From bad to worse
In a further indication that the coming days and weeks in Afghanistan will be anything but peaceful, the Taliban on Tuesday indicated that the group will no longer allow Afghans to evacuate the country via the Kabul airport. Coming at a time when coalition forces are already struggling to fill flights and hasten evacuations before the August 31 deadline, this decision would leave tens of thousands of Afghans who had reasons to escape trapped with the Taliban in charge. Though this is an unfortunate turn of events, by no means was it unforeseeable. For many days now, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Taliban has little interest in allowing a successful evacuation campaign of coalition forces and local collaborators from the Hamid Karzai International Airport. Several reports have emerged of the Taliban beating local Afghans and tearing travel documents at various checkpoints on approach to the airport. Different checkpoints have Taliban soldiers using varying levels of discretion in deciding whether an individual may or may not proceed to the airport. The Taliban leadership itself has given two different reasons for this. First, they say they want to prevent a stampede like situation at the airport and naturally they blame the coalition forces for the chaos at the airport. Second, the Taliban has more recently stated that it is concerned that the US and its allies are flying away all of the country's technical expertise with it as it leaves. To add to this, the Taliban has also warned the coalition forces against seeking any further extension to the deadline for the pullout on August 31. US allies have repeatedly made grim acknowledgements that it was highly unlikely that the evacuation of everyone who wanted to leave will be able to leave by the end of this month. Thousands of people, particularly the local Afghani collaborators at risk of being left behind. And what does getting left behind mean for these people? Well, the Taliban would have everyone believe that it would be nothing altogether bad as the group has tried to give out the impression of being a changed outfit. As such, the Taliban has publicly promised amnesty to those who worked with foreign forces and has guaranteed the safety and well being of all Afghans. Though the world is still largely stuck in the wait and watch phase with the Taliban, there are undeniable indications that things are not as rosy as one may hope for those who get left behind in Afghanistan. On Tuesday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet claimed to have received several credible reports of serious violations by the Taliban in Afghanistan. These included several reports of summary executions of civilians and Afghan forces who surrendered to the group. Other reports indicate that the Taliban is going door to door in a campaign of revenge and control. Reports of property seizure and violence are becoming increasingly common as well. This week, the Taliban also continued reiterating that women should stay indoors for the time being despite the group promising them certain freedoms within its interpretation of the sharia. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid stated that this was a 'temporary' policy until the Taliban forces are trained to not mistreat and abuse women. Altogether, not an encouraging sign. To reiterate the obvious here, no one seems to have control over this situation and there is no real way forward towards an outcome that doesn't end with further tragedy. Beseiged on all sides by those wishing to hang the fall of Kabul around his neck, Joe Biden has taken an ultra-defensive stance which is more in line with his predecessor than any idea of a 'global USA' that Joe Biden may have had. The US has refused to extend the deadline for its evacuations and has also refused to extend the perimeter around the airport as it does not wish to antagonise the Taliban and affect the already sensitive situation. In a world order that many nations perceive as being built upon the guarantee of US security, the Afghanistan withdrawal is a rude slap in the face that goes to show the limits of the American big brother act. With the US having failed and seemingly not having a plan to stop failing in the future, it falls to the world community to ensure that the people of Afghanistan are not simply forgotten and condemned by this callous exit. The first priority must be to ensure that the evacuations can continue for as long as required. In this, neighbouring countries such as India, China, Russia and Pakistan can play a much larger role than the US coalition. The Taliban is unlikely to humour any extension of the foreign US-led coalition staying in Afghanistan but maybe more malleable to requests from other countries. Potentially opening up other points of exit for those wishing to leave the country would also be advisable in the near future. The Taliban are undoubtedly an issue that the world will have to address at some point but first, it is the duty of the international community to ensure the safety and well being of the people of Afghanistan who stand to lose what little they gained in the last 20 years of so-called 'freedom'.