Shocking pictures and footage of Afghans clinging desperately to planes taking off from Kabul airport have been flooding the internet these couple of days. Why? Because Kabul has fallen to the Taliban, the president of Afghanistan has fled, explaining that he did so to “avoid bloodshed” and armed and Turbaned men have occupied the presidential palace. The new government will be named the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. From 6 August to 16 August, the Taliban unleashed its wrath on the “evil” government forces. The well-armed, 350,000 strong Afghan army seemed to have surrendered without too much of a fight.
Meanwhile, it’s being reported that the U.S. Embassy has been evacuated, but it’s not yet clear if embassy staff have been able to leave the country. Interestingly, just a week ago, Mark Milley, America’s Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff said that a Taliban military takeover was not a foregone conclusion. 3 weeks before the decisive victory of the Taliban, the CIA was still predicting that the Afghan army could hold out of 3 months.
Most worried about the Taliban takeover are those who had worked for the Afghan government and women who had been liberated from strict Sharia rule. Will all the progress that had been made these 20 years be wiped out? The Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban for publicly advocating education for women and girls, has said she is in “complete shock” that the group has taken control of Afghanistan.
Now 24, Malala said she was “deeply worried about women, minorities and human rights advocates” and called for more intervention from world leaders.
“We watch in complete shock as Taliban takes control of Afghanistan. Global, regional and local powers must call for an immediate ceasefire, provide urgent humanitarian aid and protect refugees and civilians,” she said in a post on Twitter.
Malala was forced to flee Pakistan’s Swat Valley when the territory was taken over by the Pakistani Taliban in 2008 when girls were banned from going to school. She spoke out publicly about the importance of female education and was subsequently shot by a masked Taliban gunman on her way home from school in October 2012 when she was 15. So what kind of intervention is Malala hoping for?
Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, on 16 August 2021, said that the Taliban could be recognized by the U.S. – provided they include women in their government. Yao mo gao chor ah? Tell that to the hundreds if not thousands who are currently desperate to board a plane out of the country. Meanwhile, two embassies in Kabul did not evacuate their staff – the Russian Embassy and the Chinese Embassy.
Obviously, not everyone shares the same concerns as the rest of the world. On 28 July, China responded to the US pullout by holding a high level meeting with Taliban leaders in city of Tianjin. Foreign Minister Wang Yi called the Taliban a pivotal military and political force in Afghanistan that is expected to play an important role in reconstructing the country. Beijing has had numerous interactions with the Taliban over the years, but the need for reassurances has grown as the Taliban make a string of advances on the battlefield. The Taliban see China as a source of international legitimacy, a potential economic supporter and a means of influence over Pakistan, a Chinese ally that has aided the group.
Professor Wang Yiwei who has a train of credentials and appointments, namely Professor of the School of International Relations, Renmin University of China, PhD supervisor, Director of the Institute of International Affairs, Director of the European Union Studies Center, Professor of the American Studies Center of Fudan University, Diplomat of the Chinese Mission to the European Union, Distinguished Professor of Tongji University, called the Taliban Afghanistan’s liberation army.
Why didn’t I make my well-known exclamation? Because our professor is right. They are Afghanistan’s version of a “liberation army”. And so it’s not surprising that in the wake of the Taliban takeover, China announced that it is ready to deepen “friendly and cooperative” relations with Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the country. The Global Times even reported that after Afghanistan, it’s going to be Taiwan.
Obviously, no reasonable person would cheer for the Taliban, but America has no shortage of mockers. A well-respected, highly pro-China toilet activist in Singapore (you should be able to guess his name) made an interesting comment. He said that looking at what happened in Afghanistan today, can we trust America to defend us? He is of course, suggesting that China would be a better guardian of peace in the region.
But aren’t we talking about apples and oranges here? Or more to the point, Israelis and Afghans. America trained 350,000 Afghan soldiers and supplied them with weapons superior to those of the Taliban fighters. How many of them have been killed by the Taliban? Can you blame America if they lack the will to fight? The failure of the ousted government may be a subject for an academic postmortem, but for a multi-tribal society like Afghanistan, applying democracy to a society that had yet to forge a national identity may only work in the dreams of some Left Wing administrator. Israel did not need half as much support to get on its feet. So how much protection do we need to survive in a hostile environment? Were we expecting America to bubble wrap the Afghan government?
From Afghanistan, we return to Singapore and Mr Heng Swee Kiat’s recent statement reminds us that before you lecture someone, you should check yourself and see if the same advice could be applied to you.
The Straits Times:
SINGAPORE – In the coming years, millions of university graduates in Asia alone will be added to the global talent pool, alongside the accelerating pace of technological change and disruption.
Against this backdrop, “the reality is that it is not possible to ‘bubble wrap’ (Singapore’s) workers from foreign competition and still expect to succeed”, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Friday (Aug 13).
Compounding the matter is the normalisation of remote work due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the recognition that “working from home” is just one step away from “working from anywhere”.
Yes, look at Afghanistan. The lesson learnt may not be as obvious and straightforward as what we’re seeing from all that background noise elbowing to be seen as expert opinion. During the late Eastern Han Dynasty, Sun Ce exchanged the imperial seal passed down by his father for just 3,000 soldiers from Yuan Shu. With that, he established a mighty stronghold in Dongwu which would grow into one of the three kingdoms under his brother Sun Quan. In contrast, Liu Shan inherited a kingdom from his father Liu Bei, ordered his chief military commander Jiang Wei to surrender the moment Chengdu was invaded by the kingdom of Wei.