A few days ago, the column recalled that the reader, as far as Afghanistan is concerned, has always been well informed in recent years. The expected scenario, even “unexpected” for some, has occurred. A novelty, even, just a little in the speed of events.
The poignant images of Kabul have already traveled the world. Desperate people falling from the fuselage of planes after trying to hang on to a thread of hope. Thousands of people are trying to flee the country as the new Afghan rulers, the former Taliban, broadcast from the presidential palace. Unfortunately, this only means that new crises will arise in the near and distant future.
The most intense of these is the humanitarian crisis. The current population of Afghanistan is almost double the population of 2001, during the NATO intervention, led by the United States and authorized by the UN Security Council. Part of this population growth is precisely due to the fact that hundreds of thousands of Afghans who had fled the Taliban decided to return to their country after the fall of the first emirate. The last twenty years have seen advances in various aspects of Afghan society, even with an intermittent civil war. Today, it is safe to say that a good part of the 39 million inhabitants of Afghanistan do not want to live under the Taliban.
In the coming months, a few million Afghans will flee their country. These will likely be divided into three types. A minority of those with money and contacts will be able to travel to Europe, the United States or Australia. A larger group of discouraged young people, who will try to reach these same big centers, but on more risky and dangerous routes. There are many reports of Afghans arriving in Europe on foot.
Finally, families who will try to cross neighboring borders, taking their entire lives on their backs. Especially for Iran and Pakistan, countries with large Afghan communities. Even the Pashtun populations of Afghanistan and Pakistan are often confused.
On Monday 16, French President Emmanuel Macron addressed this issue, asserting that the destabilization of Afghanistan will generate “irregular migratory flows”, which, although France continues to protect “the most threatened”, Europe will not can not bear the consequences of the situation.
According to him, “an initiative will be launched to build, without further delay, a robust, coordinated and united response”. It sounds very good, learning from what happened after the war in Syria, but the situation is different today. Macron faces elections where immigration and refugees are hot topics and cannot risk alienating part of the electorate in the direction of Marine Le Pen.
On the German side, the federal elections will end the Merkel era, preventing any more solid deal before a new government is formed after the September 26 elections. The longer it takes, the more desperate people are, the more tragic the news, etc. Which leads to the next crisis, that of companies.
The Taliban leadership is said to have engaged in a more moderate policy, a dose of pragmatism in exchange for greater international recognition. Well, let’s remember that the Taliban’s word isn’t worth much, as we’ve seen in recent decades. However, Afghan society will change and lose the last breath of modernity and social liberalization.
Stories already abound of Afghan women in big cities who have destroyed their diplomas, their credentials, fearing for their lives. The return of the burqa, the repression of all forms of female emancipation, a plural society, with music, art, cinema, LGBT rights, it’s all gone. And this is not an exaggeration of the chronicle or the reproduction of an orientalist stereotype.
The former Taliban Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice did all of this. Even cuddling in public could lead to police repression, and music and dancing were prohibited. There is even an institution of the same name in Saudi Arabia. This type of repression, of which women were still the main victims, was already taking place inside Afghanistan. This will now be the norm.
This societal crisis leads to the crisis of the image and prestige of the United States.
First of all, forget about any blame game. The four former US presidents have some responsibility for what is happening. The US state has never had a clear long-term strategy in Afghanistan.
George W. Bush for spending almost eight years without fulfilling his self-checking mission to catch Bin Laden, waging an intermittent war without quite knowing where to go. Barack Obama for having remained six years after the death of Bin Laden without being able or wanting to reframe the American presence in the region and the model of cooperation with Afghanistan.
The Trump administration’s share of responsibility, on the other hand, comes from wanting to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan anyway, even if, to do so, it was necessary to legitimize the Taliban. Yes, the word is legitimate. It was Trump who started negotiations with the Taliban and it was his government that demanded the release of thousands of Taliban members, including their leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, imprisoned in Pakistan.
Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Baradar in November 2020 in Qatar. All these subjects were treated here in the chronicle of his time. Finally, Biden describes a “plan” that doesn’t even deserve to be called that, of a complete hasty retreat that ends in disaster, based on intelligence reports that have proven to be flawed.
Bad speech from Biden
The footage shows people abandoned, the US Embassy in Kabul evacuated, and at the last minute Biden had to send troops who were already in Afghanistan to provide security.
The Internet is full of images parallel to the fall of Saigon or recalling American support for the Afghan mujahedin in the 1980s. Space.
In return, the situation is made worse by fears that thousands of people who have collaborated with the United States or the Afghan government will be left to fend for themselves. Secretary Blinken, in an abysmal detachment from reality, denies this damage to the image, affirms that the mission was a success.
As images circulate of people literally falling from an American plane. Biden, perhaps to help his chief diplomat, decides to speak some more nonsense. In an unexpected speech, in the middle of his vacation, Biden only needed to use a certain finger in relation to Afghanistan.
He said the US goal was never a long-term stay, that the Afghans were not fighting the Taliban and washing their hands. Everything a leader shouldn’t do in a time of crisis. When he says, for example, that the Afghan army did not fight the Taliban, perhaps he is referring to the many massive defections in recent months. When these soldiers were unpaid and without leadership, from a corrupt and weak Ashraf Ghani.
Overall, however, since 2002, more than 65,000 Afghan soldiers have died, compared with exactly 2,420 US servicemen killed. To call these men practically cowards is, in itself, cowardly.
And in the future, when will the United States need regional allies? Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds and Biden’s Afghan curse will make any actor think twice before lining up for the United States. And this image crisis will not only be external.
Half a million US military personnel have served in Afghanistan, and a good chunk of them will look in the mirror and wonder “why?” Biden’s haste, the ineffectiveness of his “plan” and, more importantly, his weak speech will contribute to this sentiment. Most of the American population supported the withdrawal from Afghanistan, but I doubt many would support it in this shameful manner.
In the coming weeks, Afghan political leaders will form a “transitional council” to negotiate with the Taliban. Council officials include former President Hamid Karzai, former Chancellor Abdullah Abdullah and Mujahedin leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who spent twenty years in exile after the Taliban victory in 1996.
Such conversations will take place in Qatar and are unlikely to bear much fruit. The Taliban have no incentive to negotiate, which they never wanted to do in the first place. The “students” got to where they wanted to go.
The possible scenarios cited in the last column remain, especially with regard to Chinese interests. Now, there are the certainties of the crises to come and which, unfortunately, had to be analyzed in this text. There is nothing to celebrate, by anyone, just failures and regrets.