‘A country with no pictures’

Lubna Abdel-Aziz , Saturday 28 Aug 2021

The return of the Taliban to Kabul to form a new government was more than pitiful


This was a week from hell! Every which way you turned, human beings were crying, suffering, dying, from natural or man-made disasters.

An earthquake in Haiti, anti-lockdown demonstrations in Australia, shootings in Mexico, blowing mines in Columbia, and above all the havoc in Afghanistan.

The return of the Taliban to Kabul to form a new government was more than pitiful.

After 20 years of US military presence, following the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York’s Twin Towers, the terrorists took a back seat. The US military, sacrificed many American lives as they fought to keep the merciless Taliban terrorists at bay. By supporting, aiding and protecting a legitimate Afghan government, some form of neutrality was established.

Suddenly they shocked the world by announcing their immediate departure.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair put it best when he said: “It was tragic and unnecessary.”

This sudden pullout was a rash decision sending shivers up your spine. It was un-planned, under-cooked, and unwise. Where was the strategic outline of such a move? Should it not have taken weeks or months to remove American and other foreign diplomats, military personnel, equipment, residents and Afghan allies, before announcing their careless, premature abandonment.

Indeed, it would have happened sooner or later, with cool caution, discretion and precision….but what was the purpose of their presence to begin with?  Was it not to put an end to the terrorist rule of the Taliban? Now they are spreading out the red carpet for their return with little regard for the people of Afghanistan, the women, the US allies — as though those past 20 years were for naught, except for the loss of lives, money, valuable intricate equipment left in the hands of the enemy. Need we go on with the list of damages caused by an act of stupidity, we do not know what else to call it.

The whole area is now at risk. Pakistan and India at the border of Afghanistan own nuclear weapons. An obviously weakened US urges China to exercise more control over Taiwan as well as Afghanistan. Now South Korea also wants the US military out-— the whole geography of the area is sure to change. The US president is either unaware or uninformed, to say the least.

Did you know that the US military is present in 150 countries? They are everywhere —Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and especially the Middle East. We see no legitimate reason why, is it to aid, to protect or to support? Can anyone trust their commitments after the vivid pictures of flight from Kabul, with roads blocked to the airports by the Taliban.

The grim images on our screens as families rush to safety, mothers dropping their babies to Americans, who, as of this writing, are still trapped, awaiting help from the US, breaks our hearts in a million pieces.

It is a déjà vu of what happened in Saigon as the defeated Americans fled the city in disarray, hanging on the wings of flying airplanes.

Does history repeat itself?  If not, “it certainly rhymes” said Mark Twain.

A new dawn had been breaking in this ancient country, over 100,000 years old. A land of great mountains, scorching deserts, fertile valleys and rolling plains. Located is southwestern Asia, it is bordered by Russia on the north, China on the far northeast, Pakistan on the east and south and Iran on the west….and no seacoast. Suddenly darkness and hungry neighbours.

 No wonder at one time or another invaders have ravaged the country, rich in oil, copper, gold, natural gas, uranium, coal, iron ore, chromium, lead, sulfur and more — giant assets still to be developed. China has a 30-year lease for the largest copper project — no surprise there.

 Its long and troubled history of tribal wars has encouraged invaders from early days — among them Greeks, Persians, Mongols and in modern times interference from Great Britain, Russia. Their guerilla war tactics helped overcome invaders. No wonder the country has earned the title of “the graveyard of foreigners”.

With 99 per cent Muslims, their form of Islam is like no other. The Taliban claim they follow Sharia Law (Islamic rule), but their interpretation is far stricter than any other to the extent that they justify the killing of fellow Muslims of the Shafei sect, a sect accepted by the holy prophet and Islamic law.   

Is man a child of peace or a creature of war? While he seemingly embraces peace, he continuously finds a necessity to exercise those primal instinct he shares with his cousins in the animal kingdom. Yet he alone reserves the distinction of being the only animal to kill his own people.

Many of our baser instincts such as prejudice, intolerance and violence remain etched in our brains despite our sophistication in all matters technical, philosophical or lyrical.

  The Taliban and other terrorists have proven that.

In 2001, the remarkable Iranian Film Director Mohsen Makhmabaf presented his masterpiece Kandahar, second city in Afghanistan, where the Taliban took refuge after the US wars: “I shall call it the land of no pictures”, he said. “With no paintings, no music, a library burned to the ground and women hidden under burqas, useful only for man’s needs, whipped regularly, mercilessly…I shall write a book about it.”

Is this the legacy the US is leaving after 20 years of occupation — a shameful, abrupt departure?

US allies, in 150 countries must be restless or sleepless nowadays.

“An open foe may be a curse. But a pretended friend is worse.”

John Gay (1685-1732).

*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 August, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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