UNDERSTANDABLY, the focus of people in the west on the exit from Afghanistan has been on the human catastrophe about to be visited upon those there who want to live in the 21st century and not the seventh century, especially women.
There are other, wider, profound consequences: in the sphere of geopolitics the Afghanistan disaster is America’s Suez moment.
Like the British in 1956, the hegemony that America thought it could exercise and the power it thought it had, have been laid bare in all their limitations for the world to see, and learn from.
This is a seminal moment in world politics. An imperial power has been humbled, and its grip on great regions of the world seriously diminished.
It is something that calls for policy re-assessment by all those western states who previously hitched themselves to the American wagon.
It would be wise for the UK Government to now re-assess its junior-status relationship with the United States (which reduced our defence secretary to impotent tears) and for other Nato members to question whether they will ever again activate Article 5 of the Nato treaty if the US is once more attacked by a non-state entity.
But even more important for the future will be the policy reactions of South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Australia and New Zealand – US allies – and its adversaries in the Indo-Pacific region, where the democracies have come under pressure from China.
Fundamentally, the question now for those allied to the USA is whether they can rely upon its assurances when, as President Biden, in an echo of his predecessor, described the decision to quit Afghanistan as one based solely on the interests of the United States.
There is also, of course, the added problem for every UN state, that the defeat and humiliation of the United States makes this multi-polar world much more difficult to manage.
Jim Sillars, Edinburgh.
AFGHAN ARMY’S LACK OF WILL TO FIGHT
PRESIDENT Biden has every right to lambast the Afghans for standing aside and letting the Taliban walk in to power with no resistance whatsoever.
It must be said: the Afghanistan military were provided with decades of training and were 300,000 strong and better armed and equipped than any possible opponent.
The truth is that the many thousands of western soldiers involved over the decades could not possibly have remained there permanently. On that, President Biden is also spot on.
All that appears to have been lacking with the Afghan army was the will to fight. It seems they were prepared to fight the Taliban until the last western soldier died.
Alexander McKay, Edinburgh.
BIDEN’S AFGHAN EXIT ‘A DISASTER’
THE way in which President Biden ordered the exit from Afghanistan has been a disaster.
In his speech to the American people he explained how the Afghan army had been made strong by American money and training.
Now the advanced weapons which the US supplied have been taken over by the Taliban, making them stronger than ever before.These weapons will eventually be used against the west.
The BBC’s highly respected security correspondent, Frank Gardner, has said that the humiliating departure of western forces is “a massive morale boost to anti-western Jihadis all over the world”.
The claim by the Taliban on social media that they are a new, caring version is risible.
Why should Facebook and Twitter allow them on their platforms anyway? One of their spokesmen has 320,000 Twitter followers, the same Twitter organisation that has banned the 45th president of the United States.
William Loneskie, Lauder.
BRITAIN CANNOT AFFORD TO GIVE AID
ON BBC Radio 4 yesterday morning, Dominic Raab – secretary of state for everything, including foreign aid – suggested that we must continue our financial aid to Afghanistan, and even increase it by 10 per cent.
Quite apart from the fact that this would simply be a gift to the new Taliban regime, does he not understand that Britain has a deficit economy, with debts of about £2.3 trillion?
We do not have any money, so all foreign aid has to be borrowed at interest, and simply increases our debt.
I am tired of listening to the mindless pontificators – many of them government ministers – with their lunatic proposals that will only cost so many million of pounds here or so many trillion of pounds there.
What does one have to do to promulgate the simple fact that Britain has no money, and very soon our ability to borrow more to simply keep going will run out?
Malcolm Parkin, Kinross.
READ THE SMALL PRINT IN FM’S REFUGEES OFFER
ONCE again Nicola Sturgeon is intent in making headlines without seemingly thinking things through, but of course she knows exactly what she is doing.
She knows her very humanitarian offer to take Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban is unrealistic but she also knows that it will impress her followers who are not interested in the small print.
Scotland undoubtedly needs immigrants for the labour force and the overall good of the country, but their entry must be subject to scrutiny. I suspect that if Scotland was only 26 miles from the French coast she would be a bit more measured with her comments.
W. MacIntyre, East Kilbride.
CHARITY MUST BEGIN AT HOME
ACCORDING to Nicola Sturgeon Scotland welcomes refugees and will do all it can to accept refugees from Afghanistan as the Taliban take control of the country.
May I remind her that Scotland’s homelessness has increased every year for the last 14 years of SNP minority government. She should be more concerned in tackling the country’s thousands of homeless families before taking in more refugees. Charity begins at home.
Dennis Forbes Grattan, Aberdeen.
TALIBAN MAY WELL BE PRAGMATIC
IT would be a good idea to wait to see how the Taliban get down to governing Afghanistan before we start fearing that they would willingly play host to Jihadist groups from around the world.
I suspect they may need to reach out to wealthy overseas countries if they are to get on with the huge task of running Afghanistan. Aid will not be forthcoming if terror assaults are launched from there.
The omens are murky to say the least but let us hope that Taliban might be more pragmatic than they have so far given us reason to believe.
R. Lawrence, Glasgow.
DRUG CONSUMPTION ROOMS HAVE VALUE
WE were surprised to read that Dame Carol Black did not see evidence that supervised drug consumption rooms work during her review of drug policy for the UK Department of Health (“‘No evidence’ to support Scottish drug consumption rooms, says UK Gov adviser”, August 15).
We wonder if Public Health England (part of said DoH) provided her with their own 2019 briefing which concluded that “Research has found consistent evidence of effectiveness of drug consumption rooms in reducing harms associated with drug use, particularly high-risk injection behaviours.”
Similarly, we wonder if she has seen reports by the UK Government’s own expert advisers, the advisory council on the misuse of drugs (ACMD), or the EU’s expert body, the EMCDDA, or discussed this with the Royal Society for Public Health, to name but a few of the august bodies that support this approach, based on the evidence.
In terms of Dame Carol’s other concerns, no-one has suggested that safer drug consumption rooms are a “silver bullet” – this is a straw-man argument.
We agree that a combination of approaches is required, but argue that safer drug consumption rooms are a proven intervention to help reduce record drug-related deaths across the UK.
In Glasgow in particular, they could also help address the ongoing HIV outbreak among people who inject drugs.
Peter Krykant’s experience of running a small unauthorised drug consumption facility in the city, which supervised over 500 injections and supported multiple overdose reversals, also shows what a more comprehensive programme could achieve.
Finally, saying that implementing safer drug consumption rooms would be “a distraction” is a disservice to the NHS and treatment providers, who are quite capable of delivering more than one intervention at a time.
If Dame Carol meant that they are a political distraction, that is easily remedied: she should persuade the UK Government to allow a formal pilot in Glasgow that would provide the necessary evidence of their effectiveness, including saving lives, in a UK setting.
That is, if the evidence from the 200 similar successful facilities operational across the world already is not enough.
Martin Powell, Head of Partnerships, Transform Drug Policy Foundation; Dr Andrew McAuley, Reader in Public Health, Glasgow Caledonian University.