EDITORIAL: The unexpected and abrupt fall of Kabul to the Taliban caused a power vacuum creating conditions that tend to revive the dying hostility of the West against the insurgents. The West, particularly the United States, had hoped that even when provincial capitals were falling in quick succession the national capital would stand up to the Taliban. But President Ashraf Ghani had a different plan. He fled the city, in the company of 51 cronies, hours before the Taliban fighters entered Kabul, leaving behind the residents to fend for themselves. And even when the Taliban leadership announced general amnesty and status quo, hundreds of thousands were not convinced. Being former allies in different capacities of foreign forces they wanted to escape the country. They rushed to the Hamid Karzai International Airport to leave the country as early as possible. There were scuffles and brawls to get into the aircraft with some hanging from its wheels and then dropping down to their death.
By August 23, about 16,000 people have been evacuated through the Kabul airport, while a very large number of people wait for their turn. The West reacted to massive chaos at the airport by asking the United States to delay its troop withdrawal. But Taliban have made it clear that they will react quite seriously to any delay. According to Taliban, if the United States and its allies decide to stay beyond the second deadline - the first deadline was agreed to between the two sides in Doha - it would be considered "the extended occupation of foreign troops", and there would be "consequences".
But to a common watcher of the Afghan imbroglio, the promised consequences mean disruption of ongoing process to create an inclusive government in Afghanistan. Such an action on the part of the West is likely to put out of gear the entire exercise, which in its present form is unmistakably not the revival of Taliban's first stint in power. The Taliban leadership has consistently announced that under their control it would be a 'Naya Afghanistan', where the members of minorities would have rights equal to those of majority, Afghan soil will be out of bounds for terrorists, and women would be treated humanely and decently. And in Today's Kabul that is in plain sight. Naturally, Afghanistan's neighbours have welcomed the Taliban commitments, and some of them have openly offered their full cooperation, suggesting that while the West tends to see Taliban through its old rusted prism, the neighbours are of the view that today's Taliban are vastly different from those who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Therefore, should the West go for some kind of sanctions against the Taliban it would not only revive their anti-West mindset but also undermine Kabul's wish to remain neutral in regional and international power plays. In fact, the issue that tends to influence thinking in the West is more than chaotic evacuation of people from Afghanistan. This situation is not the making of the Taliban; it is because of mishandling - some of this being beyond control - of evacuation process. Ideally, instead of taking a negative view of the airport incidents and warn imposition of sanctions the governments in the West should come forward and help restore normalcy at the Kabul airport.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021
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