Features Australia

The next Vietnam

Gentlemen, start your helicopter engines...

15 May 2021

9:00 AM

15 May 2021

9:00 AM

ScoMo might as well get on with building the quarantine stations in the desert. Once vaccination has solved our current Covid problems, there is little chance that the accommodation will be empty for long.

In 1973 the US withdrew all its combat forces from Vietnam following the Paris Peace Accord which was sold to the world as an agreement between the governments of South and North Vietnam. The terms of the agreement were broken almost immediately by both sides and, a little over two years later, the world witnessed the unforgettable images of a North Vietnamese tank bursting through the gates of the Presidential palace and helicopters lifting people from the US embassy roof. Over the next two decades 1.6 million South Vietnamese refugees were resettled around the world including the 157,000 who came to Australia.

The biggest foreign policy mistake ever made by the Americans was to get sucked into an unwinnable war in Vietnam. Unfortunately they learned nothing from that disaster and, over the last two decades, have found themselves again embroiled in a war from which they can only extricate themselves with another shonky ‘peace’ agreement.

Trump’s decision to terminate what he called ‘crazy endless wars’ has sealed the fate of the current Afghani government in exactly the same way that the American deal with the North Vietnamese sealed the fate of the South Vietnam government.

On 4 May, President Ashraf Ghani published a state of the nation piece in the US journal Foreign Affairs, setting out his views about the situation in Afghanistan. It was a mixture of braggadocio and forlorn moralising. He claims the Taliban must choose a path and asks, ‘Will they become credible stakeholders, or will they foster more chaos and violence? If the Taliban chooses the latter path, the Afghan Defence Forces will fight them. And if the Taliban still refuse to negotiate, they will be choosing the peace of the grave…. To avoid that fate, they must answer critical questions about their vision for Afghanistan. Will they accept elections, and will they commit to upholding the rights of all Afghans, including girls, women and minorities?’

The Taliban fanatics have repeatedly demonstrated that the grave for them is merely a path to paradise and their leaders have no qualms about helping their troops in that direction.

In the same article President Ghani outlined the conditions for a successful transition to a new government of a united and peaceful Afghanistan. They include international monitoring of a negotiated ceasefire and the establishment of a transitional administration to oversee presidential, parliamentary and local government elections to determine the new government.

He probably could say little else but he surely knows far better than anyone that what is coming to Afghanistan is a horror far worse than that which the Vietcong inflicted on the South Vietnamese. The first signs of the future are already appearing. On 27 October last year thousands of Taliban fighters attacked farms and villages surrounding Kandahar. Regions that had been under government control since 2011 were lost in a matter of days as Afghan troops and police abandoned their posts or were overwhelmed.

The Afghan defence forces are supposed to have 325,000 troops and armed police officers but are operating with approximately 60 per cent of that number due to corruption and attrition. The massacres and atrocities committed by the Taliban during its war with the Northern Alliance from 1996 to 2001 will return and spread panic through the population. The Northern Alliance was made of Tajik, Hazara, Pashtun and Uzbek tribal groups and, with their backs to the wall, they may again be able to slow down the advance of the Taliban but the fate of the central government in Kabul is probably sealed.

In 2008 David Kilcullen, who is recognised around the world as an authority on the Afghan wars, a sort of Henry Kissinger of the new millennium, said, ‘The situation in Afghanistan is dire. But the war is winnable’. Kilcullen outlined his vision of what must happen if the Taliban were to be defeated and, subsequently, very little of the essential elements of his programme were adopted. Whether his strategy would have succeeded we will never know.

Professor Kilcullen now believes that the Afghan government may try to get Turkey or China or possibly even Iran to step into the shoes of the US and Nato forces which are now tiptoeing out the back door. Pakistan, which for two decades has been shamelessly undermining attempts to stabilise Afghanistan, will almost certainly continue to support the various terrorist organisation helping to destroy Afghanistan by allowing them to use Pakistan as a safe haven. Whoever gets involved, Afghanistan will soon resemble the Libyan and Syrian civil wars as the surrounding regional powers including China, Iran, Turkey and India have all offered support to the different warring groups vying for control.

The only thing that can be said with certainty is that things are going to get worse, much worse, and very quickly. Middle-class Afghani parents cashed up due to the trillions of dollars injected by the West will be trying to escape. Those whose daughters have, for the first time, been able to receive an education will not want them to be cast back into the sort of medieval oppression that the Taliban intends to impose upon them.

Afghanistan’s professional elite including journalists and judges are being killed at an even greater rate than Putin can manage. Three female media workers were gunned down in Jalalabad in March  and a prominent television journalist was shot dead last week in Kandahar. A girl’s school was bombed this week in Kabul, killing 68 people. The murders are becoming more frequent and any public figure who criticises the Taliban is signing his or her own death warrant

Unlike the million Rohingya being left to rot in Bangladesh, the Afghanis trying to get out of the Taliban’s grip will not sit quietly waiting for someone to find a solution. The Afghani middle class are cashed up and educated and have strong contacts with relatives around the world who have already escaped. Within the next year or two, hundreds of thousands of Afghanis will be on the move. ScoMo had better make sure that the canteens in the quarantine camps can whip up a decent dish of halal food.

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