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BRITAIN and the US were blamed for the disaster unfolding in Afghanistan today as Taliban forces entered the capital of Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
Stop the War Coalition (StWC) convenor Lindsey German said the desperate situation is the consequence of a failed 20-year long military intervention.
“The responsibility rests with the US, British and other Nato governments which plunged into a war that was always doomed to fail.
“The starting of the conflict, not the manner of the ending of it, was the problem,” she said.
The Islamists met little resistance as government forces quit en masse and Western countries evacuated their embassies on Sunday, with Taliban forces entering Kabul to “maintain law and order” while offering a “peaceful” transition of power.
The speed of their advance shocked US military leaders, with its central command warning troops may be sent back in to guarantee control over Kabul Airport, the last exit point to remain outside Taliban control. In official comments, the Department of Defense admitted “the current situation is going south pretty fast” and added “there was no assessment pessimistic enough.” Embassy staff reported gunfire at the base as the Star went to press.
Talks between Taliban and Afghan government representatives over the formation of a new interim administration took place in Qatar this weekend amid growing calls for an immediate ceasefire.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called a meeting of emergencies committee Cobra today and is expected to recall Parliament for an emergency session this week, with the timing to be confirmed by the Speaker.
Chair of the foreign affairs committee Tom Tugendhat raised concerns about the ongoing silence of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last week, describing the situation as “the biggest single disaster of foreign policy since Suez.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had earlier called for MPs to return to the house to “work with allies to avoid a humanitarian crisis and a return to the days of Afghanistan being a base for extremists whose purpose will be to threaten our interests, values and national security.”
It is unclear what course of action is likely to be taken by the government at this stage and Labour — which took Britain into Afghanistan under Tony Blair — has not set out any demands.
The Taliban has swept to power in Afghanistan in the wake of US President Biden’s announcement in April of a total troop withdrawal by September this year, taking city after city with relative ease.
StWC, which was founded by a broad range of political and social movements in 2001, had warned against a rush to war in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York.
It argued that military occupation could not lead to stable governance in Afghanistan and would be rejected as a foreign imposition.
“We asserted then and believe now that democracy and human rights can rarely be imposed externally, and must be the product of the efforts of the peoples themselves if it is to prove durable,” Ms German said.
“This intervention joins those in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen as a calamity that has cost tens of thousands of lives and vast resources to no purpose.
“The British government should take a lead in offering a refugee programme and reparations to rebuild Afghanistan, an act which would go a great deal further in advancing the rights of the Afghan people, women in particular, than continued military or economic intervention.”
Thousands are being forced to flee the country once more as the Taliban seek to impose a strict Islamist ideology onto the people.
On Saturday the group took control of Kandahar’s main radio station, banning music and renaming it Voice of Sharia.
The events unfolding are bringing back painful memories for members of the Afghan diaspora.
Noshin Rad was born in Kabul but was forced to flee in October 1992 during the Afghan Civil War that eventually propelled the Taliban to power
“We became refugees overnight,” she said. “We did not want to leave our home, we were forced to leave.”
Her family eventually found sanctuary in Norway but she said that now the hope that she would one day return to visit her homeland is gone.
“Dark times are ahead as women and ethnic groups like the Hazaras will face the same fate as they did in the ’90s,” she said.
Ms Rad said that the fall of Mazar e-Sharif on Saturday was a traumatic reminder of the Hazara genocide at the hands of the Taliban in August 1998.
When the Islamists seized the city from the United Front coalition it went on a “killing frenzy,” going from house to house massacring Hazara civilians, slitting their throats in front of their families.
The Taliban deemed them to be “non-Muslims” because of their Shi’ite beliefs, warning them “wherever you go, we will catch you.”
As many as 20,000 are believed to have been killed in the onslaught, one of many pogroms targeting the Afghan minority community.
“Hazaras have pleaded to be protected from the Taliban’s violence, but remain unheard,” Ms Rad said, warning that the Islamists “will start a raging war against the people of Afghanistan in the next weeks and months.”
“We are now witnessing the collapse of a country to the hands of jihadists,” she added.
Murals depicting women were painted over in the Afghan capital today, “muting our voices” while female workers were being purged from their jobs as the Taliban assert authority.
“Remember this. Afghanistan was sold to jihadists. The international community betrayed the people of Afghanistan,” Ms Rad said.
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