The situation in the strategically important South/Central Asian country of Afghanistan is crucial in the foreign policies of the U.S. and its NATO partners in the days ahead.
In Afghanistan itself, August 19 would normally be a day of celebration: independence from British control on that date in 1919. That’s hardly the case in 2021.
Background on the recent Taliban resurgence
Today, much of the world focuses on the sudden lightning takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban this month. For many in Kabul and elsewhere in Asia, that was a stunning reversal of fortunes less than a week.
(The Taliban had exercised dictatorial powers over Afghanistan prior to its defeat by Western powers in the aftermath of its historic assault on U.S. cities on September 11, 2001.)
Since the return of a freely-elected government in Kabul in 2002, women in Afghanistan had seen their voting rights restored, and in one case at least, one of their numbers elevated to a cabinet post.
Today’s grim return to 20th century Taliban rule
Thousands of Afghans are fleeing their country in desperation after this past week’s takeover. Tragically, a few were trapped under wings in speeding aircraft as their intended evacuation planes took off. Kabul’s main airport was massed by citizens hoping to escape.
Quick reaction by the U.S. diplomatic community
The Public Diplomacy Council and Public Diplomacy Association are non-partisan non-profit associations of mostly retired several hundred citizens.
“Many of our members,” a joint PDC-PDAA statement says, “have devoted years of service in and with Afghanistan and are saddened by the chaos in that country.
“We urge that the United States provide protection for the evacuations underway”. As this is written, the U.S. has complete control of the passenger liftoffs. Last reports were that several hundred Afghans were obtaining exit on U.S. planes each day. How long that will continue remains uncertain.
Journalists’ vital role in Afghanistan today
VOA Bureau Chief in Afghanistan and Pakistan Ayesha Tanzeem says: “If journalists are forced to leave the scene, it becomes a black hole… the world isn’t informed. And when the world doesn’t know what’s happening, human sympathy worldwide evaporates. That’s why on the scene conflict reporting is so important.
“It is only when the world can learn about this misery from eyewitnesses firsthand,” correspondent Tanzeem concludes, “then there’s pressure by the international community on whatever government is in charge to do something about it.”
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More