The shape of things to come
Review recommends PNG become Christian state

The Afghanistan disaster, Russia & China

China was one of the first countries to recognise the Taliban's Islamic government In Afghanistan. "We respect the people's decision," said a spokesman

| John Menadue’s Pearls & Irritations

CANBERRA - The fall of the Ashraf Ghani regime in Kabul came very suddenly but was entirely predictable.

Neighbouring great powers China and Russia had been quietly preparing for this expected outcome for months.

Russia has in practical ways been reaffirming its reliable security obligations to the ‘Stans’ on Afghanistan’s northern border and has doubtless engaged in informal diplomacy with Taliban contacts.

Those contacts can be formalised now the Taliban is in effective control of all Afghanistan territory.

China has offered substantial economic help through the Belt and Road Initiative to the Taliban, with the quid pro quo that the Taliban will not support any Islamist insurgencies in the Xinjiang province of China.

Relations between the Taliban government in Afghanistan and the Russian and Chinese governments will be based on mutual respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Afghanistan’s economic and social reconstruction could be swift, provided it is not handicapped by continuing Western interventions.

There are some angry and vengeful voices in the Five Eyes strategic community already calling for continuing American drone and bomber-launched missile attacks on Afghanistan cities from the air.

No military purpose would be served now by such prolongation of hostilities and I hope that President Biden would firmly veto any such pointless aggression which could only be driven by spite and wounded pride.

What kind of rule will this second Taliban government offer?   

As the well-informed Pepe Escobar suggests, there are some grounds for hope that it will be somewhat more respectful of women’s rights and of social and ethnic diversity than the first Taliban regime which ended 20 years ago under overwhelming American military pressure with Pakistan then a powerless and passive spectator.

This time around, neighbours Iran and Pakistan, quietly backed by Russia and China, will help to back up Afghanistan’s sovereignty.

The new government in Kabul, feeling under much less Western pressure than 20 years ago, will probably seek to moderate its religious and social policies, taking into account also of the way Afghan society has evolved over the past 20 years especially in respect of the role and rights of women.

I expect that after some declaratory and symbolic politics, Afghanistan may well settle into a relatively moderate and modernising government where social issues are concerned, using as models its neighbours Iran and Pakistan.

There will continue to be a revered religious leader backing up a team of more ‘secular’ Taliban leaders. As in Iran.

An urgent national priority should be to stamp out the very profitable opium trade and the corruption and abuse of power this trade fosters. The Taliban has said it is determined to do this. We shall see.

Obviously, the transition will be painful and frightening for many vulnerable Afghanis: I hope the Taliban can be believed when it says it will not pursue old scores against Afghans who worked with the Western military presence. This will become, one hopes, a time for national reconciliation.

For Australian official foreign and strategic policy, it is a bitter moment.

There was full bipartisan domestic support for our involvement in the 20-year war. All sides of politics rightly grieved our war dead. All sides felt the shame of elements of our SAS going off the rails.

There was general understanding, not said publicly, that Australia had to take part in this often unsavoury war to pay our dues as a junior alliance partner of the US.

So mainstream Australia will now take part in the orgy of recrimination and finger-pointing that will inevitably follow this ignominious rout.

These two decades of war, saw Australian defence industries becoming fully integrated into the US military-industrial complex, whose economic interests as arms manufacturers and war planners nurtured the conflict.

Both in the US and here in Australia, these drivers of US disasters will continue to thrive into the future … military, business, security agencies, think tanks and the media.

There is little sign that these drivers will learn any lessons.

Saigon and Kabul tell the same story. The ‘indispensable nation’ still believes in its exceptionalism, and Australia as a dependent and compliant ally remains caught in the American mire.

Tony Kevin is a former Australian ambassador to Poland and Cambodia, an Emeritus Fellow at the Australian National University and the author of Return to Moscow’


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Chris Overland

Martin Hadlow's comments are both informed and pertinent.

There has been quite hysterical commentary in the media about the sudden collapse of the Afghan government and of the USA's precipitous and badly planned withdrawal.

Certainly, US prestige has taken a serious hit as a consequence of the disaster: their attempt to transplant democracy in Afghanistan has manifestly failed.

Unlike many, perhaps most, I do not see these events as reflecting a military failure. It was always the case that the Pentagon knew that they could not eradicate the Taliban by military means alone and they would certainly have told the politicians this.

A necessary precondition for success was that the Afghans themselves were ready and willing to do the hard and dangerous fighting required to subdue them.

As it turns out, notwithstanding intensive training and the provision of huge amounts of resources, they weren't up to this task.

I think that the main reason for this was not a lack of knowledge, courage or intelligence. Rather, it was because the Afghan government that they were expected to fight for was venal, corrupt and incompetent and never won the proverbial 'hearts and minds' of the people.

Also, I expect that history will show that shadowy figures in places like Pakistan, Iran, Russia and even China made surreptious contributions towards sustaining the Taliban.

While there are parallels that can be drawn with the Vietnam war, it is unwise to extrapolate too much from this fact.

As a fighting machine the USA military remains without peer. It is immensely powerful.

However, the US political structure and system is a complete mess, hopelessly divided on a range of issues and struggling to cope with the relentless demographic and other changes now going on in its socio-economic structure.

This process is so fraught because it involves complex and difficult issues around matters like gender, identity, ethnicity, economics and that old favourite, religion.

While the world's authoritarian powers will draw comfort from all this, they too should beware the tides of history.

Authoritarian regimes have a very poor record surviving as viable political structures in the long term and, all to frequently, hubris and ambition has proved to be their underdoing.

The world is changing before our eyes but it would be a dangerous folly to assume that anyone can accurately foresee what might emerge from today's turmoil.

Martin Hadlow

After living and working for long periods in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, I align myself with those who would consider themselves 'professional optimists.'

However, even my optimism was tempered when I read this author's view of the Taliban and how it operates.

I spent almost three years in Afghanistan heading a UN agency involved in rebuilding the nation's educational base, in supporting the country's cultural efforts (museums etc), along with establishing a free press.

I arrived in Kabul in November 2001, just a few months after 9/11, so am aware of what the Taliban left behind.

I met the women school teachers who had courageously taught in clandestine 'home' teaching environments, only to be dragged out by Taliban thugs, beaten and thrown into prison.

I saw the Gandhara artifacts and other treasures which had been smashed to pieces with metal bars in the country's museums.

I walked the ground around the Bamiyan statues, those 6th century structures that were so cruelly destroyed by the Taliban, and I supported the male and female journalists and producers who had been barred from any kind of work, given that the press was outlawed.

This week, Radio Television Afghanistan, the national broadcaster, dropped all popular music broadcasts and changed its name back to Voice of Sharia. Does that give a hint of future developments?

While I fully respect the author's opinion, he might wish to reflect on his view that, "Afghanistan may well settle into a relatively moderate and modernising Government..."

For me, this was the first time I have ever seen the words 'moderate' and 'modernising' used in the context of the Taliban.

The other comment about "...a team of more secular Taliban leaders" also completely misjudges this body of zealots. A true oxymoron. And to add the rider " in Iran" is simply astonishing.

To also read that "Pakistan was a powerless and passive spectator" after the US intervention/invasion certainly gave many of us a chuckle.

The Taliban emerged in
northern Pakistan in the 1990s and reports from the streets of Kabul this week indicate Afghans are hearing Taliban fighters speaking Pashto with Pakistani accents. Just a coincidence, I would imagine.

I'm very pleased to see that the author promotes the stamping out, by the Taliban, of the "very profitable opium trade." Absolutely.

However, it makes us all wonder who, then, was countenancing the trade when the Taliban was in total control of the country from 1996 to 2001.

"Saigon and Kabul tell the same story". No they don't. But that's for discussion another day.

One small aside for the author's attention: the citizens of Afghanistan are not Afghanis. They are Afghans. The currency is called the Afghani.

I remain hopeful and 'professionally optimistic', but I'm a realist. With Afghans being executed on the streets, gangs going from house to house in search of former government employees, and women forced from offices and schools, the starting point is not looking good.

When I arrived in Kabul in 2001, there was a well-known saying circulating that 'NATO has a clock, the Taliban has the time'.

It proved to be true.

Arthur Williams

I have seen and heard several Taliban spokesmen give interviews since last Sunday's collapse of the Afghan government.

These men have told the world media that Taliban#2 is different from Taliban#1, so women should not be afraid, education for girls can continue at least until they reach puberty.

They have also said there will be amnesties for some but Sharia Law will guide the second attempt to establish a Taliban nation. Even the Pope expressed optimism.

What a good thing for the Afghan people such a freer society would be.

One fact about Islam is worth noting in this context. In all media pundits' explanations, prophecies and dreams there is no mention of the Shia Muslim code of Taqiyya (Sunni's Muda'rat).

These teachings of the Prophet (you can find them at say lying is forbidden in Islam, except for three exceptions.

It is only under three specific circumstances in which a Muslim is allowed to lie, not like the Christian trying to make it seem 'Muslims are always allowed to lie'.

One tenet in the Taqiyya cod. struck me as particularly pertinent at this time.

Quran (3:28) instructs believers not to take those outside the faith as friends, unless it is to guard themselves against danger, meaning there are times when a Muslim may appear friendly to non-Muslims, even though they should not feel friendly.

I wonder if, as Tony claims, “China has offered substantial economic help through the Belt and Road Initiative to the Taliban, with the quid pro quo that the Taliban will not support any Islamist insurgencies in the Xinjiang province of China.”

This is another historic Hudaibiya or Taqiyya moment. Mind you, China's skills at diplomacy have been honed for many thousands of years even before the Abrahamic religions appeared in the world.

Lindsay F Bond

In relation to external input on what has developed as the nation called Papua New Guinea, Peter Kranz wrote on 7 May 2021, an introductory summation:

There may emerge a similar listing of inputs and beneficial outcomes in respect of Afghanistan over two decades and in which the mention of armament and military prowess is lower in order.

Peter had written:

To play devil's advocate for a moment. What have the missionaries ever done for us? Well apart from....
Medicine and health clinics
Aviation services to remote areas
Working to end sorcery violence
Helping the sick
Doctors and nurses
Translation across more than 800 languages
Protecting abused women
Supporting orphans
Introducing human rights
Feeding the hungry in times of need
Emergency relief

Yes, but apart from all that, what have the missionaries ever done for us?

[Posted by Peter Kranz on 7 May 2021 at 3am ]

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