London: Boris Johnson confronted the first full House of Commons 2021 with all the hubris he could muster to justify the West’s sudden surrender of Afghanistan. MP’s across parties were angry and unreservedly critical how the Afghan forces had been abandoned without the wherewithal to defend Kabul, and how procedures to evacuate locally employed staff and other vulnerable people had been woefully inadequate. Boris Johnson’s prime ministership is now bloodstained with President Joe Biden’s merciless expedition of Donald Trump’s Doha agreement. The agreement between US and the Taliban was published by Paul Nuki, The Telegraph’s Senior Editor Global Health Security, who likened it to the Treaty of Versailles, that ended WW1, but drafted by the Taliban.
It seems the British acceded to America’s “done deal” and accepted whatever terrible outcomes might transpire. MP’s from the left and right gave the prime minister a piece of their mind; a video emerged on social media of two people falling from an airplane and the same day in parliament Johnson said “At the moment, it would be fair to say that the Taliban are allowing that evacuation to go ahead”.
The emotion was palpable in MP’s speeches to implore Johnson to review policy. Stella Creasy said people were fleeing from the “brutalism and terrorism” of the Taliban; Tom Tugendhat was applauded for his sincerity based on his experience in the British army in Helmand; Tobias Ellwood said “I do not believe for a second that there will be a peaceful transition to the Taliban. They are not universally liked in the country. The Uzbek and Tajik warlords are regrouping as we speak. The Northern Alliance will reform once again and a bloody, terrible civil war will unfold”; Daniel Kawzinsski wanted to ask questions about the role of Russia and Pakistan and the allegations that they have been supporting the Taliban. Theresa May questioned when had the PM first spoken to Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of NATO, to discuss the possibility of putting together an alliance of other forces in order to replace American support in Afghanistan; Johnson wriggled uncomfortably.
Dominic Raab had to return from his holiday in Crete where it is reported he avoided making a critical phone call to Mohammed Haneef Atmar, his Afghan counterpart, about evacuating interpreters. Folks were surprised to learn that both the PM and Deputy PM were simultaneously on holiday while Kabul collapsed. In business it is considered bad practice for two chiefs to be away at the same time. On return Raab announced UK will double humanitarian and development aid to Afghanistan to £286m this year. On Thursday Raab spoke to Wang Yi and to Mevlut Cavusoglu about Kabul airport security, his Chinese and Turkish counterparts.
Johnson called on the United Nations to lead a new humanitarian effort in the region and has responded to Italy’s call for an emergency G7 meeting this week, he said “the UK will work to unite the international community behind a clear plan for dealing with this regime in a unified and concerted way….” . Johnson said he and President Macron, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Khan had agreed it would be a mistake for any country to recognise any new regime in Kabul prematurely or bilaterally. Johnson continued “those countries that care about Afghanistan’s future should work towards common conditions about the conduct of the new regime before deciding together whether to recognise it, and on what terms. We will judge this regime based on the choices it makes and by its actions rather than by its words—on its attitude to terrorism, crime and narcotics, as well as humanitarian access and the right of girls to receive an education.”
The fact that thousands are literally desperate to leave the country tells us that Afghans have not fallen for the illusion of a new and improved Taliban, a Taliban-lite operating under a new more moderate Sharia law. During the past twenty years the Taliban have learnt how to present themselves and stage manage their operations, it is as if the West believes Kabul can become the new Doha under Mullah Baradar.
The fear going around is that the West is weak and no longer a reliable ally. A vibe Russia is delighted to make the most of vizaviz Ukraine and China will use a fact to threaten Taiwan.
Consequently rival conversations are happening in Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran.
On social media Ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan broadcasts a meeting with former President Karzai and Dr Abdullah Abdullah, a meeting with Russian Ambassador Dmitry Zhirnov and a talk with Turkish Ambassador in Kabul Cihad Ergonay; and Pakistan Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi is having diplomatic conversations with his “Iron Brother” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi they stressed the importance of close coordination between the two countries on how to cope with the Afghanistan situation.
Moscow is never slow to cash in on an opportunity to trump the West. Russia is not evacuating the embassy in Kabul, Dmitry Zhirnov Ambassador of the Russian Federation in Afghanistan has already had “constructive” talks with the Taliban and believes Kabul’s situation now is better than under President Ghani. Zamir Kabulov, Russian Presidential envoy to Afghanistan, said “That we have prepared the ground for a conversation with the new government in Afghanistan in advance is an asset of Russian foreign policy” and reportedly recommended to start procedures for removing Taliban from the UNSC list of terrorist organizations. Russia’s NSA Nikolai Patrushev has claimed Russia has reinvigorated high level contacts in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, China, Iran, India and Pakistan. Franz Klintsevich, Defense and Security Committee in Lower House of Russian Parliament has said the US arsenal of weapons that were left behind is in Taliban hands.
Javad Zarid of the Islamic Republic of Iran held talks with China’s special envoy to Afghanistan Yu Shiang Yung.
At a press conference Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying supported the Taliban, Hua said the Taliban will not repeat their past mistakes and are now more sober and rational than in the past. China has offered to stump up the cash for rebuilding critical infrastructure in Afghanistan, providing the Taliban obeys Beijing’s objectives. On Thursday China’s state TV channel CGTN interviewed Taliban spokesperson Suhail Saheen on the structure of the new government, which he said will be announced soon, but there is already an established leadership council. China Metallurgical Group Corps are keen to re-open the Mes Aynak copper mine, the second largest in the world which is about 19 miles from Kabul.
There can be no doubt that Afghanistan is the epicentre of geopolitics until at least the new year or longer if Afghanistan defines the axis for ColdWar2.0.