Connect with us

Afghanistan

Afghanistan pull-out: Biden made the right call

SHARE:

Published

on

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you've consented to and to improve our understanding of you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

President Joe Biden’s (pictured) decision to terminate the military intervention in Afghanistan has widely been criticised by commentators and politicians on both sides of the aisle. Both right and left-wing commentators have excoriated his policy. Especially right-wing commentators have also attacked him personally spewing vituperative vitriol, for example, Greg Sheridan, a hard right-wing (neo-con) commentator who writes on foreign affairs for Rupert Murdoch-owned The Australian, asserted, parroting what Trump used to say at his election rallies, “Biden is plainly in some cognitive decline.” To the best of my knowledge, Sheridan never used a similar expression about Ronald Reagan who was showing clear signs of cognitive impairment (Drs Visar Berisha and Julie Liss of Arizona State University published a research study to that effect,) writes Vidya S Sharma Ph.D.

In this article, first, I wish to show that the (a) kind of criticism that has been heaped on Biden; (b) why most of the criticism of Biden’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan - whether coming from Left or Right – does not stand to scrutiny. It may be noted here that most right-wing commentators have been backgrounded by the security establishment of their respective countries (eg, in case of the US by Pentagon and CIA officials) or right-wing politicians because Biden took this decision against their advice (something that Obama did not have the courage to do). Amongst the retired military brass, former Gen David Petraeus, one of the biggest proponents of counterinsurgency, has emerged as a prominent critic on the Afghanistan exit.

Biden’s decision: A sample of criticism

Advertisement

As one would expect, President Trump, ignoring the convention that ex-Presidents do not criticise the sitting President, and behaving more like the candidate Trump, was one of the first political leaders to criticise Biden. And again lacking any intellectual rigour or honesty, he criticised Biden first on August 16 for evacuating civilians over the withdrawal of U.S. troops. He stated, “Can anyone even imagine taking out our Military before evacuating civilians and others who have been good to our Country and who should be allowed to seek refuge?” Then on August 18, presumably after learning that his statement on Monday did not go well with his anti-migrant white supremacist base, he reversed his position. Sharing a CBS News tweet of the image, he re-tweeted, “This plane should have been full of Americans.” To emphasize his message, he further added, “America First!.”

Paul Kelly, the editor at large who writes for The Australian, pretending to be objective, in the beginning, Kelly concedes: “The US surrender to the Taliban is a Trump-Biden project.”

Then he goes on to say: “There can be no excuse and no justification based on “forever war” apologia. This will leave the US weaker, not stronger. Biden’s capitulation testifies to a superpower that has lost its will and its way.”

Advertisement

Sheridan again, writing about the withdrawal of the US troops on August 19, decried that Biden has crafted “the most incompetent, counter-productive, irresponsible, outright destructive withdrawal anyone could imagine – the Taliban could not have choreographed a more favourable sequence of mistakes by the US in its wildest dreams...[Biden] has threatened not only US credibility but the image of basic US competence”.

After the suicide bombers of the ISIS (Khorasan Province) exploded themselves at Kabul airport resulting in the death of 13 US troops and nearly 200 Afghan civilians, Sheridan wrote: “This is the world that Joe Biden has wrought – the return of mass-casualty terrorism, multiple deaths of US soldiers in terror attacks, rejoicing and celebration by extremists around the world, confusion and demoralisation for America’s allies internationally, and death for many of its Afghan friends.”

Commenting upon the chaos caused by Afghan civilians after Biden announced the withdrawal, Walter Russell Mead, writing in Wall Street Journal called it Biden’s “Chamberlain moment” in Afghanistan

James Phillips of the Heritage Foundation bemoaned: “As bad as the Biden administration’s cut-and-run policy has been in terms of abandoning Afghan allies and undermining the trust of NATO allies, the glaring drawbacks of trusting the Taliban to protect U.S. national interests in Afghanistan stand out.

“The Biden administration has shared intelligence with the Taliban on the security situation.... the Taliban now have a list of many of the Afghans who had assisted the U.S.-led coalition and were left behind.”

Brianna Keilar of CNN was concerned about the morality of the decision and complained: “For many Afghan war vets here in the US, it's a violation of a promise at the core of the military ethos: you don't leave a brother or sister in arms behind.”

Elected representatives of both sides have criticised Biden. Though not many have criticised him for bringing troops home. They are critical of the way the withdrawal has been executed.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman, Robert Menendez (Dem, NJ), issued a statement saying he would soon hold a hearing to scrutinize "the Trump administration's flawed negotiations with Taliban, and the Biden administration's flawed execution of the U.S. withdrawal."

US Rep. Marc Veasey, a member of the US House Armed Services Committee, said, “

“I support the decision to bring our troops home after 20 long years, but I also believe we must answer the tough questions about why we were not better prepared to respond to the unfolding crisis.”

Taking their lead from Trump, some GOP lawmakers and right-wing commentators have reviled Biden for allowing Afghan refugees into the U.S.

Contrasting the above xenophobic and white supremacist ideology, a group of 36 GOP freshman sent a letter to Biden pleading him to aid the evacuation of Afghan allies. Further, nearly 50 senators, including three Republicans, sent a letter to the Biden Administration to expedite the processing of “otherwise inadmissible” Afghan migrants in the US.

Afghanistan counterinsurgency

Of all the groups (it would be wrong to call them stakeholders), two groups have been the loudest and strongest supporters of maintaining the US military presence in Afghanistan, fighting counterinsurgency and keeping the project of nation-building alive. These are: (a) security, intelligence and defence establishments, and (b) neo-conservative (neo-con) politicians and commentators.

It is worth recalling here that during the George W Bush administration, when the world was briefly unipolar (ie, the US was the sole superpower), the foreign and defence policies were hijacked by neocons (Dick Chaney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Richard Perle, to name a few).

Initially, there was strong support in the US to punish the Taliban who ruled most of Afghanistan because they had refused to hand over Osama-bin-Laden to the US. He was the terrorist whose organisation, Al-Qaida, was behind the 11 September 2001 attack.

On 18 September 2001, the US House of Representatives voted 420-1 and the Senate 98-0 for the US to go to war. This was not just against the Taliban also against “those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States”.

The US marines, with the help of ground forces provided by the Northern Alliance, were soon able to drive out the Taliban from Afghanistan. Osama-bin-Laden, along with the entire leadership of the Taliban escaped to Pakistan. As we all know, bin-Laden was sheltered by the Pakistani Government. He lived under the protection of the Pakistani Government for nearly 10 years in the garrison town of Abbottabad until he was killed on May 2, 2011, by a United States military special operations unit.

It was under the influence of neo-cons, the invasion of Afghanistan was transformed into a nation-building project.

This project aimed to plant democracy, accountable government, free press, independent judiciary and other Western democratic institutions in Afghanistan without any regard to local traditions, cultural history, tribal nature of society, and the vice-like grip of Islam that resembles very closely an Arabic form of Salafism called Wahhabism (practised in Saudi Arabia).

This is what led to the US troop’s 20-year failed attempt to quell the counterinsurgency (or COIN = the totality of actions aimed at defeating irregular forces).

Not really 'a war' - Paul Wolfowitz

Neo-cons do not want to spend a cent on the welfare, educational and health programmes at home that will improve the lives of disadvantaged fellow Americans. But they have always believed that to fight insurgency in Afghanistan (and for that matter in Iraq) was a costless adventure. More on this later.

As pointed out above, the right-wing and neo-con commentators favoured the US to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan. Their rationale: that would have maintained the status quo, denied the Taliban victory and also inoculated the US from any future terrorist attack of the kind we saw on the eleventh of September, 2001. They also did not want Biden to honour the agreement struck between the Taliban and the Trump Administration.

Paul Wolfowitz, the former US deputy defence secretary in the George W Bush administration, in an interview on August 19 on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National said the deployment of 3000 troops and no military ­fatalities is not really “a war” for the US at all. Advocating an indefinite stay in Afghanistan, he likened the US military presence in Afghanistan to South Korea. In other words, staying in Afghanistan, according to Wolfowitz, had little cost. Nothing worth mentioning.

Another neo-con commentator, Max Boot, wrote in The Washington Post, “The existing U.S. commitment of roughly 2,500 advisers, combined with U.S. airpower, was enough to maintain a tenuous equilibrium in which the Taliban made advances in the countryside, but every city remained in government hands. Unsatisfying, but a lot better than what we are seeing now.”

Contesting Biden’s decision, Greg Sheridan wrote in The Australian: “Biden says his only choices were the withdrawal he pursued – abject surrender – or escalation with tens of thousands more US troops. There is a strong case that this is not true, that a US garrison force of 5000 or so, with a strong focus on keeping the Afghan air force ready to intervene, might have been workable.”

The former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who suffers from relevance deprivation syndrome, on 14 August issued a statement proclaiming that to withdraw from Afghanistan would be a “major blow” to US standing and urged President Biden to “reverse the course of its final military withdrawal.”

Casting aspersions on the US’s credibility as a reliable partner, Paul Kelly, another neo-con commentator on the payroll of Rupert Murdoch, wrote, “The ignominious rout in Afghanistan triggered by President Joe Biden is the latest evidence of the strategic wake-up call Australia needs to make – rethinking the US alliance in terms of our rhetoric, our responsibilities and our self-reliance.”

Biden’s critics are wrong on all three counts: (a) about facts on the ground in Afghanistan, (b) regarding the continued cost of insurgency to the US taxpayers, and (c) in comparing the stationing of the US troops in South Korea, Europe and Japan with their presence in Afghanistan.

Biden cannot be blamed for this disaster

Before Biden was sworn in as President, the Trump administration already signed a much-criticized agreement with the Taliban in February 2020. The Afghan Government was not a signatory to it. Thus Trump was implicitly recognising that the Taliban were the real power in Afghanistan and controlled and ruled over much of the country.

The agreement contained an explicit timetable for troop withdrawal. It required that in the first 100 days or so, the US and its allies would reduce their forces from 14,000 to 8,600 and vacate five military bases. Over the next nine months, they would vacate all the rest. The agreement stated, “The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will complete withdrawal of all remaining forces from Afghanistan within the remaining nine and a half (9.5) months...The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will withdraw all their forces from remaining bases.”

This flawed peace deal did not stipulate any enforcement mechanism for the Taliban to keep their side of the bargain. It requires to promise not to harbour terrorists. It does not require the Taliban to condemn al-Qaeda.

Though the Taliban were reneging on their part of the agreement, the Trump administration continued to carry out its part of the bargain. It released 5000 battle-hardened Taliban prisoners. It stuck to the troop reduction timetable. It vacated military bases.

It was not Biden who was responsible for this ignominious surrender. The seeds of this collapse were sown, as Trump national security adviser, H.R. McMaster said of Michael Pompeo on a podcast with Bari Weis: "Our secretary of State signed a surrender agreement with the Taliban." He added: "This collapse goes back to the capitulation agreement of 2020. The Taliban didn't defeat us. We defeated ourselves."

Commenting on to what extent that the Doha peace deal has set the stage for the Afghan army’s surrender without a fight, Gen. (Rtd.) Petraeus in an interview on CNN said, “Yes, at least in part. First, the negotiations announced to the Afghan people and the Taliban that the US really did intend to leave (which also made the job of our negotiators even more difficult than it already was, as we were going to give them what they most wanted, regardless of what they committed to us). Second, we undermined the elected Afghan government, however flawed it may have been, by not insisting on a seat for it at the negotiations we were conducting about the country they actually governed. Third, as part of the eventual agreement, we forced the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban fighters, many of whom quickly returned to the fight as reinforcements for the Taliban.”

In reality, neither Biden nor Trump can be blamed for this disaster. The real culprits are neo-cons who ran the foreign and defence policies in the George W Bush administration.

Trump Peace deal made the Taliban stronger than ever before

According to the survey carried out by Pajhwok Afghan News, the largest Independent News agency of Afghanistan, at the end of January 2021 (ie around the time Biden was sworn in as President of the US) the Taliban controlled 52% of Afghanistan’s territory and the Government in Kabul controlled 46%. Nearly 3% of Afghanistan was controlled by neither. Pajhwok Afghan News also found that the Afghan Government and the Taliban often made exaggerated claims regarding the territory they controlled.

Since the date of departure the US and allied forces (= the International Security Assistance Force or ISAF) was widely known in Afghanistan, it made it much easier for the Taliban to gain control of increasing more territory without fighting.

Instead of fighting, the Taliban would approach the local clan/tribal chieftain/warlord(s) of a particular city/town/village and tell him that the US troops would be leaving soon. The Afghan Government is so corrupt that it even pockets the wages of its soldiers. Many of their soldiers and commanders have already come to our side. You cannot rely on the Government in Kabul to come to your aid. So it is in your interest to come to our side. We would offer you a part of the tax take (tax on vehicles passing through, share of opium profits, tax collected from shopkeepers, or any activity taking place in informal economy, etc.). The Taliban would also promise the clan/tribal chief(s) that he/they would be allowed to rule his/their fiefdom as before without much interference from them. It is not very difficult to guess what decision would local warlord make.

Many neo-con critics have suggested that Biden could have torn the Doha peace deal as he has reversed many of Trump’s policies. But there is a difference between reversing domestic policies implemented through an executive directive and not honouring an agreement signed by the between two parties. In this case, one being the US Government and the other future Afghanistan Government. If Biden had not honoured the agreement then it would have further damaged the reputation of the US internationally as happened when Trump pulled out of Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate Agreement.

On a political level, it also suited Biden to honour the Doha peace deal because just like Obama and Trump before him, he won the election by promising to end the war in Afghanistan.

Keeping the present number of troops was not the option

As discussed above, many Afghan Government soldiers and commanders defected to the Taliban side long before Biden decided to pull out of Afghanistan. This meant that the Taliban did not only control a greater part of Afghanistan and had more battle-hardened fighters at their disposal, but they were also better armed (all the defectors brought with them a large cache of US arms and equipment).

When the Biden administration reviewed the situation, it soon realised that tearing apart the Doha peace deal and maintaining the present number of troops were not viable options.

If the US had not withdrawn its troops, the attacks by the Taliban on the ASAF would have intensified. There would have been a considerable increase in the insurgency. It would have required another surge. Biden did not want to get trapped in that cycle.

Here it is worth recalling that most of ASAF troops belonging to the NATO countries (and Australia) had already left Afghanistan. When they were in Afghanistan, most of the troops of non-US origin were only carrying out activities that did not involve regular combat, eg, training the Afghan army, guarding their own country’s embassies and other important buildings, building schools, hospitals, etc.

The second fact worthy of mention is that both Obama and Trump wanted to end the involvement of Afghanistan. Obama could not take on the security establishment as was clear from pejorative remarks General McChrystal made about Obama and Biden and many other senior officials in the Obama Administration. So Obama kicked the can to the following President.

Trump wanted to end the war for his white supremacist reasons. In his eagerness to end the war, even before he opened negotiations with the Taliban, the President, who considered himself the best negotiator and deal maker in the world, announced that the US would be leaving Afghanistan. Thus giving the Taliban the prize they had been seeking for the last 20 years without getting anything in return. Trump further agreed to the Taliban’s demand that the Afghan Government must be excluded from any peace talks. In other words, tacitly recognising that the Taliban were the real government. Consequently, the US ended up with what H.R. McMaster, Trump’s National Security Chief, called the “surrender document”.

Was it a humiliating withdrawal?

The Taliban, the press in countries hostile to the interests of the US, eg, China, Pakistan, Russia and commentators in many other countries who see the US as a hegemonistic or imperial power, have painted the US military’s withdrawal as its defeat at the hands of the Taliban. Though it looked like a retreat in defeat yet the fact remains the US pulled out of Afghanistan because President Biden believed that original aims of invading Afghanistan had long been achieved (ie, killing of Osama bin-Laden and many of his lieutenants, emaciation of the Al-Queda) and the US had no strategic interest left to defend or fight for in Afghanistan.

Whether they had valid travel documents or not, thousands of Afghans were always going to try to board the planes, whenever the US troops were going to leave the country now or in twenty years. So the scenes at Kabul airport must not come as a surprise to anyone.

Some commentators have called the attack at Kabul airport in which 13 US military service personnel were killed “humiliating” to the US and also as a piece of evidence that the Taliban were not acting in good faith.

James Phillips of the Heritage Foundation bemoaned: “As bad as the Biden administration’s cut-and-run policy has been in terms of abandoning Afghan allies and undermining the trust of NATO allies, the glaring drawbacks of trusting the Taliban to protect US national interests in Afghanistan stand out.

“The Biden administration has shared intelligence with the Taliban on the security situation.... the Taliban now have a list of many of the Afghans who had assisted the U.S.-led coalition and were left behind.”

The fact is that the Taliban kept their side of the bargain regarding the withdrawal arrangements. They let all foreigners and ISAF troops board the aircrafts.

Yes, ISIS (K) attacked Kabul airport resulting in 13 US military personnel being killed and about 200 persons injured, mostly Afghans.

But as the attacks in Kabul (September 18, 2021 ) and Jalalabad (September 19, 2021) by ISIS (K) show, the latter, a breakaway faction of the Taliban (Afghanistan-Pakistan), is at war with the Taliban. The Kabul airport attack by ISIS (K) was to show the Taliban that they (ISIS Khorasan) can penetrate their security cordon. ISIS (K) was not acting in cahoots with the Taliban.

This is true, that many Afghans who helped the US and NATO troops have been left behind. But the West has enough leverage on the Taliban to bring them out safely (for more details see my soon to be published article entitled, ‘What leverage does the West have on the Taliban’).

Simply from a logistical viewpoint, US troops, amid chaos, did a magnificent job in airlifting more than 120,000 people in 17 days.

Indeed, history may well have a different view of the Kabul airport evacuation. Technically, it was a logistical triumph, airlifting more than 120,000 people from Kabul in 17 days. Those people who were expecting no hiccups and no civilian and military casualties from an operation of this magnitude are not living in the real world.

Many right-wing commentators have made derogatory comparisons with the US evacuation of Saigon in 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War. But they forget ‘Operation Frequent Wind’ involved evacuating only 7000 persons.

US credibility not dented in any way

On August 16, 2021, the Chinese Government’s English language mouthpiece, Global Times editorialized, “The US troops' withdrawal from Afghanistan... has dealt a heavy blow to the credibility and reliability of the US... in 2019, US troops withdrew from northern Syria abruptly and abandoned their allies, the Kurds... How Washington abandoned the Kabul regime particularly shocked some in Asia, including the island of Taiwan.”

The right-wing commentators such as Bob Fu and Arielle Del Turco (in The National Interest), Greg Sheridan, Paul Kelly (in The Australian), Harry Bulkeley, Laurie Muelder, William Urban, and Charlie Gruner (in Galesburg Register-Mail) and Paul Wolfowitz on Australia’s Radio National have been too eager to repeat the Chinese government’s line.

But whatever narrative China and Russia may weave around Biden’s decision to bring the US troops home (a process commenced by Trump), they know very well that the security of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the NATO members (and of other democratic countries) is of paramount concern to the US and it will NOT pull out its troops from any of those countries.

Ending the war in Afghanistan has freed much-needed resources to strengthen the US domestically, modernise its defence forces, and develop the new weapon system. It will strengthen the balance sheet of the Federal Government because its need to borrow will be correspondingly reduced. To put it another way: this decision alone will release enough funds for Biden to carry out his $2 trillion infrastructure programme without borrowing a cent. Does it sound like the decision of a man whose cognitive abilities are on the wane?

Under this pact, Britain and the US will help Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines and undertake the necessary technology transfer. This shows how serious Biden is to make China accountable for its revanchist acts. It shows he is genuine about committing to the Indo-Pacific. It shows he is prepared to help allies of the US to equip them with necessary weapon systems. Lastly, it also shows that, just like Trump, he wants the allies of the US to carry a greater burden of their own security.

Analysing the deal from Australia’s viewpoint it reveals that Australia, instead of feeling betrayed, still considers the US a reliable strategic partner. It must also be noted that signing the AUKUS pact has meant that Australia had to break its contract with France which involved France helping Australia to build diesel-powered conventional submarines.

The right wing commentators would be better off not to forget that the US troops in Europe, South Korea and Japan are there to deter cross border aggression not to fight a domestic insurgency 24/7 which was largely fuelled by the presence of US troops.

Some left-wing commentators have criticised Biden because the Taliban rule in Afghanistan would mean girls will not be allowed to study, educated women will not be allowed to work, and many other human rights abuses will take place. But to the best of my knowledge, none of those commentators have demanded that countries like Saudi Arabia should be attacked or that US should attack Pakistan because often Muslim citizens there use the country’s blasphemy law to frame a person of religious minority they have some grudge against.

As far as Taiwan is concerned, instead of abandoning it, the US is in the process of slowly undoing the diplomatic de-recognition of Taiwan that took place when President Richard Nixon established diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China.

To meet the challenge of China, President Trump started the policy of undoing the diplomatic de-recognition of Taiwan. He sent his Health Secretary Alex Azar to Taiwan.

Biden has continued with the Trump doctrine on this front. He invited Taiwan’s representative in the US, Mr Bi-khim Hsiao, to his inauguration.

********

Vidya S. Sharma advises clients on country risks and technology-based joint ventures. He has contributed numerous articles for such prestigious newspapers as: The Canberra Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age (Melbourne), The Australian Financial Review, The Economic Times (India), The Business Standard (India), EU Reporter (Brussels), East Asia Forum (Canberra), The Business Line (Chennai, India), The Hindustan Times (India), The Financial Express (India), The Daily Caller (US. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Commission announces €1 billion Afghan support package

Published

on

During the G20 meeting on Afghanistan, President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, will announce a support package worth around €1 billion for the Afghan people and neighbouring countries, addressing the urgent needs in the country and the region. The socio-economic situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, putting hundreds of thousands of Afghans at risk as winter approaches. Humanitarian assistance alone will not be enough to avert famine and a major humanitarian crisis.

Overall EU development aid to Afghanistan remains frozen. The five benchmarks agreed by EU Foreign Ministers remain valid. They must be met before regular development co-operation can resume.

The announcement follows the discussion of the EU Ministers for development to have a calibrated approach to give direct support to the Afghan population in order to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe without legitimising the Taliban interim government.

Advertisement

President Ursula von der Leyen said: “We must do all we can to avert a major humanitarian and socio-economic collapse in Afghanistan. We need to do it fast. We have been clear about our conditions for any engagement with the Afghan authorities, including on the respect of human rights. So far, the reports speak for themselves. But the Afghan people should not pay the price of the Taliban's actions. This is why the Afghan support package is for the Afghan people and the country´s neighbours who have been the first in providing them with help.”

Afghan support package

The Afghan support package combines EU humanitarian aid with the delivery of targeted support on basic needs in direct benefit of the Afghan people and neighbouring countries.

Advertisement

Today's package includes the €300 million for humanitarian purposes already agreed. This humanitarian support is accompanied by additional, specialized support for vaccinations, sheltering, as well as the protection of civilians and human rights.

The European Commission is working to make it possible to use funds intended for Afghanistan to the order of at least €250m for "humanitarian plus" support to Afghan people in urgent needs, notably in the field of health, in full respect of NDICI programming procedures.

This funding will be in direct support of the local population and will be channelled to international organisations on the ground, while respecting the principles of engagement established by the Council Conclusions agreed by EU Foreign Ministers on 21 September.

Afghanistan's direct neighbours have been the first to provide safety to the Afghans who have fled the country. This is why additional funds will be allocated to support these countries in migration management, as well as in co-operation on terrorism prevention, fight against organised crime and migrant smuggling.

Taken together, the different strands of support for the Afghan people will amount to around €1bn.

As highlighted at the EU High-level Forum on providing protection to Afghans at risk, safe and legal pathways to protection in the EU include in the short-term the safe passage of Afghans affiliated to the EU and its member states and vulnerable groups such as human rights defenders, women, journalists, civil society activists, police and law enforcement officials, judges and professionals of the justice system, including their families.

In the mid and long-term, the Commission will support with a multiannual scheme Member States that decide to host Afghans at risk through EU funding for resettlements and humanitarian admission and other complementary pathways, as well as operational assistance by EU Justice and Home Affairs agencies.

Background

The Afghan support package was announced by the president of the European Commission in her speech on the State of the European Union on 15 September.

Continue Reading

Afghanistan

Does the US have any leverage on the Taliban 2.0?

Published

on

In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos (telecast 19 August 2021), President Biden said he did not believe that the Taliban have changed but were going through an “existential crisis” in their desire to seek legitimacy on the world stage, writes Vidya S Sharma Ph.D.

Similarly, when Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared on ABC's "This Week” (August 29, 2021), he was asked how the US would ensure that the Taliban will keep their side of the bargain and allow foreigners and Afghans with valid documents to leave the country after August 31, 2021, respect the human rights and especially allow females to be educated and seek employment? Blinken replied, “We have very significant leverage to work with over the weeks and months ahead to incentivize the Taliban to make good on its commitments.”

What both Biden and Blinken were referring to is that the collapsing economy of Afghanistan (ie, the lack of funds to provide the basic services, rising unemployment, soaring food prices, etc.) would force them to moderate behaviour.

Advertisement

The rationale behind their thinking is that 75% of the Afghanistan Government’s budget is reliant on foreign aid. This money very largely came from Western Governments (the US and its European allies and India) and such institutions as IMF, World Bank, etc.

The Taliban have been able to fund their insurgency by turning to the harvesting of opium, narcotics smuggling and weapon trafficking. According to Afghanistan’s ex-central bank chief, Ajmal Ahmady, that money would not be sufficient to provide basic services. Therefore to obtain the necessary funds, the Taliban would need international recognition. The latter will not come unless the Taliban moderate their behaviour.

Guided by the above rationale, the Biden Administration quickly froze of the assets of Da Afghanistan Bank (or DAB, Afghanistan’s central or reserve bank). These assets mainly comprised gold and foreign currency amounting to US$ 9.1 billion. A very large percentage of them are deposited with the Federal Reserve (New York). The rest are held in some other international accounts including Switzerland-based the Bank for International Settlements.

Advertisement

On Aug. 18, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) suspended Afghanistan’s access to IMF resources including $440 million in new emergency loans on the ground that the Taliban government did not have any international recognition.

From President Biden’s address to the nation on 31 August, it was also clear that his administration, along with intense diplomacy, will use financial sanctions as a central tool to achieve US foreign policy goals.

Just like the cancellation/freezing of foreign aid (read salaries of Afghanistan Government’s employees and public sector outlays), other leverage instruments mentioned by Western Governments, in one way or the other, amount to financial sanctions, ie, what Afghans can import and export, preventing expatriate Afghans from using formal banking instruments to remit money home, etc.

In this article, I wish to explore to what extent any sanctions regime led by the US can influence the Taliban’s policies. More importantly, in addition to not allowing Afghanistan again to become the epicentre of terrorism, what policy changes West should demand in return for lifting sanctions or releasing frozen funds.

Before I examine this issue any further, let me give you a glimpse of the economy of Afghanistan and the depth of its humanitarian problems.

Afghanistan’s economy at a glance

According to The World Factbook (published by Central Intelligence Agency), Afghanistan, a landlocked country, has a population of 37.5 million. In 2019 its real GDP (on purchasing power parity basis) was estimated to be US$ 79 billion. In 2019-20, it exported an estimated US$ 1.24bn (est.) worth of goods. Fruits, nuts, vegetables and cotton (floor carpets) comprised about 70% of all exports.

Afghanistan is estimated to have imported goods worth US$ 11.36bn in 2018-19.

About two-thirds (68%) of its imports came from the following four neighbouring countries: Uzbekistan (38%), Iran (10%), China (9%) and Pakistan (8.5%).

Thus, Afghanistan only earns 10% of the foreign currency needed to pay for its import requirements. The rest (= shortfall) is met by foreign aid.

Afghanistan imports about 70% of electrical power at an annual cost of $270m from Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, according to its sole power utility, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS). Only 35% of Afghans have access to electricity.

In the year 2020-21 (ie, just before the withdrawal of the US troops), Afghanistan received about $8.5 billion in aid or about 43% of its GDP (in US $). According to a report published in Al Jazeera, this amount “funded 75% of public expenditure, 50% of the budget and about 90% of government security spending.”

Natural and man-made tragedies

Due to the ongoing insurgency, Afghanistan already had 3.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) before the Taliban launched their major offensive in May-June this year to extend their rule to the entire country. According to the UNHCR, the recent Taliban blitzkrieg has created another 300,000 IDPs.

Further, the Covid 19 pandemic has hit Afghanistan very hard. Nearly 30% of its population (about 10 million) is infected with the COVID-19 virus and even the front line medical and healthcare staff have not yet been vaccinated. And the country is suffering from the second drought in four years.

Thus the Taliban are ruling over is a cash-strapped, drought-stricken country that is severely afflicted with the Covid -9 pandemic.

Humanitarian Aid: US moral responsibility

Some non-profit charities within and outside the US and some foreign governments have been impressing upon the US to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. The UNHCR also has spoken about the dire situation in Afghanistan.

The Taliban takeover of the country has further exacerbated the humanitarian situation. They have laid off tens of thousands of employees and many thousands have gone into hiding fearing for their lives in revenge attacks from the Taliban for working with the latter’s opponents. And their fears are justified as I discuss below.

In my first article in this series, I argued that Biden made the right call when he decided to withdraw the US troops from Afghanistan. This decision also meant that the Taliban were able to reclaim power after 20 years of insurgency.

Therefore, a strong case can be made that it is morally incumbent upon the US and its allies to lead a humanitarian aid programme in Afghanistan.

In this connection, Al Jazeera reports, “towards of August, the US Treasury issued a limited new license for the government and partners to give humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.” That is a piece of good news.

The US and its allies can provide the necessary humanitarian assistance through multilateral organisations, eg, the UN, Red Cross and Red Crescent, World Food Programme (WFP), Oxfam International, CARE, etc. This approach does not involve recognising the Taliban Administration and will ensure the aid reaches its target. It will ensure the funds would not be misappropriated or defalcated by the Taliban.

Since Western countries will not allow the ordinary Afghans to starve to death which would surely ensure the Taliban’s ouster from Kabul so let us evaluate how formidable a tool the financial sanctions collectively might prove against the Taliban?

How can we assess Biden’s claim of leverage and more importantly, if any deal is struck with Taliban 2.0, it would be delivered? Can the Taliban 2.0 be trusted? One way to determine this is to examine how they have behaved so far? Another thing that could shed light would be to scrutinize if there is any gap between what the Taliban 2.0 say in their press conferences for international consumption and how they act at home? Are they any different from the Taliban 1.0 that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001? Or, are they just more savvy in their public relations effort?

Cabinet of Terrorists

It can be reasonably argued that Taliban 2.0 is very much like the Taliban 1.0. The interim cabinet announced by the Taliban last month is full of hard-line members who served in the Taliban 1.0 cabinet.

Just like the Taliban 1.0 cabinet of 1996, the present cabinet also has the stamp of Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The latter has financially supported, trained, armed, and organised shelter for them in Pakistan (to rest and regroup after a stint of fighting in Afghanistan) over the last three and half decades or so.

To ensure that the Taliban 2.0 will rule over the entire country, it is has been widely reported that in the battle of Panjshir, the last province to resist the Taliban rule, Pakistan helped the Taliban with arms, ammunition and even fighter jets so that the Taliban could quickly defeat the Northern Alliance fighters.

The reader may recall that the Taliban entered Kabul on August 15 and it took them nearly a month before the interim cabinet was announced.

It was widely reported that in early September there was a shootout in the presidential palace in Kabul in which Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who led peace talks with the U.S. in Doha, was physically attacked by Khalil ul Rahman Haqqani, a member of the Haqqani clan, because Baradar was arguing for an inclusive government.

Soon after this incident, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, chief of ISI, flew to Kabul to ensure that the Baradar faction was sidelined and the Haqqani faction was strongly represented in the cabinet.

The present Taliban cabinet has four members of the Haqqani clan. Sirajuddin Haqqani, the clan leader and the US-designated terrorist, now serves as interior minister, the most powerful domestic portfolio.

The Haqqani network, the most brutal and hard-line of all factions that comprise the Taliban, has the strongest links with ISI and has never severed its ties with Al Qaeda. This was reinforced, as recently as in May this year in a report produced by the UN’s Taliban Sanctions Monitoring Committee. It states, “the Haqqani Network remains a hub for outreach and cooperation with regional foreign terrorist groups and is the primary liaison between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda”.

It would be worthwhile to mention here that thousands of foreign fighters, including Chinese, Chechens, Uzbeks, and others, still comprise the Taliban militia. All these fighters have connections with terrorist groups/sleeper cells in their respective home countries.

Including 4 terrorists belonging to the Haqqani clan, the present cabinet has more than a dozen persons who are either on the UN, the US and the EU lists of terrorists.

Master of spin doctoring

Complete Amnesty: How do the Taliban’s performance rate against their public statements? Though they repeatedly promised a complete amnesty for those who worked for the previous administration or the US-led international forces yet recently released UN threat assessment report shows that the Taliban have been conducting house-to-house searches to locate their opponents and their families. This has meant many thousands of employees, for fear of retribution, have gone into hiding and are, therefore, without income. The Biden Administration is reported to have given the Taliban a list of Afghans who had worked with foreign troops.

Now compare their actions with their statement. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, according to the BBC said at a press conference on August 21, said that those who worked with foreign troops will be safe in Afghanistan. He said, "We have forgotten everything in the past... There is no list [of Afghans] who worked with Western troops. We are not following anybody.”

Women’s rights: Further, the Taliban have ordered thousands of people not to show up for work. This is especially true for women employees. This is even though their spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, in a press conference on August 17 said, “We are going to allow women to work and study. We have got frameworks, of course. Women are going to be very active in society.”

About women, let me narrate to you what is happening on the ground.

On September 6, when some girls and women protested for not being allowed to go to schools/universities or work, the Taliban whipped the demonstrators and beat them with sticks and fired live rounds of bullets to disperse the protesters (see Figure 1).

The BBC reported one protester saying, “We were all beaten. I was also hit. They told us to go home saying that's where a woman's place is.”

On 30 September, an Agence France-Presse reporter witnessed the Taliban soldiers violently crackdown on a group of six female students who had gathered outside their high school and were demanding their right to go to school. The Taliban fired shots in the air to frighten these kids and physically pushed them back.

Figure 1: Photo of peacefully protesting women being threatened by the Taliban.

Notice a Taliban fighter pointing his Kalashnikov at an unarmed woman. (September 6, 2021).

Source: India Today: Taliban 2.0 is exactly like Taliban 1.0: Seen in six images

Press Freedom: What about their commitment to press freedom. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said (via Al Jazeera translation), “Journalists working for state or privately-owned media are not criminals and none of them will be prosecuted.

"There will be no threat against them.”

Etilaatroz, an Afghan news organization and publisher of a daily newspaper, sent a number of its reporters to cover women’s protests on 6 September. Five of these reporters were arrested. Two of them were tortured, brutalized and severely beaten with cables.

Figure 2: Etilaatroz reporters beaten by the Taliban for covering women's protests on September 6, 2021

Source: Twitter/Marcus Yam

Free travel: As part of US troop withdrawal, the Biden Administration negotiated with the Taliban that along with foreigners, Afghans with valid travel documents will also be allowed to leave Afghanistan.

This was confirmed by the Taliban. Referring to Afghans with valid documents, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, deputy head of the movement's political commission in his press conference of August 27, said, “The Afghan borders will be open and people will be able to travel at any time into and out of Afghanistan.” The Biden Administration is reported to have given them a list of Afghans it wanted to leave the country.

History of negotiating in bad faith

When the US troop withdrawal was nearing the end, the Taliban changed their tune and said that they will not allow Afghan nationals to leave the country. Zabihullah Mujahid, in his press conference of August 21, said “We are not in favour of allowing Afghans to leave [country].”

The reader may recall in my first article in this series where I discussed the merits of US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, I mentioned that President Trump signed a peace deal with the Taliban. I also mentioned that though the US stuck to the specific conditions and timetable as laid out in the agreement, the Taliban never delivered on their side of the bargain.

From the above discussion, it must be clear to the reader that the Taliban have a history of negotiating in bad faith and cannot be trusted to deliver what they may have agreed to during the negotiations or even promised publicly.

Biden Administration knows the Taliban are habitual liars

Fortunately, the Biden administration and US allies seem to be fully aware of this difficulty in dealing with the Taliban.

Peter Stano, a spokesperson for the EU said early last month, “The Taliban will be judged on their actions — how they respect the international commitments made by the country, how they respect basic rules of democracy and rule of law... the biggest red line is respect for human rights and the rights of women, especially.”

On September 4, Secretary of State, Antony Blinken said, “The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support...our message is, any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned.”

Taliban 2.0 can expect a few more friends this time

The Taliban 1.0 ruled for 4 years. It was a pariah regime, only recognised by three countries: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Taliban 2.0 can expect a few more countries to recognise them, especially China, Russia and Turkey.

As long as the Western countries continue providing humanitarian aid, the Taliban 2.0 will have little need for international recognition. 70% of its exports go to four neighbouring countries. Lack of international recognition will not stop this trade. The Taliban have a well-developed network to smuggle opium to other countries. The same network can be used to sell nuts, carpets, etc.

The Taliban control the entire country, so they would be able to collect more revenue in taxes.

China has promised $31 million worth of aid to Afghanistan. It has also promised to supply coronavirus vaccines. On July 28, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted a 9 member Taliban delegation. Wang said China expects the Taliban to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan.”

China is keen to establish diplomatic ties with Afghanistan at least for four reasons:

  1. China is interested in exploiting Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth, estimated to be more than one trillion dollars. However, such ventures will not yield much revenue to Afghanistan treasury in the short term.
  2. China would not want the Taliban to provide any kind of assistance to Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group, native to Xinjiang province. In return for their promise, the Taliban will most likely receive some recurring financial assistance/aid.
  3. China would want to extend its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project to Afghanistan as Afghanistan gives it another access to the Central Asian states and further beyond to Europe.
  4. In return for any assistance that China may offer to Afghanistan, China may demand the use of Bagram airbase.

Just like China, Russia is happy to see the US defeated in Afghanistan. Both Russia and China, along with Pakistan, would be happy that the US is not present in their backyard anymore. Both will also be keen to fill in the political vacuum left by the departure of the US and thus provide international legitimacy to the Taliban.

Like China, Russia has been in contact both publicly and clandestinely with the Taliban for a decade or so. It also does not want the Taliban to export Islamic extremism to Russia or its security partners in Central Asia. It wants Islamic extremism to be sealed within Afghanistan’s borders.

According to Russian security experts, Russia has provided arms to the Taliban on at least two occasions. Once it was when Gen John Nicholson, the head of US forces in Afghanistan, alleged in March 2018 that Russia was arming the Taliban. According to Russian experts, it was a token arms transfer meant as a confidence-building gesture.

The second time Russia gave arms to the Taliban to avenge the killing of Russian mercenaries by US troops at the February 2018 Battle of Khasham in Syria.

According to Andrei Kortunov, the director-general of the Russian International Affairs Council, Russia fears that a sharp deterioration of the Afghan economy could make the Taliban’s hold on power tenuous as it could strengthen the positions of ISIS (K) and Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.

But Russia will need to balance several delicate relationships. It would like to engage with the Taliban and assist them so that Afghanistan is not fragmented or balkanised. It would also like to ensure that it does not pose any threat to Central Asian states. And if Afghanistan becomes unstable then Afghan refugees do not flee to the neighbouring Central Asian states (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan). In other words, if the Taliban hold on power slips then Afghanistan’s problems do not spill to Central Asian states.

Russia cannot be seen to be too close to Afghanistan because it would then cause concerns in India with which Russia has enhanced security cooperation. India sees the Taliban as a proxy of Pakistan.

Turkey has also shown interest in engaging with the Taliban. President Recep Erdoğan envisages Turkey to be the centre of the Islamic world as it was during the peak of the Ottoman Empire. It was the seat of the Caliphate. This vision of Turkey has seen President Erdoğan intervene militarily in Syria, Libya, and Azerbaijan. Turkey, as a NATO member, has maintained a small contingent of troops in Afghanistan for the last 20 years in non-combat roles.

Turkey is interested in taking control of the security of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. The Taliban wants to do it themselves. However, they have offered Turkey the opportunity to take responsibility for logistical support to Kabul airport. At the time of writing this article, the negotiations were deadlocked. Turkey has been impressing upon the Taliban that the international community would prefer if the airport security was controlled by a country they had confidence in.

Erdoğan also does not want to see any Afghan refugees come to Turkey. To prevent them from seeking shelter in Turkey, Erdoğan has been building a wall along the Turkey-Iran border.

Turkey is also interested in engaging with the Taliban because Erdoğan hopes this will help Turkey’s construction industry to win some construction projects. Erdoğan believes Qatar, a long time backer of the Taliban, might provide funds for such projects.

The US would probably not mind Turkey engaging with the Taliban. Turkey could play an important role in backchannel negotiations between the US and the Taliban in future.

How effective sanctions could be?

They work by attrition. Very slowly. Just like the flowing water in a stream smooths and polishes a stone. And they may not yield any tangible result in the desired timeframe.

One of the weaknesses of any sanctions slapped on a country is that the sanctions imposing parties assume that the rulers of the targeted country care for the welfare of their citizens.

No matter how carefully targeted, sanctions cause a lot of hardship to ordinary citizens of the targeted country. Economic stagnation or an economy growing at a very sluggish pace reduces ordinary persons’ chances to realise their full career potential. It reduces their access best health options in terms of the latest medical and surgical breakthroughs.

The authoritarian rulers are only interested in staying in power and enriching themselves. For example, North Korea has been under sanctions for decades. We often hear of food shortages and increasingly tough living conditions in North Korea but this has not stopped the successive Chairmen of North Korea from developing and amassing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of spending funds on initiatives that will ameliorate the living conditions of ordinary North Koreans. Nor have the sanctions forced North Korea to come to the negotiating table with a reasonable proposal. This is why the sanctions failed to yield results against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. The same is true of Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Syria, and other countries.

The authoritarian rulers know that as long as their repressive security apparatus supports them they can continue to remain in power. For example, the Iranian Ayatollahs know that as long as they look after the interests of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Pasdârân-e Enqâlâb-e Eslâmi) they will remain in power. The Revolutionary Guards have brutally crushed all popular uprisings against the regime in the past and ensured widespread rigging during all Presidential elections.

Further, it is easier to ensure the sanctions are being implemented in some countries than in others. For example, Iran mainly exports oil so it is easier to monitor its oil trade. Russia has been able to largely neutralise the effects of sanctions.

The imposition of sanctions on the Taliban also assumes two things: (a) they hanker after international recognition; and (b) they cannot survive without Western aid.

The Taliban 1.0 survived for four years without international recognition. As stated above, the total aid to Kabul for the year 2020-21 was about $8.5 billion.

Perhaps half of the aid was being embezzled. But let us be more conservative and assume only 25% of the aid budget was being misappropriated. Then we come to a figure of $6.3 billion. Blaming the West for hardship, the Taliban can save some money by reducing the salaries of government employees. They do not have to pay the wages of ghost employees and soldiers. A big chunk of the Government budget was going towards providing security. This will not be the case anymore as the insurgents are in power now. The Taliban can also make up a part of this shortfall by collecting taxes more efficiently. The remainder shortfall will almost certainly be met by aid provided by their old and new benefactors, eg, oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Qatar, China and Russia.

It was mentioned above that the Taliban had reneged on their agreement and were not permitting those Afghans who worked in various capacities for the US, NATO and Australian missions to leave the country. It was also mentioned that the Taliban were conducting house-to-house searches to find these people. All these developments will put pressure on the US and its allies to do their best to get these persons out as quickly as possible. If the Western countries still want these people out then they probably would be forced to pay a hefty ransom (it could be in the form of releasing some funds deposited with the Federal Reserve in New York.).

However, it would be wrong to conclude that the sanctions would be totally ineffective. The Taliban might cosy up to China initially because China is willing to recognise them and also offer them some funds for development purposes. But they are not stupid. They would soon figure out that it would be in their interests to seek better relations with the West so that they can improve their negotiating position versus China, Pakistan, etc.

For example, the US could also offer to release some funds in return for outlawing opium production. Just like Russia and China, it is also in the interests of the US that extremist Islamists, if harboured, remain confined within Afghanistan and their movements and activities (eg, trying to radicalize youth in other countries) are closely monitored. Releasing some frozen assets could be used as a bargaining tool towards this end.

********

Vidya S. Sharma advises clients on country risks and technology-based joint ventures. He has contributed numerous articles for such prestigious newspapers as: The Canberra Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age (Melbourne), The Australian Financial Review, The Economic Times (India), The Business Standard (India), EU Reporter (Brussels), East Asia Forum (Canberra), The Business Line (Chennai, India), The Hindustan Times (India), The Financial Express (India), The Daily Caller (US. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

Continue Reading

Afghanistan

International community warned of Taliban 'danger' to security and peace

Published

on

The re-emergence of the Taliban threatens the peace and security of the “whole world”, an event in Brussels was told.

The stark warning came at a conference which discussed the rise of extremism in South Asia, particularly in the context of the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan.

Junaid Qureshi, the Executive Director of European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), said, “Since the Taliban took over in Kabul terrorism in the region has risen.  The Taliban wants to implement their kind of order but our fear is that this will merely serve to encourage terrorist groups and not only in Pakistan but in Kashmir and elsewhere.”

Advertisement

He was one of the speakers at a two hour hearing which also looked at the alleged role Pakistan plays in allegedly supporting terrorism.  The actions of Pakistan were roundly condemned at the event, which was moderated by Jamil Maqsood and hosted at the Brussels Press Club.

Qureshi said he hoped the event “will shed light on a worrying trend: the fact that terrorism is spreading from this part of Asia and is allegedly supported by Pakistan. This threatens human rights and civil society in the region and threatens the stability of the whole world.”

He said such fears were shared by those in Kashmir which, he said, was a country where its people wanted to live in “complete harmony” but which is currently  “occupied by force.”

Advertisement

Another speaker was Andy Vermaut, of the Alliance internationale pour la défense des droits et des libertés (AIDL) and a prominent human rights activitist.

Vermaut, who is based in Belgium, said he wanted to highlight the “import of terrorism from Asian to Belgium.”

He told the event, “I was recently stunned to hear that a home made bomb was found in a west Belgian town and a Palestinian man was then detained. I congratulate the Belgian security services for their breakthrough in this case.  The aim was to carry out a terrorist attack on Belgian soil. I hope the police investigation will shed more light on the attack that was going to be carried out.”

Further comment came from Manel Mselmi, an advisor to the EPP group in the European Parliament, who told the event, “I want to speak about women’s rights in the region, especially now.

“We can start with the case of Pakistan. I have a list longer than my arm of assaults against women in this country. But this is a silent epidemic as no one is talking about it. These are still referred to as honour killings but more than 1,000 women are killed in this way each year.” she said.

“In the case of Afghanistan,  the Taliban has issued new guidelines setting dowry rules for women. Women in this war ravaged country have been subject to rapes, lashings and enforced prostitution.  It is estimated that a total of 390 women have been killed in the country 2020 alone. Others have been injured in cases of excessive violence against women including cases of mutilation and torture. Women and girls are stopped from going to school or having any kind of economic independence.  With the Taliban now in control again the situation will get worse.”

She added, “These women sometimes escape to  Europe including Belgium but political leaders sometimes avoid speaking about speaking about this issue for fear of being accused of islamophobia but these women have the right to be treated as human beings.”

Sardar Saukat Ali Kashmiri, exiled Chairman of UKPNP, also took part and said, “It is a known fact that for those who live under those who live in some Muslim countries, their fundamental rights have been compromised by the rules of those countries. I denounce this and I also denounce the forced propaganda of people like Imran Khan."

“People in Pakistan do not have the same rights as in the West and women face the worst kind of discrimination.  Religion is used as a tool and terrorism is the foreign policy of these rulers, including in Pakistan."

Belgian senator Philip Dewinter, who said he had visited the countries under the spotlight at the conference, said, “After the defeat of U.S led forces in the region  we now have new possibilities of radical Muslims travelling from Europe to Syria. This will fuel international terrorism.

“The Taliban has money, experience and the means to organised these kind of people. This is a big threat and we should be aware of this threat. Our governments need to take the Taliban seriously. Dealing with them is a bad thing: we should boycott them as that is the only way to deal with the Taliban. They are a threat for the whole free world and certainly for us Western Europeans.”

He concluded, “We have the threat of mass migration again as many Afghans will come here again. I am afraid of a third refugee crisis here again. We should be well aware that the Taliban takeover with the alleged help of Pakistan is big military, terrorist and security threat to us.

“We are with those who are resisting this and fighting this. Let that be clear.”

Editor's note:

EU Reporter supports the Brussels Press Club as a safe space for expression and freedom of speech. EU Reporter does not subscribe to the allegation that Pakistan is a "terrorist state" or that its government supports terrorism in any way.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending