Shepparton News

Heartbreak as Taliban takes over Afghanista­n

- DARREN LINTON ● Darren Linton is chief correspond­ent at The News.

Your heart breaks watching the events unfolding in Afghanista­n and reading the response of our Afghan community, many of whom still have relatives and friends in their home country.

The swift rise of the Taliban following the equally quick withdrawal of American troops is a tragedy for the country.

Academics, military strategist­s and historians will rake over the coals of the past 20 years to determine where it all went wrong, but for the rest of us, the tears we shed are for the future.

Those who will suffer most are women and girls.

Throughout a bogus peace process, the Taliban leaders have promoted themselves as somehow more wholesome, but there are already reports from the provinces of their followers enforcing the wearing of the burka and pulling girls out of school.

I have no objection to wearing a garment that aligns with religious beliefs, but it must be a personal decision and not enforced.

To deny identity, education and the fundamenta­l freedom to choose one’s own destiny is nothing more than subjugatio­n.

It is gender slavery, and it has no place in any society.

The Taliban retreated to the caves in the border region of Afghanista­n and Pakistan’s badlands, where they waited patiently for the opportunit­y to rise again.

They have clearly spent some of that time working on their public relations. But have they changed? Would you try to cling to the side of a military transport plane as it took off if you thought there was any chance of a more reasoned, less dangerous Taliban? I think not. Reprisals, retributio­n, summary executions, fear and oppression are the stock in trade of the Taliban.

We are right to shed tears for the Afghan people who are left to deal with the consequenc­es.

Twenty years ago, I covered the start of the Afghanista­n war from the United States while also flying to New York to report on a city still reeling from the horror of the 9/11 attacks.

When the war started, there was a clear goal: to root out terrorists who had used the country as a base and to install a government that would keep them out.

The long insurgency kept the battle going through ‘‘fighting season’’, as the commitment of coalition forces, including Australia, extended to two decades.

As Prime Minister Scott Morrison put it, blood and treasure were spent building the Afghan government’s capacity, military and police.

It all collapsed in a matter of days after the withdrawal, and US President Joe Biden is now turning to diplomacy and economic power to have an impact.

After the evacuation of diplomats and foreign workers, there will be no more boots on the ground, just blood and tears. It breaks your heart.

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 ??  ?? New reality: Kabul has fallen and Afghanista­n is back in the hands of the Taliban.
New reality: Kabul has fallen and Afghanista­n is back in the hands of the Taliban.

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