Afghans’ year of misery following US withdrawal



September 04, 2022

Afghans’ year of misery following US withdrawal
In this file photo, US troops at their base in Logar province, Afghanistan. (Reuters)

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It has now been more than a year since the US completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan on Aug. 30, 2021, ending its 20-year military presence in the country. August of 2021 was the worst of months for the Afghans. It was a turning point in their reasonably new lives, featuring their government’s collapse, President Ashraf Ghani’s departure and the Taliban taking control of the capital city, Kabul.

In the space of a month, the whole country went back in time. It was as if the last 20 years had not happened. As Voice of America reported: “The dress code of both men and women had changed. Almost all of the men were now dressed in shalwar kameez rather than the previously popular jeans or pants. Women had simply disappeared from the streets of Kabul.”

Since the Taliban’s return to power, human rights violations have increased, especially against women, while the local economy has collapsed and the horror and fear of the radical movement’s brutality has forced thousands of people to flee the country. The American debacle in Afghanistan reflected President Joe Biden’s approach to dealing with his country’s foreign policy, despite his announcement that America had returned to the international fold during his inauguration.

The international community was shocked by how the US leadership conducted its withdrawal plan — if there was one. It failed to inform its European allies on the ground and abandoned the democratically elected government, knowing that the country would fall into the hands of the Taliban. Afghan partners, who worked hand in hand with the American and NATO soldiers and reconstruction teams, were disappointed by the White House’s actions.

On July 8, 2021, Biden said from the White House that he did not trust the Taliban, adding: “But I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, which is better trained, better equipped and more competent in terms of conducting war.”

Innocent people, who knew what democracy was for 20 years, have gone back to facing violence, oppression and hunger.

Dalia Al-Aqidi

While denying that the intelligence community had assessed that the Afghan government would likely collapse, Biden reiterated his country’s commitment to stand by the people of Afghanistan following the withdrawal. The president told reporters that he personally informed Ghani that Washington would not abandon Kabul. He said: “I want to make clear what I made clear to Ghani: That we are not going just to walk away and not sustain their ability to maintain that force. We are. We’re going to also work to make sure we help them in terms of everything from food necessities and other things.”

Taliban leaders declared victory following America’s evacuation of its embassy in Kabul on Aug. 16, 2021. Washington had failed to preserve the existence of a loyal Afghan government.

Did the chief of the US Armed Forces get it wrong? Why and how? Even today, we have not had a straight answer about exactly what happened and whose fault it was.

In the last year, the Taliban has adopted a hard-line and brutal approach toward women, cracked down on peaceful protests and attacked several Afghan minority groups, according to a report by Amnesty International.

A year has passed while innocent people, who knew what democracy was for 20 years, have gone back to facing violence, oppression and hunger.

During this particular year, the US faced various other threats and challenges, such as those involving Russia, China and Iran, pushing any Afghan-related issue way down the US Department of State’s list of priorities.

• Dalia Al-Aqidi is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy.
Twitter: @DaliaAlAqidi

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point of view


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