Nearly 20 years after the United States-NATO invaded Afghanistan, with Australian government support, the occupation troops are leaving and the Taliban has systematically taken control of regional towns across the country. Green Left’s Pip Hinman spoke to former refugee detainee and Hazara rights activist Riz Wakil just before the Taliban took Kabul.
The West’s occupation forces entered Afghanistan, nearly 20 years ago, on the premise of stopping the terrorists and delivering democracy. Now, as they leave, the Taliban has gained control. How did it come to this?
Western forces were never in Afghanistan to bring democracy or assure safety for ordinary Afghans. The warmongers in the US military and political establishment orchestrated not only the occupation of Afghanistan but many parts of the Middle East: Iraq, Syria and also Libya.
The West never had any plans to install a strong democratic government in Afghanistan.
In fact, they didn’t have any plans for Afghanistan at all, let alone a plan for strong local democratic government or an exit strategy.
We have witnessed how United States forces abandoned billions of dollars’ worth of resources and ran away in the middle of the night.
The West installed rich elites who have no interest in Afghanistan and who had lived most of their lives in the West. They set up puppet governments that never had any real connection to ordinary Afghan people.
The US-NATO authorities turned a blind eye to corruption and corrupt officials and supported the Taliban with intelligence and arms all these years.
These people will now pack their bags and go back to their old life and family in the West.
What has happened in the past 19 years or so in Afghanistan in no way helped Afghans stand on their own feet or have a government that would stand strong and protect locals from any Taliban or conservative uprising once the Western forces left.
There was no training for the Afghan army, or the politicians, on how to deal with the vacuum created by the withdrawal of the West’s forces.
Do you think there will be a new occupation by the West to ‘save’ Afghanistan from the Taliban?
No, I don’t believe that will happen as the West is not, and never was, interested in ordinary Afghans or any strong Afghan government.
The only possible scenario will be the local power play between Iran, Pakistan, India, Turkey and possibly China, to secure and protect their investments, such as the “belt and road initiatives” in Pakistan and the region.
Democratic Afghans have long said that Afghanistan has become the country where big powers are carrying out their proxy wars. What’s your take?
That is true and has always been the case. Elements in the Pakistani military and political establishment always refer to Afghanistan as their sixth province. It was never a secret who created and funded the Taliban all these years.
Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed in 2016 by a US drone in Pakistan on his way back from Iran, was a member of Quetta Shura Taliban. (Quetta is the provincial capital of Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan.)
The current Taliban leader, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, is also a member of Quetta Shura Taliban.
In the last few days, there were indications from the Iranian foreign ministry that they will accept the Taliban government and will recognise the Islamic State of Afghanistan under the Taliban rule.
Iran wants to have an influence on any new Afghan government to secure its interests against any possible Salafist/Wahhabist ideology in Afghanistan.
India also wants to have a say and have influence in Afghanistan to have an upper hand over Pakistan.
Now, cooperation between China and Pakistan gives these scenarios a completely new and different perspective.
What should progressives be calling for today?
Currently, it is a pretty messy situation.
The ideal scenario will be to push for a united and strong local Afghan government and to support them unconditionally against the Taliban and any other extremist or non-state actors.
We should be pushing to make sure that the local power brokers do not support any non-state actors who intend to destabilise.
Supporting and educating the Pashtun population on both sides of the Pakistan and Afghanistan border is also important.
As long as there is widespread poverty, illiteracy and a lack of basic services and everyday necessities, Afghanistan will always be a breeding ground for extremists.
Whatever has been done to Afghanistan cannot be fixed overnight: there is no short-term solution.
Jihadi literature and extremist ideologies have destroyed Afghanistan and a portion of Pakistan’s population and the only way out will be to change people’s minds with education.