Monday 25th October 2021
To continue from part one.…
I will be using the US drawdown of troops, the UK’s evacuation of civilians, and future possible ramifications, as an example of how the government hopes people have the memory span of a Goldfish.
The evacuation of Afghan civilians from Kabul Airport, and the sight of people hanging onto airplanes readying for take off (as if they were on the top of a coach or train in the region) created footage that was both horrendous and amazing; that people would take such a risk to leave Kabul due to fear of the Taliban.
I do not believe even a Hollywood disaster director would have put that in a film – it would have been just too unbelievable. Those images were helpful, because when people ask “Was it worth it?” “Why were we in Afghanistan so long?” “Why did we put so much money into the country?”, politicians have their answer. They liked the footage of Kabul Airport as it showed voters that the losses of British troops lives, and the lives of NGO staff, was for a moral cause because it demonstrated that people were so afraid of the Taliban they would grab on to an airplane in flight.
Those images also helped with another problem, immigration. The media is showing pictures of small craft filled with illegal immigrants arriving on our coast. Sections of the public are not happy about these images, so the government needed to soften the blow of promising to give refuge to any Afghan who felt at risk from the Taliban.
Given that we had been in Afghanistan for twenty years, this would mean a lot of people. Embassy staff, teachers who taught the children of British workers, anyone who worked for a British funded NGO…. basically anyone with even third degree contact to the British involvement in Afghanistan and their large families, including elderly relatives. That is a lot of Afghan citizens who the government promised to protect by giving them safe haven in the UK.
To put it bluntly, the British government was in a hole of its own making. Its mouth was making promises that the body (the British public) would not necessarily want to keep, so the heart strings were pulled by showing wall to wall media coverage of Kabul Airport.
The British government hoped that people had a short memory and did not critically analyse the situation. If we did, we might realise that we do not have a debt to the Afghans who worked for the British in Afghanistan. There are historical precedents for this situation.
During the Second World War, the French government was a Vichy government installed by – and under the control of – the Germans. No matter how unpalatable the comparison, the same situation occurred in Afghanistan – a Vichy government. The Northern Alliance controlled by the US/UK was installed in Afghanistan and was controlled by US/UK with the support of their troops on the ground.
During the Second World War, French citizens worked either directly or indirectly for the Vichy government and were classed as “collaborators”; exactly what the Taliban have called the Afghans who worked for the British or Americans.
Afghans took these jobs because they were well paid and because they believed the British/Americans would stay in Afghanistan, propping up the government of their choice and giving aid ad infinitum. The party was never going to end, but it did. The US/UK left and the Taliban are back in charge. The “collaborators” who worked for Western forces, even in a remote capacity, are now fair game for retribution Taliban style. Exactly the same happened with the French collaborators who worked for the Vichy government, but they were never given the option of safe passage or refuge in East Germany.
Do we have a responsibility to these Afghans, or did they know the risks of working for the British but thought short term?
This question does have future ramifications. Unless Britain avoids being drawn into regime change wars, or US-led frolics, especially in the South China Sea region, we and our children will see our small island promised to refugees from yet more escapades.
International Affairs Spokesperson