*FILE PIC: Protesters at Shannon Airport
Events transpiring half the world away over the weekend shocked many, as some two decades after their defeat, the Taliban rolled through Afghanistan and back to power without much by way of a whimper.
During that time, many US troops have transitioned to and from the arid, landlocked Asian country via Shannon Airport. Often in body bags on the return trip. Rewinding the clock to the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks in the US, and you had a global superpower baying for revenge against al-Qaeda, the terrorist organisation headed by Osama Bin Laden, which claimed responsibility for the devastation. The fact that al-Qaeda were based in Afghanistan, operating freely and safely under the protection of the ruling Taliban, made that country the primary target for US reprisals.
And so, on October 7th of that year, without the backing of any UN resolution nor the approval of international law, the US, backed by allies such as UK, Australia, India and Canada launched an assault that saw coalition troops sweep through the country in little over two months, overthrowing, but not completely defeating, the Taliban.
President Bush declared in early 2002 that a further military expansion would not happen and in April of that year, committed the US to a ‘Marshall plan for Afghanistan’. In the interim, the US has spent $2 Trillion (with a T!) in, effectively, Nation Building in the Asian state. This mainly included large infrastructure projects, and training and equipping the new Afghan army, as well as financing the establishment of a new Government and economy.
Therefore, when President Biden removed US forces from the country a just a month ago, the speed at which two decades of US involvement in the country unravelled, and the Afghan Army capitulated, took the world by surprise.
Immediately, thoughts have turned to the plight of the women and girls of Afghanistan. From 1996 to 2001, the Taliban rule saw heinous crimes committed mainly against the female population of that country who were utterly subjugated to serfdom, at best. Famously, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban in 2012 for the “crime” of being a little girl that wanted to go to school. There is no evidence that the Taliban of 2021 are any different, despite their claims.
Whatever the reasons for the US led invasion of Afghanistan, and the legal issues with such a move, one unmistakable fact is that the Taliban represent a pervasive evil regime that deserved to be driven out. The fact that they’ve been allowed sweep back to power within a month of the western withdrawal is an abject failure of the west, in a policy started by President Trump and continued, disappointedly, by President Biden. The latter’s claims that the US was not in Afghanistan for the purpose of nation building is cold hearted and demonstrably untrue. The US helped create the Taliban when it funded and armed the mujahideen rebels fighting Soviet forces in the country from 1979 into the 1980’s, eventually resulting in the Soviet withdrawal from the country. The power vacuum, and subsequent civil war, the US helped create eventually led to the rise of the Taliban to power. The crimes they committed, fuelled by revenue raised from opiate sales, are partially the responsibility of the US right from the offset. Another geopolitical casualty of the US-Russian Cold War.
There are those that argue that it’s not for the global west to police the rest of the world. But when faced with such evil and the brutalisation of millions of people, there is a moral obligation for the world to do something. This is not a group of people one can have a stern chat with, to inspire conversation to the core tenets of liberal democracy. Nor are they a group who can be trusted in negotiations to begin with. These are people who live and die by the sword. It’s how they won power, how they hold onto power and the only way to remove them from power.
The anti-war protestors at Shannon Airport refuse to acknowledge this inconvenient truth. War is horrific and should be avoided where possible. Nevertheless, sometimes some groups leave you with no choice. The west failed Afghanistan by not providing the structures, environment and support to stand on its own two feet post withdrawal. That is abundantly clear after the events of the past few weeks. It’s now time for the west to step up to the plate in the wake of this tragedy and bring as many refugees, fleeing evil, as possible to salvation and safety. After two decades of profiting from the US use of Shannon on route to Afghanistan, we too owe it to the innocent Afghan people who’ve been abandoned to barbarity.