Mamdouh al-Muhainy
Mamdouh al-Muhainy is the General Manager of Al Arabiya and Al Hadath.

The US Withdrawal and the Flogging of Afghan Women

The 2001 Afghanistan War had noble aims, like doing away with a mix of savage groups- most prominently Al-Qaeda. The latter was defeated, Afghan society and women were liberated from the worst oppression seen in the 20th century. Among the most shining historical scenes was that of the society being taken from the darkest times to the light. We remember the joyous scenes of life coming back to normal in Kabul, where people were freed and came to wear their favorite clothes, with no one forcing them to grow their beards, and loud music was played.

But, over time, this war turned into an internal political card in the hands of US leaders and members of the congress played to serve mostly domestic objectives. Former US President Barack Obama strove to reduce the large number of troops that had been deployed there as quickly as possible before pulling out completely, but he faced ferocious opposition from the military establishment. President Trump did the same thing, hoping to improve his popularity, which the COVID-19 pandemic had weakened. However, time was not on his side, and he left the White House. Biden recently fulfilled the promises, announcing a complete withdrawal by September.

After Biden’s announcement, a new video began to spread, depicting Taliban members beating a woman, whose entire body is covered by a blue garment, on her back with whips, with none of those present showing any sympathy. This scene is undoubtedly an omen of what is to come in this devastated country, as the Taliban will come back stronger, and more people will be persecuted, especially women. This withdrawal will leave a deep ethical crisis behind it and shake confidence in the civil forces, who are behaving blatantly opportunistically, leaving millions to face the most vicious and barbaric of terrorist groups.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinkin justified the withdrawal from Afghanistan by saying that they would be watching the country via satellite. It is an apologetic way out, but it goes against a well-known fact; in wars against terror, extremist groups should be consistently pressured in their sanctuaries so that they are prevented from implementing large-scale terrorist operations. This is what happened in 2001, when Al-Qaeda perpetrated the 9/11 attacks after it had found sanctuary, gained strength and enhanced its expertise until it could conduct its major attacks on several sites. Surveillance from the skies could not destroy ISIS despite that the group was spread across a large swath of land. Only when it was besieged did they manage to exterminate it.

In all likelihood, the eminent withdrawal will end up being a strategic mistake because terrorist groups will choose, as they always have, far off Afghanistan as their favorite destination for reorganizing their ranks, and the country will serve as a launching pad for future operations. The withdrawal is also a defeat in the eyes of sympathizers, which will accelerate recruitment. In an article published by Foreign Policy, former US National Security Adviser Jon Bolton say that there is a flaw in how the war on terror is thought about, that it is approached shortsightedly. It is an open-ended strategic war with no end that resembles the war on communism, which went on for decades until it was defeated. However, the war on terror has always been under fire from local political players exploiting the frustration that Americans at home feel toward necessary wars in order to enhance their popularity and get reelected. No one talks about bringing the US forces that have been stationed in Germany and South Korea for decades, as this would not yield swift electoral benefits.

The withdrawal is a strategic mistake and an ethical defeat, regardless of the justifications. With the departure of the last of the forces who provided a major service to humanity by defeating Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and killed their leaders, one cannot but imagine the pains of millions of people and the sound of them screaming like that woman as she was being whipped without anyone standing up for her.