What took place in the span of a few months after the Biden administration decided to leave the Afghan government to its own devices was decades in the making. For twenty years, beginning with the Karzai government and ending with the Ghani government, none of the US-backed governments managed to gain the trust of the the Afghan people. The billions of dollars of American taxpayer money sent for rebuilding Afghanistan were often diverted to corrupt state officials’ private coffers. The Afghan army equipped with American weapons was rendered otiose and demoralised after the government failed to feed them or pay their salaries for months. Pitted against the ideologically motivated Taliban army, no wonder their resistance crumbled like a sandcastle. Only if weapons were edible and could fill empty stomachs!
Now that the Taliban have taken over power, Afghan women — half of the workforce — will be relegated to domestic servitude, spending their spare time counting the crevices on the scullery walls. Persecuted ethnic and religious minorities like the Hazaras, many of whom were born in neighbouring countries and forcibly repatriated by Western governments to a country where they have never set foot before, will be hounded down and killed. Albeit ersatz, Kabul will be the new Medina, to where Muhajirun from the neighbouring countries will attempt to emigrate, further destabilising an already volatile region. The Taliban, meanwhile, will find it incredibly difficult to run a country already destitute, now sealed off from the rest of the world and the aid money which kept it somewhat afloat. Already there are people on the streets protesting the Taliban takeover; pockets of resistance have sprung up in the country’s north. Another bloody civil war lurks on the horizon. Nature, by its very nature, hates any vacuum. The likes of Russia and China are trying to fill the void left by the US and its allies, prodding and pushing the Taliban in a direction congenial to their interests.
After decades of lofty promises about their mission in Afghanistan, the United States and its NATO allies may have washed their hands off the country, but people worldwide cannot. To do so would be a moral failing of the highest magnitude. Now, more than ever, people in Afghanistan need our support. Whatever progress Afghan women have made in securing their equal rights in the past few decades cannot be squandered. The ethnic and religious minorities should not live in fear, nor should any more dissident voices like Abdullah Atifi be silenced. The United Nations, together with national governments, should demand assurance from the Taliban that if the latter is to secure any international recognition, they do not go on to rule in a fashion similar to that between 1996–2001. The Taliban are also aware that they have seized power in a much-changed political landscape, both domestic and international. A brutal medieval-style dictatorship will not do the trick this time around, nor can they afford to allow Afghan soil to be used as a launchpad for terror attacks. The more concessions the international community could secure from the Taliban, the better it will be for Afghanistan’s future. Deportations of Afghan refugees should be halted permanently; those waiting for asylum should be granted permanent residency immediately, and countries worldwide should be open to accepting more Afghan refugees. For long, the Afghan people have desperately clung to hope: the hope that the international community has not abandoned them, the hope that a better day awaits them in the future. In Afghanistan’s darkest moment in two decades, we should stand in solidarity with our Afghan brethren to keep that hope alive.
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