Irish Examiner view: Afghan crisis a failure of the West

One year on, the Taliban may be proud of taking their country backwards, but it is a bitter humiliation for Western democracies
Irish Examiner view: Afghan crisis a failure of the West

There were heartbreaking scenes at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul a year ago as families scrambled to flee the Taliban. Picture: Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu/Getty

A year ago this week, the West — predominantly in the shape of the US and the UK, although other countries withdrew earlier — pulled their forces out of Afghanistan in a shambolic manner which abandoned people to the not-so-tender mercies of the Taliban.

It was a terrible desertion which recalled the moments when America left allies behind in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, in 1975. It was a humiliating abdication of responsibilities, commenced on Donald Trump’s watch but completed by Joe Biden, which encouraged both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping in their bellicosity. 

The event was marked by a preening and self-reverential selfie of 14 mujahideen leaders posed around a conference table in the former presidential palace of Kabul.

Twelve months later, Irish newspapers are full of warnings on the consequences of that decision written by charities and NGOs. One in six people in Afghanistan lives under immediate risk of famine. 

Half of the country’s population is hungry. The nation is under drought, its supplies of fuel, fertiliser, and grain impacted by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a country which once dealt death closer to Kabul in the Hindu Kush and the Spin Ghar. The economy is sanctioned because the Taliban has failed to meet the terms of settlement which handed power to them. Foreign aid has dried to a trickle.

Women are prevented from working; many youngsters, particularly girls, no longer attend school. Afghans are subjected to what some of them describe as a “gender apartheid”. Family incomes have plummeted. One charity reports parents “selling their children out of sheer desperation”.

The Taliban may be proud in taking their country backwards and extinguishing hope of a better life. For Western democracies, it is a cup of bitter gall which may continue to be drained for years to come.

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