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Getting Afghanistan Wrong Again

Zafar Bangash

It is quite revealing to note that the defeated power (the US) is demanding that the victors (Taliban) must establish a government in Afghanistan approved by the vanquished. The rest of the world is also parroting this ludicrous demand. Since the Taliban are already fulfilling their pledge to not allow Afghan territory to be used for terrorist activities against others, the two oft-repeated demands made of them now are: an “inclusive government” and protecting the “rights of women”.

Let us deconstruct both demands.

By an “inclusive government”, the US and others mean that those Afghans that had collaborated with the occupiers and pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars should be included in the Taliban-led government. Can anything be more absurd than that?

Consider the US presidential election of 2020 in which Joe Biden secured 78 million votes to Donald Trump’s 74 million. Imagine if Biden was told to include people like Mike Pompeo and Rudy Giuliani in his cabinet in order to make it “inclusive”. How about throwing in some QAnon boys and Trump’s “talented” son-in-law Jared Kushner into the mix? Would that be a reasonable demand in a country claiming to be the “largest democracy” in the world?

If that is not acceptable, on what basis are the Taliban being asked to include collaborators in their government? Before Taliban fighters entered the Panjshir Valley, they offered talks to the rebels to resolve the dispute peacefully. The Panjshiris demanded one-third of cabinet posts in the new government. For people that had collaborated with foreign occupiers (traitors in common parlance) to make such a demand defies all logic. Why should the Taliban expose themselves to traitors whose loyalties are still with the alien invaders?

Let us also consider the issue of the rights of women. There is absolutely no dispute or question about respecting their rights. Islam guarantees those rights and these must be fully protected and respected. But what precisely is meant by the “rights of women” in the context of Afghanistan?

Over the 20-year period of occupation, there emerged a class of women in the few urban centres, especially Kabul that imbibed all the Western cultural norms and values. This was part of the occupiers’ plan: to impose Western culture on the deeply religious and conservative society of Afghanistan. When these few dozen women demand their rights, what they are saying is that they should be free to uncover, go to the parlours to get their hair done or have their nails polished. These women are a tiny minority in Afghanistan.

The overwhelming majority of women are involved in the day-to-day struggle to survive, of finding the next meal or providing a piece of naan (bread) to their hungry children. Little or no concern has been expressed for the plight of the tens of thousands of Afghan widows or the hundreds of thousands of orphans, all victims of American barbarism for two decades.

Bringing up this subject would draw attention to the crimes the US and its allies have committed in Afghanistan. The war criminals should be held accountable. There was no justification for attacking and occupying Afghanistan and perpetrating horrific crimes against the Afghans, notwithstanding the allegation of harbouring al Qaeda that was accused of carrying out the 911 attacks.

After the Second World War, the victors—the allied powers—held the Nuremberg trials and had many Nazis executed. How many Afghan collaborators have been tried or executed by the Taliban? They offered a general amnesty to all and sundry. Is there any other example in recent history where such magnanimity has been demonstrated?

Under the Doha deal (February 29, 2020), the Taliban had agreed to not attack US forces during the withdrawal phase. They scrupulously upheld their end of the bargain until the very end. This cannot be said of the Americans.

When the last US military plane took off from Kabul airport on the night of August 30/31, it carried a large number of US troops including General Chris Donahue, the forces commander. Before departing, American troops destroyed a lot of military equipment as well as caused damage to the airport including the radar system. The Taliban were aware of American vandalism. They were present at the tarmac as the last US military plane, a C-17 took off. They could have easily shot down the plane but they did not do so.

Contrast this with American conduct. On August 29, a US drone fired a missile at a vehicle in Kabul, alleging that it was carrying ISIS-K terrorists that had carried out the Kabul airport bombing three days earlier. While young children were clearly visible in the vehicle as well as near it, the Americans still went ahead with the missile strike. It killed 10 people including seven children.

For two weeks, the Pentagon insisted the drone had killed a terrorist. Finally, they were forced to admit to killing civilians but still insisted it was a “mistake”. Really? Did they not see the children around the vehicle that was targeted? Even if there were ISIS-K terrorists, that would still not justify the missile strike because of the presence of children. Would it justified to blow up a building full of people because terrorists were hiding in it?

A word about the terrorist attack at Kabul airport on August 26 is also in order. Media reports constantly referred to 13 US soldiers killed without giving the number for Afghan deaths. There were 30 Taliban fighters among the 170 Afghan civilians killed. The overwhelming majority were shot by American troops. The BBC admitted this in its report but it was tucked away deep into the body of the story. Don’t Afghan lives matter?

The Taliban won the war against foreign occupiers through grit, determination and sacrifice. They harbour no ill-will toward their tormentors including their former jailers and torturers. Taliban prisoners (some 5,000 of them) held in the notorious Bagram prison outside Kabul, did not want to seek revenge. Nic Robertson of the CNN was surprised to learn from former prisoners that they did not hate the Americans; nor did they want revenge!

After 911, George Bush not only wanted to seek revenge from al Qaeda, but threatened the rest of the world as well. “We will make no distinction between those who perpetrated this evil act and those who harbour them,” is how he put it.

So much for American values and its so-called civilization. The Taliban wish to have nothing to do with it—nor should they. And others should not exert pressure on them to conform to American or Western values. Let them establish a system that serves their people.

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 8

Safar 24, 14432021-10-01

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