“Biden’s Debacle”: The Economist said it all with those words on its cover page headline last week. The Guardian Weekly chimed in with “So Long: The End of the American Century”.
In its editorial, The Economist said:
“If the propagandists of the Taliban had scripted the collapse of the 20-year mission to reshape Afghanistan , they could not have come up with more harrowing images….Afghans were left in such a horrifying bind that clinging to the wheels of a hurtling aircraft seemed their best option.
“ It is an appalling outcome for Afghanistan’s 39m people”.
The fiasco in Afghanistan is a huge and unnecessary blow to America’s standing.
New Zealanders, too, have found the images out of Kabul both shocking, and shattering. They also have been appalled that their “friend”, if not ally, could toss aside so casually its role as the superpower protecting (and projecting) the values of Western democracy.
There has been dismay as well about the failure of the NZ government to bring all those who had supported NZ’s contingent in Afghanistan to safety.
It’s true that the government in Wellington was preoccupied with Covid. Nevertheless it did not react as quickly or decisively as it could, and should, have done.
Last Friday, PM Jacinda Ardern said NZ was ending further flights into Kabul, due to the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks. That announcement followed an attack at the airport on Thursday that killed least 60 Afghans and 13 US soldiers.
Afghan interpreters left behind after New Zealand ceased its mercy flights are shocked and terrified at being stranded, saying it is a “total betrayal” by the NZ government.
Reports are at least 37 translators, interpreters and other people who assisted NZ forces in Afghanistan missed out on being evacuated.
“What will happen to us? To all 37 people who have the visas and have worked directly [for New Zealand]?” one of them was quoted as saying.
It is a tragic postscript to NZ’s role in the botched exit.
Until the chaotic and humiliating withdrawal, New Zealanders could take quiet pride in what our soldiers had done, particularly in Bamyan province.
Now they are left to contemplate the fate of those so cast into the shadow of the Taliban —- and perhaps new dangers without the shield they might have thought protected them.