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From punishing the Taliban to punishing the Afghan people

November 3, 2021 at 10:30 am

US soldiers sit on a wall as Afghans gather on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on 20 August 2021, hoping to flee from the country after the Taliban’s military takeover of Afghanistan. [WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images]

Following the departure of American occupation forces from Afghanistan it seems that the international community, especially the US, is moving from trying to punish the Taliban to punishing the Afghan people. It was the Taliban fighters, of course, who basically defeated US troops in the longest war in American history.

This shift is exposed by the fact that Washington has not recognised the Taliban government and has frozen Afghanistan’s financial reserves held in US banks. It is also using humanitarian aid as a bargaining chip. Moreover, according to the Wall Street Journal, a number of Afghan intelligence officers and Special Forces have joined the terrorists of Daesh to fight against the Taliban, which has always accused Washington and the US-trained Afghan intelligence agencies of establishing and strengthening Daesh in order to weaken the movement and discredit it among the Afghan people.

Dominating the coverage of Afghanistan since the withdrawal of US forces in late August has been Washington’s grip on $10 billion of Afghan funds in US banks and its refusal to release the money. This is nothing less than economic terrorism, and should be challenged like any other kind of terrorism. It prevents the Afghan government from paying the salaries of its employees, including the army and those working in the diplomatic service. The US has also employed carrot and stick policies and intimidation against other countries to persuade them not to recognise the Taliban government, and not to provide humanitarian aid and support to the Afghans, which has a direct negative impact on the lives of ordinary citizens.

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Arguably the worst thing that the US occupation did to Afghanistan was to maintain it as a state dependent almost entirely on international support. The Afghan economy is a captive of the international community and its policies. The earlier Soviet occupation also made sure that this was the case, which means that the Afghan economy has been in more or less the same situation since 1978. The US occupation did nothing to improve it.

The brutal way that the US and the West are dealing with Afghanistan — economic terrorism and humanitarian aid blackmail — reflects the extent of their anger and resentment against the Afghan people. The manner in which US troops left Afghanistan exposed America in front of the international community. It has definitely lost prestige, and so is resorting to new-old methods to take revenge on those held to be responsible.

The Western and American media, meanwhile, only focus on the last shot, the explosion at Kabul Airport, for which Daesh claimed the dubious credit. However, a few metres away from the explosion, four American Special Forces officers were throwing an Afghan woman over the airport wall. Such brutality was rare, but it did not receive a fraction of the coverage that the airport bomb did. Nor have Western media outlets reminded us that US forces urinated on the corpses of Taliban fighters, and that American troops killed a disabled Afghani who had been fitted with a prosthetic limb; removed the prosthesis; poured alcohol inside it and then drank it in a macabre imitation of the Mongol barbarians before them, who used to hollow out Afghan skulls and drink alcohol from them.

READ: The US’ military adventure in Afghanistan

The report that Afghan national forces, on which the Americans spent a lot in terms of arms and intelligence, joined Daesh, reflects either the Americans’ efforts to cooperate with Daesh against the Taliban, or the extent to which the US failed to protect those who they trained from joining terrorist organisations. It was America, remember, which dismantled the Iraqi army after the 2003 invasion, leaving some of its members to join groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda. That scenario is being repeated today in Afghanistan, with Daesh benefiting from the training and arms that the Afghan Special Forces and intelligence agencies were given by the US.

The American narratives are no longer coherent, morally valid or believable. What is happening in Afghanistan strengthens the doubts about the credibility of US foreign policy and its justifications. The people of Iraq were punished by US-UN sanctions under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Now we see the same scenario affecting the people of Afghanistan, under similarly flimsy pretexts, while the forces on which the US spent billions of dollars pack their bags and join Daesh terrorists. Is Washington cutting off America’s nose to spite its face?

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 1 November 2021

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.