Dark Taliban clouds descend on Afghanistan

For the sake of their sisters, daughters and wives, Afghans should rise in Jihad against medieval practices of atrocities meted to women

By Vijay Badhwar

As it has always done, America has ended its role in Afghanistan: in utter chaos like in Iraq, Libya and Syria, akin to packing up hurriedly as from Saigon in humiliation, cited gloatingly as a warning to Taiwan by Chinese Foreign Affairs spokesperson not to depend on US to come to its aid.

The swift Taliban takeover in a matter of only a few days shocked everyone, the Americans themselves as well as the European allies, the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg surprised and disappointed at no show by 350,000-strong Afghan army who were trained for 18 years at a cost of billions of dollars, equipped with state of art armament but put to no use, now in the hands of the enemy they fought for 20 years.

US President Joe Biden stood his ground that his decision to withdraw American forces was right, that they could not be there for ever, be it five or twenty five years made no difference. He pointedly raised finger at the Afghan army that if they could not defend their own country, they should not expect others to do it for them.

Mr Biden justified the Afghan war by saying that they were able to curb terrorism from Afghan soil for two decades but could not defend their continued presence in the country with a huge cost on the exchequer and loss of lives. “How many more generations of American daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghans,” he asked.

The decision was rationalised but not the way it was executed. The withdrawal could have been gradual and conditional on Taliban meeting their side of the bargain. There was also a complete intelligence failure that the US could not foresee the scenario that top officers in Afghan Army could be bribed not to fight the war. Especially with large scale infiltration of Pakistan ISI into Afghan Army whose sharing into the drug trade is an open secret.

This can be a plausible explanation for such impotent capitulation of the nearly 350,000-strong Afghan Army that even surprised US President.

The US army withdrawal initiative was taken by former president Trump who held the meeting with Taliban representatives in Doha last year, announcing the move to be completed by May 2021 (presuming he’d win the election). By not inviting anyone from Afghan government at the negotiating table undermined their existence and may have led to this disastrous unprecedented collapse and the quick get away by President Ashraf Ghani who, according to some rumours circulating in the media, took a helicopter full of cash and flew to Tajikistan. President Ghani, however, appeared in UAE denying all the rumours, asserting that he loved his country and had left with only the clothes on his body.

There were chaotic scenes at the Kabul Airport, people running after planes to get away from Taliban rule. Two stowaways fell to their death from air.

Afghans who had served with the Australian forces pleaded for help from the Australian Government. Media and the Afghan community in Australia petitioned for humanitarian intake of refugees whose lives were threatened with Taliban rule. For women and children it will be like living in a hell.

But the Australian PM, Scott Morrison, was unmoved, indicating a likely figure of 3000 people from interpreters and support staff for the Australian Army who will be given visas. This compares to flamboyantly generous (Bob Carr’s words on Q&A programme) announcement after Tiananmen Square massacre to admit 42,000 from China, Malcolm Fraser taking 50,000 from Vietnam and Tony Abbott allowing 12,000 from Syria. 

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan may end the internal war waging since the Soviet forces entered the country in 1979. The Soviet army was resisted by Mujahidin who considered them as a threat to Islam. The Mujahidin were aided by US-Pakistan with Stinger missiles which proved deadly for the Soviet air attacks. The US was also instrumental in consolidating the Mujahidin into Taliban that resulted gradually in Afghanistan becoming a terrorist hub and a breeding ground for Al-Qaeda.

The Soviets left the country in 1989 but the internal war continued. In the following years, 1996-2001, Taliban rule was brutal and medieval, especially for women who were confined in burqas and indoors, prohibited from attending schools, universities and going to work. They were lost in a time capsule of extreme Islam, wild and unruly, disrespectful and intolerant of other cultures (they blasted irreplaceable, priceless Bamiyan Buddhas).

Enter US in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attack on World Towers that changed the world for ever. The Americans were against the Frankenstein they had created. The US chose to ignore the Pakistan duplicity in the proliferation of terrorism from Afghanistan as well as from their own soil that consumed their nation. Pakistan, however, benefitted from the continuous flow of Dollars from US and Saudi Arabia that underpinned its tattered economy.

The US had to assert its unipolar domination that had crashed with 9/11. Their invasion of Afghanistan was UN sanctified and backed by 40 nations in the world. While they should have left immediately after destroying the terrorist training camps and Al-Qaeda, mission creep took over in the form of nation building – schools and infrastructure, and training Afghan Army. To assert their world domination, they even extended an unjustified war in Iraq that stretched their resources.

The players on the bloody Afghan domain besides US and Pakistan are India, China, Russia and Iran. US is there to alleviate terrorism and to exert its dominance. China challenges for the top spot and also is looking for new grounds for road corridors, oil and mining resources. Russia may like to avenge its 1989 pullout. Pakistan is notorious to breed terrorism as proved by Osama bin Laden’s presence on its soil and to foment destabilisation in Kashmir. India has interest to counter in Baluchistan and to balance Pakistani influence. Iran sides with India for its Hazara population and is a willing partner to provide India with port facilities from its soil.

India has been investing significantly in building road infrastructure, dams and water supply and in the energy sector in Afghanistan. All that seems to be lost. India is also worried about spread of terrorism exported to its soil via Pakistan.

Pakistan and China can claim moral victories with Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan, short lived though as history has enough examples of self-destruction of societies that breed violence.

Pashtun population in Afghanistan is the largest with a nearly 42 per cent representation in the country and forming the core of Taliban and the country politics. Then there are Shiite Hazaras and strong fighters from Tajik community.

The new Taliban seems more accomodating promising school education for women but emphasises on Islamic law. Their true colours are yet to be seen. If their archaic attitude towards women is even a small proportion of what they exercised in the 1990s, it will be shameful for the whole world.

Extremist religion, even nationalism, is like a virus that comes to life once it finds a medium, even after being dormant for thousands of years. It is indeed languishing that even in the contemporary society people should believe in heaven and hell, put their left arm or leg first in accordance with baseless antiquated commands to avoid being sent to the latter. Education alone will displace ignorance with humanism.

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