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As the Taliban retake Afghanistan, a disastrous sense of déjà vu

Kabul by Christmas.

This is where we were, Kabul at Christmas 2001, when the Taliban had just been overthrown, driven out by an intense campaign of bombing by American and British forces, along with the brutal regime’s Al Qaeda “guests”. routed and on the run.

As the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approached, the United States extricated itself from its longest foreign war – in an unseemly military race for exits – the British and NATO went offline, and Afghanistan is on the precipice of an already disastrous one. seen.

Leaving behind the vast Bagram airfield outside the capital, with thousands of civilian trucks and hundreds of armored vehicles right there. A ghost base, hastily evacuated and handed over to Afghan forces, awaiting search by the Taliban.

Also leaving behind a litany of broken promises – the West’s assurance that Afghanistan would never be abandoned again.

But, just like the Soviets in 1989, dragging their tails between their legs, militarily crippled by a grueling war against the Mujahedin that could not be – or would not be, in the long game tactically waged by the Taliban – won. With President Joe Biden claiming, in a surprising and deceptive way, that the United States has never been in the business of nation building. After some $ 133 billion (US) has been spent on exactly that, most of it on US cents. And more than 2,300 of its soldiers killed.

“I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan without expecting a different outcome,” Biden said on Independence Day.

In the wake of the departure of the United States, the dominoes are falling rapidly.

Hours after the evacuation of Bagram, the Taliban were on the march, increasing and widening their reach, with only the Afghan Air Force to control their advance. They captured hundreds of rural districts in the north and surrounded the capital of Badakhshan, with more than 1,000 Afghan soldiers – demoralized and ill-equipped – fleeing their posts, crossing a river bridge to border Tajikistan. Hundreds more – the Afghan army, police and intelligence services – laid down their arms and surrendered when their positions were overwhelmed.

Badakhshan was once the stronghold of anti-Taliban resistance, the last stronghold of Mujahedeen fighters under the revered Ahmad Shah Massoud, assassinated on September 9, 2001, a murder allegedly committed on Al-Qaeda’s orders, by two killers pretending to be journalists. Now trade routes and checkpoints to Tajikistan are controlled by Islamist insurgents, who already collect customs revenue.

On Friday, Taliban forces entered Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, the Pashtun heartland in the south and the birthplace of the Taliban, aided by Pakistani intelligence services. Kandahar Province, which was under the responsibility of the Canadian Forces during the NATO mission, where 158 of our soldiers sacrificed their lives.

The militants first invaded Panjwai – the lush region that Canadians had once cleared and made safe – using it as a springboard for the assault on Kandahar City, a military and metaphorical triumph.

In the western part of Afghanistan, the powerful warlord Ismail Khan, whose vast militia helped US forces topple the Taliban regime, is mobilizing loyalists to defend Herat. “We call on all remaining security forces to resist courageously,” he said over the weekend. “We hope that the men and women of Herat decide at this time to support the resistance front to defend their freedom and safeguard their honor.

Which sounds a lot like a call to arms for another civil war. The latter decimated Afghanistan and turned Kabul into rubble.

While many Western experts claim that it is highly unlikely that heavily fortified Kabul will be seized again by the Taliban by the end of the year, there is little reason to believe in such hissing assurances from the Empire cemetery. Kabul will fall, if not December 31, then quite early thereafter. And the never-ending cycle of conflict will continue in a country that has known nothing but war for the past four decades, from outside and inside.

The only silver lining for the Afghans is that the Taliban will turn out to have undergone some sort of internal reform, less determined to murder civilians and impose draconian interpretations of Islamic law. That there will always be music and schools for girls and civil rights for women and protected rights for ethnic minorities such as the eternally persecuted, predominantly Shia Hazaras bracing for a backlash.

“There are rumors circulating that the Taliban is imposing restrictions or even a total ban on the media, individuals and women in the newly liberated areas,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement released last week. “We reject such propaganda. All schools are fully open, the media are allowed to operate in a free and neutral manner within the framework of Islamic rules, clinics and health centers can work without any constraints. Civil servants, journalists can also live and perform their duties without fear. ”

Right. Pull the other.

It was the fundamentalist regime that banned music and television, forced men to grow beards, executed, threw suspected gays from rooftops, and carried out public executions for those caught breaking Taliban edicts.

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There are reports of schools already burned down and teachers in hiding. The Taliban have been blamed for a wave of killings targeting lawyers, journalists and working women. Dozens of people have been shot or killed in car bombings. The Taliban denies any responsibility.

Reports also indicate that ISIS, what remains of it, is recovering in Afghanistan.

Although the central government still owns most of the country’s major cities, urban areas will inevitably come under siege. The descent into widespread violence seems inevitable and without end in sight. The Soufan Center, which provides analysis of global security threats, revealed that recent US intelligence assessments concluded that the government of besieged President Ashraf Ghani could collapse within the next six months.

As expected when Biden announced earlier this year that the US withdrawal would be completed on September 11, a date chosen for symbolic reasons, although the US exodus was likely to be completed before then, leaving behind only a thousand troops to protect diplomats. missions, the American Embassy and the Kabul airport.

Unacceptable, retorts the Taliban. All foreign troops present on Afghan soil after September 11 will be considered “legitimate targets”.

The Taliban’s territorial gains have been swift and astounding this year. In the past two months alone, they have seized at least 150 districts – they claim many more – in 34 provinces, comprising half the country. In some areas, they have been greeted by war-weary citizens and a corrupt government.

“I don’t like leaving friends in need,” admitted General Austin Scott Miller, commander of US and NATO forces, in a recent interview with ABC, acknowledging that the situation he is leaving behind is disastrous. “War is physical, but it also has a psychological or moral component, and hope really matters. What you don’t want to happen is for people to lose hope. ”

Except that there is no hope for the Afghans. They are doomed to fail, even though the Taliban say they will present a written peace proposal to the government as early as next month during the stalled negotiations in Doha. The United States has repeatedly asked for help from neighboring Pakistan in convincing the insurgents to come up with a written plan. But Pakistan is a traitor. He incubated the Taliban and his regional aspirations have long been based on the Taliban. It is, after all, the country that housed Osama bin Laden, his denials are not worth a fig.

My fixer, driver and friend for nearly two decades, sends desperate texts. “I have to get my family out. They will come first for the interpreters. Please can you help? ”

He has been an interpreter for NATO for years.

Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2011, transitioning to a training mission. Ottawa said it would welcome hundreds of vulnerable Afghans, interpreters, embassy staff and their families. The United States has promised to relocate thousands of interpreters by next month. Which could be too late.

I’m sorry Faramaz. I am really sorry.

Rosie DiManno is a Toronto-based columnist covering sports and news for The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno



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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.