The West's abandonment of Afghanistan is a betrayal

Published on 16 August 2021 at 02:07

By William Hallowell | Editor 

The withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan, and the consolidation of Taliban authority, is condemning the Afghan people to their deaths.


After twenty years of Western forces fighting the Taliban, despotic Islamic jihadism has prevailed as we withdraw our forces, and the Taliban seizes power.


What the West has done amounts to nothing short of betrayal. To be clear: we are condemning the Afghan people to their deaths and admitting failure - without actually admitting that we have failed - as the Taliban declare governance.


Was it worth it? Regrettably, probably not - if we are unlikely to return. Given the decades of war in the region, the lives of British, US and other NATO forces have – we should concede, ashamedly – died in vain. And, also given the two decades we spent training the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP), it doesn’t seem worth it, because of the rapid rate at which Taliban forces have captured ground, as a result of our departure. 


It would, in fairness, be wrong to say we hadn’t made a difference while our forces were there, because we did actively prevent the Taliban from consolidating power and declaring a tyrannical rule over Afghanistan. But now we have withdrawn we have undone all we had achieved in bringing democracy and stability to a country that desperately needed it.


Some are comparing our defeat to that of America's in Vietnam. At the beginning of July, US President Biden even said: "There's going to be no circumstance [where] you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan". Yet, that's exactly what we saw in Kabul on Sunday - and the rest of the capital is in complete disarray. 

Personally, I feel sorry for the interpreters who helped the Western forces and members of the ANA and ANP – and their families. I also feel sorry for the politicians and the journalists, all of which will be hunted down and slaughtered, most likely in the most inhumane, undignified ways. Not to mention, the Afghan women who will become subject to the cruel, ancient authoritarianism of Sharia Law and the savage and oppressive Taliban regime. 


At the very least we should be helping these people, if we are not to return. Afghan interpreters, journalists and politicians - and their families - must be able to seek refuge in NATO countries. We are responsible for the tragic mayhem, and so it is our responsibility to help as many people as possible, even if that means granting asylum to civilians for a short period. We cannot stand idly by. 


Some have said it's not our problem, and that it's not our responsibility to help the Afghan people, but simply: it is. We made a commitment to restore and sustain stability, democracy and peace to the country, and it would be morally reprehensible for us to abandon its people, as well as its land. 


I wrote recently that there has been a lack of commentary from many – particularly on the left – who would describe themselves as human and women’s rights activists. They have been silent. They, the likes Owen Jones, go on and on about the oppressive nature of Britain for women, ethnic minorities and LGBT people. If you want to see true oppression of marginalised groups, look no further than Afghanistan – that is where the focus for human rights should be, right now. 


This Wednesday, Parliament will be recalled from summer recess to discuss the ongoing crisis. What the British Government must do, in partnership with our NATO allies, – what is right – is to accept interpreters and other people who helped coalition forces throughout our time there. Not to do so would be nothing short of a betrayal, condemning the people of Afghanistan to forlorn hope.


It is not fair on the Afghan people. And it is not right that we left. We broke a promising commitment and should be ashamed. It is only right that we return there to restore stability and democracy and protect the lives of the many civilians who we have condemned to their deaths, in such a cowardly manner. But this is highly unlikely.


Image credit: Defence Images 

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