I’m sure all of you know by now, the situation in Afghanistan. So, as always, let me give you my two cents:
Was this a cock-up? For sure, yes. But solely by the Americans and allies, no. The powers that be in Afghanistan tasked with stabilizing internal forces, keeping the Taliban at bay, building and maintaining infrastructure and training military forces, whilst upholding human rights for women and girls, need to be held accountable as well.
Afghanistan was a perfect storm of opportunities; it’s history of being the “graveyard of empires;” of absolute resilience and persistence in the face of atrocities and hardships; its ability to host and hide terrorist elements for very long periods of time and to produce incredible people in the midst of its difficult geography, culminated in the ideal brew of cunning operatives. Think about the ability of a group of people who have not only “held off” two of the most powerful military groups in the world, but who have, within 11 days, in a bloodless coup, taken over an entire country. This is not a short-term problem. Add long term economic downturn, high demand for drugs and opiates and constant political strife, and you have a recipe for disaster. Not to mention the ‘fluster cluck’ that is the evacuation of Western allies. Top that off with a president who fled rather than remain and reassure his people!
The Taliban will lie to the world because it’s what we want to hear. They will tell us they will grant asylum to all who aided the U.S. and its allied forces. However, as of August 19th or 20th, 2021, reports came out of Afghanistan detailing a door to door manhunt for interpreters and other helpers to the allied forces. In opposition, the new spokesperson from The Taliban cultural group, Abdul Kahar Balkhi talks about those raids as “discipline within our own ranks,” shedding an unwitting light on discrepancy within the group. And it seems to be this divergence that is responsible for the differing accounts of what the Taliban agenda is and what western media outlets are reporting.
The people targeted by those raids, if caught, will be killed. So if they’re doing that to people to whom they have promised asylum, what is going to happen to the women and girls who depend upon the positive strides made within the last 20 years? The last time the Taliban were in power, they were no different from Boko Haram or ISIS. And yet, the world stood by and did nothing while Afghanistan witnessed largescale female suicides. And what of the girls who are dreaming of becoming teachers, doctors, lawyers, advocates, human rights defenders, engineers? What’s to become of them?
Ali M. Latifi, freelance Afghani journalist, put it quite succinctly:
“Now, in the days since Ghani left the country open for a Taliban takeover, people in Kabul are wondering about their personal freedoms. Women are afraid to go to the store to buy groceries for their children, because they do not know if the Taliban will stop them for not having a male companion. Others worry that their attire could draw the ire, and possibly violence, of the group. Overnight, these fears have turned the capital into an almost entirely male city.”
You might be wondering who this group is. They are groups of men, deeply steeped in religion and deeply skilled in security and control. The western world looks at them as a homogenous group, but they are not. They vary in belief and practice from region to region. The one thing they do agree on is that they want power and control over Afghanistan under Sharia Law. (Often with regressive cultural practices.) Now let me be very clear: Sharia Law is not, in and of itself, a regressive cultural practice. In fact, there is historical precedent, where sharia law was in place for 600 years and not a single hand was cut off, nor was anyone stoned. You see, forgiveness is a huge aspect of that law. If a crime is committed and it is forgiven, it is seen as a charity or a charitable act. Islamically, that is more pleasing to God than the imposition of the law itself. Moreover, there isn’t one strict interpretation of the laws that fits all people. In fact, the laws themselves seek out justice, not tyranny or terror.
We only have to look at the Ottoman Empire to realize how “fluid and progressive” their interpretation of sharia law was. Remember that over time, cultural practices are often mistaken for religious belief. And in countries in which girls and women are denied access to education, those cultural beliefs are bastardized into religious practice – convincing innocent people that ‘tradition’ is law.
(On the other hand, looking at all states/countries which have a death penalty or policies of hanging people convicted of crimes, or nations which have severe and barbaric penalties for blasphemy, we can honestly say that all of humanity has work to do.)
So, this begs the questions- which “interpretation” of Sharia Law fits the people of Afghanistan? And is this the Taliban of years past? Only time will tell. And only time will tell how much “disagreement” there is within the Taliban ranks. I have been told by several people, that the Taliban want peace; that the people have been through too much. Though, I have to question – peace at what cost? With dissension within, this writer suspects that this is just the beginning of yet more civil strife in this barren and beautiful landscape. My heart and prayers are with her people.
Meanwhile, in Haiti…