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Everywhere is war

Afghanistan is falling to the Taliban, while war continues in Yemen and intensifies in Ethiopia

By Ricky Browne

Everywhere is war.

Well, not quite everywhere, but certainly in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Yemen.

The American withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan is turning out to be a great thing for the Taliban who are expanding their control of much of the country at a rapid pace – even before the last American troops have left.

The Taliban is said to control more than 85 percent of the landlocked country now.

It looks like its just a matter of when not if, the Taliban will take control of the Afghan capital Kabul. According to the Washington Post, the capital could fall within 90 days. Thousands of civilians are said to be fleeing Afghan cities to make it to the comparative safety of Kabul.

People have been sleeping on the streets in Kabul and in makeshift camps after fleeing their homes Photo: Reuters

But even though the country is likely to soon be under the full control of the militant and crazy Taliban, the American government position is that they are washing their hands of the whole affair and it is now the Afghan government’s problem, though they may offer some assistance.

Yesterday, as the Taliban managed to take over a northern city in an area previously thought to be safe from the group, US President Joe Biden said that he does not regret his decision to remove US troops from the country.

Afghans must “fight for their nation” Biden said. ”They’ve got to fight for themselves”

That was not the position that the United States took 20 years ago when they invaded the country after the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York and Washington.

At that time the main purpose of the invasion seemed to be to hit Al Qaida – and to capture of kill Osama bin Laden. That part of the mission was achieved under Barack Obama when Joe Biden was Vice President in 2011, when a US force captured and killed the Al Qaida leader in his hideout in Pakistan.


The Pul-e-Kheshti Mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan Photo: UNAMA/Freshta Dunia

But it took 10 more years for the United States to withdraw its troops. Why so long? During that time, it appeared that some semblance of what we in the West would call civilisation, appeared to be created in safe zones – with women allowed some of the rights that women in the rest of the world normally take for granted.

Now it appears that it was all a complete mirage, that is now in the process of fading away without the protective force of both US and UK forces. There was nothing structural about the changes that were being made, it appears, and that the Afghan population who were taking on some of the rights offered by Western society, do not have the ability to protect itself from the maurrauding Taliban.

It seems that hundreds of billions of US dollars and UK pounds were spent on creating a mirage that simply cannot exist without the injection of more money and more Western troops — maybe as much as a trillion US dollars. If the country falls back into the hands of the Taliban, what will show for that investment?

An American intelligence report says the Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul could collapse within six months of the US withdrawal. Photo: Reuters

That money was not a complete waste though, because it appears it did put a lid on the ability of the Taliban and perhaps Al Qaida on exporting their brand of terrorism to the rest of the world. And it did give many people in Kabul and other Afghan cities a respite from the fundamentalist and brutal rule of the Taliban.

Now that the US and consequently the UK will no longer be fighting the Taliban nor maintain the mirage of civilisation, the Taliban can get to work at controlling all of Afghanistan – and perhaps setting the country back a few hundred years in its development and culture.

Any ancient world heritage sites that still remain in Afghanistan can no doubt be destroyed if they are believed to be an insult to their religion.

But once they have Afghanistan under total control – something that the US and UK was not able to do – they can busy themselves with exporting their success to neighbouring regions – and perhaps attack the heart of their former invaders.

That means potential terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and London and elsewhere. Those attacks could come from Taliban supporters or from other Afghans who feel betrayed by the countries who instead of protecting them have abandoned them to their fate.

It also is likely to mean a great increase in the number of refugees that will seek asylum wherever they can find it. Europe and the UK will be a main destination. Countries like the United States and Canada could have less refugees, thanks to being harder to get to.

US and NATO troops are getting out of there

Unfortunately, it looks like the US did not have an exit strategy when they entered Afghanistan 20 years ago. Nor was there a clear definition of what victory would mean.

This withdrawal of US and UK troops does not look like a victory to anyone other than the Taliban.

But while the US may have wanted to withdraw for years – the time to do wo was never so good as now. The 9/11 attack is becoming a distant memory, 20 years on. There has been no further comparable attack on US soil since then. Donald Trump, the president all Democrats love to hate, stated that he would withdraw US troops if re-elected – a move that was supported by most of his supporters.

But Biden won, and he has followed through on Trump’s decision, because on one hand virtually anything he does had Democrat support, and on the other hand Republican supporters of Trump also approved the move previously.

So there seems to be little objection in the US to withdrawing troops – even if it means anarchy for Afghanistan.

The Taliban say they will talk with Afghan officials after the US sets a withdrawal date Photo: Reuters

The UK would have stayed longer, but couldn’t do so without the US. And EU countries were unwilling to provide more support. So the UK too is out.

Meanwhile, it looks like China may be viewing the vacuum left by the US and UK as an opportunity for them to fill. But the history of Afghanistan seems to suggest that disaster awaits any power that thinks invasion will be a simple matter. Would China really want to follow in the footsteps of greater powers like the UK in the 19th century, the USSR in the 20th century and the US in this century?


A family from Samre, in southwestern Tigray, walked for two days to reach a camp for displaced people in Mekelle Photo: UNOCHA/Saviano Abreu

Meanwhile, as the world battles the pandemic, war continues in Yemen and is now building in Ethiopia.

At least 230,000 people, including 3,000 children are believed to have been killed in Yemen according to the UN. — with no end in sight.

More recently, some 50,000 civilians have probably been killed in the war that Ethiopia has been having with its Tigray region since November last year, and some 400,000 people are said to be in danger of famine.

Emperor Haile Selassie addresses the UN in 1963

In the words of Haile Selassie, former emperor of Ethiopia, in a speech he gave to the United Nations in 1963, which was later sung by Bob Marley:

That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all
Without regard to race
Dis a war

Everywhere is war, sings Bob Marley

Afghanistan is getting the majority of the world’s attention now, when it comes to war. But innocent people are also being killed in other wars.  Those wars can also break free of their national borders and create greater mayhem.

But war at a time of the pandemic is not a major concern for most of the world. That view may change once the pandemic is brought under control and if those wars worsen.

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