The Irish Times view on Afghanistan: UN needs to intervene as terrible situation unfolds

No reprisals against those who worked for foreign armies or NGOs are promised – but few believe it

 People protest  against the Taliban takeover of  Afghanistan and the US decision to withdraw militarily from the country, at Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House, in Washington, DC,  on Sunday. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

People protest against the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the US decision to withdraw militarily from the country, at Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House, in Washington, DC, on Sunday. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

 

The fall of Jalalabad on Sunday to the Taliban, surrendered like so many other cities without a fight, was followed by a sustained advance on Kabul. By Sunday evening the insurgents had taken the presidential palace in Kabul and were effectively in control of the capital.

In a confused situation, the evacuation of Western embassies and nationals, safeguarded by several thousand returned US and UK troops, has all the appearance of the fall of Saigon in April 1975, down even to the frantic burning of documents in the US embassy compound. Afghanistan’s ineffective president, Ashraf Ghani, has also left the country, only a day after he went on TV to issue a rallying call to his collapsing army.

Only days ago, US intelligence was predicting that Kabul could hold out for three months. It is clear that this was a complete miscalculation. By Sunday night the Taliban had entered the presidential palace, saying it would declare an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The foreign minister has blogged about negotiating a smooth transition to Taliban rule, but following the collapse of the army, the writing was on the wall.

Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday, night. Photograph: Zabi Karimi/AP Photo
Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday, night. Photograph: Zabi Karimi/AP Photo

What next? “We don’t want a single innocent Afghan civilian to be injured or killed as we take charge,” the Taliban’s spokesman tweeted unconvincingly. No reprisals against those who worked for foreign armies, NGOs, or served in the army, terrified refugees in ad hoc camps springing up around Kabul were promised.

But few believe it. Taliban control over the territories they have already taken resembles that of the Taliban of old – hardline Islamist rule. Yes, there have been reprisals, and women have lost the rights 20 years of semi-democratic rule brought. Girls again banned from school, forced marriages, attacks on unaccompanied women ...

Concerns internationally that the Taliban victory will mean a humanitarian and refugee disaster for the country’s neighbours, and again on Europe’s borders, have yet to manifest in any new willingness by regional powers Pakistan, Iran, or China to engage robustly with the Taliban. The latter have hinted, through their negotiators in Doha, that a new regime would want to avoid the diplomatic isolation that its predecessor suffered 20 years ago. Its willingness not to harbour a resurgent al-Qaeda and a commitment to rule with less harshness might offer a diplomatic opening.

The Taliban patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Sunday. Photograph: EPA
The Taliban patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Sunday. Photograph: EPA

With the US sidelined, the best hope for opening talks lies within the ambit of the UN. Secretary General António Guterres is demanding an immediate ceasefire followed by “good faith” negotiations. Estonia and Norway have called for an immediate convening of the Security Council, presumably supported by Ireland.The onus now rests on the big five veto powers to respond and the Security Council looks set to meet shortly. It will have much to discuss.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.