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The Afghan Debacle and Consequences

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Message Arshad M Khan

It just happens. No one plans a debacle. That is until Joe Biden came along. Having announced August 31st as the day when all the U.S. troops will have left Afghanistan, the Taliban promptly joined in calling it a mutually agreed date.

So the US troops are leaving but what about the Afghans, particularly the educated and especially the educated women -- a category the Taliban could not abide last go around.

Well there they are, all crowding up the airport and its environs, all wanting a ticket out -- a little too reminiscent of Saigon a few decades earlier. So why a deadline? Why couldn't the withdrawal have been conducted over a week or two or even more?

The troops massing to leave presented an enticing opportunity to some elements who promptly employed a suicide bomber. Thirteen soldiers were killed plus a 100 Afghans and more wounded. A more painful tragedy is hard to imagine for the young soldiers wives and parents, who had been anticipating a joyful homecoming.

There are some harrowing tales like the escape story of Shukria Barakzai. Born into a political family, her maternal grandfather was an Afghan senator during the reign of Zahir Shah who was deposed near a half century ago in 1973. She herself was elected to the National Assembly and was targeted for speaking up in support of women's rights -- and then injured in a 2014 suicide attack.

A definite target for the Taliban she went into hiding and called political friends in London. Debbie Abrahams, a member of parliament, acted promptly on her behalf and approached Lord Tariq Ahmed responsible for South Asia in the government. Despite these influential friends, it took Ms. Barakzai and her husband a week of near misses to escape. It leaves open the question as to how many have not been so lucky. The crowds of people massed at Kabul airport shown in news photos would indicate quite a few.

For Pakistan, Afghanistan's neighbor to the east, the change is not unwanted as it regains what it calls strategic depth. The present Afghan leaders lived in palatial bungalows in Quetta during the previous India-friendly Ashraf Ghani regime -- Ghani being the president who took off for Tajikistan as fast as his legs would carry him and thence to the UAE, when the Taliban approached Kabul. So much for Biden's disengagement from Afghanistan.

Whether Biden himself desires to run (or not) for a second term, Kamala Harris, his vice-president, could be salivating in the wings. Unfortunately her approval ratings continue to sink. This Afghan fiasco is unlikely to improve the chances of a candidate who unlike Obama is no unifier. She is considered black (her father) or Indian (her mother) as the occasion, like a visit to India, requires. She is not fluent in any Indian language.

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Arshad M Khan is a former Professor. Educated at King's College London, Oklahoma State University and the University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. He was elected a Fellow of the (more...)
 
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