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City of Banjul
Saturday, October 16, 2021

Will the Taliban be different-this time?

We will be haunted by the sight of Afghan young men holding on to the fuselage of a plane taxiing down the runway–for the rest of our lives! It is an unmitigated disaster and gut-wrenching to watch! Most of them did not live through a Taliban government in the 1990s, but they hear stories about the Taliban being narrated by their parents and grandparents, who lived under the previous Taliban government (1996-2001). These young men do not want to lose the freedoms they enjoy: access to Facebook, WhatSapp, TikTok, or Snapchat. The perception of an incoming government must be really awful for your citizens to risk their lives, to escape with only the clothes on their back. The Taliban created a climate of fear and dread. They should know that “this genie is out of the bottle: there is no going back” to 1996-2001. Beyond all that—it sent a chilling message to all terrorist groups: if you persevere, you can wear out the U.S.  Government’s patience and get what you want.

I voted for President Biden, and I will vote for him—again–if Donald Trump (a bigot, xenophobe, and racist) is the Republican candidate in 2024. However, his abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan was a mistake. By announcing a timeline for withdrawal, Afghans made a rational decision of “Self-Preservation”.   Why fight the Taliban when the Biden Administration is on its way out? As a result, they surrendered to the Taliban–without a fight. To compound the tragedy, their weapons were handed over to the Taliban, which enhances their fighting capabilities. Being a Super-Power or a Hegemon comes with some responsibilities. It goes back to Alexander the Great’s Greek/Macedon Empire, followed by Rome. During those days the Mediterranean Sea was the centre of the known world; it was called a “Roman Lake”. Their ships plied the waters transporting goods and maintaining security. The British Royal Navy played a similar role in the 19th century.

Without the tenacious pursuit of slave ships in the Atlantic Ocean by the British Royal Navy, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade could have gone on well into the 20th century, by the Spanish & Portuguese who never wanted it to end. As the Hegemon or World’s Super-Power, your Foreign Policy should not be dictated by the fringe elements of your Party, who think every foreign intervention is a bad policy. Investing in Afghanistan’s security is an insurance policy against future terrorist attacks, at home. Further, the progress made in equal freedom for women and girls could be reversed.  International Terrorist groups will now have a safe-Haven in Afghanistan, just as they did in the 1990s.    We are now in the American era. It is in America’s best interest to have troops stationed in different countries, to maintain peace. In July 2021, these were the American troops stationed in the following countries:

Country   —    Troops

Germany —     35, 486

Japan —–        38, 818

Italy —–           12, 088

South Korea—28, 500

Afghanistan —2, 500

For Germany, Japan, and Italy: U.S. troops have been stationed in those countries since 1945; for South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953. On the other hand, US military presence in Afghanistan is 20 years old. At the height of the War on Terror in Afghanistan, the US had tens of thousands of troops in the country; therefore, having 2, 500 troops in Afghanistan to maintain the peace is cheaper than the Taliban turning the country into a potential safe haven for terrorists. The last US troop to have died in Afghanistan, from combat, was in February 2020. Afghanistan will never be a Switzerland on the Hindu Kush mountain range, but having a stable Afghanistan is a worthy investment. Shakespeare said it best: “Uneasy lies the Head, here is the crown”. Being the Super-Power/Hegemon of the world comes with responsibilities, one of which is to maintain peace on the seas and land.

The Biden Administration has the most experienced personnel than any recent new American Administration. Ron Klain, the president’s Chief of Staff was Vice President Biden’s Chief of Staff during the Obama Administration.   Guess what, Ron Klain was former Vice President Al Gore’s Chief of Staff in the Clinton Administration, in the 1990s. Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, was former Vice President Biden’s National Security Adviser, and Deputy Secretary of State in the Obama Administration. Jake Sullivan, the current National Security Adviser, was former Director of Policy Planning, and was Antony Blinken’s successor as former Vice President Biden’s National Security Adviser, in the Obama Administration. I can go on—and on–and on! As you can see, the senior officials in the Biden Administration were not picked off the street and given these high profile positions. To top it all, President Biden has been in the Senate for 36 years and as Vice President for 8 years.  One truism we can draw from this: familiarity bias (or Nepotism) is Human and is practiced by all Humans. The downside is you normally do not have the best personnel in positions of power. If there is any silver lining in this debacle: Humans are fallible and are likely to make mistakes, as long as they are alive.

However, it is disingenuous for Republicans to call for President Biden’s resignation, after the death of 13 service men/women in Afghanistan. On October 23rd, 1983, 241 US Marines and 58 French service men/women died in Beirut, when a suicide bomber attacked their barracks. The incident precipitated the withdrawal of American troops from Lebanon, but President Reagan did not resign.

When a Super-Power turns a blind eye to an unlawful takeover of a government, innocent people suffer. As Gambians, we know a thing or two about that! On the day of the July 22nd, 1994 Coup in the Gambia, the U.S. Navy had a planned joint exercise with the Gambian military. This was just 3 months after a dead U.S. soldier was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia. After that incident, America had no appetite for intervening on behalf of the legitimate government of Sir Dawda. Consequently, Gambians paid a huge price: summary executions, unlawful imprisonments, disappearances, maiming, and involuntary exiles. The American War Ship could have easily suppressed the Coup and thousands of Gambian lives could have been saved and hundreds of millions of dollars. Remember, according to the Panama Papers, Amadou Samba had an account worth 990 million US dollars. That was almost equal to the Gambia’s GDP in 2016 (1, 017 million US dollars). How many hospitals, schools, and roads could have been built with that kind of money?

We dodged the bullet in the 1981 coup attempt of Kukoi, when the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union was at its peak. During the Coup attempt, British trained forces at the Farafenni Barracks sneaked into Banjul to bolster the number of loyalist forces at the Police Station. The late Momodou Njie, brother of Ndow Njie, former head of the Army and diplomat, played a crucial role in holding the line of defence, till the Senegalese forces arrived. The U.S. Embassy, located at the old GUC building on Buckle Street, used their communication system to let the loyalist forces communicate with Sir Dawda, after the rebels cut off the lines of communication. We were not so lucky in 1994!

On a more serious note—as Muslims we need to ask ourselves the tough question: How did we get to a point where we produce the Taliban, Bokaham, or ISIS, who deny women/girls their basic fundamental Rights? Women and girls had more rights and freedoms during the days of the Prophet Mohammed, in the 7th century, than they have in some majority Muslim countries, in the 21st century.

It is [utterly] Insane! The Prophet Mohammed was an employee of his first wife, Khadija, who was 15 years his senior. Women generally make up 51-54% of the population of countries. In this cut-throat world of competition for technical knowledge, no country has the luxury of disenfranchising half of its population. People who are denied a “Sense of Belonging” and feel being discriminated, will never perform at their optimum   in national development. Unfortunately, the Taliban are not the only majority Muslim government that denies women/girls their inherent right of freedom and access to quality education. That is Regressive—Not Progressive!

The Islamic World was the incubator of Classical Knowledge of Greece & Rome, after the fall of the western half of the Roman Empire, on September 4th, 476AD. How did we transition from producing the likes of Al Khwarizmi, who perfected Algebra and lived in Baghdad (AD780—850) and is considered to be the founder of modern Algebra–the origins of the mathematics that underpin the Science of computing, flight, and all High Tech; and the differential Calculus founded by Sir Isaac Newton and the German mathematician, Wilheim Leibniz–to producing the Taliban, Bokoharam, or ISIS?  In fact, the word Algebra is derived from his book titled “Hijab Al-jabr”. Al Khwarizmi is also the founder of “”algorithm”.

Some historians mark the sacking and burning of Baghdad, on February 10th, 1258, by Hulagu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, as the starting point of decline of the Muslim world. Baghdad was the centre of learning in the Muslim World. As for the origins of Radical Islamists, like the Taliban, Boko Haram, or ISIS, some Historians trace it to the union between Mohammed Ibn Saud and Mohammed Ibn Wahab, in 1744, in the Arabian Peninsula. The former is the founder of the first Saudi State, and the latter is the founder of Wahabism, a very conservative branch of Sunni Islam.

The Taliban’s closest allies, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Pakistan should rein in the Taliban to protect women/girls’ rights. Therefore, it is incumbent upon these countries to ensure that the progress made in Afghanistan for women/girls is not reversed.

Though glacial, Mohammed Bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, has instituted much needed changes to Saudi society. The Muslim world takes a lot of its cues from Saudi Arabia, being the custodian of 2 of its holiest sites, and the most influential.

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