Afghanistan has fallen. Afghanistan’s President is now in exile. The Taliban are in control.
Taliban terrorists chanted “death to America” on the streets of Kabul. Those who could leave rushed onto the last flights out. Some who could not make it ran onto the tarmac and tried to grab onto a moving plane. At least five were killed amidst the chaos.
Taliban fighters, guns still in hand, posed for a photoshoot in the Presidential Palace. These photos remind many of the storming of the US Capitol on January 6th. The whole scenario reminds me of the commandment לא תעמוד על דם רעך which literally translates to “thou shall not stand on thy neighbour’s blood.” The understanding here is that one must try to save those who are in danger. Sitting idly while lives are in danger cannot and should not be an option.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened. It can be said – though there are clear differences – that Trump sat* by while terrorists stormed the capitol and Biden sat by while terrorists stormed the Capital of Afghanistan.
US Embassy Personnel were evacuated via helicopter only a month after Biden said: “There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the – of the United States from Afghanistan.” Biden did not act upon intelligence that warned that the government could collapse, leading to Afghanistan’s demise.
Biden is not the only one to blame. We have Trump to thank for signing a “peace” deal with the Taliban behind the backs of Afghanistan’s leaders. For someone who wrote* The Art of the Deal, Trump forgot the first rule of international dealmaking: not to negotiate with terrorists. While Biden overturned almost everything Trump did in office, this, unfortunately, proved to be the exception, not the rule.
The Taliban changed Afghanistan’s flag from the old flag to the flag of the Taliban. As the Americans left, the Taliban picked up millions of dollars worth of weapons. Afghanistan is no longer a republic and is now known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Many fear that life will be much worse under the new regime. I found that many reactions to this tragic event were inappropriate and sometimes deplorable.
Biden gave a press conference where he did not apologize and decided to throw Afghanistan’s military under the bus. He categorized the soldiers who fought unsuccessfully to save Afghanistan as “not willing to fight for themselves.” Many gave their lives to try to save Afghanistan from terror rule, and Biden’s characterization is more than unfair. It was not that the Afghans were unwilling to fight for themselves but that they were shocked that they had to fight by themselves. The Americans, who were by their side for twenty years, packed up and left, sometimes without warning; this left Afghan soldiers dispirited and severely damaged their morale. America is also at fault for failing in its 20-year long attempt to develop a self-sufficient Afghan Army, and for not addressing corruption and ghost soldiers.
Ilhan Omar commented that the war in Afghanistan resulted in “a generation of devastation.” The opposite is true. The generation that grew up in Afghanistan during the American presence was a generation of hope, of dreams. Since the US entered Afghanistan, GDP, literacy rates, and primary school enrollment jumped. Given that the median age in Afghanistan is just 18.4 years, most Afghans know of no other reality. I fear that the next generation, not this one, will be the generation of devastation. But who needs reality when you have got your own agenda? Ilhan Omar has made her agenda clear, villainizing the US’ role in Afghanistan while conflating Israel’s and America’s ‘atrocities’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ with the all-too-real atrocities of Hamas and the Taliban.
We have seen many statements of concern but far too few condemnations of the Taliban’s terrorist takeover. I am yet to see major players explicitly say “we condemn the Taliban’s advances and takeover.”
The UN Secretary-General expressed “a deep disquiet,” but never condemned the hostile takeover. He also said that “the international community must unite to make sure that Afghanistan is never again used as a platform or safe haven for terrorist organizations.” Somehow, Guterres failed to recognize that Afghanistan already is a platform and safe haven for a terrorist organization: the Taliban.
Neither Amnesty International nor Human Rights Watch have gone out and uttered a clear condemnation of the Taliban’s terror attacks. Comparing their reactions to the terrorist takeover of Afghanistan and anything that Israel does shows a clear antisemitic double-standard. The same goes with various UN bodies, Ilhan Omar’s fellow anti-Israel squad members and activist social media accounts (Path2Progress, formerly Settle for Biden, even joked about the event in a since-deleted post).
Speaker Pelosi said on August 14th: “The U.S, the international community and the Afghan government must do everything we can to protect women and girls from inhumane treatment by the Taliban.” The next day, the Taliban and Afghan Government became the same entity. I find it hard to believe that the utter abandonment of the Afghan people constitutes “doing everything we can to protect women.”
Canada’s Foreign Minister also joined the party of ill-considered reactions saying that “it is too early to tell” if Canada will recognize the Taliban’s government. Controversy later arose after his colleague, the Member of Parliament for Peterborough-Kawartha, opened her statement with: “I want to take this opportunity to speak to our brothers, the Taliban.” She later said that this was a cultural reference.
The most absurd tweet I’ve seen came from Yanis Varoufakis, the Former Finance Minister of Greece and now leader of the European DiEM25 party and co-founder of Progressives International. His tweet read: “On the day liberal-neocon imperialism was defeated once and for all, DiEM25’s thoughts are with the women of Afghanistan. Our solidarity probably means little to them but it is what we can offer – for the time being. Hang in there sisters!” Not only does he rejoice in the victory of a terrorist group, but he also adds insult to injury by telling women under Taliban control to casually “hang in there” as misogynists control their lives. His co-founder of Progressives International, Bernie Sanders, to my knowledge, has not said a word about the incident so far.
The saddest part is that this was not inevitable. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair aptly said: “We didn’t need to do it. We chose to do it. We did it in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘the forever wars,’ as if our engagement in 2021 was remotely comparable to our commitment 20 or even ten years ago, and in circumstances in which troop numbers had declined to a minimum and no allied soldier had lost their life in combat for 18 months.”
The collapse of Afghanistan was due to a hasty and poorly planned withdrawal compounded by a selfish “America First” mentality that put Afghanistan and its people last. When fighting resumed in Afghanistan, America stood by and letting terrorists take over the country. This is how the terrorists won the war on terror.
What we need to do is to completely rethink our priorities to make sure this never happens again. Jews who focus on Tikkun Olam should remember that we cannot fix the world while breaking Afghanistan. Jews who take a broader view of Judaism should remember the commandment not to stand by while blood is being shed. Progressives should prioritize ensuring women’s rights in Afghanistan; this is undoubtedly more important than rash decisions to withdraw support spurred by hatred of “liberal-neocon imperialism” and the “military-industrial complex.” Conservatives must prioritize standing with allies and honouring commitments over supporting isolationism. Global institutions and human rights organizations must stop pursuing a misguided anti-Israel agenda and unequivocally condemn all terror activity, whether Hamas or Taliban. The UN needs to be changed to ensure that Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, which is due to serve on the Commission on the Status of Women, does not join Iran, Cuba, Russia, China and Somalia on the Human Rights Council.
We must take in refugees from Afghanistan and learn our lesson to ensure that terrorists elsewhere, already emboldened by the Taliban’s victory, know that we will not abandon other nations the same way America abandoned Afghanistan.
*phrases used for literary reasons. Obviously, Trump’s role in January 6th went far beyond sitting and partying when it happened. Additionally, I am not here to weigh in on whether Trump actually wrote the The Art of the Deal.