Pulling Afghans back from the brink

Photo: OIC Photo: OIC

The US has thanked Pakistan, the host of a recently-held meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)'s foreign ministers in aid of Afghanistan. The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating since mid-August when the US-led foreign forces left Afghanistan and the rebels who were fighting against them, the Taliban, took over. But though the Taliban won the war, they are yet to win the recognition of the world, of the Western powers, in particular. And what happened after was like this: As America sneezed, the rest of the world caught cold-courtesy the famous words of 19th century Austrian statesman Metternich who highlighting the importance of France of his time said, "When Paris sneezes, Europe catches cold".

In fact, many countries including the powers like China and Russia showed interest, some even promised they would come forward with help for the reconstruction of the devastated post-war Afghanistan, but nothing finally emerged. Even what was pledged in terms of financial support for their poor Afghan brethren was too meagre for an association of countries as big as the 57-member OIC! Consider that oil-rich Gulf countries, to whom a few billion dollars' worth of aid is just peanuts, were also represented at that extraordinary session of the OIC to save the Afghan people from an impending humanitarian catastrophe! However, it is also not hard to guess the predicament of those rich countries, the rulers of which won't want to displease America by being too generous towards the hapless Afghans. And so, one should not be surprised to see the untold sufferings the people of that country have been made to go through. But why should the Afghan people suffer? Somebody must take the responsibility. It is the US and its allies in the Afghan war who should. If they want to punish the Taliban because they (the Americans) had to lick the dust in Afghanistan, they can. But they have no moral right to punish the Afghan children, women and the common working people by blocking entry of the desperately needed economic and humanitarian assistance to that country. With the approach of winter, the situation is getting graver every passing hour. In that context, US secretary of state, Antony Blinken's words of praise for the holding of the 57-nation OIC's recent event in Pakistan to help the suffering Afghan people indeed ring hollow. He should face the facts. Was not the decision of troop withdrawal taken long before the incumbent US president, Joe Biden, executed it as planned? Therefore, it was a forgone conclusion that the costly war should end.

So, the Taliban did not exactly take control of Afghanistan through routing the armies of the US and their allies. Unlike the withdrawal of the former Soviet Union that invaded Afghanistan earlier at the end of 1979 and its army was driven away by the Afghan mujahideen nine years later, the US troops withdrawal took place through a dialogue held between the US and the Taliban. And the Taliban, in the spirit of the agreement helped a smooth withdrawal of the troops of the US and its allies before taking control of the country. In other words, the US was instrumental in the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. And that is more so, if one only looks at the way the US-installed government of president Ashraf Ghani collapsed like a card house under its mentor's, the US's, watch. And how ignominiously Ghani fled his country for fear of his and his family's life! Their erstwhile protectors simply looked the other way. So, it cannot be said that the US has been greatly upset by their Afghan cronies' sad plight.

Strangely, there is no dearth of expression of worries and concern about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. True, the Western governments asked the Taliban to meet certain criteria as a condition for their recognition as a legitimate authority to rule the country. And the Taliban did not also directly refuse to comply with the West's demands-they are perhaps bidding their time. And isn't it too much to expect that a guerilla group like the Taliban, still intoxicated with their just won victory, would readily go by the dictates of a power they think they defeated? In that case, it is the West's problem how they would handle the Taliban and at the same time not fail to send a concrete message to the Afghan people that they (the West) have not abandoned them (the Afghan people) altogether.

But what they are doing at the moment is quite the opposite. Hear what the desperate Afghans are telling America. As late as Tuesday last week (December 21), hundreds of protesting Afghan people marched through the streets of Kabul and approached the shuttered US embassy holding banners inscribed with slogans like 'Let us eat' and 'Give us our frozen money'! It is worthwhile to note at this point that the US has kept frozen Afghanistan's reserve funds amounting US$9 billion since the Taliban took power. Small wonder that the hungry people of Afghanistan want their money back. Will the US hold back the money for fear of its falling into the hands of the Taliban? Clearly, it is a battle of egos. The hurt pride of the world's lone superpower is at play here. It appears dying Afghan people are a forgotten lot. Let us hope that the US and its European allies would forgive and forget at least for the sake of humanity and pull the Afghan people back from the brink.

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