Pawns in someone else’s war: a humanitarian catastrophe awaits the population of Afghanistan


I wrote a draft of this article a few days ago, but the situation in Afghanistan has escalated so quickly it had to be discarded. Gone are the hypotheticals, the ‘what ifs.’ The Taliban have taken Kabul, regaining control of Afghanistan for the first time in 20 years. What is left now is a reality that makes for grim reading. 

Make no mistake, the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan is a humanitarian catastrophe. 

Women’s rights are set to evaporate

Despite claims from their spokesman Suhail Shaheen that there will be a new era of peace and women’s rights will be respected, in reality it appears that women’s rights are set to evaporate. The Taliban have repeatedly broken such promises in the past and history seems to be repeating itself. There are reports that women have been turned away from their jobs and universities and girls as young as 12 have been kidnapped to become wives. Adverts using pictures of women have already been painted over.

Social media is now flooded with stories of those trapped in Afghanistan. A journalist with RFERL Afghanistan has been posting regular updates on Twitter about the situation in Kabul under the name Mustafa 47 (@CombatJourno). He tweeted that he was “helplessly stuck in Kabul” with his wife and 11-month-old daughter. Thousands of others, like him, are now in real danger. An article published in The Guardian last week detailed the plight of a female journalist on the run: “Last week I was a journalist, this week I cannot write my name.” 

As I am writing this article, I am watching footage of the chaos at Kabul airport where people are clinging to moving aircrafts. There are reports of people falling to their deaths from these planes as they take off. They are desperate and who can blame them? 

Ethnic minorities, women, children, those belonging to the LGBTQA+ community, journalists, and former government workers are in a very precarious situation. Their lives are at risk. The entire population faces the return of the Taliban’s brutal interpretation of law and order, with stoning and amputations feared to become commonplace once more. 

The US and the UK have effectively abandoned them

The situation in Afghanistan has shocked the world. The US had advised that Kabul could potentially fall to the Taliban within weeks, not a mere matter of days. The front page of the Daily Mail on Monday read ‘What the hell did they all die for?’ pointing to the 457 British lives lost during the 20-year conflict. This is a question many will ask as scrutiny of Boris Johnson and Joe Biden grows. The Republicans have scrambled to erase Donald Trump’s role in the crisis. However, his deals with the Taliban, which led to the release of the person who now leads the Taliban in Afghanistan, as well as the initial commitment to withdraw troops, also deserve scrutiny. The rest of the world can do little but watch, fearing for a population, with the knowledge that the US and the UK have effectively abandoned them. 

A refugee crisis is now inevitable, and it is a reality that should not be judged. Being born in a safe country is down to luck and luck alone. Most of the West will never know what it is like to live in a war zone constantly fearing for your life, to be denied education, and to be subject to a regime where the slightest indiscretion can lead to brutal punishment.

According to the UN, 400,000 people have fled Afghanistan this year, with 250,000 people having fled since May. In the coming months, it is probable this number will skyrocket. 

What is really needed is for the UK to commit to safe and legal routes from Afghanistan to get to the UK and claim asylum

When asked about the situation in Afghanistan and the impact this will have on refugees in an interview with Sky , former Secretary of State for International Development Rory Stewart responded that the UK has an obligation to help and that we “ought to, because this is our fault”. He is right. Experts have stated that the Taliban are more powerful now than they were when US and UK forces entered Afghanistan 20 years ago. 

Just days before Kabul fell, the Foreign Office blocked visas to travel to the UK to take up their Chevening scholarships, initially stating they were delaying the programme for a year after not being able to administer visas as the embassy in Kabul was being evacuated. With fears that these students may become targets for the Taliban, it has been pointed out that there is no guarantee that these students would ever be allowed out of the country or will even be alive next year. After outrage concerning this, Boris Johnson has intervened to try and solve the visa issue, however, it still may be too late. 

Following this, reports say that the Home Office was initially reluctant to grant those fleeing the Taliban asylum, in case it sends out a message to other refugees. If true, this is unfathomable, as the global asylum system is designed for situations like this: people fleeing a country where their life is under threat. Whilst the UK has now committed to accepting 20,000 Afghan refugees, what is really needed is for the UK to commit to safe and legal routes for refugees from Afghanistan to get to the UK and claim asylum. 

Some will argue it is not our duty to take in refugees from Afghanistan, and that closer countries should instead. I disagree. As Stewart highlighted, this is our fault; the speed at which the Taliban managed to reassert control in Afghanistan should be seen as a foreign policy failure of the US and UK since they led both the invasion and the withdrawal. The UK and US have benefited from the help of the Afghan population, and we cannot now abandon them when they need our help. While neighbouring countries are accepting refugees, with Pakistan offering emergency visas, they cannot take everyone. Western countries should commit to a fair burden-sharing arrangement.

The international community has failed in humanitarian crises before, and Afghanistan’s population deserves more. They deserve our help. Their government cannot protect them, and Taliban rule poses a danger to millions. 

Image: United Nations Photo via Flickr

2 thoughts on “Pawns in someone else’s war: a humanitarian catastrophe awaits the population of Afghanistan

  • This terrible betrayal of the Afghan people might still be averted. The country that used to be known as Great Britain is still the fifth largest economy in the world. It has the resources to take on the Taliban and stop them. Right now. Sadly the Prime Minister has no stomach for a fight and no discernible moral compass. The suffering of women and children does not concern him ( look at his own family) and he is content to sit and wring his hands like the feckless liberal he is. But he does not represent the spirit of the people of this country. What this boils down to is China gaining access to mineral resources, courtesy of a deal done with Pakistan, brokered in Qatar. These barbarians want to sell us Lithium batteries to save the planet and Bojo wants to be part of that brave green world🤮. It is all for the best, in the best of all possible worlds.


    And that too – so fast ?

    It is foolish to write them off !

    They have a plan !

    They want to burden the Taliban with running the nation ! It is not the riots and insurrections ! It is food,water,power,education, employment, security of the people ! They surprised Taliban who will take time to set up their team !

    Their aim is to choke the Taliban and make it fall in the lap of PRC and Russia and Pakistan – so that Ghani and Company can gain relevance and possibly lead a return with the ANA ! The US will NOT like the PRC,Russian,Iranian axis via Afghanistan !

    Taliban has to 1st and foremost take care of the basic needs of the people – id.est.,food,water,power,education, employment, security of the people !

    It it fails – the people will insurrect, and the moles and spies embedded in Afghanistan, by the US and Ghani will activate and this time the ANA and other mercenaries will use the cover of the masses to attack the Taliban.

    By quitting, Ghani has also sent a message to the Indian weasels for NOT aiding the ANA – and thus,Ghani blew up the Indian Chabahar and the Indian investments in Afghanistan.

    Ghani and ANA are waiting and watching !

    1st Taliban have to end Corruption
    2nd provide basic amenties – id.est.,food,water,power,education at the lowest cost
    3 rd stabilise the currency

    Ghani and his gang know the nation and its people ! It is easier to start food inflation than to lead an insurrection ! Then Food Inflation will lead to the people’s insurrection and then Ghani and his merry men will come marching in !

    To start with,Taliban should get food aid from PRC and other nations, and ensure that the lowest strata of society, gets every morsel of the food – for free – and that will give them,the permanent anchor ! dindooohindoo


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