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The Ambassadors of the Night and the Keys to the Capital

The Ambassadors of the Night and the Keys to the Capital

Monday, 16 August, 2021 - 09:15
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

If you read a novel that ends with the return of the Taliban to the streets of Kabul, you would perhaps say that it is funny and strange. Maybe you would accuse the author of exaggeration and searching for the impossible and unacceptable. You may rub your eyes to make sure what you read is true.


It is not easy for history to go backwards like this and for the developments to overturn the effects of a river of blood and billions of dollars shed to uproot the regime that hosted al-Qaeda and allowed it to launch attacks on American soil.


Do not rush to say that the writer has a sick imagination or is a liar, as is the case with the most brilliant novelists. Calm down and drink the poison slowly. This world is worse and harsher than we believed. It is a criminal with a forgetful memory.


Apologize to the author whom you brutally criticized. Here are the images that confirm what he wrote.


Believe it or not, US intelligence said Kabul is threatened to fall within three months. Afghanistan is more complex than the CIA computers. In less than a week, Taliban militants stood at the gates of the city, which rushed to negotiate to hand over the keys.


There was no reason to believe that the Taliban was an exotic plant that the US military presence had succeeded in uprooting and changing the soil that gave birth to it. But there were those who thought that the danger of the movement would be controlled, delayed, or confined to a period of time in the countryside.


It was hard to believe that history’s most advanced military machine could be so wrong and to bank on such a fragile structure, as if it just wanted an excuse to leave and for the scene to turn to hell after its departure.


How would you feel if the writer had written in the last page of his novel that the new Taliban leadership would return to play old tunes? That it hosted a new generation of al-Qaeda, who are preparing to set fire to the American fabric again, and perhaps go again to the same US soil?


You will obviously angrily close the book and refuse to read anything else by the same author who is trying to poison your life. I advise you to wait, although it is difficult to imagine the same woes being repeated in the same manner.


You don’t want to believe that history goes backwards. You were spoiled by the news of scientific development, modern freedoms, humanitarian organizations and human rights. That is why you have started to rule out that a large country would surrender to those whose dealings with the rights of women and minorities are well-known, without forgetting the majority itself and what it will suffer at their hands.


You have the right to be afraid. The most dangerous scenario is handing over the keys to a movement that considers itself entrusted with a single version of the truth and that it is authorized to impose it on others. A movement that believes in the right to eliminate those who do not share the same ideas. It’s not only about the Taliban, but concerns all groups that allow killing in the name of a mandate that does not tolerate change or discussion.


It is a cultural tragedy before being a political one. The right to impose a uniform and build the future with stones of fear, fences, knives, and nooses around the necks.


It was not difficult to predict the failure of the American Afghanistan, but it was unconceivable to anticipate the return of the Taliban Afghanistan. Personally, I didn’t have the same imagination as the author of the novel. I had heard some words, which I considered unjustified complaints and an excuse for abandoning one’s homeland.


In September 2015, I was standing in front of the refugee registration center in Berlin. I was caught by a young man who had hidden his face and turned away when he heard me ask the Syrians about the cruelty of the journey that took them to Angela Merkel’s country. I noticed that he did not have Arab features, so I decided to approach him. He apologized with a hand gesture, but I practiced what I had learned in the profession of annoyance and insistence, so he spoke.


The young man, in his late twenties, said that he was an Afghan and had nothing to do with Syria. He took advantage of the influx of Syrian refugees and joined them in the hope of crossing the border with the crowds, and this is what happened.


He said he was a teacher and went through a difficult journey after concluding that staying in Afghanistan was a form of death. I retorted that the US military presence had created a state of relative stability and that there were attempts to build institutions.


He replied: “Believe me; Americans are strangers and do not know Afghanistan. Centuries separate us. They control the skies with their modern planes, but the ground is closer to the Taliban. Taliban militants are the people of the country and are good at controlling this difficult environment. The religious factor is not simple, although many are certain that some militants are involved in smuggling opium and others. Just looking at American soldiers in the streets helps you understand that they are strangers from another planet waiting to leave. America from above and the Taliban from below. I am convinced that many of those working in the apparatus do not want to stand up to the Taliban or think that they cannot.”


He continued: “I don’t want to die there or live a life that resembles death because of poverty, fanaticism and a lack of opportunity… The future is uncertain. Afghans do not like foreigners, especially if they enter their country victoriously. Afghans fail in managing their country’s affairs. War is a way of life, as is smuggling and ethnic and sectarian loyalties. I have had enough with the warlords, the Taliban, and the corrupt movements that American forces cannot guard forever.”


Much will be written about the US withdrawal from Kabul, which is reminiscent of the exit from Saigon, despite the differences in geography. Much will be written about the Taliban bomb that has been passed to the hands of neighboring countries. Blood will flow in the game of pawns on this booby-trapped board. The Afghan file will be of concern to the neighboring countries and present on the table of the major stakeholders in the conflicts and rivalries of this difficult part of Asia.


The ambassadors of the night came back and stood on the ramparts, waiting to receive the keys to the capital. It was not long before the keys fell into the hands of the Taliban. The President fled and the movement invaded the palace.


American ambition was limited to a safe evacuation. They packed their luggage with the flag. It was a day of many implications and opened the door to interpretations and disappointments.


Afghanistan has again fallen under the mantle of the Taliban. The country, which sparked the 9/11 attacks and ignited two very costly US adventures, will now endure a long night.


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