The Financial Express

Giving the Afghans a chance

Afghans waiting outside a bank in Kabul in a long queue on September 1 this year to take out their money after Taliban takeover in Afghanistan -Reuters file photo Afghans waiting outside a bank in Kabul in a long queue on September 1 this year to take out their money after Taliban takeover in Afghanistan -Reuters file photo

After the Taliban formed what they said their caretaker government on September 07, the US and its European allies could not be happy for justifiable reasons. For the recognition of any Taliban-led government by the Western powers was made conditional on meeting certain criteria by the former.  The criteria included, among others, that the government to be formed should be inclusive of the country's rich ethnic diversity and that women should have a place in the government. But looking at the composition of the present government which the Taliban claimed to be a caretaker arrangement, that is, one in transition, there is reason to believe that the Taliban are going their own way. So how should the rest of the world, especially, the Western powers, deal with them?

Some points should be clear to those who care about Afghanistan. First, one has to accept the fact that the situation the Afghans are at the moment in is not their own making. If anyone is to blame, it is the US and its other Western allies. Because they launched the military expedition in that country to take revenge on their supposed enemy, the perpetrator of 9/11's terror attack on American soil, said to be hiding in that country. Since the Taliban were in power when the Twin Tower attack of September 11 took place in 2001, they drew the wrath of the US and the war went on for two decades until a victorious Taliban returned to Kabul in the middle of last month. So, the Taliban are not aliens who have suddenly descended on Afghanistan out of nowhere, neither can they be taken to task for the present state of the country. The US considered the Taliban, with which it had been at war for so long, a legitimate party to deal with and so it reached a withdrawal agreement with them last year. The troops withdrawal of the US and its allies took place exactly according to the schedule of that agreement. And the Taliban at no point till the final day of the disengagement had broken the agreement. To be fair, the US and its NATO allies have actually handed over power to the Taliban before they left the country. Then what is all this hue and cry about? Did the Western powers not know what would happen in Afghanistan after they left Afghanistan? Are not the Taliban also part of Afghanistan? What the West think the Afghans under the Taliban should do? Change wholesale overnight into a pro-West nation like what it was under their puppet, the erstwhile Ashraf Ghani's government? Is it not too much to expect from the war-hardened Taliban who have got power not as a gift from anyone, but wrested it from the occupying forces?

If the West really feels that it has a duty towards the Afghan people on whom it had imposed an unjust war and had destroyed their homeland, it (the West) should be rational in their approach toward those that happened to assume power after them. Afghanistan is now in ruins. So, they have a moral duty to help rebuild the country no matter who is in power at the moment. Is not someone to fill the place, now the Taliban, far better than the darker prospect of total power vacuum in that country in the wake of the US's departure from the Afghan theatre? True, the US and other Western democracies cannot be expected to extend the financial and diplomatic support the Taliban government is in desperate need just for the asking. They have to meet certain conditions if they are to deserve any help from their erstwhile enemies. But except their mere assuring words, they have not shown any sign so far that they would meet the West's conditions. This is, admittedly, a crisis and it has to be met squarely. The consideration should revolve around how better it could be done without pushing the Afghan people into further miseries of anarchy and starvation. It has to be understood that the Taliban are still a guerilla group, not a politically and diplomatically mature force to respond to the Western demands in the expected way. At this point, what is reassuring is that they are not in a fighting-mode now, but have at least shown willingness to cooperate. It should be looked upon as a positive sign. Those honestly willing to help Afghanistan should cash in on the Taliban's present attitude. Too much pressure may prove to be counterproductive. With the majority of the Taliban's fighting force in their late teens and early twenties, they cannot be expected to be a cool-headed lot. They are intoxicated by their victory.   The old guards seem to be in crisis as there are reports of a power struggle in the newly formed Afghan cabinet. As a fallout from it, rumour is making the rounds that Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder of the Taliban and deputy premier of the current caretaker government might have died. However, an audio clip circulated on Monday tried to show that he is okay and doing well. The rank and file of the Taliban may not mind returning to the war-mode if the Western push comes to shove. In that case Afghanistan will again descend into a state of total chaos. That would be to no one's interest. The West is not too far off not to be affected by an Afghanistan turning into a bastion of all kinds of terrorist outfit. Withholding diplomatic recognition as well as the financial assistance by the US, the EU and the multilateral donors to the current Afghan government for long may prove to be a prescription for total disaster. Such a prospect should be avoided at all costs.


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