American Eagle fall, Although the government still controls Kabul, the scale and speed of the rebels’ offensive have left little mistake as to who currently has the upper hand. This rapid demise is reminiscent of the closing days of the Vietnam War, when the Viet Cong overran Saigon in April 1975. The fall of France in June 1940 may be a better analog if what the world is watching is the moral as well as the physical collapse of a nation.
Once it became evident in June that residual US forces were racing to leave, the Taliban’s multi-fronted offensive in taking key provincial capitals and much of rural Afghanistan was expected to succeed, albeit not with startling speed. The United States’ rash, unilateral decision to leave NATO on short notice essentially forced Britain and other Nato partners to follow suit. It caught the administration off guard. It provided the Taliban with the opportunity they had been waiting for for the past 20 years.
The ensuing shock waves are felt all around the world. Joe Biden is directly responsible for a preventable reversal that will have long-term, devastating ramifications for the Afghan people and Western security. However, this mistake is shared by previous US presidents who took their eyes off the ball in the years following al-9/11 Qaida’s attacks – particularly Donald Trump, whose egregiously stupid, self-serving “peace deal” with Taliban officials in Doha last year set the path for submission.
Britain, America’s stalwart but unconsulted ally, is also pondering what was accomplished and what will happen next. The occupation, according to Boris Johnson and Ben Wallace, the defense secretary, stopped future al-Qaida strikes and increased women’s education. However, Wallace acknowledges that al-Qaida and Islamic State fanatics are resurgent in Afghanistan, which is a major concern. It’s clear that the task isn’t finished – and that whatever progress has been made might be rapidly undone.
It’s a shame Wallace’s harsh condemnation of the United States – he called Trump’s Doha giveaway a “rotten bargain” and the withdrawal a “disaster” – weren’t more clearly communicated when there was still time to act. His statement that he attempted but failed to persuade France and Germany to assist in maintaining a military presence exemplify the limitations of “global Britain.” Britain was helpless without The United States and was cut off from Europe. Ordinary Afghans are terrified when Taliban radicals begin to rearrange their lives ruthlessly.
The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has also suffered a major humiliation. His political leadership has been painfully revealed as uninteresting and incompetent. It’s also true that Trump’s decision to withdraw his administration from the Doha talks severely disadvantaged him. As a result, the inclusive democracy that many Afghans, western governments, and non-governmental organizations worked so hard to construct is in jeopardy. It is, in reality, dying right in front of our eyes.
Ordinary Afghans are concerned about more fundamental issues. They watch in horror as Taliban extremists violently reorganize their lives, imposing regressive Islamic law, limiting access to education, and harassing women. Their top priority is to stay alive in the face of unprecedented civilian casualties. It’s impossible to fathom their agony. Rory Stewart, a former minister, correctly uses the term “betrayal.” Millions of people in a country where the average age is 18, who reject Islamist intolerance, face a nightmare future under the burden of a medieval feudal regime.
The entire impact of this calamity is only now becoming apparent. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been displaced within the country. Many people have sought refuge in Kabul. If the capital falls, waves of terrified, destitute, and starving people could flood into Pakistan, Iran and the Central Asian republics from a country that the UN warns is “spinning out of control.” It may only be a matter of time until Europe is hit by massive humanitarian and refugee crises that destabilize the region.
Perhaps, with the last gasp, disaster can be avoided. It’s possible that Kabul will hold, and that Ghani’s depleted army will remain firm and even defeat the militants. It’s possible that the Taliban, which is split between fundamentalists and pragmatists, combatants and ideologues, would willingly halt their march, accept a power-sharing compromise, or split up. Under pressure to make amends, Biden may even send back bombers and drones to try to stem the flood.
But none of this is going to have a long-term impact unless the international community joins together swiftly. Why are so many countries standing by and doing nothing? Why is the United Nations Security Council tinkering around as Afghanistan burns? Peace is something that all of the major actors want. The Islamist contagion is a source of concern for China and Russia. In theory, both India and Pakistan want stability. Iran, which is sanctioned and hammered by Covid, can’t afford a refugee problem on its eastern border any more than Turkey or the EU can.
Everyone benefits from a result that saves Afghan democracy protect basic human rights and gives safeguards against future extremist threats. Afghanistan can be pulled back from the dictatorial, terrorist abyss – and the Taliban brought to heel – even now if the world truly wants it. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has demanded a rapid ceasefire, followed by “good faith” discussions. He must be strongly supported for the sake of all of us.