All people have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they are able to determine their political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development free of impediments. This is as true in Afghanistan as anywhere else.
The Biden administration in Washington insists that the US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan stems from Donald Trump’s agreement with the Taliban signed in Doha in February. Critics argue that, like Trump’s climate change policies, Biden has the power to reverse his predecessor’s decisions if he has the political will to do so.
The Taliban’s rapid successes were, apparently, completely unexpected. US and NATO intelligence failed dismally in this regard. However, what is significant from the Doha agreement is that the US was aware of the unsustainability of its war in Afghanistan; that it was only a matter of time before inevitable defeat.
The US thus planned to do what it does best: it left the Afghan government in the lurch, leaving the US-trained Afghan National Army to resist the Taliban in a downward spiral of relentless strife and civil war. But the plot failed. The US and NATO leaders were caught off-guard and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the presidential palace. No wonder the people feel abandoned.
Biden spelled out the conditions of the prevailing civil war, but the main protagonist was omitted from the script: the United States of America.
Afghanistan has substantial natural resources of strategic economic interest to the US and its NATO allies. That’s why they invaded and occupied Afghanistan for 20 years. Nation-building wasn’t the real agenda, as Biden has admitted, so the US may withdraw its troops on the ground, but will perhaps provide aerial support to opposition groups facing the Taliban. That will be a strategic objective for the Pentagon as part of the perennial neo-colonial policy of divide and rule. Securing the Doha agreement was merely a way to ensure safe passage for US troops out of Afghanistan.
Salt is being rubbed into Afghanistan’s gaping wound, as the master plan of George W Bush and Donald Rumsfeld to “keep America safe” — a euphemism for regime change in a foreign land — by protecting regional interests. Afghanistan’s natural resources are the prize.
The US is a notorious agent provocateur in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Iraq’s regime change was entirely to protect the interests of the US and its allies in terms of access to Iraqi oil. The British Chilcot Report produced damning findings against former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his “dodgy dossier” of intelligence reports which did not establish “beyond doubt” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the excuse given for the invasion and occupation of the country.No credible reasons exist for the decision to withdraw US troops. We can only conclude, therefore, that the Taliban has outmanoeuvred and defeated the US-NATO alliance. This discredits the so-called “War on Terror”, a blatant sham to gain international support for an unjustified war, which has led to US atrocities, including the torture of political prisoners and women in Bagram and Guantanamo Bay. This is well documented, as is the distressing case of Pakistani Neuroscientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui. Resultant Islamophobia is rampant across Europe and the US, aided and abetted by successive US presidents, culminating in Trump’s openly anti-Muslim policies.
The relentless mainstream media narrative is that the US and its allies are the custodians of human rights. The evidence on the ground in Afghanistan and elsewhere suggests otherwise, not least in Washington’s unquestioned support for the apartheid state of Israel and its belligerent occupation of Palestine. In all of this, the UN Charter and international laws and conventions are being trampled on.
Despite the general panic among Afghan citizens, especially those who worked with the occupation forces and may be complicit in atrocities, it is hoped that the people of Afghanistan may be allowed to determine for themselves how and by whom they are to be governed. This right to self-determination is enshrined in international law. The announcement by the Taliban of an amnesty may be a step in the right direction, but it will have to be in evidence on the ground if there is to be a determined trajectory of economic and social upliftment to emancipate the war-torn country.
The Afghan state run by the Taliban must earn the respect of its neighbours and the community of nations. Government by a politicised parochial interpretation of Islam is not agreeable to many Muslims who have a different understanding of the faith’s broader message to humanity.
Can the Taliban create an inclusive, just and compassionate society with a functioning and viable state? It will need support and goodwill if it is going to do so. This is important. The US-imposed regime collapsed under systemic corruption and trillions of dollars did not bring about the much-needed social changes which were promised 20 years ago. How can a Taliban regime already threatened with economic sanctions do any better?
The concerns of marginalised women and girls, religious minorities and others are legitimate. Every Afghan has a right to live under an inclusive government acting in their best interests. The Taliban must be held to account justly and fairly, without any of the double standards and hypocrisy that is already evident in media reports and statements from politicians in the West.
The adage that actions speak louder than words must hold true for them as well as a Taliban leadership wanting to gain support and legitimacy through its reformed and reforming policies. The movement’s victory must now become a victory for international law and the people’s right to self-determination. Fake news and false narratives which undermine the law must be things of the past if the hopes and aspirations of all Afghans are to be realised.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.