“The twenty-year occupation of Afghanistan, led by the US and Britain, was a complete catastrophe, just as the anti-war movement predicted in 2001.”Shadia Edwards-Dashti
By Shadia Edwards-Dashti, Stop the War Coalition
Afghanistan has been abandoned by the international community as the events of 2021 fade from memory. The deliberate and forced amnesia has much to do with the fact that the twenty-year occupation of Afghanistan, led by the US and Britain, was a complete catastrophe, just as the anti-war movement predicted in 2001.
Described as the ‘Fall of Kabul,’ the hasty withdrawal of Western forces represents a devastating defeat for the US and its allies, and for the War on Terror as a whole. 12 months on, Western leaders have done an almighty job of sweeping the disaster under the carpet. The so-called ‘liberation mission’ saw the tragic deaths of over 240,000 lives, including thousands of US and British troops, with an extraordinary price tag of taxpayer money, estimated at £40 billion and the US over $1 trillion.
The war was always doomed to fail, from the rush to war, to the rush out. Contrary to the mainstream media narrative, the failure wasn’t just the departure of NATO allies, but that the war in Afghanistan happened at all. The defeat means that the Afghanistan intervention joins the long list of failed British-US occupations alongside Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen.
With the Taliban back in power, stronger than it was in 2001, NATO’s occupation has been an outright failure. According to the UN’s latest report, civilian casualties, restrictions on women’s rights, extrajudicial killings are widespread and fundamental human rights are routinely violated. The country is home to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, as 90% of the population live below the poverty line. The economy is at a standstill as sanctions cripple the nation.
The biggest sufferers are women and girls. The Taliban are patriarchal terrorists who have plunged the country into a gender-apartheid regime. Girls face the harshest restrictions than anywhere else in the world, barred from secondary education, while their mothers are unable to work and therefore cannot afford to eat. They are now having to make horrific decisions of selling their children or organs to feed the rest of their family. Amnesty International describes it as the “death [of women] in slow motion.”
The West has imposed the most severe sanctions on the Taliban, collapsing the economy by at least a third. The Taliban, ill prepared to transition from a decentralised insurgency to running a government in Kabul, have been struggling in administration. Violence has become widespread across the country, with extremism rising and ISIS remerging.
With the Taliban in power, the world felt it had little choice but to cut off foreign aid to Afghanistan, which was the country’s only lifeline, plunging it into shocking levels of poverty, economic and political turmoil. From the lies of installing democracy, to bettering quality of living standards, to liberating women, the War on Terror did nothing but cause more death and destruction.
The country is in dire need of help. And so are the millions of Afghans internally and externally displaced. Yet, instead of providing tangible provisions like safe passage for refugees, the government’s hostile Nationality and Borders Bill is being pushed past the point of return. The UK has reneged on its resettlement scheme promises -which was a drop in the ocean in the first place- threatening to send thousands in need of protection back, stating there is no blanket amnesty for existing Afghan asylum seekers in the UK.
Those so called ‘lucky ones’ here in the UK, are in a state of limbo, unable to work due to a lack of rights, living in poor temporary housing conditions, denied access to adequate healthcare, and unsure of their futures as they battle mountains of bewildering bureaucratic barriers with the Home Office in their quest to stay.
From start to finish, the entire occupation was a failure, with more evidence trickling out. For instance, a BBC panorama investigation recently found 54 illegal executions were carried out by SAS squadrons. Under the Armed forces Act this is a criminal offence. These war crimes were covered up, with those responsible not being held accountable. There is still so much we don’t know, and inevitably there will be so much we will never know.
On Monday August 15, join the Stop the War Coalition, one year on, for an evening in conversation with Tariq Ali – writer, film-maker, and a leading figure of the international left- as he takes a look at Taliban rule, the current state of the country, debunking once again, the myths about the Western occupation to excuse and justify yet another failed NATO occupation, where lessons haven’t been learned.
And, as the war in Ukraine hurtles towards a proxy one between NATO and Russia, as well as increasingly US hostility and upping the new Cold War against China, the conversation becomes even more relevant.