politics

'Afghanistan is a nightmare – a colossal failure that will spark many more'


During a press conference on Thursday night, US President Joe Biden talked about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and said the Taliban are ‘not good guys’

Joe Biden cartoon
Joe Biden has been widely condemned for his handling of the Afghanistan exit

The President of the United States, leader of the Free World, Commander-in-Chief, responded to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan in the full glare of the world’s media, saying: “They’re not good guys, the Taliban.”

It was a highlight of an altogether stunning press conference on Thursday night, stunning for all the wrong ­reasons.

While I’m predisposed not to have a go at Biden – he is in a different class to the previous incumbent – you can’t help feeling let down.

I suppose, to be fair to the President, it’s very hard to articulate the sheer horror of what’s going on.

This is a mess. Beyond a mess, in fact. The bomb blasts and violence and death at the airport are one thing, but what’s coming next is almost unimaginable.








Members of the British and US Armed Forces working at Kabul Airport
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Image:

MOD/AFP via Getty Images)



There’s all sorts of geopolitical grand strategy at play here, The Great Game and all that, which I could run through with you here but it’s probably easier just to look at a map.

Afghanistan has long borders with Iran, Pakistan, and those central Asian countries that are really hard to spell and that the Russians can get in and out of at will.

It also has a tiny little border with China that is going to be – and I ­confidently predict this – ­massive ­trouble in the near future.

It is a strategically vital area. You can see why people have been so keen to conquer and occupy this country for such a long time.








Joe Biden spoke about the situation in Kabul on Thursday
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Image:

Getty Images)



But these attempts are always unsuccessful – everyone has had a go down the centuries – and the Americans and NATO forces being kicked out is par for the course.

This whole thing has been a failure, and the repercussions are going to be seismic.

The knock-on effect will be a softer policy among the US and NATO to get involved in the world’s trouble spots.

On one hand, that’s sensible. I can’t think of any intervention that has really worked out for the West lately.








Civilians hoping to leave Afghanistan walk to the main entrance gate of Kabul airport
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Image:

AFP via Getty Images)



But on the other hand, there are vast swathes of the world that are falling into darkness, and until we work out a way to stabilise and influence these areas, we are helpless.

For example, in the countries south of the Sahara – the Sahel – governments are collapsing and Islamic State is ­moving in.

It is a long way away, but we will feel the repercussions here shortly.

As the author Tim Marshall says: “What happens in the Sahel, does not stay in the Sahel.” (Tim is a geopolitics genius and a Leeds United supporter. Truly the expert’s expert.) We are ­storing up a world of trouble.





I apologise for being so downbeat. The sun is out, after all, and all these places are so very far away.

Yet I can’t help it. Afghanistan is a nightmare. A colossal failure that will spark many more.

It’s fallen to a set of people who have ­hoodwinked the West into believing they’ve changed.

But yesterday my colleague spoke to a woman 200 miles north of Kabul, in a city where the Taliban are in charge.

This woman, Siddiqi, now lives in fear. She daren’t open the door, the family is running out of food, they burned down her husband’s business.

If Siddiqi goes outside she will be, at the very least, beaten.

She was a primary school teacher. These are not good guys.





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