Cancer-Capricorn axis tends to be active during powerful geopolitical moments, and nations with radix charts featuring these types of placements usually express that geopolitical power. Here we see an almost textbook example of that cardinal dynamic—if we were placing the U.S. Sibly chart (not shown) next to this chart, we would see that the U.S. Saturn and Sun tie into this t-square as well.  

On a more “personal” level, the situation gave then-president Bush’s (G.W.) presidency a boost and provided that presidency with a central driving focus. No surprise, his nativity features a Cancer Suni tightly conjunct both the Sibly Sun and this invasion chart’s Jupiter. So those who consider this invasion to have been pure hubris on our leadership’s part may have a point (we could develop this much further another time), but for better or worse (hindsight is so 20/20) we were off and running—not responding to the September 11th attacks was simply unthinkable at the time.  

Moon-Vesta-Saturn Rx (Gemini) oppose Pluto-Pallas (Sagittarius); this axis widely t-squares Venus (Virgo). The Afghan people (Moon-Vesta) were just coming out of a years-long, three-stage civil war that basically culminated when the U.S. invaded (Saturn-Pluto opposition); it was a civil war which both supported and grappled with the rising power of the Taliban, founded in the 1990s, so in that sense what has just transpired in Kabul is the work of 30-some years of persistent effort by the Taliban. MSNBC.com reports that Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar appears to be stepping into the top leadership position in Kabul. During the U.S. occupation, Baradar spent years in a Pakistani prison, but was released at the Trump administration’s request so that he could represent the Taliban in the 2020 "peace” (Venus) negotiations in Doha, Qatar. As we’ve seen, those negotiations were more like a greenlight to the Taliban to begin its resurgence, toppling Afghan provincial capitals, and we have to wonder whether the Trump administration’s release of Baradar from prison (a charismatic, well-respected leader among Taliban enthusiasts, apparently) basically enabled that result.   

Notice that both Uranus and Neptune fall in Aquarius in this chart, supporting the agenda of that Saturn-Pluto opposition by trine/sextile (the Ura/Nep midpoint does this particularly well). Geopolitical forces were aligned with other global powers-that-be (corporations, for sure) to ride this invasion as aggressively as possible.  

°°°°° 

Every chart helps us add a little more context to this long saga; let’s now move on to consider a chart for the event we witnessed this past week, the fall of Kabul. 

 


Chart #3. Kabul falls, August 15, 2021, 11:17 a.m. ST (Wikipedia cites reports that “by 11:17 CET Taliban negotiators...arrived at the presidential palace to begin a transfer of power.”), Kabul, Afghanistan.  Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. All charts cast with Kepler 8.0 and courtesy of Cosmic Patterns Software.  

Scorpio rises, disposed by Mars (Virgo) and Pluto (Capricorn) in a tense, earthy sesquiquadrate between the 11th and 3rd houses. Clearly, power plays with very tangible stakes, both in the realms of national and local power, brought Afghanistan to this moment. Mars also trines/sextiles the Moon-Uranus opposition (Scorpio-Taurus) stretching across the 1st-7th house axis of Identity & the Other; when push came to shove, the Taliban won out over any resolve the U.S.-trained Afghan military might have had to fight yet more civil war (which resisting the Taliban would probably have amounted to). After recounting the many billions that the U.S., U.N. and others spent helping to build up Afghan defenses against the Taliban, Foreign Policy reported this, even before the August 15th fall: 

“Yet in the past week, 10 provincial capitals have fallen in Afghanistan. According to security and regional sources, four of those capitals were effectively handed to the insurgents by national forces that refused to put up a fight.” 

Once August 15th rolled around and it became clear the Taliban would insert themselves in the presidential palace, the Washington Post added more detail to the military’s (and Afghan officials’) roles in all of it:   

“The spectacular collapse of Afghanistan’s military that allowed Taliban fighters to walk into the Afghan capital Sunday despite 20 years of training and billions of dollars in American aid began with a series of deals brokered in rural villages between the militant group and some of the Afghan government’s lowest-ranking officials. 

The deals, initially offered early last year, were often described by Afghan officials as cease-fires, but Taliban leaders were in fact offering money in exchange for government forces to hand over their weapons, according to an Afghan officer and a U.S. official. Over the next year and a half, the meetings advanced to the district level and then rapidly on to provincial capitals, culminating in a breathtaking series of negotiated surrenders by government forces, according to interviews with more than a dozen Afghan officers, police, special operations troops and other soldiers.” 

To say that the U.S. and our allies in that region have been let down and perhaps even betrayed by the very troops they trained and the public officials they supported and employed in Afghanistan is an understatement, but perhaps those troops and officials lost confidence in the mission the U.S. was leaving to them when they realized how quickly the U.S. was being forced to withdraw, and the Taliban’s money and promises started to sound good. So maybe the feeling of betrayal is mutual: here we see that the Mars/Venus midpoint (Virgo) opposes Neptune-Pallas (Pisces), while Venus trines Pluto (Capricorn)--fear of chaos and injustice is powerful motivation, and survival interests will win out over more lofty ideals.  

Now that we’ve considered key dynamics in the individual charts in question, let’s put it all together and see what that adds to the discussion. 



Triwheel #1: (inner wheel) Afghanistan (radix), July 17, 1973, 12 a.m. CET, Kabul, Afghanistan; (middle wheel) U.S. invades Afghanistan, October 7, 2001, 5 p.m. ST (Pres. Bush announced first strike at this time), Kabul, Afghanistan; (outer wheel) Kabul Falls, August 15, 2021, 11:17 a.m. CET (Wikipedia cites reports that “by 11:17 CET Taliban negotiators...arrived at the presidential palace to begin a transfer of power.”), Kabul, Afghanistan. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node. All charts cast with Kepler 8.0 and courtesy of Cosmic Patterns Software. 

The two outer wheels of this triwheel, of course, encompass the nearly 20-year span of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan, from its beginning for the American people when then-President George W. Bush announced the U.S. military had struck two targets in Afghanistan earlier that day, to its regrettably messy end this past Sunday, August 15th, when the Taliban first set foot inside the presidential palace. A lot of torturous complications and bloodshed ensued within that time frame, of course, but Biden claims the main objectives of this original incursion have been accomplished: to bring Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda to justice for their role in the September 11th attacks on New York’s World Trade Center, and to eliminate the ability of terrorists to use Afghanistan as a safe haven in the future. The latter accomplishment is the most in question, of course: what if the Taliban is, by definition, a terrorist organization that is trying to masquerade as the legitimate standard bearer for the Afghan people?  

Given what the reporting about the Afghan military and lower-level officials literally selling out to the Taliban says above, there’s basically no choice but to exit and accept that the Afghan people themselves must come to terms with this extremism that has existed for decades, if not forever, at their core. We took the bait offered and chose to believe that our presence was justified by their need for help when, as Biden suggested, we should have simply focused on our two main objectives and gotten out. In that all-too-clear lens of hindsight, perhaps trying to affect substantive change within their culture (such as attitudes toward women) and even worse, getting involved in their internal divisions, really was a fool’s errand.  

But let’s go through the exercise and examine how the dynamics we considered above came together on August 15th. We’ll pick out the highlights and try to avoid repetition as much as possible.  

8/15 JupiterRx/SaturnRx (midpoint, Aquarius) conjoins Invasion Uranus (Aquarius) and opposes Radix (inner) Venus (Leo); this axis t-squares 8/15 Uranus (Taurus). Clearly, the Taliban had engineered both tactical and strategic advantages for itself (Jup/Sat); these included leveraging the “shock” value (Uranus/Aquarius) of precipitous speed, not to mention the exploded expectations U.S. commanders probably had of the military they helped train and the government officials they supported and protected. Their almost immediate capitulation signaled that they lacked the will to challenge the Taliban, so as Biden basically said, “why should we?”  

8/15 Pluto (Rx, Capricorn) conjoins Radix MC and opposes Radix Sun (Capricorn-Cancer)--an empowering aspect, but also one that suggests a karmic reckoning and transformation. The media has been mostly focused on the plight of the Afghan women and those who were employed by the U.S., but these groups were just responding to the reality on the ground and to the opportunities that were presented. Given that we now know that our forces were perhaps na├»ve in trusting some of the Afghans employed by the U.S., what are we to make of any of this? Maybe “all’s fair in love and war,” but this Pluto and its sextile to 8/15 Pisces Neptune clearly enabled corruption (Neptune opposes 8/15 Venus and squares Radix Saturn). There could be alternative interpretations for these dynamics, but for now, “once burned, twice warned?”  

Invasion Mars (Capricorn) t-squares Radix Mars-Chiron (Aries) opposite Radix Uranus-Invasion Sun (Libra). Ironically—and apparently because of the subterfuge covered earlier—the Taliban didn’t have to fire a shot to affect the fall of Kabul; interestingly, 8/15 Mars-Mercury (Virgo) squares Radix Neptune-Ceres (Sagittarius), so the role played by deceit and subterfuge in the Taliban’s takeover can’t be overestimated in the end. As noted earlier, the 8/15 Mars/Venus (midpoint, Virgo) opposes 8/15 Neptune, further reinforcing this point.  

 

 

Speaking from the UAE, former Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani
 Final thoughts 

To my mind, the Biden administration is making the right call with Afghanistan, and I applaud his resolve, despite the media trying to pick him to pieces over it. I suspect that perhaps his Scorpio Sun “gets” why that campaign was doomed from early on, and why it’s been time to get out for a while now. The country’s leader himself (Ashraf Ghani) fled, rather than hanging in there and defending his government, so why should we believe that there was ever the intention to truly challenge the Taliban? Volumes have been written and mountains of analysis have been churned out on our so-called “war on terror,” but in the end, all wars pit one set of human beings against another, and both sides view their opposites as outsiders to be ejected, at best. As this war ends, we’re finally waking up to that basic truth and focusing on the human element—my question is, where was that perspective 20 years ago?  

Who knows why the Bush administration thought it was prudent to attack Afghanistan, when the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 were from other places, places like Saudi Arabia, that continued to be treated as a valued ally after 9/11? Could we have negotiated with the existing Afghan government at that time to ensure they didn’t continue to harbor Al-Qaeda fighters? Could they have led us to Osama bin Laden without being attacked themselves? Didn’t anyone point out to Bush and company that he was sending our troops into a civil-war-ravaged hornet’s nest, conditions that were bound to come back to bite us? Were there no cool heads in charge that could separate out the need for justice after the 9/11 attacks from the longer-term perils of getting entangled in that most fated of regions? Maybe if we had tried something different with Afghanistan, we would have found there was no reason to attack Iraq either? I guess we can dream, right?  

That was then, however; this is now. One thing we can celebrate: over the past 20 years, the U.S. has helped Afghan women improve their lives, giving them greater access to education and careers that never would have been possible under the former Taliban’s repressive rule. I do hope that we now stand with the international community to continue supporting Afghan women and girls and to condemn any repressive behaviors by the new Taliban-led government. These women and girls should not have to flee their nation to enjoy basic human rights—that mistreatment is simply unacceptable, and if the Taliban wants to be considered a legitimate government in the world’s eyes, they should be "influenced” by the world community into complying.   

As we saw in the above discussions, Afghanistan’s radix dynamics support the notion of an empowered feminine, but from early reports of how the Taliban is already treating the women it now rules, it appears that outside help will be needed.  

Bottom line, I hope our leaders and collective spirit will muster the willpower, integrity and compassion it takes to end this 20-year mess on as positive a note as possible.  

 


 

 

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former educator. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, U.S. history, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. She’s published articles on these topics in several key astrology journals over the years, including most recently, the TMA blog. For information about individual chart readings, contact: robertsonraye@gmail.com. 

© Raye Robertson 2021. All rights reserved.