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Afghanistan revisited: what should have happened

3 0 0
21.08.2021

Much has already been said and written about the US and UK withdrawal from Afghanistan – and that country’s takeover by Taliban. That doesn’t mean however that we, the public, are well-informed: our journalists, pundits and politicians tend to utter the same platitudes, lazily following each other like sheep. We’re left to row through oceans of inane phraseology, with nary a paddle of insight. Yet the Afghanistan ‘story’ is full of meaning and pregnant with lessons for the future.

First things first: some of the ‘arguments’ used by politicians and political activists to justify, alleviate criticism and displace the blame are so dishonest, so blatantly hypocritical, they should make us all gag.

Speaking in UK’s House of Commons, former British Prime Minister Theresa May claimed:

What President Biden has done is to uphold a decision made by President Trump. It was a unilateral decision of President Trump to do a deal with the Taliban that led to this withdrawal.

What President Biden has done is to uphold a decision made by President Trump. It was a unilateral decision of President Trump to do a deal with the Taliban that led to this withdrawal.

Now come oooon, Right Honourable May – who do you think you’re kidding? As if undoing every “unilateral decision of President Trump” wasn’t the Biden Administration’s #1 policy thrust!

No wonder that such ‘defence’ was delivered (with little conviction and a cracking voice) by a lame duck ‘former’; I bet no one else wanted that thankless job! But even such ‘defence’ from Theresa May could not make the US Administration look more foolish than it already did. Not after its top diplomats, assertive leaders and ‘intelligence’ tsars had assured us all that Taliban was utterly incapable of defeating the Afghan army. And not after its ambassador to the ‘United’ Nations uttered the following memorable words:

We have expressed in no uncertain terms here at the United Nations, through a very strongly-worded press statement from the Security Council, that we expect the Taliban to respect human rights, including the rights of women and girls; we have also indicated that they have to be respectful of humanitarian law…

We have expressed in no uncertain terms here at the United Nations, through a very strongly-worded press statement from the Security Council, that we expect the Taliban to respect human rights, including the rights of women and girls; we have also indicated that they have to be respectful of humanitarian law…

I leave it to you, dear reader, to determine whether, hit with such “strongly-worded press statement”, the Taliban leaders are currently a) cowering in fear; b) spending sleepless nights under the weight of such clearly-stated US expectations; or c) laughing their turbans off.

But, while the decision makers and their representatives covered themselves in abject ridicule, few of their critics came out smelling of roses, either.

Adjectives like ‘shameful’ and ‘chaotic’ are among the mildest used by such critics to characterise the withdrawal. They are, no doubt, richly deserved. Yet let us start with the more mildly worded – though no less incisive – comment posted on Twitter by Israeli journalist Haviv Rettig Gur:

O America. It isn’t the withdrawal itself that shocks. That makes some sense. But the speed, callousness and incompetence are harder to swallow, the human desperation you leave in your wake, the way 20 years of institution-building don’t seem to have built any institutions.

O America. It isn’t the withdrawal itself that shocks. That makes some sense. But the speed, callousness and incompetence are harder to swallow, the human desperation you leave in your wake, the way 20 years of institution-building don’t seem to have built any institutions.

It’s not that I argue with the disappointment (if not sheer pain) expressed by Rettig Gur – who grew up in America. What I question is the underlying belief that this sort of withdrawal can be performed in some idealised, dignified manner. A belief that is desperately, ludicrously naïve. Find me – in the entire history of warfare – one example of unilateral withdrawal executed with the proper décor! The British abandonment of the Palestine Mandate? The French withdrawal from Algeria, the US departure from Vietnam, the Israeli retreat from South Lebanon, their ‘disengagement’ from Gaza? They were all done with speed, callousness and........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)


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