Afghanistan, American Folly
A war of choice
The two suicide bombs killing over over a 100 humans including Afghans and 13 American soldiers compels reflection on the choices made by Homo Sapiens Sapiens holding high office,
I had ardently supported the candidate Joe Biden as I honestly believed that neither America nor the world could afford another four years of the idiotic and perilous Trump presidency.
I also took note that Biden had the longest experience in foreign policy matters than any other candidate in history. He had eight years as Vice President, four decades as Senator, and had chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
What is paradoxical is that when President George Bush Jr. started the war on Afghanistan post 9/11, he had no good reason to do it. He sent an ultimatum to the Taliban government in Kabul to surrender Osama bin Laden as he was held responsible for the 9/11.
The Afghan government was prepared to discuss the matter; it was prepared to arrange for a speedy trial of Bin Laden and to render him guilty if found so. Bush arrogantly rejected all that and started bombing Afghanistan.
Incidentally, it is not well known that post-9/11, Bush had sent Special Forces to Afghanistan to assist the Northern Alliance, engaged in fighting to bring down the Taliban government in Kabul and that the bombing was resorted to only because the Northern Alliance could not on its own dislodge the Taliban.
Bush was universally hailed as the strong leader who stood up to save the ‘civilization’. Nobody told him that he was starting a war of choice.
The NATO members had a stampede in joining the ill-starred war of choice. Incidentally, India too has been engaged in giving material, moral, and military support to the Northern Alliance. The interested reader might find out more at https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/how-india-secretly-armed-ahmad-shah-massouds-northern-alliance/article29310513.ece----, where Ambassador Muthukumar has shared useful information.
Is it not strange that while Bush was universally praised for doing the wrong thing, Biden is being dispraised for doing the right thing of walking out of a quagmire? Yes, indeed. The explanation is that Biden is doing the right thing in the wrong way.
Let us list Biden’s mistakes:
- He started with fixing a deadline naively believing that his military will be able to carry out whatever he ordered as Commander-in-Chief.
- He should have got the non-military Americans out first before pulling out the military.The big Bagran airport could have been used to ligr Americans and NATO personnel leaving the Kabul airport for the Afghans.
- He failed to recognize the inherent flaw in the agreement Trump signed in February 2019. The government in Kabul was not a party to it. Intriguingly enough, while there was a clause for the Taliban and the Kabul government to enter into a power-sharing agreement, there was no stipulation that the pullout will be completed only after the agreement was concluded.
- Biden was somnambulating throughout as he had planned a ten-day vacation starting from August 14.
Besides it was utterly irresponsible to have encouraged, nay virtually exhorted, the Afghans to leave their country.
Biden, a self styled Christian did not condole with the non-American bereaved families. This in itself is highly un-Christian.
And then by declaring revenge --we will hunt them down--he is provoking ISIS to do more, not that they need provocation. The Kabul airport blast was their wicked farewell gift to the Americans.
India was somnambulating as it convinced itself with hardly any evidence that the American military was going to be in Afghanistan forever.
India invested about $3 billion in projects, including an excellent building to house the Afghan parliament. We all know that a parliament is more than the brick and mortar.
When Trump started talking to the Taliban in 2018, India should have woken up. Instead, it resorted to sloganeering: No talks with terrorists.
Such sloganeering is not part of mature diplomacy that requires engagement with those in power or likely to be in power in the near future.
In short, New Delhi failed to read Trump correctly. Whatever be his faults, Trump is unusually transparent and failure to read his mind is unpardonable.
There have been media reports that India closed down its consulates and embassy. The government has since denied this, but the confusion persisted.
The External Affairs Minister has assured the Opposition that all Indians would be brought back. Here there is a technical point. The other day it was reported that all Keralites registered with the Embassy had been brought back. How about those not registered? Is it not possible that all Indian citizens are not registered with the Embassy?
This question has been raised for a specific reason. We know that half a dozen young women from Kerala are held up in Kabul. They had gone there along with their husbands to join the ISIS (Khorasan), that has claimed responsibility for the two suicide bombs at the airport.
The Indian media had reported that the Ghani government had wanted to deport these young women and their children to India, and that India had refused to take them. The media reports might or might be true. It is incumbent on the Government of India to get in touch with the families in Kerala and give correct information and to assure them that the women and children would be brought back. Until now this has not been done.
It may be noted that an Afghan woman MP Rangina Kargar holding a diplomatic passport was deported from the New Delhi airport. She had flown in from Istanbul to Delhi. She told the Indian media that she had never faced any problems on earlier visits but on August 20 she was stopped by the immigration officers, and sent back to Istanbul. She said she was treated like a criminal, and was given her passport only in Istanbul.
The Government has finally apologised for the incident.
By the way, during the 1990 evacuation from Kuwait and Iraq, acknowledged in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest air evacuation, we did not make any register of those whom we brought back. A crisis requires lateral thinking.
Afghanistan is a study in humanitarian disaster with tens of thousands displaced, not to speak of shortages of daily necessities, partly because of Washington’s freezing of Afghan funds in U.S. banks. India should announce immediately that it is prepared to launch an appropriate relief programme and supply the daily necessities. We can direct humanitarian aid through the United Nations. Let the Taliban respond, accepting or rejecting the offer.
Ambassador K P Fabian is retired from the Indian Foreign Service. His new book THE ARAB SPRING THAT WAS AND WASN’T is being published.