The way they leave

An American friend — let’s call him Fred — has visited Afghanistan, where I met him. He has written a book about the aftermath of American occupations and invasions, and, astoundingly, had this to say:

"The speed of the collapse was astounding and what matters now is there is a highly professional and seemingly successful evacuation of tens of thousands without ONE (1) American fatality... this may turn out to be the most successful withdrawal with hostile forces occupying the country in American military history."

Fred, I'm sending you an invite to a private support group of 1.4k people who are Afghans and internationals who have worked there and who, to a person, would tell you this has been a most appallingly badly mishandled evacuation. They are working day and night to get to support terrified Afghans work out what the hell to do.

Didn't you see the uncontrolled invasion of the airport with Afghans clinging to the outside of planes? Of women throwing children over blast walls?

Nobody secured the airport. There are no safe routes to the airport or into the airport.

Even now there are Afghans with all the paperwork and flights waiting for them, who can't get into the airport. Right this minute. There have been planes leaving half empty.

Pakistan keeps opening and closing the land border. Iran has it closed most of the time. There is zero information.

The US has announced it will take no more Afghan nationals. Soldiers from other countries are seemingly unofficially applying the same rule - so people we are supporting are camped outside Abbey Gate, because they have Australian visas, but not Australian passports.

Like, what the fuck?! On what planet is this a professional evacuation?!

The TB made a deal that no one would be stopped from leaving. That the US has until the 31st. Its a deal, so of course there hasn't been US deaths. However, added to the US now refusing to take Afghan nationals, the TB have announced that Afghans won't be allowed to leave. And, previous to that, were harassing and stopping people anyway.

Also, the US has to get its own troops out by the hard deadline of the 31st. An aviation expert estimated that at around 40 flights. So count that back.

Evacuation for Afghan civilians has effectively stopped.

We can both list the groups of people who are now terrified. We both know that house to house searches have started. Female civil servants have been told not to turn up to work. Female journalists have been told to stop working. Both ominous signs about the Taliban leaderships promises about women's rights. Videos of the lashings in the street are being shared.

The 2001 rerun has started. But this time with the Haqqani network tipped to head up the security services, which is a terrifying thought.

Fred, it worries me that a writer and journalist like yourself can see this as anything other than a disaster. This is Saigon. This is Partition. This is Palestine, Cyprus. As always, it's the manner of leaving that is the final shot to the head of the colonial project. This is no better.


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Ben Bruges

Ben Bruges


“Read widely and speak what you know” — I’ll try, but rarely follow good advice. Here for social use, not social abuse; inclusion not elitism; desire not duty.