The horror, the horror

There has been a bombing attack at Kabul airport. News reports are that civilians have died. An Islamic State affliate operating in Iraq is thought to be the likely culprit though as of now no group has claimed responsibility for the carnage. (Update: Islamic State have claimed it on their Telegam channel apparently. Which leads me to wonder why they haven’t been kicked off Telegram)

Tom Tugendhat who is chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs is reported by the Independent as saying (on ‘Twitter’):

The attack on innocent people at Kabul airport simply trying to escape the horror of Taliban rule shows exactly who the group has brought with them. The pattern is well established – from Nigeria and Mali to Syria and Iraq whenever Islamist extremists take power, terror follows.

I wanted to comment on this because it points to a particular outlook – one which I would say is profoundly delusional. I suspect that even if this is an usually direct statement of the belief system the basic ideas here are those shared by at least part of the UK’s military and political ruling factions.

Islamic State has been active in Afghanistan for some years and have carried out dozens of terror attacks. For example here is a BBC report about an attack in August 2020. [1] These attacks took place while the UK was occupying Afghanistan. It cannot be said that the Taliban “brought this group with them”.

The Taliban are a local Afghan movement. I don’t know what evidence links them to Nigeria, Mail and Syria. The purport of these remarks is to try to use this attack on Kabul airport to heap opprobrium on the Taliban. But the reality is that the Taliban are an enemy of Islamic State who regard them as apostates. The actual story here would be that, amazingly enough, both the UK and the Taliban have a common enemy in Islamic State.

It is offensive and ignorant to dismiss the Taliban as “extremists” – as much of the Western media and political classes do. There are many different interpretations of Islam. The Taliban follow a particular branch (which also manifests in parts of India and Pakistan [2]). Of course – their treatment of women is not based on a notion of “equal rights”, they don’t belive in parliamentary democracy (which I imagine they might see as some kind of blasphemous attempt to replace the law stemming from God and the Koran), their judicial system metes out harsh punishments. Not Western values, certainly. But a coherent religious philosophy.

As for “terror follows”, like many Western elites, the author of these remarks seems to think that the tens of thousands of civilian deaths which followed from the US/UK invasion of Afganistan – including many which didn’t simply “follow from” but were directly caused by UK/US actions – are not terror but the hundreds caused by groups such as ISIS (an enemy of the Taliban again) are. That takes some doing. I don’t know – but the toddler who was blown up by this US Hellfire missile (for example) probably felt some terror. [3] These kinds of actions were related to a “relaxation of conditions” for airstrikes which, according to a US monitoring group “resulted in a massive increase in civilian casualties”. [4] In all 71,000 civilians died in Afghanistan. [4] The UN breaks down responsibility for civilian deaths in the first half of 2021 like this: Taliban 39%, Islamic State 9%, 16% other anti-government of undetermined elements, 25% by pro-government forces, remainder crossfire. [5] It is a very approximate extrapolation but if we combine the two sources and assume the proportions were approximately the same throughout the war we get approximately 18,000 civilian deaths caused directly by pro-government forces (the US and allies and their trained and supplied Afghan National army). “Following from” the illegal US/UK invasion of Iraq an absolute minimum tally of dead civilians as a result of violence is 180,000 (but we know for example from Wikileaks that the US tried to downplay civilian deaths they caused so this figure will be higher – no wonder the British government is letting Assange languish in a terrorist prison). [6] Thousands of these were killed directly by the US in direct fire. This was an illegal war which the UK joined on false pretences.

The fact is that death “follows from” UK military adventurism far more than it does from the Taliban.

Update

I would concur with the analysis expressed by the head of National Security for Pakistan expressed in this interview in the Guardian. If the West does not engage with the Taliban and instead isolates them (sanctions, blocking aid programmes etc.) that is likely to lead to the very problems we claim to be concerned about.

Update 2

This is the US military confirming that the Taliban has cooperated with them to prevent terror attacks around the airport:

Gen McKenzie said that cooperation with the Taliban has probably thwarted other planned attacks on the airport:

“We share versions of our information with the Taliban, so that they can actually do some searching out there for us and we believe that some attacks have been thwarted by them,” the general said. “They don’t get the full range of information we have, but we give them enough to act in time and space to try to prevent these attacks.” [7]

This is a refutation it would seem of the view that the Taliban are somehow responsible for the Islamic State attack on the airport. On the contrary this appears to show that they have worked with the US and prevented other attacks.

Notes

  1. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-53633450
  2. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/23/hold-the-taliban-and-sharia-law-in-afghanistan
  3. https://www.rt.com/usa/533035-us-drone-pilots-afghanistan-leak-footage/
  4. https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/human/civilians/afghan
  5. https://unama.unmissions.org/civilian-casualties-set-hit-unprecedented-highs-2021-unless-urgent-action-stem-violence-%E2%80%93-un-report
  6. https://www.iraqbodycount.org/
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2021/aug/26/afghanistan-live-news-updates-evacuation-refugees-taliban-kabul-airport-latest?page=with:block-6127eb9a8f08b1506f20fdab#block-6127eb9a8f08b1506f20fdab