Can we condone Biden’s Withdrawal from Afghanistan?

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Afghan Women take up Arms against the Taliban – Source: International Business Times

It is one thing not to intervene in the first place, (though where there’s slaughter of people, the morality of non-intervention even here is questionable). It’s quite another to intervene with a 20 year programme of human rights improvements, education, increased stability and safety for women and then decide to remove it again, effectively overnight.

It’s like rescuing someone from a dungeon, assuring them they are safe and encouraging them to prosper for 20 years, then one night locking them back in the same dungeon, with the full knowledge that there’s no escape and it’s a potential life sentence. Such actions are surely inhumane, cruel and criminal? Just because governments have behaved like this in the past doesn’t mean it’s right.

This is a tragedy for Afghan people, especially women

Many, many more people will die as a result of this withdrawal. Biden’s decision to withdraw has created a humanitarian crisis that was entirely foreseeable.  The decision will also have global repercussions by destabilizing our democracies further and by fostering the regrowth of international terrorism. All of these points are separately conclusive reasons not to withdraw in the manner Biden has endorsed. Taken together, they are overwhelming.

Many in the international community view Biden’s decision as deplorable. For Biden to go on to say that the events of the last week prove him right when people are falling out of planes desperately trying to escape, when women are terrified for their lives, including those who worked for the government and in journalism, when people are relinquishing their children to US soldiers to transport them to safety, is inexplicable.  Afghan citizens, and women in particular, are being thrown back into an age of medieval cruelty. How, in all conscience can we be ok with this? Or do we have to wait until the activities of the Taliban’s finishing school for terrorism come to a town near us?

I am baffled by Biden’s response. I always thought of him as a deeply compassionate person. But suddenly he’s not the man I thought he was. It would seem that Biden has reneged on his commitment at the G7 summit to be a global force for good. Instead the insular “I’m only interested in protecting my own” attitude in the USA has completely taken over any sense of global connection, responsibility to, and compassion for, others on the planet. No doubt, years of Trumpism have boosted this insularity in the USA just as the new Tories have boosted UK insularity and its felt need to detach from the EU. Insularity is all part of the ideology of “looking after No. 1”.

Why follow Trump’s Plan?

The withdrawal from Afghanistan was Trump’s mission but Biden didn’t have to execute it. He was happy to tear up many of Trump’s other policies. Even if Biden felt that the withdrawal had to be done, its execution so far is a tragic mess that could all have been managed so much better. The Afghan army lacked the strength and expertise to withstand the Taliban onslaught without external support.  So the US troops could have withdrawn during the winter season when the Taliban are less present. Troop withdrawal could also have been staggered over a longer period of time, a negligible extension in the context of their 20 year presence in Afghanistan. Tactics such as these would have boosted the chances and therefore the morale of the Afghan army. The US government could also have waited until the huge backlog of asylum applications had been shifted and liaised with other countries, including the UK, over how best to manage these applications. These and other strategic errors, taken together, makes the plan seem like utter folly.

Russia, China, the Taliban and the satellite terrorist groups are DELIGHTED at the shambles of the current withdrawal. It is a massive poke in the eye for democracy and strengthens their arm enormously in their campaign to overthrow Western values. Biden may have just released a Pandora’s box that could change society as we know it.

The “new” Taliban rule – an unknown future

It is possible that the current Taliban have reformed and modernised in their thinking – that we should view the young soldiers enjoying the dodgems and draped over the gym equipment in Kabul as a demonstration of their endorsement of 21st century life, freedoms and values and not as aggressive, conquering snakes posed with quiet glee over the Western goods they have just requisitioned. The Taliban is notorious for breaking or ignoring rules designed to protect citizens and their current promises are clearly being stage managed whilst they settle back in. No doubt there are tensions within the Taliban regime over how to proceed. Already there are reports from Amnesty International of massacres in the Ghazni province Amnesty International The point is that we actually have no idea what their intentions are.

The Taliban regime could evolve into some form of restrained government. Or, once the media storm is over, it could quickly (or gradually) revert back to a world of decapitation and hand removal, of stoning women, of torturing innocent people on a daily basis and of unfettered raping. We just don’t know. Despite this perilous uncertainly, Afghan women and men are currently protesting in the streets – an action which displays a level of courage beyond words.
The US and UK governments should be filled with anguish and hang their heads in shame that they have driven the people of Afghanistan to this.   

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